Digital Appetite and Attention Span

In October I wrote a post about my entertainment stockpile for winter. In it I wrote that the new XCOM game was going to be a regular in my gaming rotation and that I had already put 18 hours in it during one weekend. That was over a month ago. Today my XCOM clock card still reads 18 hours. What happened?

Before diving into the particulars of my case I submit that every dweller in the digital realm has an individual appetite for information and entertainment. Some have higher thresholds for adequate amounts of content, others can/will settle for less. I also submit that the digitally able folk have quite different appetites in comparison to others. The data flow of today is so intense that there must be a couple of screws up in your head loose to deal with all of it. Let alone crave for more.

I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to occupy myself with. Articles, books, TV-series, games, gadgets, music, presentations, websites, videos, research papers. Everything that’s remotely interesting will get a second look from me. However, 90 percent of the time that second look will be very brief and also the very last. My constant appetite for learning new stuff and trying new things is putting serious strain on my attention span. I firmly believe that I’m not alone with this predicament. No real geek can possibly be satisfied on how much content can be stuffed inside 24 hours.

Time and it’s management is really the issue here. I’m not willing to force through low quality content just to be done with it. I value my time too much, and there’s always something new waiting around the corner. So if someone has concocted a reliable method of allocating your time in things that really deserve it, please do share. My time management tool is a guillotine. Every piece of content or entertainment has a time frame in which it has to make itself interesting, otherwise it has to say hello to my sharp friend. Even after passing the initial test, there are still pitfalls to avoid on the way to long-lasting merriment.

Online articles (if I’ve bothered to move past the headline) are constantly beheaded by my guillotine. Getting the ingress done right is difficult enough, but to write a whole article without patronizing, pointless endorsing, factual mistakes, self promotion etc. seems to be really hard. Not to mention the other 27 article tabs in my browser just waiting to be clicked. One fumble and you’re out.

Things are especially rough if there’s a lot of potential quality on my to-check list. It might all come down to the littlest things. For example Justin Cronin used one super lame sentence in the book The Passage – and swoosh said the guillotine. It takes one cumbersome mission in Fallout: New Vegas. One flash ad that loads too long. Even good content might get guillotined because of a misleading tweet that took me somewhere I didn’t know I was going. And yes, it is taxing to know that I’m missing out on stuff because I have this monster of a system. But even more frustrating is that when I do have time to spare I seem to find myself at /r/funny time and time again. Fast food is all too appealing for digital appetite as well.

P.S. So, what happened with XCOM? I failed, got my team slaughtered, went out and got NBA 2k13 and never looked back. Boomshakalaka!

When a Brand Saved My Digital Ass

What could be a more memorable brand interaction than having your life saved? What could be more engaging? Axe stuck its neck out for me six years ago and I will not forget it. But no brand has come to my rescue since. I’m sure that lifesaving market would be a huge market. People are really touchy about their digital counterparts, so why don’t brands swoop in rescuing us every chance they get?

To make sense in all of this let me share my story.

It was a dark night in Las Vegas. Me and my brother were carefully covering the strip from opposite sides of the street. When the inevitable conflict began I found myself suppressed on the wrong side of the battlefield. I needed to get to my brother who was also seriously outgunned against the bad guys. I took a deep breath and then I dashed. That’s when all hell broke loose.

With my guns blazing I made steady progress for 10 meters or so, then I got blindsided by an enemy who flashbanged me off my feet. Certain that I would meet a miserable death, I stumbled around to find some sort of cover. The soundtrack for my struggle was an endless barrage of gunfire and my brother yelling “Are you down?”. I finally found something solid and crouched behind it to regain my poise and reload my weapons.

When the smoke began to clear and my brain stopped doing cartwheels, I hastily scanned my surroundings. The enemy was taking cover about a block away from us and they still fired at me with all they had. The only thing that was keeping me alive was Axe’s ad pillar. Every bullet fired at me tore glass debris out of the ad so I had to act quick. One by one I managed to take down the opposition while praying that the Axe ad would hold. When the last of the bad guys fell I nodded towards the now badly damaged brand ad; Axe saved my digital ass and I wasn’t going to forget it.

The thing that’s noteworthy in this whole ordeal is that usually brands are very reluctant to give themselves up for this kind of treatment. I can imagine the brand department going haywire if they saw their precious logo being shattered by gunfire. But when a brand saves lives it’s supposed to get a bit messy. It’s called immersion. You can’t place yourselves on a pedestal and ask for engagement, you have to be down in the dirt with your audience. You have to follow the same rules as the rest of the virtual world where you’re in.

I guess I was lucky the game engine of Rainbow Six: Las Vegas didn’t feature complete destruction of larger environmental elements. Had that Axe ad gone down so would’ve I.