Last time, I was talking about the art of the story and how it can draw someone in and form a connection. This week I want to point out that sometimes the story needs to change.
Pop Culture & Franchising
Saint’s Row is a satire game (Koch Media/Deep Silver).
It takes its cues from popular culture. It is irreverent, crass, smart and often bizarre. The first game out though was a very different creature. You as the protagonist didn’t even talk, something which all the later games mock themselves for. It was sold as something like Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Sadly, it was no GTA, since Rockstar had that niche firmly mastered and crowned king of the arena.
So, what do you do when you have a possible franchise that can’t compete?
This is what hold so many people back in everything from personal to professional life. Change is scary. Change is a risk. You could fail. Here’s the thing though. How boring is it to just tread water forever? In all things, you must change or die. Now I’m not suggesting that you do a complete 180 or that you should radically alter things all the time. No, I’m saying change is good, sometimes you need a little, sometimes you need massive amounts. It brings new life to your world and opens new doors. Yeah ice cream is scrumptious, but not for every meal.
Creative Context in Video Games
How does ice cream concern Saint’s Row? It doesn’t literally. Metaphorically though, Saint’s Row stopped serving you ice cream and hit you with pie. They saw that they were not going to go anywhere with the original model, so they changed and adapted.
This is a huge part of creativity. They took a risk and tested the waters in Saint’s Row 2 and it worked, so then they decided to really push the envelope in 3 and it was fantastic.
Now, even if you didn’t like the game, you could see how they branded themselves as a unique entity. They were not just another copy or want to be, they kind of created their own genre. This is because they stepped back, looked at what they had and instead of giving up, they invested. Which is part and parcel of being creative.
Even if you have a set style, you should grow with it. You can’t regurgitate the same thing over and over. For example, Tim Burton has a very singular look and feel. He never wants to tell the same story. His projects have his style, but each one is unique.
I will always remember the one art teacher who said (or plagiarized someone smarter), that a sign of a great artist is what they do with their mistakes. The great ones use them or learn from them. They don’t let them hold them back. Creativity is not always easy and there will be failures. Just last night I tried to be creative with some lemon bread, even the dog wouldn’t eat it and she eats cat poop. However, I will continue to bake and make everyone taste it, because the pistachio bread was fabulous. Motley tried to sample some more on her own, luckily tinfoil makes noise when kitty teeth are trying to pry it open.
In closing, after much rambling, what I am saying is be flexible, be aware, and don’t be satisfied with just treading water.
Leigh-Alexandra Jacob is a visual effects artist and creative director. She’s the founder of Atomic Dumpling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.