Before I go into my own new description (yes, I know I haven’t posted anything for a while, but I’ve got some things on my plate), take a gander at this video first from Jim Sterling at the Escapist Magazine. He talks about innovation in video games, and it’s something I want to point out more in usage of the term. But first, the video.
Innovation, as Mr. Sterling pointed out (getting past some of the more crass aspects of the man) has become an over used term. It’s the new buzz word. I remember when I worked in broadcasting how I began to loathe buzz words. Like “It’s on the back burner” or “it’ll climb to the top”. There were others, but in the decade since I worked in radio (more than a decade, actually), we’ve managed as a society to keep our buzz words to just one word phrases.
Now, we’re using innovation like it’s the next great thing, and I honestly don’t think that people really understand what the word means. The CEO of Apple uses it every time a new product comes out, like the new iPhone, iPad or computer system. Google’s done it. So has Microsoft, Sony, Blackberry, and on and on and on. But really, what they mean is “we’ve taken the thing our competitor made, and made it better” which isn’t innovation, it’s just lazy.
The same can be said for story telling.
I know there’s a few movies that have come out as reimaginings of the original (like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Psycho) where someone somewhere has said the film is taking a bold, innovative direction. But it wasn’t innovative when you’re basically telling exactly the same story. In truth, the dictionary meaning of the word comes from innovate, which means at its root “to alter”, but also means to create as though for the very first time. I see lots of the former, but very little of the latter. And that’s part in parcel because that kind of innovation requires a dirty R word. Risk. And nobody likes risk, unless it’s the board game (and then, nobody likes having the weakest defensible point on the board, unless you have Australia).
In order to do something really new (or really innovative) one has to take a risk. Let’s be honest, nobody is doing that in any form of entertainment medium. Not video games, not movies, not comic books. At least, it’s very rare in comics. And those movies and video games that are really innovative, are usually passed over without so much as a glance by those who follow the mainstream (if anyone has some REALLY innovative movies they know of, leave them in the comments, it’ll give me more movie watching material later). There is one place where such things do take place, and that happens to be in books. But I also believe that books, printed and digital media, happen to have a leg up on the aspect of innovation. There are some really great books being published. Admittedly, there’s a lot of steaming piles of shit, too, but there’s a lot of good that’s being published. Not all of it is coming from the mainstream publishing houses, and even some is being self published.
For now, can we all agree to stop using the word innovation, because it’s getting tired with how badly it’s being misused.