I was driving home one evening when a song started to play, and I began listening to a song from the Bioshock Infinite soundtrack and was immediately transported back. I have my iPod on random, which occasionally plays more than the two hundred same songs. Spoilers abound! The Bioshock series is one of my favorites and the very first-person shooter I played. The complexity of the story and the production design sucked me right in along with its great soundtrack.
Musical Ties to Stories
As the music continued, I could remember exactly how I felt as the ending played out, devastated. I thought I knew what was going on until the twist at the end. I mean I knew there was a twist but wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown. The DLC wasn’t much kinder, in fact I wouldn’t play the second one when I found out how it ends, coward that I am and sucker for some semblance of a happy ending. Bioshock Infinite does not have a happy ending. However, I was ok because everything was so good. I was moved and amazed at their story telling. The game had managed to get me immersed in their world and feel more than frustration at missing shots. I was worried where the story was heading, I wanted to protect Elizabeth. I was engaged. I was gutted! And it was brilliant! That’s what a great story is supposed to do, that’s what any art CAN do. It can engage people and stimulate the brain to send it soaring up or to crash and burn. I think that’s what they were trying for, to engage the player and touch them in some way. I don’t think this is true for all games. I doubt Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja want to blow your mind. This was my long meandering way to pull you along to this point, sometimes the purpose of art is just for the artist to create.
The Burden of Art
Sometimes art is burdened with “purpose” and “meaning”. I have heard ad nauseum how works are not “real” art. I think these folks are full of themselves and bolstered by their own pretensions, however, new artists hear this and it holds them back or makes them feel embarrassed about what they do. This is wrong!
Most folks equate money with success. Video games are now a multibillion-dollar industry and have validity for many as a creative art form with multiple disciplines. The same can gain be said about comic books. But if we compare if folks considered it real art yesterday versus today the answers would be very different.
Leigh-Alexandra Jacob is a visual effects artist and creative director who founded Atomic Dumpling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.