Virtual Evolution: How Internet technology is transforming interactions with online entertainment

Metaverse: Big Tech has its heart set on this “next big thing”, but what is  it?

“The internet has changed everything” – Bob Parsons.

The internet has changed our lives and online entertainment is, obviously, a function of the capacity for users to be online in the first place, a byproduct of the breakthrough that was the Internet. The Internet, though, wasn’t a thing until 1983, which is crazy to think about: this thing is only around forty years old, and yet has become a locus around which our lives are centered. 

Entertainment, though, is fundamentally about narrative: about power dynamics; about emotions; about people. The two top-grossing films, for example – Avatar and Avengers: Endgame – are, despite their fantastical premises, centered around relationships between people, and the emotional tangents therein. They are films that facilitate catharsis. Looking even at the most trivial-seeming TikTok that succeeds will still show you something about human psychology and human relationships.

The mediums by which entertainment is expressed and enjoyed have changed throughout time, but narratives and tropes have remained surprisingly similar. Entertainment, at its best, has always catered to both the civilized and uncivilized parts of ourselves: has kept our brains busy whilst also evoking primitive parts of ourselves to which we are not always privy. 

Even music is, fundamentally, about narrative: about an emotional arc; about the beating of the bass drum evoking our heartbeat, and an anxiety; a flute evoking the wind, and the dangers that such winds might have posed to our primitive ancestors. Emerging technologies are only successful if they resonate with us. 

Fundamental difference between offline and online entertainment

The fundamental difference between offline and online entertainment is merely the ease of use. The Internet is instant; it is remote; it has made us less reliant on physical media such as DVD, VCR etc, allowing us to instead utilize online platforms. It has made the world smaller. Never have so many worlds been open to so many of us. 

YouTube, for example, is, like so many other online platforms, free, so anyone with an internet connection has instant access to as many as a billion videos, and they’re accessible via laptops, iPads and smartphones: never has access to the rest of the world been so cheap. This newfound convenience represents a certain kind of freedom: we spend less money on entertainment now, and we also spend less time buying it. 

So, how has technology changed entertainment? Let’s look at how internet technologies have changed a few different types of online entertainment, and the ways in which we experience them, as well as the some new emerging technologies therein.


Since the days even of chess, gaming has always been a mechanism by which people have bonded, and by which they’ve attempted to assert themselves over another. 

Gaming as a form of online entertainment is flourishing. At one time, MMORPGs were the thing – World Of Warcraft, for example, was huge, and was a big part of the zeitgeist, even known to non-gamers. At one time, their subscription-based model was thought to be the way for a game to make the most money: to constantly add to an immersive game that people already owned, justifying the monthly price of the game.

Microtransations, now, seem to be the way in which companies make the most money. GTA V, for example, is often quoted as being the most successful entertainment product ever made, having made Take Two somewhere around $8 billion dollars. This is owing to the existence of “whales”: big spenders that might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to own the latest cars or equipment. And, now, developers develop video games specifically for smartphones for low costs, and chuck in some microtransactions to ensure huge profits. 

Every one of these games, though, is online, and that’s part of the point: World Of Warcraft was as fun as it was because of the capacity to interact with real people; GTA Online has the same thing, giving gamers people to show off their purchases to. 

Gaming has even explored these themes. Whilst the Internet is considered by most to have fractured people, “Death Stranding” argues that “the internet is a mechanism by which people can connect, and that the oxytocin that people receive through “likes” and the like are valid and meaningful mechanisms by which a real kind of communication can occur.”

There are viral videos that evidence this fact: – “guy in vr talks about their worst day as a soldier”, for example – which is a video in which a soldier is therapizing in a virtual reality game. As virtual reality becomes more popular, and more immersive, we are likely to see an even deeper level of connection forming between people through the internet.

How are internet technologies changing the way we interact with games? 

Chatboxes in games have been a thing for years, but, increasingly, these are becoming somewhat outmoded, replaced by, for example, voice chat: the capacity to instantaneously communicate with people halfway across the world is something that we take for granted now, but obviously massively enhances the social interaction possible within games as a byproduct of its enhanced convenience. 

Some games, though, have deliberately stripped away the capacity to communicate directly with other players, given that freely being able to communicate with people can facilitate toxic spaces. Death Stranding, for example, allows you to “like” other people’s structures, but not really interact with other players. Certain games only allow you to “emote”. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality games – AR games, for short – utilize the internet in order to give some facet of the world additional depth. Games like Pokemon GO and Pikmin are what are known as Augmented Reality games, or AR for short. AR games are what they sound like: they take place in reality, but augment it. So, in Pokemon GO, the relationship between the game and reality is as follows: real-world coordinates “contain” Pokemon and so, by travelling to certain coordinates, certain Pokemon will be found. 

