I am obsessed with forming healthy communities, and that’s why I started Twitch — to help people watch other people play video games on the internet. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. So in seriousness, video games and communitiestruly are quite related. From our early human history, we made our entertainmenttogether in small tribes. We shared stories around the campfire, we sang together, we danced together. http://tech
Our earliest entertainmentwas both shared and interactive. It wasn’t until pretty recentlyon the grand scale of human history that interactivity took a back seat and broadcast entertainment took over. Radio and records brought musicinto our vehicles, into our homes. TV and VHS brought sports and dramainto our living rooms. This access to broadcast entertainmentwas unprecedented. https://worldgraphics20.com/2020/10/29/how-apple-watch-ekg-technollogy-save-us-in-2020/
It gave people amazing contentaround the globe. It created a shared culturefor millions of people. And now, if you want to go watchor listen to Mozart, you don’t have to buy an incrediblyexpensive ticket and find an orchestra. And if you like to sing — I can show you the world — then you have something in commonwith people around the world. But with this amazing access, we allowed for a separationbetween creator and consumer, and the relationship between the twobecame much more one-way.
We wound up in a world where we hada smaller class of professional creators and most of us became spectators, and as a result it became far easierfor us to enjoy that content alone. There’s a trend counteracting this: scarcity. So, Vienna in the 1900s,was famous for its café culture. And one of the big driversof that café culture was expensive newspapersthat were hard to get, and as a result, people would go to the caféand read the shared copy there.
And once they’re in the cafe, they meet the other peoplealso reading the same newspaper, they converse, they exchange ideas and they form a community. In a similar way, TV and cable used to be more expensive, and so you might not watchthe game at home. Instead you’d go to the local bar and cheer along withyour fellow sports fans there. But as the price of media continuesto fall over time thanks to technology, this shared necessity that used to bringour communities together falls away.
We have so many amazing optionsfor our entertainment, and yet it’s easier than ever for usto wind up consuming those options alone. Our communitiesare bearing the consequences. For example, the number of people who reporthaving at least two close friends is at an all-time low. I believe that one of the majorcontributing causes to this is that our entertainment todayallows us to be separate.
There is one trend reversingthis atomization of our society: modern multiplayer video games. Games are like a shared campfire. They’re both interactive and connecting. Now these campfiresmay have beautiful animations, heroic quests, occasionally too many loot boxes, but games today are very different than the solitary activityof 20 years ago.
They’re deeply complex, they’re more intellectually stimulating, and most of all,they’re intrinsically social. One of the recent breakout genresexemplifying this change is the battle royale. 100 people parachute onto an islandin a last-man-standing competition. Think of it as beingkind of like “American Idol,” but with a lot more fightingand a lot less Simon Cowell.
You may have heard of “Fortnite,” which is a breakout exampleof the battle royale genre, which has been played by morethan 250 million people around the world. It’s everyone from kidsin your neighborhood to Drake and Ellen DeGeneres. 2.3 billion people in the worldplay video games. Early games like “Tetris” and “Mario”may have been simple puzzles or quests, but with the rise of arcadesand then internet play, and now massively multiplayer gamesof huge, thriving online communities, games have emergedas the one form of entertainment where consumption truly requireshuman connection.
So this brings us to streaming. Why do people stream themselvesplaying video games? And why do hundreds of millionsof people around the world congregate to watch them? I want you all the imagine for second — imagine you land on an alien planet, and on this planet,there’s a giant green rectangle. And in this green rectangle, aliens in matching outfits are trying to push a checkeredsphere between two posts using only their feet.
It’s pretty evenly matched, so the ball is just going back and forth, but there’s hundreds of millionsof people watching from home anyway, and cheering and getting excitedand engaged right along with them. Now I grew up watching sports with my dad, so I get why socceris entertaining and engaging.
But if you don’t watch sports, maybe you like watching”Dancing with the Stars” or you enjoy “Top Chef.” Regardless, the principle is the same. If there is an activitythat you really enjoy, you’re probably going to likewatching other people do it with skill and panache. It might be perplexing to an alien, but bonding over shared passionis a human universal.
So gamers grew up expectingthis live, interactive entertainment, and passive consumptionjust doesn’t feel as fulfilling. That’s why livestreaminghas taken off with video games. Because livestreaming offersthat same kind of interactive feeling. So when you imaginewhat’s happening on Twitch, I don’t want you to thinkof a million livestreams of video games.
What streaming means for the future of entertainment technology in 2020
Instead, what I want you to pictureis millions of campfires. Some of them are bonfires — huge, roaring bonfires with hundredsof thousands of people around them. Some of them are smaller,more intimate community gatherings where everyone knows your name. Let’s try taking a seatby one of those campfires right now. Hey Cohh, how’s it going? Cohh: Hey, how’s it going, Emmett? ES: So I’m here at TEDwith about 1,000 of my closest friends, and we thought we’d comeand join you guys for a little stream.
