Five analogue things that digital tried and failed to kill

Digital media isn’t finishing off physical media – it’s making it better, says Stephen Graves

The rise of digital has shocked the entertainment industries, as audiences swap physical media for more convenient digital files. There have been casualties as easily distributed digital file formats bring disruption to well-established businesses that have traded in physical media for years.

You can now stream and download books, music and films – even video games are starting to shun the disc with services like Steam and PlayStation TV bringing streaming games into your living room. Yet the demise of analogue is greatly exaggerated. As producers of physical media have to think more carefully about the artefacts they're creating, the arrival of digital has inspired unique titles that play to the physical medium’s strengths. Here are the leading five…

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2) Lazaretto, by Jack White

Rock icon Jack White is well-known for his love of analogue recording and the vinyl format and he’s made the most of it with his latest release. Download the iTunes version of Lazaretto and you’re missing out on half the fun – this disc demands you to fiddle with it as White has packed in hidden treasures. Tucked away under the centre labels are a pair of hidden tracks – which play at different turntable speeds, making it a three-speed record. Drop the needle in a slightly different place and you’ll get an alternative intro to a track. There’s even a hologram of an angel etched in the dead wax area on side A. It’s a disc that exploits every physical quirk of the format.

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4) SVK, by Warren Ellis and D’israeli

Tablets are the perfect medium for brightly-coloured comic book action and publishers have rushed to get apps onto iPads and Android devices. But despite all the flashy transitions and sound effects offered by digital comics, there are still creators coming up with works that push the boundaries of the physical medium. Warren Ellis’ SVK, produced in collaboration with future-gazing tech wizards Berg, is an example.

The paper comic comes supplied with a curious gadget – the “SVK object” – a UV torch. Shine on the pages and all comes clear: Ellis’ has printed the comic in black, white and a UV-sensitive ink that only shows under UV. This encourages the reader to flit back and forth between the “real world” and the mind-reading perspective of protagonist Thomas Woodwind. It’s an experience only possible with this unique combination of printed page and physical object.

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5) Mystic Searches, by Joe Granato

It seems odd to talk about physical media in the context of a video game; after all, they’re practically the definition of digital media. But film-maker Joe Granato is currently crowdfunding Mystic Searches a game that harks back to the physicality of old console games. It’s an 8-bit NES game that comes on a vintage-style cartridge. Gamers of a certain vintage will, of course, remember the ritual of blowing the dust out of the cartridge – and appropriately, this game is all about resurrecting memories – it’s based on notes for a NES game design that Granato made as a child.

But this is no ordinary cartridge. Plug it into your PC or Mac and it fires up a modern version of the game, with up-to-date graphical flash. Cleverly, the two versions of the game interact. Unlock a secret in the NES game and it carries over to the PC version. It’s a clever way of making the physical medium that the game’s stored on an integral part of the experience – head to Kickstarter to pledge your support.