Last weekend, a friend and I took one of those random excursions down Memory Lane, thanks to good old YouTube. This particular foray into the past was a little off the beaten track: A revisiting of Public Information Films from the past.
Those unfamiliar with the genre really don’t know what you’re missing. These short video snippets managed to pack a real punch into just a matter of minutes, even seconds. They were designed to keep the public informed and on the straight and narrow, usually through the expedient of shock-horror tactics (quite literally ‘shocking’ in some cases!), and employed a full range of cinematic techniques, ranging from gritty realism to cartoon styling to get their message across. And they were incredibly successful in doing so – there’s a whole generation of Brits for whom the words, ‘clunk, click’, ‘Charlie says’, and ‘Joe and Petunia’ will resonate down through the years.
It’s a generation that will never drive with bald tyres, play with matches, fail to test their smoke alarms, or ignore someone drowning at sea; they’ll put on their seat belts for the shortest journey to pick up pizza, never let their kids play Frisbee near electricity transformers, and will never, ever have sex, because they’re terrified of catching AIDS. Not only did the messages of those public information films sink in, but they are burned irreversibly into the consciousness of anyone who was brought up with them!
I think the most terrifying ones of all were those that came out at the end of the Cold War – a time when we were all convinced that our world would come to an apocalyptic nuclear end at any moment. Who would ever have thought we’d live in a time when the government thought it necessary to put adverts on the TV to instruct us on the safest way to dispose of the dead bodies of our nearest and dearest? Frightening! Chances are though that we’ll probably soon be seeing these sort of things back on our screens advising us about the best methods for avoiding suicide bombers and terror attacks… It’s a funny old world.
Not quite as funny as SL however – a place where any sort of general tutorial is welcome. Back in the day, we had Torley’s instructional videos, with their wonderfully over-enthusiastic voice-overs. However, since his corporate toning-down, that’s a resource that’s pretty much been lost. There are, of course, a wide range of bloggers and YouTubers of varying quality, presenting a wide array of informational tutorials, covering many aspects of SL. Unfortunately, many of these lack the punch and impact that the topic merits and we end up with shaky, poor quality, rambling affairs, accompanied by mumbling, unscripted and unhelpful dialogue that focuses your attention on the arcane and peculiar tortures you’d like to inflict upon the presenter, rather than on the subject matter itself.
I do also think that in SL there’s room for something more akin to the traditional public information film too – not so much a tutorial, but short, snappy presentations promoting good SLitizenship, and virtual values, along with common sense hints and tips for SLurvival in a virtual world.
I have a few ideas in mind…
- A Linden in a polo neck sweater, serious look on their face, reminding us of the consequences of getting involved with vampires : “Think once, think twice, think bite!” he warns us, slamming his hand down on the table to punctuate his last syllable.
- An inworld celebrity telling us the safest way to get around the local area, extolling the benefits of double-click teleporting: “Double-click – every trip!”
- A furry, providing us with a graphic warning about the dangers of drama and mixing with the wrong sort of avatar: “Charlie says, listen to what mummy tells you, and don’t play with bitches!”
- A seven foot tall, muscle-bound avatar, dressed in a Green Lantern suit teaches a couple of littles how to avoid griefing: “Always use the Sandbox Code!”
That’s the sort of messages and advice we need – helpful, to the point, and – most of all – memorable!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to plan where I’m going to bury my neighbours in the effect of a nuclear holocaust.
You’re driving a little too fast and have a false sense of confidence
You’ve really got something here
No drinking and driving
Not even beer?
Not even water
Public Service Broadcasting – Signal 30