Cohh: Awesome! It’s greatto hear from you guys. ES: So Cohh, can you sharewith the TED audience here — what have you learnedabout your community on Twitch? Cohh: Ah, man, where to begin? I’ve been doing thisfor over five years now, and if there’s one thing that doesn’tcease to impress me on the daily, it’s just kind of how incrediblethis whole thing is for communication.
I’ve been playing gamesfor 20 years of my life, I’ve led online MMO guilds for over 10, and it’s the kind of thingwhere there’s very few places in life where you can go to meetso many people with similar interests. I was listening in a bit earlier; I love the campfire analogy,I actually use a similar one. I see it all as a bunch of peopleon a big couch but only one person has the controller.
So it’s kind of likea “Pass the snack!” situation, you know? 700 people that way — but it’s great and really it’s just — ES: So Cohh, what is going onin chat right now? Can you explain that a little bit to us? Because my eyesight isn’t that goodbut I see a lot of emotes. Cohh: So this is my community;this is the Cohhilition. I stream every single day.
I actually just wrapped upa 2,000-day challenge, and as such, we have developeda pretty incredible community here in the channel. Right now we haveabout 6200 people with us. What you’re seeing is a spamof “Hello, TED” good-vibe emotes, love emotes, “this is awesome,” “Hi, guys,” “Hi, everyone.” Basically just a hugecollection of people — huge collection of gamers that are all just experiencinga positive event together. ES: So is there anything that –can we poll chat? I want ask chat a question.
Is there anythingthat chat would like the world, and particularly these peoplehere with me at TED right now, to know about what they getout of playing video games and being part of this community? Cohh: Oh, wow. I am already starting to seea lot of answers here. “I like the good vibes.” “Best communities are on Twitch. “They get us throughthe rough patches in life.” Oh, that’s a messageI definitely see a lot on Twitch, which is very good.
“A very positive community,” “a lot of positivity,” which is pretty great. ES: So Cohh, before I get backto my TED talk, which I actually should probablyget back to doing at some point — Do you have anything elsethat you want to share with me or any question you wanted to ask, you’ve always wantedto get out there before an audience? Cohh: Honestly, not too much.
I mean, I absolutely lovewhat you’re doing right now. I think that the interactive streaming is the big unexplored frontierof the future in entertainment, and thank you for doingeverything you’re doing up there. The more people that hearabout what you do, the better — for everyone on here. ES: Awesome, Cohh. Thanks so much. I’m going to get backto giving this talk now, but we should catch up later.
Cohh: Sounds great! ES: So that was a new way to interact. We could influencewhat happened on the stream, we could cocreatethe experience along with him, and we really had a multiplayer experiencewith chat and with Cohh. At Twitch, we’ve started calling this, as a result, “multiplayer entertainment.” Because going from watching a video aloneto watching a live interactive stream is similar to the difference betweengoing from playing a single-player game to playing a multiplayer game.
Gamers are often as the forefrontof exploration in new technology. Microcomputers, for example,were used early on for video games, and the very first handheld, digitalmass-market devices weren’t cell phones, they were Gameboys … for video games. And as a result, one way that you can get a hintof what the future might hold is to look to this fun, interactivesandbox of video games and ask yourself, “what are these gamers doing today?” And that might give you a hintas to what the future is going to hold for all of us.
One of the thingswe’re already seeing on Twitch is multiplayer entertainmentcoming to sports. So, Twitch and the NFL teamed upto offer livestreaming football, but instead of network announcersin suits streaming the game, we got Twitch users to come in and stream it themselveson their own channel and interact with their community and make it a real multiplayer experience. So I actually think that if youlook out into the future — only hundreds of people todayget to be sports announcers.
It’s a tiny, tiny number of peoplewho have that opportunity. But sports are about to go multiplayer, and that means that anyonewho wants to around the world is going to get the opportunityto become a sports announcer, to give it a shot. And I think that’s going to unlockincredible amounts of new talent for all of us. And we’re not going to be asking,”Did you catch the game?” Instead, we’re going to be asking.
“Whose channel did you catch the game on?” We already see this happeningwith cooking, with singing — we even see people streaming welding. And all of this stuff is going to happenaround the metaphorical campfire. There’s going to be millionsof these campfires lit over the next few years. And on every topic, you’re going to be able to find a campfire that will allow you to bondwith your people around the world.
