I was having a spot of bother with a digital download I’d bought – OK, it was Manorexia’s The Mesopelagic Waters. One of the gazillion-and-one JG Thirlwell records I’ve bought lately because he’s basically displaced David Bowie as the artist whose (massive) back catalogue I could be stranded on a desert island with and never need to hear anything else. I’d been back and forth to Amazon several times trying to resolve the issue, and to their credit, they did their best – but after the third failed attempt to download a corruption-free version of track 6 (which jumped-and-skipped at the 1:50 mark) they gave up and refunded the full album.
Thirlwell referred to physical products as “the fetish item”, and these days it is pretty much how we look at them. I have 159 folders in my MP3 folder (70 of them Amazon MP3 Downloads) – dwarfed by our CD-and-vinyl collection, but still a number surprising to me. I have 23 games in my Steam collection, membership to Direct2Drive and GOG.com, and have a fair number of xbox 360 downloads, which have to be periodically deleted because I only have 20GB of hard drive.
I like downloads. They’re quick and convenient and you don’t have to put up with noisy drives and scratched discs. They don’t take up space. Even the 50 game discs that sit in The Pile under the computer desk – the ones most frequently played or intended-to-play – take up an annoying amount of space.
Maybe it’s an English thing: when average population density in the South-East is over 4,000 people per square mile, you’re having to cram ever more stuff into an ever smaller space. Our new house is palatial on a plot of land your average American would stick a garden shed on. Every inch taken up with a game, record or DVD is a space resented.
There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that downloads are the future. I fully foresee a time when a single black box under the television is our entire entertainment centre and the idea of sitting like this at the PC will seem ridiculous – our communication, games, music and on-demand TV and films will all be streamed from some cloud-server hundreds or thousands of miles away. We won’t even need hard drives.
I honestly don’t think we’ll see the end of modding. The two-way street of web 2.0 is more than a blip on the radar: rather, the one-way street of broadcasting has been the oddity. We’ll still be sharing user-made content, of which the likes of LittleBigPlanet and Spore is the mere proof of concept.
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