Digital Bollywood

Today a friend showed me a bit of the computer game “Pitch Black”. Although I had never played this game, I was surprised by how familiar it looked. Soon I realized that this was because the visual look of the game – the interiors, architecture, lighting, camera, even the shape of the doors and passageways, possessed the same dingy dystopian post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi motif that pervades Valve’s “Half Life”, Id Software’s “Quake” and similar games.

If you don’t play these games, they all look eerily alike. And yet if you do play them regularly, I suspect that this particular surface gloss is absolutely necessary – de rigeur. It’s what clues you in that you are in a first person shooter, and lets you know what to expect.

On a different scale, this is similar to the way we Americans initially perceive Bollywood films. For most of us, because we are not immersed in them, do not speak their visual language, they all seem the same to us. And yet the people for whom these films are made see none of that. The texture itself – the particulars of the costumes, the musical style, the dance moves – these are as invisible to the film’s intended audience as a four/four beat is to the fans at a rock concert.

These first pungent encounters with the strange texture of an unfamiliar medium are part of the fun of living in a multicultural world. As we gradually enter an age of global digital media, I wonder whether we will experience this feeling less and less – as genres from far-flung corners of the world eventually become everyday and familiar, or more and more, as the number of newly available genres begins to multiply and propagate.

Are we entering an age of a common media language, the way the bulk of popular music in our culture began to converge to rock and roll half a century ago, and the way most written communication now seems to be morphing from long form prose through Blogs toward 140 character tweets? Or are we fragmenting into a new Tower of Babel?

Darned if I know.

One Response to “Digital Bollywood”

  1. John Nordlinger says:

    We saw the movie Pitch Black, which had a preview of the beautiful game Escape from Butcher Bay. The series is very innovative with the first movie Pitch Black the second story an animation Dark Fury and the third film “Chronicles of Riddick” sadly mediocre but saving the series are the two games that move the story forward and allow for a very multi-media satisfactory experience: Afore mentioned Escape from Butcher Bay and recently released Assault on Dark Athena.

    IMDB reports yet another Chronicles of Riddick movie in development.

    I wish Firefly and Serenity had this momentum.

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