Can love bloom even on the Internet?

Something I occasionally wonder: Does the thrill of the chase still exist? At least in terms of information and media, I mean. Obviously humans are doomed to seek after the unrequited affections of others until aliens conquer the world and suppress the human reproductive instinct. I’m thinking more in terms of hunting for music, movies, film, that sort of thing.

I’m sitting on a crowded bus riding through San Francisco’s streets, and on my phone here I can pull up info about just about anything I could ever hope to know, some of which is actually based in real fact [citation needed]. If I want to listen to a tune by Italian progressive rock band PFM or krautrock legends Faust — bands, I would wager, no one else on this bus has ever even heard of — I go over to my YouTube app and find where someone has flipped the bird to intellectual property rights and uploaded that track. If I need to work my way through the AFA 100, I stumble over to and buy them all for low prices (or, if I’m feeling less noble, snag them from some torrent site). If I want to learn the history of the UK’s Canterbury rock scene from the ’70s, I can pull up a dry summary on Wikipedia or read impassioned recollections and treatises from dozens of fan sites.

Hooray for human progress and all that, but like I said: Do people still know the thrill of the chase? I feel a deep connection to the music I love, one that’s lasted more than two decades in some cases, in large part because of the effort I had to invest in finding that music in the first place. I couldn’t go online in 1993 (I learned about the WWW a year later) and get recommendations for fans of Yes and Genesis. I had to browse through bookstores and libraries to find snark-laden articles on those bands that painted them with the same dismissive strokes as King Crimson and ELP, which prompted me to hunt down those bands despite Rolling Stone’s assertion that they were probably worse than cancer.

I couldn’t order hard-to-find albums online; when something like Can’s Tago Mago showed up in the university record shop (which mostly did deal in records at that point in time), I had to pony up $40 on the spot or risk never seeing it again. And I only knew about Can because of a classmate who swore they were amazing but didn’t have much evidence to offer. It was a time of groping blind for information and references, of buying sight-unseen at exorbitant cost and hoping I didn’t just sink a ton of money on a dud (see: Pierre Moerlin-era Gong). When I finally found something like a Van Der Graff Generator album after literal years of searching, that acquisition had real meaning for me.

So I ask, not as old-man-shouting-at-cloud but in genuine curiosity: Does that experience still exist for people in this day and age? When any media you could ever hope to enjoy exists only a few clicks and a brief queue away, what chase is there to thrill in? What connections do people form to art now when even the most obscure work is a digital commodity rather than a precious rarity?

I don’t have any doubt that people feel a deep connection with the art they consume and enjoy. The Internet hasn’t destroyed our souls (it has given a voice to the soulless, which is not the same thing). I’m just curious to know the new methodology for these things. My tastes were cemented long before Napster and Amazon, so it’s all a mystery to me. Teach me of your youthy mysteries, o pupal humanoids.

23 thoughts on “Can love bloom even on the Internet?

  1. No doubt this is the case. Mostly why I’ve found so much joy hunting down rare SNES games in hopes to find that single gem. I was so excited to find a copy of Ghoul Patrol that I snapped it up for $20 only to be disappointed- but I was still hyped up by it!

    Though, I wonder if this is a common trend with media as people grow older. Many of my defining moments and attachments stem from my younger years.

  2. That’s a very interesting question to think about. While I don’t have a definite answer that properly expresses my thoughts, I do have some comments.

    In late 2010, one of my friends ‘discovered’ UK pop/synth band Hurts. At this day and age (25) we can easily let our ego get the best of us and therefore automatically reject new music. But the discovery was amazing, and we were all fixated on the album for months. Then b-sides started leaking, and then a Deluxe Edition with all of them were out — it’s different, but it’s still sweet. Twitter makes discovering good articles/books/games (etc) a trivial mean, but we’re still faced with taste. We probably won’t like a lot of the games, a lot of the books, and a lot of the music out there. And when we find something that just clicks with us (Hurts; Etrian Odyssey; Downtown Abbey) it feels great. The discovery itself wasn’t hard, but the act of actually finding something that’s tailored to us is certainly a journey that still fills me with great joy and a sense of never-ending wonder.

    Maybe now we work in reverse. Instead of drifting in an uncharted ocean, we’re now familiar with our surroundings. And we get flooded every single day, so we sort of go from “Let’s find something that we like in this unknown” to “Let’s find something we like in this over-communicated mess.”


