What Really Makes a “Game Changer”

Well, it’s NAB again and you know what that means? It’s the annual release of all the latest “game changers.” They should just call the show “Change-Con” or NAGC (National Association of Game Changers). The term gets used more and more lately that I gotta say, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya:

you-keep-using-that-word

Absolutely no disrespect is meant to the companies and products for whom this term has been recently used. Freefly System’s MoVI and The Mimic are indeed amazing products. But are they “game changers”? IMHO, if there is any room for debate whether or not something is a game changer, it’s not. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of high-praise adjectives. But I think to truly earn the title “game changer,” requires a much higher standard.

A true game changer…

  • Is Undeniable. I don’t care how cynical a person is, he will not be able to look a true game changer in the face and deny it has or will change “the game.” Its effect on its respective industry will be empirical.
  • Strikes Fear. A true game changer strikes fear in some significant part of the industry. Why? Because businesses will have to change. Some may even go out of business or file for bankruptcy. Jobs will be lost. Even many end-users will be afraid because it will mean they’ll need to learn something new.

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  • Has Scale. A true game changer reaches the far corners of the world. Everyone (and I mean everyone) will feel or see its effects, either directly or indirectly.
  • Breeds New Industries. Not only will new businesses be born from the release of  a true game changer, but it will create whole industries in its wake.
  • Is Infrequent. I’m sorry, but game changers don’t come out every year. They take time to percolate. You have to be patient for them to happen. But when they do, you know it.
  • Changes the Game. Last, and certainly not least, a true game changer actually changes “the game.” Not just a small part of the game; the whole freaking game. That is why it’s call a “game” changer.

Examples of Game Changers Through the Years

Let’s go back in time and see some examples of creations that truly changed their games. I don’t even need to describe what game they changed. As I wrote above, their effects were undeniable and far-reaching.

  • The Wheel
  • The Printing Press
  • The Photograph
  • The Lightbulb
  • The Locomotive
  • The Automobile
  • The Telephone
  • The Airplane
  • The Radio
  • The Television
  • Sound in Movies
  • Color in Movies
  • The Silicon Chip
  • The Personal Computer
  • The Cassette Tape
  • Email
  • The Web
  • Pagemaker
  • PostScript

Some  examples of game changers we’ve seen in consumer technology and entertainment include:

  • VHS
  • The CD
  • DVD
  • Blu-ray
  • MacOS
  • Amazon.com
  • Google search
  • The mp3
  • iTunes
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • The iPhone
  • Netflix
  • House of Cards
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HoC single-handedly created the binge-watch culture so prevalent now. We used to stand around the water cooler the next day to discuss single episodes on TV. Now we discuss whole seasons!

Within the filmmaking and photography industries, I think the products that truly earned the title game changer over the past 40 years include:

  • The original steadicam
  • Digital photography
  • Digital video
  • HD video
  • Avid
  • Final Cut Pro 1.0
  • RED’s first cinema camera
  • Canon’s 5D Mark II
  • UPDATED: Drones and quadcopters. (I actually meant to include this but forgot. Thanks to my colleagues on Shane Hurlbut’s “Inner Circle” Facebook Group for reminding me.)

(Notice how some game changers knock-out other game changers that came before it?)

If I’m being honest, I think the 5D Mark II was the last true game changer in our industry (“last” meaning the most recent; not “last” as in final.) Since late 2008 when “Reverie” was released, what single new product release has had the kind of impact the 5D Mark II has had? Or the kind of impact any of the other products or technological advancements on my list has had? If I’m missing something, let me know. (See comment above about Drones and Quadcopters).

My hats off to all the companies releasing amazing products and services this year at NAB. The work they do makes what I do that much more fun and/or effective. But I look forward to that one product or service whose undeniable, fear-striking, far-reaching and industry-creating effects will truly and irreversibly CHANGE the game.

What have been some of your favorite game changers over the years? Which ones do you think should be added to my list?