Signal and Noise - Honest thoughts on E3 2018

A few days ago I listened to a breakdown and analysis of vinyl, VHS, Laserdisc, cassettes, and various magnetic tape formats. It distilled what triggers the media industries to move to a new format: purity, price, and timing. The format with the greatest signal per penny ratio wins, and only at the right moment.

Small leaps don’t happen.

Walking through E3 this year I felt a mix of noisy emotions. New generations of people and an unprecedented cultural shift in gaming. Now it’s big business. Now it’s Hollywood storytelling. But it’s also easier than ever for independent artists to get their ideas off the ground. Everything for everyone, all the time, but specifically now, at all reaches and ranges of emotion. Phone to VR and each platform between. From violence to wonder, at every level of engagement and competition—with few untouched corners of content. And everyone gets a voice.

Which adds to the noise.

I feel like we all walked into E3 looking for some truth—I try to stay open to and aware of transformative or surprising experiences. I wasn’t alone—every other person had a portable camera rig, we had a streamer in the crew, and I’m sure this is the best covered event in LA. I almost balked at taking pictures at all; when everyone has a camera the pictures are more about being you than being there.

Noise talking about noise.

But this feels different than the usual coolhunter/tastemaker/merchandising/entertainment explosion/disruption event. It feels like the gaming industry is edging towards making another leap—not satisfied with having shrugged the stigma of nerdiness and growing past the 100 billion dollar mark. Like it’s vaulting towards another cultural format of consumerism and experiential consumption.

Blockchain for decentralizing and legitimizing digital property, VR/MR for immersion, haptics for tangibility, streaming for stardom—it’s a new world forming. And there are so many platforms, so many altars in so many temples to worship behind and beneath.

And with all this progress I’m tempted to say the limits of the industry are increasingly human instead of hardware-based. It's our attention and ability to retain the experience which will be tested: we will certainly cross the uncanny valley on many fronts soon. And then we might see the first anti-feral human in our lifetime: someone raised totally immersed and faithful to this new world. You might argue she’s already here—or that you are her.

And maybe the next format isn’t a cartridge or a disc or an SSD or the cloud—it’s the idea that perception, immersion, and faith have become the platform. We should bend reality instead of building it or simulating it. And with the way the world is working, we’re all ready to leave—even if it means staying home.

I know we’ve been talking about this for a long time. And it’s always ten years away. But for the first time, to me, it feels like nine. And for the first time, it feels like there’s so much signal and it’s so pure that we should be paying closer attention to the message itself—the idea that no matter how far this goes, we’re engineering a better blindfold.

Instead of escaping to a deepening virtual space, is it still possible to invent a world worth saving?



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