Dirt: Streaming culture is never finished


If you’ve heard one thing about the video game Cyberpunk 2077, it’s probably that it sucks. Hyped for years, the big-budget game was rushed out by the studio CD Projekt this month. It’s been plagued by surreal glitches and errors like too-large save files causing the game to crash, sometimes permanently. (The way the glitches have become a form of entertainment in themselves, like this YouTube compilation, is interesting.)

At Kotaku, Luke Plunkett wrote an interesting piece about how some video games like Cyperpunk 2077 are “too big to fail” — if they’re glitchy or badly written or just don’t work, they get updated, patched, and overhauled until they’re good, a process that could take a few more years, as in the case of No Man’s Sky. It reminds me of how Kanye West continually updated and changed the streaming version of The Life of Pablo.

When a piece of culture — album, film, video game — is distributed by streaming online, or as a changeable piece of software, that means it’s never finished. The creator can always upload a new version, change some narrative or mechanic or introduce new material. The finite artifact as we knew it is kind of over.

I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but I’m curious when this process of correction will come to TV shows or even ebook novels: A work of art can change with time, bend to the whims of its creator or audience. Eventually you get people hoarding a particular release date or version of a book or show as their favorite, the way some people do with eras of Word software: uncorrected, uncensored, entertainingly glitchy. — By Kyle Chayka

The Dirt: Jonathan Franzen force-updating ebook versions of his next novel.