I’ve seen a lot of loading screens recently: in video games, movies, TV shows, cable box resets, iPod power ons, etc. Most are effective yet bland—a logo and a progress bar. These brief moments break my attention, but do not offer enough time for me to switch context and do something else. Producers and developers could use this time to educate and inform users while simultaneously keeping people engaged. Watching Once? You’ll get to read a blurb about the star, Glen Hansard. Playing World of Warcraft? Read the storyline for the zone you’re entering while you wait!
Taking the idea a step further, a platform could allow for loading screen customizations. Imagine if your iPhone had a common thread across all applications! With the aggregate time you could read a book, polish your vocab, increase reaction speeds, read the latest headlines, learn a language, or anything else that can be chunked into simple, discrete pieces! I’d love to get a couple lines of Atlas Shrugged in every loading screen. It’s not the fastest way to read a book, but I’d get through it (eventually :))!
The code necessary to change the loading screens should be easy: add a variable to track the message number and modify the load screen to accept a variable corresponding to the message number; then increment the message number every time you display a load screen.
I’ve seen the idea partially in action; for example, while loading a song in Rock Band, trivia is displayed. The problem is that the pool of messages is very slim and never updated. The platforms for this game (PS3, Xbox360, and Wii) are all Internet-enabled so it should be possible to periodically update or replace the stash of messages.
Another (somewhat) similar service, Daily Lit, allows you to read books in email messages or RSS feeds. Daily Lit provides a proof-of-concept demonstrating first, that it is possible and second, that people want this form of entertainment.
What do you think? Would you use this service? What would you want in your loading screens?