Our world and its smartphone revolution includes something beyond the immediacy of social contact and information; we now also have a limitless supply of new games. John Gruber notes, "The App Store is, practically speaking, an infinite source of new games." Games are cheap and constantly being added to the App Store. We also have access to YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, with an insane amount of programming (has anyone ever tried to calculate how long it would take to watch Netflix's entire library?). I have family members who are constantly playing Words with Friends, throughout the day and night.

In the past, there were natural limits to our entertainment: we had to wait until the program was on television, or drive to the video store. You needed three people to play Dungeons & Dragons, as my brother and I found out (with some disappointment). I notice it in my kids, who are used to this spigot of entertainment that can be turned on at any time we as parents permit them – at which they immediately dive into Netflix or a game on the iPad. The novel 1984  had a telescreen, but it required a wall mount; our dystopias never figured that such devices would be so grandly portable.

What this will do to us, as a people and a society, remains to be seen. I don't want to sound the curmudgeon bell, as I enjoy this technology immensely; putting a DVD in a slot seems so archaic, after all (along with the annoying promos, trailers, and FBI warnings, which Netflix has wonderfully left out). Society has faced other monumental changes, from the printing press to the middle class becoming literate, and we have weathered these changes just fine. Yet these limitless consumption devices remain powerful and subtle forces, and are in many ways brand new; we've never had such a pervasive and limitless source of entertainment. Its influence is still unknown.

Posted
AuthorKevin Taylor