Write From The Heart

"Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back."

Reflection on Creativity, the Conceptual Age, and Video Game Theory


Every artist, of all calibers and specializations, comes face to face with a clear, but complicated problem to solve throughout their careers: What do you wish to do with your work and how do you create? It’s harder than every math test and more difficult to answer than an essay prompt. Practically no school of any kind can prepare an individual to be able to answer this problem adequately. It’s the ultimate test for one interested in paving their own path in the arts industry. But, for every problem, there is a solution- and it’s unique for each and every artist, too. Artists enter the industry to fulfill a single purpose- to provide their own creative work to a general public- but how the work appeals to this public and how the creators adapt to appeal changes depending on the industry and the creators themselves. As I read and watched through Tan’s TED Talk, Pink’s passage, and XEODesign’s research, the answers to the age-old question of the meaning of art and its lasting value are closer in reach.

Tan’s TED Talk about creativity explores philosophy when reaching a conclusion on why we as content creators continue to make art. Much like how most humans seek religion for their life calling or for answers to their purpose in living, artists attempt to answer the question themselves in their art, or even raise new questions on our purpose for being on Earth. Tan says creators seek “personal meaning” in their work, and I feel this is reflected even in the most mundane, simplistic pieces like Pollock paintings and games like Tetris or Pong. Painters have long used their professions as ways to project themselves into the canvas, to cope with life’s traumatic experiences, or to make statements on current political situations. Games, at its core, are entertainment; means of escape from a cruel, boring reality. But with the rise of the modern era and the evolution of technology, game creators have more resources to be able to fully immerse their audiences to a different world, which in turn, allows them to accomplish the same purpose as a traditional artist- to project themselves and cope with life. Despite being worldly different, all creative media seeks an answer to an impossible question, it’s the means to answering that differentiates them. Tan explores writing and creating fantastic stories, entire worlds, to answer her question, and, as she explains, an incomplete answer will always have something new to discover.

But, as most aspiring content creators are forced to learn at some point, in a competition-oriented business, only the strongest survive. It’s not enough to have passion and meaning alone, one must adapt to a rapidly evolving world. Pink’s passage on the growth of the artistic sector of the job force in Western markets focuses on our ever-growing need for heightened creative thinking in the workforce as well as academic knowledge. Thinking of a bag of chips, most people would rather buy a brand name like Cheetos over a cheaper store-brand variant. This phenomenon is explained through the combination of “Left Brain” and “Right Brain” thinking Pink goes over. The logical left brain knows both brands taste the same and have (mostly) the same ingredients, while the difference is price. But, the creative-thinking right brain automatically prefers the popular brand name, Cheetos, because of the familiarity to the icon of Cheetos, its more appealing logo, and because of the fun, albeit mind-numbing, commercials associated with Cheetos and the beloved mascot Chester the Cheetah. More and more businesses have to strike a balance between practicality of their products and aesthetics of their products to compete in a swelling population. The popularity of mediocre fast food restaurants baffles people from a logical standpoint who know the food is subpar and unhealthy, but knowing how ingrained the images of “happy,” “cool,” “amazing,” mascots, commercials, service is, it’s easy to understand the staying power of most of these restaurants through aesthetic alone.

Video games, too, balance business and visuals, probably more so than any other medium due to how astronomically fast the industry has developed in terms of its technology. However, games include a whole new layer that other creative mediums have yet to fully implement: User interaction. Adding in the ability for consumers to be able to interact with and make active decisions to change the course of the game creates an endless amount of unique experiences to everyone that purchases and plays a game. Different people can look at an art piece or a movie and come to different conclusions, but the range of emotions and actions players take create a whole new way of looking at creative material. Video games utilize left and right brain thinking, in the rules and logic a player must abide by which creates obstacles to simulate a challenge, and in the imagery of the game, from simplistic pixels on a screen moving during the birth of the medium to today’s games, which are more theatrical with gorgeous landscapes and stylish graphics. But, what’s most important in games is to able to balance both elements that players feel fully immersed in the game. XEODesign’s research on why people play games brings to attention four specific elements that players actively seek from games- “Hard Fun,” or the desire to be adequately challenged by a difficult task or problem, “Easy Fun,” the desire to fulfill humanity’s sense of curiosity, adventure, and thrill, “Altered States,” the desire for escapism, and “People Factor,” the desire for socialization. Video games’ added interactivity compel players to seek out games that don’t only play smoothly, only have pretty visuals, only have well written narratives, or only include a multiplayer option, they have to compromise each element to create a full experience with a solid challenge, enjoyable gameplay, pleasing aesthetics that use graphic capability to enhance the style, and allow the player to become a part of the game itself through its interactivity.

At its core, all creative mediums are products for consumption, whether for fine arts appreciation, for kitsch enjoyment, or for entertainment purposes. Artists get their start at figuring out their voice, their meaning for creating, but its just a beginning point. Creativity spoken through word will not get noticed as well as creativity spoken through a megaphone- it has to be loud and reach multiple people’s ears. Without the means to appeal to a mass market that’s growing exponentially, creative works at best will only be lost gems; at worst, a failure. The ways to appeal to hundreds, if not thousands, of people, is to cater to both their wants to consume the product from a logical and an emotional perspective. The creativity makes your work stand out among millions of other potential competitors, but it’s ultimately how good the content itself is and how well it’s presented that will make audiences actively support it.

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