Sometimes I have to step back and just gape in wonder at how much information and entertainment is at our fingertips compared to just 25 years ago. I have a friend who has a tablet PC with almost every comic published by Marvel and DC ever that’s updated on a weekly basis. Other friends have hard drives with thousands of albums ripped to MP3. You can own every episode of your favorite TV shows going back to the beginning of TV or stream them to your TV through your X-Box. Basically, if you want it, it’s probably out there. On the one hand, this is awesome. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming. I find I just can’t keep up with all the things I’m interested in. I don’t have enough hours in the day to read all the books and comics I want, watch all the movies and TV shows I want, and play all the games I want. It’s sometimes just too much; it’s overload.

I look back on being a teenager, when my tastes were forming.

I remember when buying any gaming book was an event and each purchase was carefully considered.

I remember hunting through the used bookshops of Boston trying to find all the Eternal Champion books by Michael Moorcock. Elric was easy and Hawkmoon not so bad. But Corum and Erekose? It took me years to track them down.

I remember reading about games like Swordbearer and Lace & Steel in Dragon Magazine but never seeing copies until I started going to GenCon.

I remember endless searches for out of print albums by bands like the X-Ray Spex, Toxic Reasons, and Negative Approach.

I remember coveting this red leather single volume edition of Lord of the Rings. I read the books every year back in those days. And I still don’t have it.

I remember watching Hong Kong action movies and anime on VHS bootlegs because they simply weren’t available any other way in the US.

I remember reading issue #20 of White Dwarf magazine over and over because I could neither find or afford any other issues.

Today it is certainly cool that so much material previously hard to find is available easily, but there are downsides. We miss the thrill of the hunt. I remember my glee at finding a bundle of all the original issues of the Watchmen in the era before graphic novels or finally finding a copy of “The Kids Will Have Their Say” by SSD. I think we also sometimes miss out on a deeper appreciation of the things we’re consuming. These days I read a book or watch a movie once for the most part. Many games I play just a few times and they go on the shelf. Some things really benefit from repeat use. Sometimes you only really get what an author or artist is driving at after having the experience multiple times. With so much stuff to choose from, there’s always something new trying to get your attention. More games, more movies, more books, more comics, more TV shows, more music, more performances–more, more, more. Overload.

Oftentimes I love the way the world is laid before me. Other days I just want to shut everything down, forget the world, and read the Lord of the Rings again.

4 thoughts on “Overload

  1. You’re not alone on this one, Chris. In the last ten years I downloaded so much music I was simply incapable of keeping up with it all. Back when it took 30 minutes for a track, you really made sure you listened to each one, usually several times over – then broadband happened and you could grab multiple albums in minutes.

    In the end I decided to delete all the unlistened music. Now I download an album or transfer a CD to my branded mp3 player, listen to it a few times, then decide if I want to keep it. The feeling of being overwhelmed with too much choice has finally gone away – and it feels great.

  2. Too much stuff, too little time. Not enough “appreciation density”? – for want of another term.

    The same with TV in the UK, back when we had one, two, then three channels, viewing figures were in the multi-millions – now with so much choice – everyone except a few big established players are scratching for a viable audience – unless what you make is really cheap – thus we have much more dross than before. šŸ™

    One can easily become jaded or very conservative.

    I remember in earlier Net days that ‘Personalised News’ was the next big thing – it may be so now? The issue of that over newspapers is that maybe I should know about things I’m not specifically looking for? I digress.

    Yes, there’s a lot of information out there but still only the same amount of time to consume it.

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