So recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the action of binging on media (for example, a television, film or gaming series) and the effect that may have on your overall enjoyment or appreciation of the content you’re consuming.
Binging, with regards to media, has become a very popular manner in which to consume content; almost the norm some may argue. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve probably binged on some TV, film or game series before.
A lot has been said about binging over the last few years, and not all of it necessarily has been that good. Some have claimed that not only does binging on media have potential negative effects for your physical and mental health, but it also isn’t exactly the best way in which to consume media due to the fact that the limited wait periods between consumption doesn’t allow you to fully process all of the information gathered.
Proponents of this viewpoint have also suggested that you are more likely to get bored with a particular series (TV or otherwise) if you consume it too quickly.
Those who completely dispute this argument suggest that binging is actually the optimal manner in which to consume content as in that way information remains fresh in one’s mind and is also a good manner in which to relieve stress as it gives one a limited, controlled period in which to escape from the realities of daily life.
It is suggested that people enjoy binging because it gives them control over the situation. You ultimately determine how much time you will spend consuming content and, most importantly, when you will do it.
So, does binging have a positive or negative effect on your overall enjoyment of the content consuming? And what about the other negative effects of binging? Are they really something to be worried about?
To answer these questions, I’ve decided to relay the three actual experiences and discussions that got me pondering on binging in the first place.
Control: A Most Valued Attribute
A few weekends ago, I binged watched a TV series from Season 1 to the last aired episode of Season 5. This was probably the first time in about a year that I had actually binge watched something.
The reason as to why I chose to watch this series so quickly was, firstly, all the episodes were already available, and then secondly, I didn’t really know when I would have time to watch this series again.
Some may argue that watching an episode everyday instead of seven would have lessened the load, but, quite honestly, I don’t know if I would have had the time to do that each and every night until the last episode.
The reason for that is that of an irregular schedule; something which most people have.
Throughout my very short professional career, I’ve worked in project-based industries, in which situations where one worked a 15-hour day and situations where one worked a five-hour day were both apparent (guess which one occurs more often.)
Then in one’s personal life there are also events, which one would choose to attend or partake in a heartbeat over watching some TV series or playing some new video game.
Everybody lives irregular lives which sometimes makes committing to a regular schedule impossible and this is why I totally agree that one of the appealing aspects of binge consumption of media is control; you get to decide when you engage in something and for how long and that is a positive for many people.
Content Analysis: Do You Need Time To Decide Whether Something Is Good Or Bad?
Sometimes, you need that break…
Quite a while ago, I was out with a few friends and in a conversation, I had stated that I had binge played #TheWitcher series last year (may soon be doing the Netflix series too) and that it wasn’t the first time I had done this with a video game series.
Another notable example is the #AssassinsCreed series to which some of my friends were rather surprised. They argued that doing this must have been akin to playing the same game for months except with periodic graphic upgrades.
I had played the first Assassin’s Creed when it came out, but didn’t return to the series until 2014, when I basically bought every other title released in the main series, except for Rogue.
The funny thing was that I did actually start getting tired with the series by the time I was halfway through Revelations, but I couldn’t really understand why the game was starting to annoy me. I still bought Unity that year and finished it and maintained for some time that had it not been a broken game that it would have still been a game people should purchase on sale.
It was only after I bought and finished Syndicate at the end of 2015, after a year and a bit away from playing the series that I really began noticing the problems that I wasn’t really able to put a finger on when I had been playing Revelations; the fact that the game had chosen quantity over quality in terms of content and that most innovations were somewhat superficial.
To be entirely honest, I don’t think that I would’ve bought another AC game had I played Assassin’s Creed 2 and then Brotherhood the next year, but the fact that I was playing them one after the other (and that Xbox Live had a huge #Ubisoft sale at the time in which I bought all of them at once) I’ll say kind of blinded my ability to make an accurate appraisal of the series.
This isn’t even the first time that this has happened to me after binging on some type of media. There have been several TV series that I have watched caught up on and then recommended to my friends, only to find out after watching the first two episodes of the new season of that same series that it is in actual fact a whole load of rubbish.
In these instances, I do understand the notion of why waiting may be better as sometimes the immediate availability of the next episode or sequel title creates an obsessive desire to complete the story or to know what happens next that totally clouds our judgement on whether what we are consuming is actually quality content.
But, not always.
A few days ago, I came across a discussion on YouTube in which it was suggested that the fourth episode of every #Telltale series game ever released is rather lackluster as it often focuses on scene building.
The argument suggested that although scene building is required in order to craft a good overall narrative within, the breaks in between episode releases makes the idea that you’re actually doing very little in particular episode more apparent, whereas if you played all five episodes immediately after each other, without the waiting period, this wouldn’t be as apparent.
I entirely agree. I do find that people quite simply do not remember all of the details of serials they may be watching/playing/reading on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis.
This is not due to a limited attention span, but rather that in that interim period between releases, you have a whole load of other things to do, such as live your life, therefore sometimes you forget some important, but small or short details in the story.
At times, this could even mean you misinterpreting something that takes place in the series because of the forgotten details and suggesting that the action was random or bad writing, where it was actually planned well in-advance.
Sometimes, there are boring periods within a TV series, game or movie that do need to be there to help build and create a more balanced and compelling narrative.
A lot of people say that the first episode of each new #GameofThrones season is the most disappointing each season because it largely focuses on creating the storylines for the new season as opposed to actually dealing with aftermath of the events of the previous season’s finale, which the second episode often begins with.
I am sure that if viewers were able to watch the second episode right after the first, the first episode wouldn’t get labelled ‘boring’ as often as it does, but what do I know?
Is Binging Bad For Your Health?
Although this is not a major discussion point in this article, I thought that I couldn’t completely ignore this counter point.
Research within this area is still developing as the concept of binge consumption of media is still relatively new so it is difficult for anybody to make concrete claims about whether binging is objectively bad for you.
Some studies in this area, have identified a correlation between binge watching TV series and depression but no study has proven causation as of yet. Researchers have pointed out that people who are depressed generally are somewhat anti-social and binge watching can be an anti-social activity if one makes it that way, so such research may actually be highlighting the fact that binge watching TV series is an activity that depressed people like to partake in.
With regards to the physical effects, it is important to remember that the action of watching television, playing video games as well as reading a book promotes a sedentary lifestyle because the action requires that you are seated and engage in minimal physical activity.
But if regular workout sessions are part of your weekly routine, is binge consumption of media really all that bad for you if you spend maybe a day or two wholly focused on a sedentary activity?
Maybe it offsets, maybe not. It doesn’t seem that research has taken this possibility into account as of yet, but as research contributions in this area continues to grow, maybe we’ll know soon.
Don't Feel Bad About Binging, And Don't Feel Obligated To Binge
If you don’t like waiting for the next chapter in a story, wait until its finished and then start your journey. However, if you like the hype that is built up waiting for new content to be released periodically then keep on consuming the content periodically.
Do you feel that binging is a better way in which to consume content? Please share in the comments down below.