For most of human history, entertainment was simply multiplayer. We sang together in person, we shared news togetherin the town square in person, and somewhere along the way, that two-way conversationturned into a one-way transmission. As someone who cares about communities, I am excited for a world where our entertainmentcould connect us instead of isolating us. A world where we can bond with each otherover our shared interests and create real, strong communities. Games, streams and the interactionsthey encourage, are only just beginningto turn the wheel back to our interactive, community-rich,multiplayer past. Thank you all for sharingthis experience here with me, and may you all find your best campfire.
mind blowing stage sculptures that fuse music and technology
These are sequences from a play called”The Lehman Trilogy,” which traces the originsof Western capitalism in three hours, with three actors and a piano. And my role was to create a stage design to write a visual language for this work. The play describes Atlantic crossings, Alabama cotton fields, New York skylines, and we framed the whole thingwithin this single revolving cube, a kind of kinetic cinemathrough the centuries.
It’s like a musical instrument played by three performers. And as they step their wayaround and through the lives of the Lehman brothers, we, the audience, begin to connectwith the simple, human origins at the root of the complexglobal financial systems that we’re all still in thrall to today. I used to play musical instrumentsmyself when I was younger.
My favorite was the violin. It was this intimate transfer of energy. You held this organic sculptureup to your heart, and you poured the energyof your whole body into this little piece of wood,and heard it translated into music. And I was never particularlygood at the violin, but I used to sit at the backof the second violin section in the Hastings Youth Orchestra, scratching away.
We were all scratching and marveling at this symphonic soundthat we were making that was so muchmore beautiful and powerful than anything we would everhave managed on our own. And now, as I createlarge-scale performances, I am always working with teams that are at least the sizeof a symphony orchestra.
And whether we are creating these revolving giantchess piece time tunnels for an opera by Richard Wagner or shark tanks and mountainsfor Kanye West, we’re always seeking to createthe most articulate sculpture, the most poetic instrumentof communication to an audience. When I say poetic, I just mean languageat its most condensed, like a song lyric, a poetic puzzleto be unlocked and unpacked.
And when we were preparingto design Beyoncé’s “Formation” tour, we looked at all the lyrics, and we came across this poemthat Beyoncé wrote. “I saw a TV preacher when I was scared,at four or five about bad dreams who promised he’d say a prayerif I put my hand to the TV.
That’s the first time I remember prayer,an electric current running through me.” And this TV that transmitted prayerto Beyoncé as a child became this monolithic revolving sculpture that broadcast Beyoncéto the back of the stadium. And the stadium is a mass congregation. It’s a temporary populationof a hundred thousand people who have all come there to sing alongwith every word together, but they’ve also come thereeach seeking one-to-one intimacy with the performer.
And we, as we conceive the show,we have to provide intimacy on a grand scale. It usually starts with sketches. I was drawingthis 60-foot-high, revolving, broadcast-quality portrait of the artist, and then I torethe piece of paper in half. I split the mask to try to access the humanunderneath it all. And it’s one thing to do sketches,but of course translating from a sketch into a tourable revolvingsix-story building took some exceptional engineersworking around the clock for three months, until finally we arrived in Miami and opened the show in April 2016.
Beyoncé: Y’all haters cornywith that Illuminati mess Paparazzi, catch my fly,and my cocky fresh I’m so reckless when I rockmy Givenchy dress I’m so possessive so I rockhis Roc necklaces My daddy Alabama Momma Louisiana You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama I call my work, Thank you.
I call my work stage sculpture, but of course what’s really being sculptedis the experience of the audience, and as directors and designers, we have to take responsibility for every minutethat the audience spend with us. We’re a bit like pilots navigating a flight pathfor a hundred thousand passengers.
And in the case of the Canadianartist The Weeknd, we translated this flight path literally into an origami paper folding airplane that took off over the headsof the audience, broke apart in mid-flight, complications, and then rose out of the ashes restored at the end of the show.
And like any flight, the most delicate partis the liftoff, the beginning, because when you design a pop concert, the prime materialthat you’re working with is something that doesn’t take trucksor crew to transport it. It doesn’t cost anything, and yet it fills every atom of airin the arena, before the show starts. It’s the audience’s anticipation. Everyone brings with themthe story of how they came to get there, the distances they traveled, the months they had to workto pay for the tickets.
Sometimes they sleep overnightoutside the arena, and our first task is to deliverfor an audience on their anticipation, to deliver their first sightof the performer. When I work with men, they’re quite happy to have their musictransformed into metaphor — spaceflights, mountains. But with women, we work a lot with masksand with three-dimensional portraiture, because the fans of the female artist crave her face.
And when the audience arrived to seeAdele’s first live concert in five years, they were met with this imageof her eyes asleep. If they listened carefully, they would hear her sleeping breathechoing around the arena, waiting to wake up. Here’s how the show began. Adele: Hello. Es Devlin: With U2,we’re navigating the audience over a terrain that spans three decadesof politics, poetry and music.