It is, however, a game of incomplete information: you do not know which real-world coordinate contains which Pokemon, which encourages travel. The Summer of 2016 is remembered by many people as having been magical for the mere fact of the fact that Pokemon GO seemed to promise an infinity of fun, encouraging people to leave the house, soak in the sun, and utilise their imagination.

The next big revolution in gaming, though, might well be artifical intelligence. 

“It is difficult to think of a major industry that AI will not transform” – Andrew Ng

Artificial intelligence

About twenty years ago, artificial intelligence was a fringe topic, reserved for heady sci-fi films. Now, though, it’s on everyone’s lips, and people across the globe have started to see the benefits of the innovation: “Powered By AI” is starting to become a tagline we see everywhere, referring to features of apps that are tapping into the potential of AI to better our experiences.

On YouTube, you can find certain videos in which people have created AIs that utilise ChatGPT – Skyrim VR but all NPC’s [sic] use CHATGPT AI. Clearly, there’s so much potential here, and as AI starts to become more-and-more powerful, the opportunities become more-and-more insane. For example, certain games could already benefit from utilising AI within their NPCs. Indie games, for example, could use AI to ensure that the cash-strapped developers don’t have to devote so many of their resources to writing. 

Very often, technology trends that are supposed to be the next big thing prove to be gimmicks, and vice-versa: therefore, the technology trends that we should pay attention to are never entirely clear. It does seem, though, that AI is becoming better and better extremely quickly, and that we shouldn’t take our eyes off of it.

Films and television

The way in which movies and television are accessed has changed drastically, with people now utilizing Disney Plus, Netflix and the like instead of purchasing physical media. Streaming digital media obviously has its upsides – one doesn’t need to store films and TV shows locally anymore – but it also has its downsides, namely that people can’t generally be said to own the things they watch anymore. 

Still, the capacity to buy is still there – Amazon Prime, for example, still allows you to purchase films and TV shows – and never has watching amazing entertainment been easier. It’s changed our lives for the better.

Fact: if there’s ever a paradigm-shifting product release that gets us all to watch media via virtual reality, we will be even more immersed.

Certain pieces of media have reflected on these latest innovations. Bandersnatch is an amalgamation of video games and TV, and uses meta-commentary to comment upon both: it’s perhaps best described as a Choose Your Own Adventure TV episode. 

Furthermore, discussion of TV and movies has changed, with social media now becoming ablaze whenever the latest episode of Love Island drops. 

The biggest downside to the success of streaming services is, possibly, choice blindness – the psychological phenomenon that inhibits us from making choices expeditiously when there are more things to choose from. Having a thousand pieces of digital media at our fingertips is great, in theory, until we end up scrolling through endlessly, unable to make up our minds at all.


Betting, too, can be considered a form of online entertainment: a way in which we can create a narrative around even the most things. For example, you might bet that Alex Pereira win at UFC 300 by KO in the second round: by doing so, you are actively engaging in the sporting world by putting something on the line, and testing your predictive powers in the process.

Betting has changed: now, there are thousands of apps now, and every single one has its own upsides and downsides. 

Kate Richardson – an author at MightyTips – has expressed her own concerns about the various services certain apps claim to provide: “Often, an app will have an advert claiming that you’ll get this, this and this if you sign up now, deliberately obfuscating certain terms and conditions. To me, it seems irresponsible: people are putting their money on the line, and I don’t think it’s fair if you’re not being completely transparent about the services you’re offering them in return.” She goes on to assert that MightyTips offers you a fantastic range of sports betting tips, but also adds that, “Some of it really is common sense, though. Use your head, of course, but I’d say that, in today’s day and age, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you use online resources in order to ensure you’re not getting scammed or, at the very least, misled”.

As AI improves, it becomes more-and-more likely that bookmakers will have more advantages: after all, one of the disadvantages of someone that really knows a sport is that they’ll have bought into narratives around a person’s GOAT status, and their indestructibility, whereas an AI is capable of making those same evaluations without the same emotional biases.


Technology and entertainment have always been interlinked, but now more than ever can we see just how fast technology can change, and how entertainment can change with it. 

Digital entertainment is keeping us entertained so, in this author’s estimation, the future of entertainment is bright, but its future is as uncertain as the future of technology as a whole. 

Akshay Khanna

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