It’s April Fool’s day and the beleaguered people who still read newspapers have endured a seasonal round of traditional pranks from the inky media. The Guardian has a round-up online already.
But this post isn’t about those. It’s about two jokes that oddly misjudged the zeitgeist and our continuing affection for old technology. Even the stuff everyone else thinks is naff. The first is a viral video, designed to market the BBC Store. You may not know, because the BBC is so frightened of advertising its own services in case someone from the Government accuses them of populism, that you can digitally and legally buy loads of old content direct from the BBC. Even stuff that hasn’t made it to other digital platforms.
Because there are always cameras available to grab at the Beeb, because management and admin staff don’t ask for Equity rates and because the budget’s already there for embedding videos online, this is a zero-brain-cell, low budget way for the BBC Store to capitalise on April 1st.
It posits the idea that you now get a free VHS video with every digital download of one of your favourite shows. Ridiculously topsy turvy, eh? It lovingly lampoons the clunky buttons and low-fi performance of these bygone artefacts – making the very presence of a VCR part of the joke. Even though anyone with a Grandma knows what they look like.
Thing is, this video comes the day after the latest flurry of articles about a resurgence in VHS in the second-hand market. Many movies, mainly cult, er, “classics” and low budget direct-to-video b movies have never made it to disc – either DVD or Blu-Ray. Pristine VHS copies of these movies are becoming hard to find and can exchange hands for silly money.
Even more silly though was game dev Don’t Nod’s Rick roll at the expense of Life is Strange fans. The award winning, coming of age video game is already steeped in sun-dappled nostalgia and hipster chic, so its April Fool’s joke offer of a limited edition soundtrack mixtape seems entirely plausible.
Not only plausible – desirable. The Facebook post that launched the joke is full of disappointed comments of the “ha ha… I really wish this was true…” variety. What a missed marketing opportunity. Again, it’s totally blindsided by the fact that – for some – cassette tape has already made a comeback. I would actually pay good money for a “Life is Strange” mixtape. Well, £4.99 plus postage.
In a world where there are fewer and fewer tangible objects for us to hold and cherish, even the ones we used to ridicule can begin to seem precious.
Except for multimedia CD-Roms. No one wants those back.