Ain’t Done

My house ain’t done, but it’s alright, floors ain’t level, but I ain’t some suburbanite. Who cares about bathroom tiles, straight lines and building codes and Chinese wind chimes. My house ain’t done, but it’s fine, come out here from time to time, in December for the snow and in July to watch the roses

 – Mark Kozelek

The most insightful essay I read in the last few months is called “Unfinished, unfair and brutally difficult: What developers should steal from DayZ” over at Polygon, by Ben Kuchera. 

It’s ostensibly about gaming, but really it’s about empowering media, and media consumers, and respect for users and their choices and decisions.

It describes a game DayZ, released on Steam, that sold 172,00 copies on its first day of release. For $29.99 a copy. Here is the page. It is currently the top seller on Stream. #1.

From the game page itself:

WARNING: THIS GAME IS EARLY ACCESS ALPHA. PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME AND ARE PREPARED TO HANDLE WITH SERIOUS ISSUES AND POSSIBLE INTERRUPTIONS OF GAME FUNCTIONING.

Moreover:

In some ways it’s barely working: Your axe will often make gunshot noises, zombies can clip through the floor, and the game can feel unresponsive and hard to play. It’s not a welcoming experience. I was addicted within hours.

“In some way it’s barely working.” Yet, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies. “The process often feels like listening to the demos of your favorite bands as they’re in the studio recording.”

Here’s the thing, new technologies – Steam, Youtube, VHX, etc. – are now changing the very definition of what a game, movie, show – a piece of “content” – actually is. The definitions are more fluid, more experimental, more experiential. By taking on those attributes, I believe that the the content makers are implicitly showing an enormous amount of respect for their viewers, their customers, by allowing them in at a much earlier stage of their process. By allowing them to experience the craft.

In 1914, Charlie Chaplin acted in 16 and directed an additional 20 short films. 36 films in one year. Thereafter he went on to make some of the greatest feature length movies ever. He perfected his craft in public, with a different format, that people paid to see.

Sometimes being unfinished actually is a way to create and to share more value.