The March of Entertainment Awareness
When I was a child, the first time I became aware of an upcoming movie or television series was its trailer. So by the time I knew a thing existed, I was exposed to the sounds, actors, lighting, design, and even some of its tone and theme. Similarly I became aware of books and games with their ads, which generally included a cover and excerpt, though admittedly both of those were sometimes created for just the ad.
But my expectations were set not by a name and a hope, but by a small slice of the end product.
Now even then there were industry papers and genre magazines that would talk about upcoming stuff, but they weren’t as commonly available or as all-encompassing as the internet news of today. And as I got older, I did start to find such sources of news, but even then I often got either just a sentence of a thing in production, which didn’t always even have it’s name, or I got more news only when there were set pictures and publicity shots, which still gave me some feel for what kind of entertainment product was being crafted.
That’s not to say I was never surprised, or disappointed, or shocking delighted by the end product. Nor do I claim there were no exceptions (especially sequels) to not knowing about a thing until there was some evidence of what kind of thing it would be in the end. But on the whole even when I wanted news, I knew less, and knew anything for a shorter timeframe, than I do now.
Nor do I have to go looking for such information anymore. Even if I assiduously avoid industry news and genre-based forums and discussion groups, that information makes its way to me. If you are part of social circles that include numerous fans of some genre with entertainment offerings, chances are someone in your group will share, or link, or just tell you about it in person.
And in response to the growing level of knowledge, many creators try to control the expected narrative, engage fans and build trust, and get marketing value out of even the earliest stages of announcements about a new series, movie, game, or novel.
And that builds even more awareness, as it is intended to, but without much more context for what the end product will actually be like.
Though I have no proof of this, I personally believe that both builds a sense of community (along with all the rights and duties a community carries with it) where none truly exists, and that it allows the most passionate fans to build in their imaginations what the end product SHOULD be like long before they have any input on what it WILL be like.
And, in some cases, that leads to consumers of this material feeling like not only CAN their opinions be taken into consideration, but that they SHOULD be. Rather than see the movie or play the game and make a judgement based on what it is, they want their opinions to shape the end result, and are doubly-upset when the final product largely ignores them
Now, there are explicit cases where consumer feedback IS sought out where it can impact the end result, Test screenings, pilot episodes, beta reader copies, and playtests are all places where a company wants to know what the reaction is while there is a mechanism in palce to codify it, and time to adjust the end product. And that’s great.
But AMAs and hidden easter eggs and forum chats often AREN’T that, and people, with their greater awareness of what is coming well before that thing is gelled, are specifically tricked into thinking they are invited to be among the cooks, instead of among the diners.
I’m not claiming this is better or worse… but it feels like a trend that has not hit its apex. And at the minimum, it makes me think about what I am implying is possible, or even desired, when I talk about products I am involved with that don’t yet exist in their final form.
As always, this post is made possible by my Patrons.