We’ve come a long way from the pre-digital age of black-and-white, soundless ‘moving pictures’ to entertainment that’s so readily accessible that you would have to put in actual effort to be bored. From movies to music to the radio, nearly all facets of entertainment have been revolutionized. And the emergence of social media is arguably one of the greatest inventions that technology has afforded the entertainment industry.
There were some ominous twists when election tampering, gross privacy breaches and even medical conditions accompanied the development. For many, entertainment had been a form of escapism. How entrenched it has become in shaping cultures and routine gave it the power to impact reality in monumental ways. But, it doesn’t have to be all bad. From a more optimistic perspective, these are some trends and innovations reforming entertainment.
Key to Immortality… CGI?
At the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival in 2012, the headliners, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre performed a classic 90-minute West-Coast hip-hop set, featuring famed rapper, Tupac. Avid hip hop fans were psyched for the collaboration but what made it truly celebrated was the fact that Tupac had died 15 years prior; three years before Coachella was even founded. The real performer was a projector above the stage, enabling a hologram to be cast onto a piece of tilted glass on stage. This created a 3D figure that could walk and interact with others.
It didn’t end with Tupac. Next, it was Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, then Elvis and then Whitney Houston. With this kind of technology, a select few got to experience rebirth. After the Coachella performance, there was talk about bringing the digital Tupac on tour, and other deceased artists like Amy Winehouse. Ultimately, this never yielded anything tangible as watching a projection perform song after song could get dull. Here, modern technology could not meet the modern expectation of entertainment.
Tap Into Your Senses
In the past, virtual reality (VR) only interacted with media and entertainment at an experimental level. Companies like The Void are bringing this hyper-reality, digital experience to the dying mall scene. With a headset and digital prosthesis, VR drops the users into a fictional world. This set is based on well-known TV and gaming franchises like Ghostbusters and Star Wars. What sets this apart is the inclusion of sensory additions. When the player is near a glacier or out in the Arctic, a gust of cold air will be activated. If they want tactical sense in the scenario, they can touch similarly shaped objects. For games and film alike, VR breaks the third wall between the performance and audience. As a result, we become active participants in digital scenarios.
The Olympics of Gaming
Gaming, once thought of as a hobby or an indulgent pastime, has risen to be regarded as a serious occupation. For example, four in five U.S. households own a gaming console and 42% of the U.S. population consider themselves gamers. Considering this, gaming is one of the most profitable fields in the entertainment industry. Esports began with small audiences and even smaller budgets. Within 5 years, they sold out 100,000 square feet arenas and boasting an expected revenue of $1.7 billion in 2021.
The future of gaming is so domineering that when the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, was asked in early 2019 what he found to be the company’s biggest competition, his answer wasn’t HBO or Hulu – it was Fortnite. This wave of mainstream gaming has led to the opening of esport temples in Las Vegas, Texas, Oakland and more. These places are dedicated to hosting championships at the same scale as major sporting events.
The Screenless Screen
Ted Schilowitz from Paramount Pictures described the next era of tech-assisted entertainment as a “screenless screen”. This is because the barrier separating what’s entertainment and what’s reality is becoming thinner and thinner. And COVID has only sped the process of adopting these technologies into daily use. The average screen time per day rose to 14 hours from its previous average of 10 to 12 hours. Whether this can be a tool for connectivity or otherwise be debilitating can’t yet be determined. What is certain, however, is that the entertainment industry is on an upwards trajectory and can be an even greater culture-defining force in the future.