Quite intentionally, 3-D and Surround Sound have turned moviegoing into an ordeal. That’s the whole point. The first time I ever noticed Surround Sound was when I saw Forrest Gump in the theater. Forrest went to Vietnam and got shot at, and suddenly bullets were whizzing past his head… and my head.
I didn’t know that Surround Sound even existed, so I was really shocked when I heard bullets whipping past me and landing somewhere behind me. I jumped out of my seat! “Wow,” I thought, “I really feel like I’m in Vietnam!” And my next thought was, “But I don’t want to be in Vietnam! I want to watch a movie about someone in Vietnam!”
I’m going to say something controversial here, but I think it’s true: art cannot be interactive. That’s right, I just said that videogames aren’t art (which often causes flame wars on the internet, but there it is).
Art must be received at a distance to have meaning, because meaning is created in the space between the viewer and the art, both the literal space and the figurative space. We contrast our point of view with the point of view of the art, and that gap teaches us about our own lives. A video game may have a story, but there is no distance between the viewer and that story, so there is no greater meaning, only the thrill of a first-person experience. We learn nothing about our own lives, because we do not contrast our lives with the character’s life.
(For a different perspective, let’s compare video games to painting. When you see a piece of modern art that you hate, you think “That’s not art: I could do that!” The modern critic responds, “Sure you could, but it never would have occurred to you to do it!” Combining those two points of view, we could say that art is either what you can’t do or what you wouldn’t do, for lack of imagination. Either way, art is something greater than yourself and outside yourself. Video games are very intentionally limited to what you can do and would do if placed in that situation.)
3-D and Surround Sound attempt to turn movies into video games. When the bullets land behind us, there’s no space left between the viewer and the screen in which meaning can be created. We’re not considering Forrest’s experience in Vietnam, we’re having our own experience in Vietnam.
Okay, so that’s been four days of me ranting about modern technology. So am I just a luddite? Am I opposed to all technical innovation? Nope. Tomorrow I’ll explain how to do it right...