A while ago, Duff McDuffee said that to make things interesting nowadays, we resort to “more.” Since stories can’t get better, we have to use more explosions, more 3D. This has become the entertaining strategy of most movies.
Consider sports. Players can’t play that much better than previous players. How do you keep it interesting? You talk more about it, before and after. You make them play more games. You show their highlights more times. You hold a one-hour special to announce a short decision.
Does this make you enjoy sports more? Of course not. In fact, the scarcity of past times may have been the reason you enjoyed them so much before.
The question then is, where does it end? I suspect that we will eventually witness the “Entertainment Tragedy of the Commons”:
“The tragedy of the commons describes a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”
That’s where we are now. We are all self-interested in being entertained, and our limited resource, enthusiasm, is depleting. The reason entertainment works less and less is because it’s becoming harder to seduce us. In other words, the marginal benefit of adding explosions and highlights is decreasing with every movie and every game.
One wonders then… what lies ahead? What happens to a society that’s addicted to new, fun, adventurous and edgy?
We are now embarked in a quest for experiences instead of growth. I believe growth is the end that makes not only individuals satisfied but also entire communities. By limiting our enthusiasm and focusing on other things less interesting but more fulfilling, we may reach a point where entertainment actually plays its proper role: to spice up life. Not to control it.
Some people might say that experiences make you grow, but I severely question that statement. True, some experiences will make you wiser. But traveling to get wasted in another country, or playing a new video game will not do that. Since when all fun brings wisdom? Fun is fun. It’s healthy and we need it, but it’s definitely not the way to become better, wiser or even funnier. Fun is quickly creating a generation of people that can’t find pleasure in anything for a continuous period of time. Heck, it’s creating a generation of people who can’t do anything for a continuous period of time.
Life is about choices, and with choosing comes settling. I’ve said it many times: you don’t have to settle, but you should know how to do it.
I dream of a society that understands the importance of settling to reach high levels of satisfaction (or happiness, if that’s the word you like) like generations before mine did, but that also is brave enough to challenge stability, like generations before mine didn’t.
(Thanks to Peter Stromberg for sparking the thoughts for this post.)