Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

I just wrote a 2,150-word essay on the use of user-generated content in video games to present at FuturePlay later this week, and I just realized it may need to be heartily reworked to sound less like a blog post and more like a, you know, presentation. Still, it's good to know that I still have a day to work on it and that I have at least that much to say on the subject. Also, what I do have to say may be a little overly academic...

At what point can we strip away the modifier 'user-generated' and simply refer to this stuff as 'content'? One answer may come from examining the distinction between the two parties involved in the consumption of content -- the audience and the storyteller. We can say that the storyteller is the producer of the content and the audience is the user -- and user-generated content occurs when the audience then turns around and becomes producers themselves, creating content based on what they've already consumed. If the characters, settings and conflicts of a narrative can be seen as the rules of a system, then the first person to tell the story of Odin is the producer, and all the people who retold that story with their own interpretations can be seen as creating user-generated content. When that story is retold with enough individuality, then it sort of breaks away from its predecessor -- like how we recognize tales of Odin and Zeus as being related but also individuated; tales of Zeus are then retold and the process continues. This is the way oral tradition works, and the way copyright law absolutely doesn't.

That's where the modern storytelling system breaks down. Storytellers can make a living at it when their audiences are small, when the tools to tell a story are exclusive to a small number of people, and when their audiences are willing to pay. Now, when the YouTube generation is equipped with a global audience, cheap tools and audiences perfectly willing to ignore the stuff behind a pay wall and find their content somewhere else for free, are we storytellers screwed?

In a word, no.

More at FuturePlay, in whatever form it happens to take...

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