Any evolutionary biologist, town planner, or network engineer knows that when two complex systems integrate, chaos will ensue. There'll be blood on the floor.

Now take that and multiply it by the internet.

Five years on from Screenshot, videogames are surging in a world where the range and quality of entertainment is broader than at any point in human history. The relatively straightforward process of a few mass entertainment forms biting away at each other has become a vast piranha tank where all 200 fish come equipped with laser beams and a cannibal taste for flesh.

It's interesting that videogame revenue is so often still compared with the movie industry - like lining up opening weekend grosses for GTA IV against Iron Man, two equally dubious sets of numbers, and proclaiming that videogames are now king. The numbers, like the cake, are a lie. They're misdirection. There is no king. And in raw eyeball totals, videogaming is far from dominant, given that the current generation of games extorts $60 a pop.

The numbers are also misplaced, because the real threat is to the broadcast TV entertainment/revenue model. TV doesn't care what you spent on GTA IV, it cares how much time you were sitting on the couch killing Russians rather than watching the programmed gaps between advertising. Here, too, games aren't yet on top, partly because the games industry spent years ignoring just about everyone including women, people over 30 and very young children.


It's coming, though, and 2003 was my own early taste of it. In the end, having videogames on TV was like trying to mate a steam engine with a plowhorse. There's an evolutionary incompatibility that can't be resolved. Television is a smooth, sedative medium by nature. When television encounters passion, obsession, fury, frustration and disappointment, it doesn't know what the fuck to do. It blinks like a little rabbit in evolution's headlights.

The Screenshot saga was a weird transition period for everyone concerned. Despite its low quality, the show was cheap to produce, easily sponsored and rated well in its Saturday timeslot. This meant it was, by all the definitions that the TV industry cares about, a success. I came away sick to death of games and sick to my stomach of TV. But one part recovered and the other didn't.

Mass entertainment evolution is only just getting really started. It's going to produce many more successes - and corpses. Videogame developers should read Newton Minow's speech, should beware of complacency and their own vast wasteland, should remember that movies and TV were once "uber alles" and getting exactly the same ego-stroke that games now enjoy among savvy observers. It's not about total dominance anymore, just, well, evolution. And boy is she a cast-iron barracuda-toothed bitch sometimes.

But hell, in the end, it all comes down to entertainment, right? Let's go mainline some Civilization and play kissy-face on the beach

Colin Rowsell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He'd love to hear from you (unless you're a TV presenter) on

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