    I feel this rush constantly by finding information that doesn’t exist on the internet already, or by refining the noise that’s out there and finding something new between the lines. I understand your crisis here but, really, having all of this out there just makes the thrill of discovery even greater if you manage to find something that is generally unheard of DESPITE the internet.

    I’ll give you an easy example of the “between the lines” scenario: I’m working on a book right now that involves me researching the heck out of the way Shigeru Miyamoto designs games. I’ve read somewhere near 100 interviews with the guy in the last few weeks, and as I’ve been doing so, I’ve been chopping and rearranging pieces of them into individual categories and generating long documents that have everything he’s ever said about specific topics, like, where Mario’s character came from, or how he approaches game design as a second-by-second study in how a player is feeling.

    In doing this, with easily accessible public information, I find that having all of this refined and in front of me has helped me to discover more about the way the guy thinks. There isn’t anything “new” to the world here, but it’s a feeling not dissimilar to when I’ve found an unreleased video game that no one has ever heard of.

    I guess my point is, there is always something new to find, and it is inevitably right in front of your eyes already. Having all of this information available to you doesn’t mean that there are no caves left explored, to me it means that there are a million little caves and they’re right outside my door.

  4. Sure, the chase can still exist – but only with self-control and/or being out of touch. I still read a lot, but I don’t keep up with literary trends or read many reviews. Buying a book blind these days is my equivalent to you buying music back then.

    But let’s say that the hard acquisition of some rare music helped enrich the experience of the music itself for you. Now let’s say someone is less than noble, and torrents gis and gigs of music. You might think it devalues some music, but by sheer exposure (and subsequently, comparison) to so much other music, it might even enrich their favorite music even more. In general, I think having access to SO much media, illegally or not, doesn’t devalue anything – if anything, it forces us to be even more discerning.

    I suppose it’s a trade-off – maybe you don’t get the thrill of the chase anymore, but that leaves more time for enjoy the product itself. Or in other words, it puts everything on an even playing field. Would you enjoy some of the music you mentioned if it didn’t take so long to find it? This type of thinking can even result in a negative reappraisal… that Holy Grail-status could actually serve to falsely overvalue something you might otherwise think is mediocre.

    Long story short: the immediate availability of any given piece of media should, in theory, let us judge it on its own merits… in theory.

    • Canonization of the mediocre? Nah, not really, at least not for me. I’ve spent lots of time and money tracking down some real crap, and I’ve always been perfectly willing to write those off as a loss. The chase makes the successes sweeter, but it makes the failures all the more disappointing. There’s no benefit to forcing myself to love the undeserving regardless of how desperately I sought it.

  5. Music stores in Mexico changed from stores offering different types of genres in music, sometimes only offering specialized products to very definite tastes. Now music stores align to a couple of brands and their offering is reduced to offer and demand brags. I used to love the chase.

    I used to spend several hours in a store just searching or even risk a weekend visiting the CHOPO, which is a part of the city where people met in order to exchange music CDs. Mostly related to punk rock, metal, progressive and genres related, that was until MP3 arrived and instead of matching bargaining prowess and looking for the perfect exchange you could reach out for a CD containing several albums at once.

    I hate how this stores treat customers and how they offer outstanding music with overblown prices just because the product is an import.

    Nowadays we have several small producers that bring bands to play live or launch their albums at cheaper prices.

    I haven´t bought a physical music CD since the last Tool album, I used to visit stores in order to get aquainted with the baseline products and learn of some other bands that maybe I could look up in the Internet. I’ve retired from the chase, convinced that there is no longer a chase, most of my music swagging is done browsing nowadays, or through the radio but even that offers a very limited spectrum of choices.

    I sometimes get in touch with friends in order to exchange ideas of what type of music they are listening or provide names for bands in order to try looking for them, but this is done online. I no longer desire to look for music on stores.

  6. >>”I feel a deep connection to the music I love, one that’s lasted more than two decades in some cases, in large part because of the effort I had to invest in finding that music in the first place.”<<

    I think I heard the rims of your glasses getting thicker.

    In all seriousness, I also like a number of foreign or mostly unknown artists, but I never would have discovered them without the internet. I grew up in a whitebread North Bay suburb, one with a strong alternative/independent lean toward businesses and the local record shop, but I didn't have money anyway. I was also something culturally of a square most of my childhood, though this may simply be a product of my surroundings. People who liked indie things were just embracing bad music in order to fight "the man", and it had to be bad, because if it wasn't why wasn't it being played on the radio?

