Art and Critics

Art and Critics

So, I began this with video games and I have been encouraged to continue to do so. By encouraged I mean heavily implied that’s what I am going to do.

But, but, but!

My freedom of choice!

How can I be creative with the yoke of oppression on me?  

I am joking, mostly.  In video games this has become a serious issue. It’s one that has led to death threats, promises of violence, and terrible behavior on the part of gamers.

Mass Effect 3 had a wobbly ending.

There are those who will give you a wall of text on the ins and outs with precisely all the minuscule aspects of this ending.  More so, that they felt that it was a travesty, a crime against nature, and God. They bombarded BioWare with these messages.  More that, the company put out a “fix” to address many of the dominant issues gamers had.

I only had one problem with it.  How the hell did the ground team get on the ship after you saw them smacked around like ping pong balls?

The answer to this amazing feat, I felt they addressed admirably. I am a sucker for the happy ending and it was nice to get closure with all the NPC characters. Everything else folks wanted superfluous.  I have you know, I also didn’t send death threats or walls of texts to BioWare.

I’ve just brought up a very serious topic and we as gamers need to talk about this.  How do threats and abuse effect one’s creativity? Who would want to make something or fix something for someone who called them names or threated their lives?

This is the sticky bits because this tends to get people flamed or even doxed. 

It’s like cooking a giant multi course meal and having it thrown at you because you didn’t give them the right dessert. Yet, BioWare didn’t balk outwardly, they took in what was said and remade the ending for their fans. In no way are they obligated to do this no matter what rabid fans will say. In the end, they are a company and can do what they want, but they stepped up and provided another alternative.

The obligation to fans is to entertain them with a game, sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss. That isn’t the point I am debating.  To redo the entire ending was a large complicated and costly uptake.  It was also one of unprecedented of it size.

So, would you, oh reader, as an artist do the same thing?

Man, I took the long way around to get here huh? Artists have critics, wanted and certainly unwanted. How do they affect your art and should they? Where is the line, or is there one? A simple question with layered answers.

I can be positively bubbly here and say you should let it inspire you (which you totally should.) For example, I made an amazing still life in school through a wall of anger because I didn’t want to work on that at all. There will always be critics, hopefully constructive ones.  And, I just want to point out that death threats and the like aren’t criticism. 

How critics affect you is up to you. Sometimes they should be ignored, but sometimes they can share a perspective with you that’s fresh and stimulating. I have never felt that others should dictate your art to you.  But, they can open your eyes to new possibilities and avenues you couldn’t see previously.

Stories Need Change

Stories Need Change

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?

You change.

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.

Change.


Leigh-Alexandra Jacob is a visual effects artist and creative director.  She’s the founder of Atomic Dumpling.  You can reach her at leigh@atomicdumpling.com.

Digital Consulting

After years of working for the companies that used complicated systems, being in the military, and going freelance, Leigh & I are taking the next cosmic step with Atomic Dumpling.  We’ve opened our doors to creating a consultancy of our own.

Needing an advise, project manager, or a killer team of people helping you doesn’t need to be a guessing game anymore.  I feel great about making the decision to take the next step in my career by starting my own company.  I know I have the experience and the understanding to bump things up and make some magic happen.

Running a business is a complicated process. There’s a level of understanding that needs to be in place in order to operate successfully.  Understanding outcomes for the expected project is only a small piece of the puzzle.

That’s why we’re starting a consulting company. Our goals are fairly simple really. We want to help people expand their footprint, their digital foot print. Business is hard. But, with the team we’re growing, we’re going to make things easier.  



Anna Pilette is a geophysicist and technologist turned digital consultant.  Anna is a Cofounder of Atomic Dumpling.  You can contact her at anna@atomicdumpling.com.