The Creator of Jeeni.

Jeeni has returned to Crowdcube to raise more funds for helping new talent. Jeeni founding director Mel Croucher says, “I admit we’re ahead of our original schedule, but there’s still so much more to do. We need to scale our online platform globally now and build our mass artist showcases. Then we can hit all our targets, and give our new artists the recognition they deserve.” It is day 5 today and we have raised 98% of our target £100K. If you want to see our pitch click HERE.

Mel has been writing the best-loved column in top-selling tech magazines for over 30 years. Now he’s agreed to share his work with all our members. He’s a video games pioneer and musician, and to to find out more about Mel check out his Wikipedia page. Here’s one of Mel’s latest!

There was once a little Quaker boy called Charlton, who got sent off to a nice school in Oxfordshire. Charlton liked videogames very much indeed, and when he turned thirteen he became a fan of one particular game which was called Deus Ex Machina. It was hopelessly life-affirming and it allowed him to influence the plotline and outcome, just like a load of similar games. But it was also the first truly interactive movie, running in real time, with voice actors and a full music soundtrack. It came with a large monochrome poster of the face of a beautiful, innocent, yet alluring lady robot, which the boy hung on his wall. And that thought pleases me, because I was the creator of the game, and my intention was to blow the minds of children just like Charlton. Ten years later, he was no longer a Quaker schoolboy but a stroppy atheist, and he was making a living writing very naughty cartoon strips and highly scurrilous columns for a computer magazine called PC Zone. I hope his career choice was influenced by the naughty cartoon strips and scurrilous columns I was writing for the rival magazines he devoured, but I suspect he already considered me to be an old fart. Back then I believed it was my mission to take the piss out of anyone and everyone in the computer industry, and so did young Charlton. He was calling himself Charlie by then. Charlie Brooker.

Today, Charlie Brooker is probably best known as the creator of the Netflix phenomenon Black Mirror. In a brilliant episode, he didn’t just nick my idea of an interactive movie where players influence the plotline and outcome, he went and did it for real. He set his episode in 1984, which was the year of my game’s release, and he hung my old poster on the wall for a touch of authenticity. And yes, he did ask permission. And yes, I was more than happy to give it to him. And no, he didn’t pay me. Brooker’s use of the branching narrative was absolutely seamless, and when the viewer-player-actor makes a choice via a mouse or remote control there is absolutely no buffering involved. And just like in my old game, if the viewer-player-actor refuses to make a choice, then the movie-game-stage makes it for them. In the future, I am sure this technique will become an active tool of the porn and ultra-violence industries, but consumers of mainstream entertainment have become more and more bone idle over the years. In fact vast numbers can’t even be bothered to select the crap entertainment they watch or play, but allow algorithms to select for them. So no, this is not the future of movies, it’s the past.

Charlie Brooker didn’t predict this, and neither did I. It was predicted by Ray Bradbury in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, where books have been banned because they encourage people to think, and the 1966 film of that story was one of my greatest influences. In the movie, the writer/director François Truffaut introduces us to a world in which the masses consume pap via personal screens, and believe they have choice in determining the outcome of all sorts of vacuous plotlines. They don’t, of course, and the purpose of such so-called entertainments is to pretend the people have a say in the way things are run, what choices they have, and what garbage they believe in. And here we are, more than half a century later, living in just such a society. And we don’t even need movies to condition the masses, we can use videogames. People who live-stream their gameplay are called streamers. People who watch them playing are called lost souls.

Today more people watch streamers play sports simulations than watch live sport. This passive practice is ridiculously popular on streaming sites like Twitch, YouTube and a whole host of others. Even back in 2014, Twitch streams for computer games attracted more traffic than America’s leading cable and satellite network HBO, with professional streamers mashing up high-level play and banal commentary. Now they can extort big money from sponsors, subscriptions, and donations. Last year, passive viewers watched active players for more than 450 billion minutes of streamed content on Twitch alone, as the streamers jiggled and babbled while playing with themselves at FIFA 19Monster Hunter World and all the rest. One such streamer is a charming young man called Richard Tyler Blevins, who sports attractive neon-tinted hair and goes by the name of Ninja. He has minted around ten million dollars from subscribers who pay to watch him play a game called Fortnight. Let me just make that clear – they are not paying to play Fortnite themselves, they are paying to watch Mr Ninja play. Fortnite involves a hundred players at a time who fight and butcher one other to the death until only one is left alive, all in high-definition video. There are currently 200 million players of the game. The youngest players are aged eight, which should worry their parents, but probably doesn’t because mom and pop are too busy passively watching some other streamer. The average age of a Fortnite player is 13, which is the same age as the schoolboy Charlie Brooker was when my hopelessly life-affirming game helped turn him into a potty-mouthed cynic. At least I know I succeeded in something.

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