    My MP3 collection was a bunch of singles I heard on the Hot AC stations, with the occasional indie album that was discovered for me by TV commercial agencies or film soundtracks, until I met online someone who wasn't yet a SXSW hipster type but likely aspired to be one. I browsed their history, downloaded some things, listened to many of them, went to a few concerts, and on from there.

    Music really isn't a huge passion for me, for some reason I spend much more time listening to podcasts than I do music (this is probably because I have few face to face interactions with people, and podcasters become like a circle of friends I don't actually have), but for me "the chase" is less spelunking libraries or something and more about sharing social experiences. I'm a blank slate because, again, all I knew was chart-topping dreck for the first twenty-five years.

  7. Bandcamp actually is thrilling me right now. It is the one place, I’ve found, that can turn me onto new and exciting music. A user can find others with their taste and check out what they’ve previously bought or listened to as a roadmap.

    Discovering old stuff definately isn’t what it used to be, but discovering the HERE and NOW is still very thrilling.

  8. Frank Cifaldi – please make sure I buy that book. With all sincerity, I am fascinated and waiting with bated breath for its release.

  9. I just moved to America 2 years ago, and the majority of my music library consists of obscure Japanese bands. While I do love ruffling through aisles in some oriental second hand store, I’d much rather order from an import site through a couple mouse clicks. When you’re juggling a busy schedule and all other hobbies(games!), I always find myself adoring the convenience of the Internet even more.

    Now it may be the case that we find it harder to appreciate things that comes so easily. Back in the days I owned an American Gamecube, albeit living in Taiwan. Every summer I’d come to California to visit some family here, and it was only those brief few weeks I’d get to pick up a few games. The 1 or 2 games I’d bring back would have to last all year, which they usually did. These weren’t always spectacular games, and younger me did have a much longer attention span for games; but it was really the effort/difficulty of getting these that had me trying to get the most I could out of a game.

    Nowadays, thanks to Steam, I can buy games that range back to the 90s at a bargain price, all while sitting (relatively) comfortably in front of my computer. Or if there are old playstation games, there’s ebay and amazon or even psn. I remember trying to hunt down an Asian copy of Persona 4 last year. I’d never had a chance to play that game if it weren’t rereleased on the Vita.

    Anyways, I would really rather have a chance to actually enjoy an product than spend excessive time and effort on hunting it down. Like how I much more enjoy being with my girlfriend then the painful chase. Oh god did I just compare women with products.

  10. I agree with both you and Mohammed. I’ve worked in music stores from when I was 17 until around 25. I even met my wife working in one and between us, we have over a thousand albums (mostly on physical media). The older we became, the harder it was to try to keep up with new music, and all too easy to grab it in less than scrupulous ways, so it was hard to kind of keep that fire in the belly of searching for interesting new things or to even fill holes in our existing collection. It’s difficult to remain interested in a lot of things when it’s all right in front of you.

    However, between ourselves and other friends that are equally into music, I will always find new things “tailored to me” eventually, and when it sort of clicks I’ll search the ends of the earth until I’m satisfied that I’ve either found everything I can or have satiated the thirst. It’s the same with games, too. I know I can emulate just about whatever I want with enough work, but once I “discover” something I really enjoy, I like to seek it out physically in stores or shows. I think there’s always a reason for search for new things, and the internet is simply a tool in that regard.

  11. It is easier in some ways, but the Internet, at least for information, is a double-edged sword. You can find something quickly, but is it correct? There’s so much chaff that it makes things more difficult in some regards.

    As for music, I never really pursued music that much, but we can probably all relate to the hunt for various video games in “the wild.” I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for Dragon Warrior II back in the day, and when it finally showed up in a thrift store, I was so jittery I could barely speak. (And I cringed when the clerk threw the cart on the glass countertop. That’s my game you’re abusing! Well, soon-to-be!)

    The hunt is certainly where the fun comes in. I could buy all the games I missed on Ebay like Panzer Dragoon Saga (for an exorbitant price, but one I could probably manage), but where’s the fun in that? If I ever earn more money, I could see that relationship inverting, but for now? I’m going to enjoy the chase.

