Dear Not So Discerning Consumer
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." -Lao Tzu
Nowadays, the tech industry, and most other industries, move at the speed of a child dosed with energy drinks, running through a candy store shoving everything in his mouth, chasing the hero it has been his young life's goal to meet, all while shouting how awesome each footfall is. We're talking breakneck speeds, faster than our civilization has ever experienced and it shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Well, little old me is getting tired of shelling out gobs of money to stay ahead of the curve, especially when the once discerning nature of said curve has become much less so due to lack of innovation.
I actually saw a product labelled the X360 that was an exact physical replica (slightly different guts) of the Playstation Vita, ran on an Android OS, played older generation games, and stole the name directly from a current gen console. There was literally nothing original about it, NOTHING, yet people are freaking out about how awesome it has the potential to be. This innocently naive and incredibly stupid response to a completely unoriginal product has caused me to face-palm myself into a migraine and, in my pain, I would like to share a few of my thoughts on the matter.
1.) Eager Anticipation
I remember, vividly, the first time I sat with an Atari 2600 and played Pole Position, a very basic simulation racing game. In this game, your car actually didn't move very much, it was the track that you were manipulating since the 2600 couldn't render both objects movement in a 2D space at the time. Of course, I look back at it now and realize the beauty of its simplicity, but what I remember most is the anticipation I felt for the next experience.
As a kid, I relied on hand-me-downs for my video game experiences. It was a rare moment for me to purchase anything as money was tight for my family during much of my youth. So, when my cousins got a Super Nintendo, I was handed the NES, a little late but still as wonderful as ever. The best part about it was the anticipation I felt at being able to experience something fresh, something new, something groundbreaking.
I don't see that anymore. Companies are so quick to come out with the next generation of products to maximize their profits that no one really has the chance to settle into the current iteration. It is this model that has turned what used to be giddy anticipation to impatient expectation.
No longer, as consumers, do we wait anxiously for the wizards behind the curtains to change our lives. No longer do we pine for a revolutionary breakthrough in tech that will make our movie fantasies come to life. No, we sit tapping furiously in annoyance and boredom while we wait for the next marginally different product to release so that we may do two things with it. First, we run around shoving it in the face of every person that we know in a vain attempt at making them swoon with jealousy. Second, we get bored and jump on the interwebs to bash the living hell out of the product we were once bragging about. By this time it's been about a year and we repeat the process again.
Let's say, for the sake of our little discussion, that we sat the subject of a little experiment down and told them that all they had to do was tell us if they liked a song or not when it was played for them. Upon their agreement we begin playing the song and, before they could even utter a word or begin to grasp at the complexity of the music, we changed it. Not only that, we restricted the feedback given from the subject to a simple hand gesture, accepting a thumbs-up or thumbs-down as enough to sum up an entire piece of someones life's work.
This is how I see most of the tech industry operating. How is it that people can get a true gauge on the quality or application of a product in less than a year? They can't and I believe that this is the reason the cycle has continued to...well...cycle on (yea, it's a pun..what of it).
If I was a developer of magnificent technologies, I would need to understand that I take my orders from consumers first and foremost. As a consumer, I know that my purchasing a product is what allows further products like it to be made. The catch is, when consumers no longer prove discerning (like now), developers no longer see the need for real innovation (like now).
As a rule, consumers should be hard as nails when it comes to who they spend money on. That's how we affect change, not by whining like spoiled children after we buy it. As developers, the discerning consumer should keep you honest and push you to ACTUAL INNOVATION so that you maintain their loyalty.
3.) Enjoyment Part II
What in the hell happened to taking the time to enjoy innovative technologies? We have become so heavily invested in providing our extremely biased opinions that we have forgotten what it means to actually experience anything, what it means to take the time to learn something.
Back in the day (which was a Wednesday...thanks Dane) I used to do some writing for a local video game retail store. I was continually surprised by the number of times I would see someone pick up a controller, play for five minutes, and pass summary judgement on the game. As a person who has always been fascinated by the development of games, this blew my mind. Hundreds of people poured blood, sweat, and shameful tears into this product and some punk, prepubescent hermit who has never seen the border of the town in which he resides is allowed to determine how and when the next product will be developed? Something is extremely messed up with this process.
4.) Hype Over Health
One thing that really scares the crap out of me is the monolithic amount of money that gets poured into marketing these products and how early it starts. I mean, we are hearing about these amazing and revolutionary products sometimes two to three years ahead of time, one at the least. For endless months we get teaser trailers, screen shots, developer interviews, early hands-on reports, and way too much more. Is it any wonder that everyone hates it when it comes out? They have been hyped into a frenzy and are bound to be disappointed by anything less than a flight to the moon.
The moral of this convoluted story? Frickin' patience grasshopper! Don't let hasty decisions and your disgusting need for instant gratification undermine the power you have. Remember that the next time you want to complain about a product, the developer is 100% a result of your reaction.
"Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production." -Raymond Chandler