Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada


Posted on | January 26, 2014 | No Comments


What if we don’t want immersion at all? Janet Murray argued in 1997 that the ideal digital text was a Holonovel, Dixon Hill in Star Trek: TNG. Complete immersion, where reality and fantasy mingle. And, in theory, that sounds jolly good. But, who really would put in the effort that those Holonovels entail? In order to play her “Ancient England” Holonovel based on Jane Eyre and Rebecca, Captain Janeway sets aside hours of her day, and arrives to the Holodeck in full costume, hair, makeup, the works. Immersion requires time and effort. Many of these texts argue for the rise of the fan, the fandom, the popularity of the otaku. Audience activity has changed. And, the much-remarked on fan culture has had an upsurge thanks to the internet. Fandom has changed. But, everyone isn’t playing Halo, or learning Klingon, or dressing up like Attack on Titan (or Inuyasha, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh!). When asked, most people will not claim to be a “gamer” although many people play games. Fandom is more vocal, and more visible, and they have more of a voice, but immersion is still a minority.

Jesper Juul argues that “Casual Games” are the future – mobile games and desktop games like Bejeweled, Solitaire, tile games, like Mahjong, or games like Tetris, Breakout, or Peggle. With Netflix, there has been a rise in marathon viewing. Yet, will those people who watched six hours of Breaking Bad become a fandom? Or, do the players of six hours of Tetris consider themselves gamers?

In both cases, casual games and marathon television viewing, they do not ask the viewer for immersion. No one proudly says they spent ten hours playing Solitaire, although it is very possible to do so (I would know). The media is in small(er) bites that can be stopped and started, and doesn’t ask for commitment. Both are likened to addiction, “just one more,” and that activity is not the same as fandom.

The way the “Internet wants to tell stories” (45) is not immersion, but addiction. We want three minute clips, soundbites, 140 character posts, that we string together ceaselessly. We want Twitter feeds, web comics, and cat videos, not World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft takes too much time to load, and you’re within the world, and need to learn the rules and level up your character, and you cannot just “pop in.” If a game can be played in twenty minutes, then it’s attractive and you’ll play fifteen times. If you know you’re going to play for fifteen twenty-minute intervals, it’s not.

Hypertext, fragmented narrative, is less attractive because it’s much harder to stop and come back, to determine your own length of play, and the edges are lost. You cannot follow it, and you can’t control your involvement. You have to know that no matter how long the narrative, there’s an escape hatch, always.

Maybe it’s a new medium, and maybe I’m very wrong. But I want the threshold of entry and exit to be lower. And maybe it’s not art, but I want the Candy Crush of transmedia.


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