  12. I feel like every hobby I have had runs into this issue now. Seeing an obscure screenshot of an import game in a magazine and then saving up money as a kid to order that game (despite it not being that great in the end) made that game far more special to me. And back in those days, you really needed to order the game when it came out or else it would be gone forever. The silver lining now is that because the chase is gone, I find it much easier to pass on buying things because I know they are a few clicks away. If I felt the opportunity to buy something was fleeting, I would probably be more motivated to buy it without much contemplation.

  13. There are at least two smartphone apps which will analyze the song you’re listening to and identify it for you. So yeah, some of the mystery of life has vanished in this modern age.

    Having said that, I never would have experienced all the music you mentioned in this article without the internet leading me to it. This more interconnected world certainly has its merits.

    If you’re looking to relive the thrill of the hunt, thrift stores and garage sales are good places to start. It takes more effort, but you might get a much better deal than you would on eBay, where the prices are often inflated to take advantage of demand. You also might find things you never knew existed, or never knew you wanted! Back in 2006, I uncovered Reggatta Mondatta, a reggae tribute to The Police, at a record store. I wouldn’t have actively hunted down this album even with the benefit of online resources, but I just couldn’t resist the purchase when it was staring me right in the face.

  14. All depends on what era you are from. Gen Y & Millenials care not for the chase because they never had to go through it.

  15. I mean, I hate sounding like an grumpy old bastard at the age of 40, but you can never compare the thrill, the true thrill of finding something fantastic that you either searched years for or had no idea existed to clicking “add to cart.” The internet has dumped the sum total of all of humanity at one’s fingertips, thus making the search for knowledge irrelevant because it no longer requires any energy to find what you are looking for. It has also made the object in itself worthless, for it is always available, either at a significant cost or as an easily digestible image/wiki entry/you tube clip/blog, etc. This is why the arts are failing fast (in the US at least) the art object (painting/drawing/print etc) has been superseded by the image. You can’t have a relationship with something intangible. A screen image of Goya’s Saturn Devouring his children will NEVER have the same feeling as seeing the actual painting in person. Sorry for the meandering rant. . .

  16. I do most of my hunting at swap meets. If I absolutely need something I will get it off eBay or Amazon, but I usually try one last swap meet (and calling stores) before this.
    Just seeing something on a table makes me want it way more, not to mention that swap meets have all sorts of mind-blowing things. Chase HQ for Game Boy? John Lithgow singing childrens songs?
    If you were on the internets you’d probably be looking up the same old things in your comfort zone + recommendations. I would even say that a lot of the games I play are determined by the sellers and what they bring, no matter how bad they are.

    FYI: if you liek musics I’ve seen a lot of sellers with tables stacked with CDs recently, but it might vary at your location.

  17. I agree that war has changed. These days the only limiting factor there is in terms of acquiring rare media is how much you’re willing to pay. I’ve been collecting the reprints of PS2 Shin Megami Tensei games without much trouble–just add them to your wish list and wait for the price to drop. I remember when I was told in hushed whispers that Xenogears was showing up in stores again around the time Xenosaga 1 came out.

    I also remember being in an outlet mall with my parents during a vacation one time and looking with mild interest into a bargain bin at a KB Toys only to discover Xenogears, Suikoden 1 and the PSX Tactics Ogre all sitting there…. And only having money for one of them. (I went with Suikoden). Future generations probably won’t know such joy/despair.

  18. I’m going to say that the hunt…is dead. I hesitate, but, yeah, I think those days are over. We may still have to hunt for some of our media, but that’s the rare exception, and even those exceptions are affected by the Internet. It’s not the same.

    That’s why set artificial obstacles. “I’m not going to buy this game online or from GameStop.” “I won’t get this until I can find it for under five dollars.” “I won’t listen to anymore songs by this band until I get the album.” I’m forcing the feeling, so it’s not the same, but it’s something. It’s rewarding enough that I keep doing it.

    I got cheap copies, purchased in person, of Geist and Chibi-Robo for GameCube just a few months ago, despite wanting to try both since their release in 2005, and I think I appreciated them more than I would have if I’d simply turned to Amazon. It’s arbitrary, but it get’s the dopamine flowing, so I’m going to keep living my life like an idiot.

    Frank, I want that book. And I want to study a hundred Miyamoto interviews each week and look for subtext, but I’m much more likely to just buy your book.

  19. Also, this almost certainly has something to do with the increased popularity of indie music, movies, and games in the Internet era.

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