And over many months, meetingwith the band and their creative teams, this is the sketch that kept recurring, this line, this street, the street that connectsthe band’s past with their present, the tightrope that they walkas activists and artists, a walk through cinema that allows the bandto become protagonists in their own poetry.
mind blowing stage sculptures that fuse music and technology
Bono: I wanna run I want to hide I wanna tear down the walls That hold me inside Es Devlin: The end of the showis like the end of a flight. It’s an arrival. It’s a transfer from the stageout to the audience. For the British band Take That, we ended the show by sendingan 80-foot high mechanical human figure out to the center of the crowd.
Like many translationsfrom music to mechanics, this one was initially deemedentirely technically impossible. The first three engineerswe took it to said no, and eventually,the way that it was achieved was by keeping the entirecontrol system together while it toured around the country, so we had to fold it uponto a flatbed truck so it could tour aroundwithout coming apart.
And of course, what this meantwas that the dimension of its head was entirely determined by the lowest motorway bridgethat it had to travel under on its tour. And I have to tell you that it turns out there is an unavoidableand annoyingly low bridge low bridge just outside Hamburg. Another of the most technically complexpieces that we’ve worked on is the opera “Carmen” at Bregenz Festival in Austria.
We envisaged Carmen’s hands risingout of Lake Constance, and throwing this deckof cards in the air and leaving them suspendedbetween sky and sea. But this transient gesture,this flick of the wrists had to become a structurethat would be strong enough to withstand two Austrian winters. So there’s an awful lotthat you don’t see in this photograph that’s working really hard.
It’s a lot of ballast and structureand support around the back, and I’m going to show you the photosthat aren’t on my website. They’re photos of the back of a set, the part that’s not designedfor the audience to see, however much work it’s doing. And you know, this is actually the dilemma for an artist who is workingas a stage designer, because so much of what I make is fake, it’s an illusion.
And yet every artist works in pursuitof communicating something that’s true. But we are always asking ourselves: “Can we communicate truthusing things that are false?” And now when I attendthe shows that I’ve worked on, I often find I’m the only onewho is not looking at the stage. I’m looking at somethingthat I find equally fascinating, and it’s the audience.
I mean, where else do you witness this: this many humans, connected, focused, undistracted and unfragmented? And lately, I’ve begun to make workthat originates here, in the collective voice of the audience. “Poem Portraits” is a collective poem. It began at the SerpentineGallery in London, and everybody is invitedto donate one word to a collective poem.
And instead of that largesingle LED portrait that was broadcastingto the back of the stadium, in this case, every member of the audience gets to take their own portraithome with them, and it’s woven in with the words that they’ve contributedto the collective poem. So they keep a fragmentof an ever-evolving collective work. And next year, the collective poemwill take architectural form. This is the design for the UK Pavilionat the World Expo 2020.
The UK … In my lifetime,it’s never felt this divided. It’s never felt this noisywith divergent voices. And it’s never felt this muchin need of places where voices might connect and converge. And it’s my hopethat this wooden sculpture, this wooden instrument,a bit like that violin I used to play, might be a place where peoplecan play and enter their word at one end of the cone, emerge at the other end of the building, and find that their word has joineda collective poem, a collective voice.
These are simple experimentsin machine learning. The algorithm that generatesthe collective poem is pretty simple. It’s like predictive text, only it’s trained on millions of wordswritten by poets in the 19th century. So it’s a sort of convergenceof intelligence, past and present, organic and inorganic. And we were inspiredby the words of Stephen Hawking.
Towards the end of his life,he asked quite a simple question: If we as a species were everto come across another advanced life-form, an advanced civilization, how would we speak to them? What collective languagewould we speak as a planet? The language of lightreaches every audience. All of us are touched by it.None of us can hold it.
And in the theater, we begin each workin a dark place, devoid of light. We stay up all night focusing the lights,programming the lights, trying to find new waysto sculpt and carve light. This is a portrait of our practice, always seeking new waysto shape and reshape light, always finding words for thingsthat we no longer need to say. And I want to say that this, and everything that I’ve just shown you, no longer exists in physical form.
In fact, most of what I’ve madeover the last 25 years doesn’t exist anymore. But our work endures in memories,in synaptic sculptures, in the minds of thosewho were once present in the audience. I once read that a poem learnt by heart is what you have left, what can’t be lost, even if your house burns downand you’ve lost all your possessions. I want to end with some linesthat I learnt by heart a long time ago.
They’re written by the Englishnovelist E.M. Forster, in 1910, just a few yearsbefore Europe, my continent, began tearing itself apart. And his call to convergencestill resonates through most of whatwe’re trying to make now. “Only connect! That wasthe whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, And human love will be seen at its height. Only connect! And livein fragments no longer.” Thank you.