There’s a large number of high quality programmes now available on tv. Shows including Heroes, The Sopranos and The Office all provide fantastic (if edgy) entertainment. So, how do they stand up to games – the other pastime where you’re in front of the box? Well let’s look at a few areas of comparison:
Games have traditionally had a very simple, very poor Aristotealean (and basic) narrative. TV on the other hand seems to be in a bit of a renaissance at the momement with layered, deep storylines offering much to the audience. Games such as Psychonauts, Half Life 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2 are giving more to the player of late, offering a better sense of their place in the virtual world.
Obviously games pip this one, as they are based on manipulating and interacting with things/objects/people/places within a virtual space. Even Pong followed this principle. Games are now rich and diverse, offering almost as many varied experiences as you can think of. TV is now offering, by comparison, much more interactivity. Let’s take a look at some ways in which it is doing so:
IPTV is the latest buzz-word that’s going around, helped no doubt by Apple TV and all manner of things. Here in the UK Channel 4 has recently released an on-demand download service, so this looks to be really taking off. For those of you who aren’t sure what all the fuss is about, if you have a computer (or other sort of tech kit I’ll cover later) you can choose your own tv schedule by downloading what you want to watch, when you want to watch it.
Games are now becoming more mainstream and in fact they’re being built into all manner of TV shows, ads and all sorts of things. Marketing campaigns are now converging across all platforms (TV and computer/internet) and games are a part of that strategy to suck people into the brand.
The ‘red’ button is now synonymous with Sky TV, at least over here in the UK. Essentially, you hit the button and you can be presented with all sort of interactive stuff – this could be a camera angle choice, a game or a new music video. All of this from a single button press. Impressive huh?
We touched on this briefly in the last section, but Freeview here in the UK even allows you to change camera angles. This was most impressive during the Olympics when you could actually choose which sport to watch live. Never before has TV given the viewer EXACTLY what they want in this way.
Teletext was almost a precursor to widespread Internet use over here in the UK. I’m not sure if it was ever apparent in the US but basically it is pages of text information, about whatever subject that the provider decided but commonly it was news, weather and tv. Digital teletext is a long overdue upgrade giving a wider selection of information, much faster speed and a more user-friendly interface.
Tivo and Skyplus are pretty much the same service but for two separate countries. Basically, you can record your favourite shows and channels – or even set the box to record whenever a particular show is on. It is top notch kit and very much worth investing in.
So what does all this technology around the tv tell us? Well, as interactivity increases, we’re seeing the fact that power is now being put in the hands of the viewer. They are taking back the television. For that reason alone all of these developments are going completely in the right direction – and coupled with HD I think in a few years TV will go beyond even all of these to transcend and pre-empt the viewing choices of the audience behind the big (but thing) black box.