Press To Impress
The Gutenberg printing press is widely-regarded as one of the most pivotal developments in the history of mankind. Prior to its invention, knowledge was the near exclusive domain of church and crown. The printing press lowered the barrier to this power by an immeasurable amount, putting an affordable and profound piece of technology into the hands of the masses.
Fast forwards half-a-millennium and the Internet has all but removed any sense of barrier whatsoever. Now, anyone with an inexpensive smartphone can participate, on a global stage, with the ebb-and-flow of knowledge, rhetoric and debate. If you take time to stop and think about the ramifications of this, it’s utterly mind-blowing. This is change the likes of which the world has never seen and has driven a whole raft of social-media movements from LOLcats to the Arab Spring, Occupy movement, Anonymous and the London riots.
Not bad for a small, two-way radio that fits into the palm of your hand.
Indeed, this very article would not be possible without the power and convergence that the humble smartphone represents. Even as little as a decade ago, writing and publishing an article that the world might access would have involved a whole range of additional hoops through which to jump and obstacles to overcome. It may be a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but as far as empowerment goes: the Internet is impossible to beat.
But have we lost something along the way? Has the immediacy of the Internet resulted in a race-to-the-bottom mentality amongst journalists desperate to get their article out-of-the-door first?
“No disk? Ask Newsagent”. Sigh, how I miss those days…
Cast your minds back to the late 80’s.
As a teenager, the only way I could access the latest gaming news and reviews was through monthly publications such as ST Format, The One and C&VG. Each issue would be pored over countless times, cover-to-cover and back again. Why? Because I knew that I wouldn’t receive another fix for quite some time.
Now, I can sit on the toilet and access more content than was featured in a single one of those magazines at the flick of a thumb. But has that made the content any stronger or more meaningful? Has it made the process of digesting it any more enjoyable?
British-American entrepreneur and author, Andrew Keen: “Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering.”
Gaudy ink on cheap paper: it’s hard to beat
Google “Bioshock Infinite Review” and you’ll come across hundreds of examples. Look hard enough and you might even find ours. But the point is this: without the breathing space of, say, anything up to a month in which to pen a review, what impact does time now have upon quality if journalists are under constant pressure to publish on the very day a game is released? Sure, established outlets receive preview-copies ahead of street-dates, or are even flown to a developer’s whereabouts to inspect code under controlled conditions, but the global deadline awaits nonetheless. That must surely have an impact upon the process, no?
So as amazing as the Internet is and as thankful as we should all be for it, maybe things were better in some respects when we had monthly publications? Or maybe they weren’t. Either way: there’s no going back.
I tell you what, though – I might just dig out a few old copies of ST Format and stick them by the toilet for old time’s sake.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.