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Where Legends Gather

A Life Well Wasted: How and Why I Write Part Two

June 5, 2014


Entry Forty-One

     How and Why I Write Part Two. Leggo. [Note: Part One can be found here.]

     There are a handful of ideas that I always try to keep in mind when working on any creative or artistic project. I’ve found that half of the people who read Mistakes dislike it because of the heavy, heavy social commentary. The other half loves it because of the social commentary. Those numbers are pretty troll but I think it’s perfectly reflective of the problems games and fictional writing about games will have to push through in order to get a message across. A couple of ideas that I try to keep in mind are the following:

1) “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
2) Not everyone should have to like or love your work. In fact, if you’re pissing somebody off, you should keep going.
3) A creator should never hold back on an original idea. It’s best to hold on to one’s integrity in a creative work than to chicken out fearful that someone may dislike it.
4) There’s always a way.

     Art should comfort the disturbed… There is some debate regarding who first uttered or wrote these words, but they definitely ring true for any artistic medium. I think I started to implement these ideas when I began writing Redemption. I began writing it as a love-letter to Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal, meshed in with the dark environment and setting inspired by Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. I wrote it because it was something I thought was interesting and cool, and I tried blending games and literature together for the first time. Looking back on, the writing is fucking atrocious, but at least I finished something small and tried to do something with it. It was a precursor to Mistakes Were Made in a lot of ways, and I think Mistakes is also a precursor to even better game stories that I have in mind. It’s comforting because it’s about games and it elicits nostalgia and wonder in the same way that exploring Kanto for the first time at the age of five did. It’s disturbing because it also has religious subtext, which most people tend not to criticize in American culture because of upbringing, because of the fact that many people (outside of big cities, at least) believe religion to be a defining piece of American identity. When I read The Grapes of Wrath while listening to the Modern Soundtrack from Civilization IV, I just knew that this had to be the backdrop to “the eSports story” that I had in mind. Many people have said that stories of class struggle (i.e. Hunger Games) will be rampant because it’s a huge issue we’re facing and will continue to face, and the fact that I’ve found a way to blend that with eSports is, at least to me, pretty fucking cool. It’s one of those “You too? I thought I was the only one!” kind of things. This leads into the next point:

     Not everyone should have to like your work… Some readers may not want politics, philosophy, social issues and such with their games, but if they want an eSports story without that they’re free to write their own thing that excludes that and simply touches on competitive gaming. It’s definitely not an art style that’s for everyone, nor one that should be for everyone, but since I take a lot of ideas from indie game developers, I know that it’s better to have some of these flaws in my work because at least that way it’ll be personal. If I wanted to write something professional, something that everyone would enjoy, then I definitely wouldn’t want to create anything if the sole purpose of it would be to sell as many copies as possible. This is also another reason I’m not too keen on playing AAA games if they’re just sticking to safe genres/archetypes/ideas/mechanics. For the most part it’s the indie game scene that’s making much more interesting stuff than anything large development companies are doing. Profit is far higher on the list of priorities for large companies than making innovative games, or introducing new ideas to games. So long as there’s mass approval, larger companies don’t seem to have much, if any, incentive to maximize the use of the language of interactivity. This then leads to the next point:

     A creator should not hold back… It’s so hard to do something risky with art not only out of fear of disapproval, but fear of censorship. There’s always going to be some issue some people believe art should never talk about for many, many possible reasons, but it’s the job of the artist to ask: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” It sucks, too, since a lot of amazing stuff is never considered great during the creator’s lifetime (Moby Dick, for instance(lol I said dick)). Since we have internets now, though, it’s easier to put one’s work on forums and websites frequented by people with similar interests, some of whom may be interested in the newer ideas inject by and introduced by the creator. This kind of goes back to the previous point that not everyone should love and adore the praise new ideas, because sometimes ideas can be atrocious or implemented poorly. Constructive feedback like that is far more useful than praise (although praise is also good, but for different reasons c:) because then the artist knows what he/she could improve on. And I think that’s one of the key reasons I’m working on bridging games and literature, trying to find what elements of interactivity I can bring to an innately passive medium (reading is mentally active, but it’s definitely physically passive). I think it’s kind of weird that I’m writing Mistakes since it deals with competition, which also has its own variation of constructive criticism. It also has a lot of destructive criticism from trolls, haters, and people who just tell a professional to commit suicide. Creators are also victims of destructive criticism; but 99% of the time destructive criticism is simply due to anonymity granted by the internet. It sucks, but it kind of goes to show some people can’t find a reasonable, valid argument to make. The last point is more general:

     There’s always a way. This doesn’t just apply to art, but to any goal. There’s always a way to get what you want, to do what you want to do. We were raised told that we could do anything we set our minds to, but somehow everyone who told us that neglected to think of a situation where a great student would have insane amounts of debt in a piss-poor job market. What are the odds? The good thing is RNG happens IRL too and to a far greater extent, so that means it really is possible that there’s always a way. 99% of the time it’s really fucking hard, though. Damn near impossible. But then that’s where we’re lucky to be human, because we can look back in time and marvel at the amazing feats we’ve accomplished, or the amazing thing a single person’s accomplished. Going to the moon was pretty much a fantasy when JFK set that as a goal, and yet it fucking happened. Somehow the pyramids were built without the construction equipment we have today, but it happened (or maybe aliens built it if History Channel has an ounce of credibility left). And so because I’ve been thinking a lot about Mistakes and eSports, and taking into consideration Day9’s idea of the marginal advantage (“By exploiting the marginal advantage, the expert player is both a problem solver and an artist”), anyone, including a competitor or an artist, can reach that peak, that pinnacle of human achievement, with the right amount of work ethic. And I guess that’s one of the reasons I write (and compete, but to a lesser extent).