Have you ever applauded in a movie theatre? It happens sometimes. You're swept up in the emotion, and you want to be a part of it. A few people join in, because that's how applause works, and then you all stop almost immediately, because it's slightly ridiculous to applaud a show without any performers.
Personally, I think this lack of participation could be addressed in one of two ways: either have ushers stationed in the aisles to receive high fives, or set up cosplay incentives - perhaps an appropriate hat handed out to patrons as they enter? I know my appreciation of Tron would have increased if the entire audience had been wearing bicycle helmets.
Anyway, my point is that we still want the audience interaction that we used to have before the 20th century gave us "blockbuster culture". Performances were live, of course, which is immediate feedback. Also, I suspect the fewer people were hesitant to approach an author and start up a dialogue with them. Mind you, discrimination against class, race, and gender probably did a good job of that anyway... But I digress. Audiences desire input, not just to tell studios how cool Nathan Fillion would be as Green Lantern. At a more basic level, audiences simply to complete the entertainment transaction.
I was thinking about that today while playing some video games. A major release will cost tens of millions of dollars to produce, and sell millions of copies. There will be critic reviews, and message board discussions, and a great deal of focus testing, but at that scale the feedback simply has to be aggregated somehow. And for that reason, even though a gamer may wax eloquent about a game on a forum and fill out customer survey forms, it's not quite the same thing as being able to applaud someone for a job well done.
Fortunately, there's the indie market.
I love Hook World (and its co-release, Super Quick Hook) for the iPhone. The cost is just a dollar or two, and I get a thrilling adventure through jungles and lava and spikes and gnomes, all while avoiding curses and ghosts and avalanches. Also, the staff that wrote this game consists of three people. If I send them an e-mail, they say, "Thank you". In a way, they say "Thank you" simply when I buy their game!
It's the same thing with music - the local Folk Festival wrapped up, and I had a great time. Was the music as flawless as that of the all-time greats? No. But I got to talk with the singers afterward, shake their hands, and feel like my presence actually meant something. That's the entertainment transaction, and that's not what you get at HMV.
Now, I realise that this is all just another way for me to talk about "Web 2.0" and interactivity. And maybe that's all it is, and I'm just one of the last people to notice it. But I think this might be an important part to more than just indie games. Applauding in a movie theatre is just as pointless as applauding in a Future Shop, or a Costco.
But what a difference it makes when somebody then steps up to take a bow.