Video stores and instant gratification

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 13, 2018, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

Remember Blockbuster, and before that, your locally owned video rental store? I guess I won't go as far as saying do you remember VHS rentals (a phenomenon caused by the fact that movies were not priced to own at first), but that was a thing, too. Blockbuster was apparently sold to a holding company, and the two last stores in Alaska are shutting down. It makes sense that these were holdouts, since high speed Internet access ain't cheap up there, so streaming hasn't had as much of an impact. That leaves one in Bend, Oregon.

There was something kind of neat about going to the video store, and coming home with tapes or discs to watch that night. By my senior year of college, I bought a VCR with Dolby Pro Logic, meaning it could derive surround sound out of the audio, so I was pretty serious about recreating a theatrical experience, even if it was with a 20" NTSC tube TV. Doing rentals in college was a regular occurrence, since an extreme portion of my lame classmates went home on weekends. Eventually this transitioned to Netflix shipping physical discs to me in the late oughts, and we didn't really start streaming regularly until 2014, when the FireTV came out. Before that, we had only engaged in some semi-broken experiences through the Xbox, mostly for tennis and the Olympics. Now, everything comes over the wire, including rentals.

I'm not nostalgic for going to video stores. Not much, anyway. The convenience to not do that is amazing. But is the act of obtaining a movie and watching it as "special?" I mean, a lot of them I don't even have to buy, they're just on Amazon Prime or Netflix. (I suppose this is like them being on HBO or Showtime back in the day, but I've never subscribed to those.) It seems like since we can come to so many things with minimal effort that the joy associated with them has been somewhat reduced. It's not just the convenience of video on demand or instant Google results to answer a question, it's also things like delivered food, same-day delivery from Amazon, etc.

Maybe all of that instant gratification will lead people to find joy in more important things, like other people and experiences.


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