ANTISUN GREY Presents | A Brian Franklin Rant
1Part One

Take a look at that cover image. Without any context how does it make you feel? Is there a bit of wonder? Some horror? Awe, perhaps? The mushroom cloud is indeed a long embedded cultural touchstone, but even this old image still has the power to pull at your emotions, your thoughts.

Recently I’ve been spending some time thinking about how the different media I consume influences my emotions. How they make me feel, before (the hype), during (the actual content) and after (reflection) I experience them. It’s caused me to have a deeper appreciation for media of all sorts, but has the ironic effect of making me that much more jaded.

The main types of media I’m speaking of include videogames, movies, books, television series, comics and music, and though they all have different structures and affect audiences differently, I find that I have largely similar reactions to them.

When I first hear about a new videogame (full disclosure: I am a PC gamer), say, the Witcher 3, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype-train the closer it gets to release. And this is great – I love being hyped about something, I love being marketed to. Show me why the game is amazing, show my why I should care, make me feel that expectation I used to have when I was a little man flipping through issues of GamePro reading about games I’d never play but could imagine what they would be like.

After the hype is the actual product, or content. The experience of playing the Witcher 3, for example, not really trying to see how it lives up to the hype but how it plays on its own – how it makes me feel. Obviously if it’s a buggy mess it’ll make me frustrated but if it’s a deeply polished experience yet fails to make me care about the characters or the world (it is a story-driven RPG, after all) then I’d feel apathetic.

Following the experience of the content, when the PC is turned off and I’m grabbing something from the fridge or breezing somewhere, I can reflect. Do the emotions the game stirs up linger? Are the moments in the game worth talking about with friends? Or was the whole thing empty and forgettable? The answers to these questions play a big part in whether or not I return to continue playing the game. Reflection, for me, is perhaps the most significant stage in media consumption, one that I believe is criminally ignored.

When I first played Mass Effect 1, I found it derivative (of Knights of the Old Republic 1), slow, and boring with forgettable characters. But it did enough to plant a seed in my mind that germinated when I sat down and thought about it. Something clicked there, and I went back and finished the game. I started caring about the characters, the world, the lore – it became one of the most memorable gaming experiences of my life. That wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t reflect a bit on it.

I’ve heard arguments that not all media is designed to be a deep, cerebral experience, and I appreciate that. You’re not always feeling for the same thing all the time. That is not the point of this rant at all. What I am proposing is that all media should strive to make their audiences feel. Whether it’s excitement or horror or even gross disappointment. The worst possible result is if the media is so mediocre it doesn’t even elicit anything but a neutral response.

The Avengers 2 was released last week with a whole host of hype. I enjoyed the hype. The film itself was decent, with fantastic visuals, a great director and a cast of popular stars (and a super-hero flick, which always get a free pass from me). Yet nothing in it really affected me. The only shock was that a character that died stayed dead at the end of the film (unlike Star Trek: Into Darkness). Compare this with Chronicle, which pulled me into a story with much smaller stakes but made me invested in the characters. I still clearly remember moments from the latter film even today while Avengers 2 blurs into white noise.

Certainly, how media affects someone is deeply personal. This is how it should be, and I’m not passing judgement on any movie or game here (this isn’t a review). What works for someone might not work for someone else, and this is a great thing – because somewhere in the vast constellation of games and movies and books there are those that resonate with even a jaded cynic like me.

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antisunGREY v1.0 | © Copyright 2015, Brian Franklin. All rights reserved.