We’re at Beta on the game at the moment, which means the end of the project is in sight and in a few months people will be playing the game that has been almost two years in the making. So, I’ve been doing some thinking about how much work goes into making entertainment, and how that correlates to how much time it takes to consume it.

Here’s a quick and dirty list I’ve made, using incredibly rough math:

Product Time to create Time to consume Ratio
Architecture 5 years (10 people working 6 months) 10 years 1 to 2
Humourous Quip 5 seconds 5 seconds 1 to 1
Fashion Design 6 weeks (3 people working 2 weeks) 2 weeks 3 to 1
Blog Post 4 hours (1 person working 4 hours) 5 minutes 48 to 1
Book 4 years (2 people 2 years) 2 weeks 104 to 1
Poem 2 weeks (1 person working 2 weeks) 30 minutes 672 to 1
Photo 2 hours (2 people working one hour) 10 seconds 720 to 1
Painting 1 week (1 person working 1 week) 10 minutes 1008 to 1
Webcomic 4 hours (2 people working 2 hours) 10 seconds 1440 to 1
Comedy Routine 1 month (2 people working 2 weeks) 30 minutes 2160 to 1
Sporting Event 150 days (50 people working 3 days) 90 minutes 2400 to 1
Web Video 3 weeks (3 people working 1 week) 10 minutes 3024 to 1
TV show episode 400 days (40 people working 10 days) 1 hour 9600 to 1
Stage Performance 40 weeks (20 people working 2 weeks) 90 minutes 11200 to 1
Music Album 5 years (10 people working 6 months) 90 minutes 29200 to 1
Sculpture 1 year (1 person working 1 year) 10 minutes 52560 to 1
Video game 80 years (40 people working 2 years) 8 hours 87600 to 1
Movie 400 years (200 people working 2 years) 2 hours 1752000 to 1

I’ve made giant, sweeping generalisations based on my limited experience with making these things, and I know there’s examples in each medium that break the numbers like a baby sticking a knife into a toaster. There are video games made by two guys in a week. There are movies that have taken five years with a team of 400 to make. There are webcomics that are churned out by a lone hack in fifteen minutes (ahem).

So what can we learn from the numbers, though? I’m not entirely surprised by them, especially the video game one. It probably explains why I get such a comparative buzz out of doing a comic that’s updated daily instead of being a small part of one video game a year or two. Comics being somewhere in the middle of the list makes sense in the fact that it’s feasible that anyone can do it, but not everyone does.

The better the ratio, the more accessible the task is – or at least appears to be. A lot of people comment on fashion. A lot of people write blog posts or think they can write a book.

Also, the better the ratio, the quicker the path to surface-level accomplishment is. And by that I mean. the feeling of having done something to a first pass level of detail without the novelty wearing off.

Anyone can make a webcomic, it’s easy, right? Just draw – heck you don’t even need that step these days – and upload it and wait for the money trucks to come in over the horizon. Of course, it’s not as easy as that. Making a success at anything, even a thing that has a nice low ratio – takes a phenomenal amount of dedication, skill and patience… and even then it might never work.

But hang on a second, let’s go further with these numbers – look what happens when you factor in the scale of how many people consume the work:

Product Time to create Time to consume Ratio
Architecture 5 years (10 people working 6 months) 10000 years (10 years x 1000 people) 1 to 2000
TV show episode 400 days (40 people working 10 days) 2000000 hours (1 hour x 2 million people) 1 to 208.33
Book 4 years (2 people working 2 years) 192.30 years (2 weeks x 5000 people) 1 to 48.07
Blog Post 4 hours (1 person working 4 hours) 83.33 hours (5 minutes x 1000 people) 1 to 20.8
Fashion Design 6 weeks (3 people working 2 weeks) 60 weeks (2 weeks x 10 people) 1 to 10
Humourous Quip 5 seconds 25 seconds (5 seconds x 5 people) 1 to 5
Sporting Event 150 days (50 people working 3 days) 625 days (90 minutes x 10000 people) 1 to 4.16
Video game 80 years (40 people working 2 years) 182 years (8 hours x 200000 people) 1 to 2.28
Webcomic 4 hours (2 people working 2 hours) 2.77 hours (10 seconds x 1000 people) 1 to 0.69
Movie 400 years (200 people working 2 years) 228 years (2 hours x 1 million people) 1 to 0.57
Music Album 5 years (10 people working 6 months) 0.85 years (90 minutes x 50000 copies) 1 to 0.17
Poem 2 weeks (1 person working 2 weeks) 0.29 weeks (30 minutes x 100 people) 1 to 0.16
Web Video 3 weeks (3 people working 1 week) 0.49 weeks (10 minutes x 500 people) 1 to 0.16
Photo 2 hours (2 people working one hour) 16.66 hours (10 seconds x 100 people) 1 to 0.12
Sculpture 1 year (1 person working 1 year) 0.09 years (10 minutes x 5000 people) 1 to 0.09
Painting 1 week (1 person working 1 week) 0.09 weeks (10 minutes x 100 people) 1 to 0.09
Comedy Routine 1 month (2 people working 2 weeks) 0.06 months (30 minutes x 100 people) 1 to 0.06
Stage Performance 40 weeks (20 people working 2 weeks) 0.17 weeks (90 minutes x 200 people) 1 to 0.00

Things change a lot – except for Architecture, which must be pretty cool to do. Look at how much work goes into less reward for many of these activities. Kinda depressing. Though the ones that are successful are the ones that can scale efficiently and have audiences that are way off the chart, statistically speaking. Funny Webcomic doesn’t make millions, but Penny Arcade does, because their audience is crazy more than mine and the “product” takes roughly the same amount of time to make.

Something to think about at any rate. What do you take from this?