Over the past few years, I've become increasingly obsessed with TED talks. They are efficient, well designed packets of information that give you a peak into topics of almost infinite diversity. Countless times my expectations and view of some random topic I cared nothing about has been completely changed by a TED talk. They are fascintating teaser trailers for specialized topics of human knowledge from the experts. By limiting the talk times to 20 minutes or less, their fascinating knowledge and experience can be spread to far more people. They open doors in peoples minds they didn't even know were there.
It seems like a rather large portion of the talks are from people who are "saving the world" in one way or another. In other words, they are doing things for the general well being of the planet and/or other humans. Oddly, despite being a professional artist myself, I find many of the art based talks to be boring and unsatisfying. Perhaps this is because they are presenting information I already know. But maybe, it's actually because the stakes for an artist are not as high as a doctor, or a physics researcher, or a designer of emergency shelters. They are not "saving the world" so to speak. Is "saving the world" or trying to do so a necessary part of being alive? Are we artists and entertainers completely useless and selfish human beings? I don't think so. This blog post will atempt to answer these and other questions about life, but will probably fail in completely answering them.
So sometimes, after watching all these TED talks, it makes me feel, is it worthwhile to make games? Is it worthwhile to make goofy videos for the internet? Is it worthwhile to devote your entire working life to the simple act of entertaining others through games and music and videos? I can't seem to logically justify it, but somehow I can emotionally justify it. As long as I'm providing a kind of emotional therapy for people, or changing their life, or helping them learn something they never knew they could, then I feel that it's justified. This is a lifetime quest, it's something I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do up to my own standard, but as long as I'm trying and my goals are pure, I'm headed in the right direciton.
For over 10 years now I've been trying to create entertainment. I have always followed my feelings, not what made logical sense. But I've also approached making entertainment with a practical sense of how it can be done, and how it makes sense to do that in this day and age. Money must be made, and it must be made consistently in order for you to continue making it. If it doesn't make financial sense to try and direct movies anymore, find another format, another way to entertain, to communicate.
I have always felt that making money should be an integral part of my artistic process, because I don't want to waste time on making things people don't want to consume, and therefore aren't willing to buy. Extrapolated from that I have always aimed for the ideal of people paying for my work directly (aka buying a game, movie ticket, or theme park ticket). Many artists go back and forth between contracting for others and doing their "own thing". From personal experience I know how hard this cycle is to escape.
This is why I was incredibly uncomfortable working in advertising (which I did so off and on for about 8 years). Many children dream of being artists one day, but I can't imagine there are many who dream of working in advertising.
So I started making games.
2 years ago I made a choice. Instead of making another short film, I would make a game. I had always wanted to make games and I saw in them a fascinating creative opportunity as well as a business one. In film, if you don't become a hollywood movie director (of which there are only a few hundred), you become a craftsman of some kind, or a commercial director, or a producer.
In games I saw something amazing. The tools and the distribution systems were aligning in such a way that small teams of people or even indviduals could make amazing games, and then people would actually buy them and they would make their money back far more consistently then independant films. It was sometimes enough to even let them make another game, or keep adding to the old one and have a fascinating design and feedback loop with the players. I felt the inspiration, I was bursting with ideas for games, and decided to make a game myself.
All throughout my life I've idolized those creators who came before me. People like Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, Fumito Ueda, and Hayao Miyazaki. These are people I've read about, obsessed about, and dreamed of meeting. They are my hero's. I am fully aware that none are perfect, but the thing that makes theme hero's of mine, is their ability to create entertainment that fulfills the deepest human needs. Their works transcend their respective mediums, and creates a much needed emotional release and a sense of human connection with the audience. The theme I see most powerfully represented in their works is that of empathy and understanding. An ability to make audiences or players step into someone else shoes, and feel deeply connected with them. There is also great value in their ability to make you feel extreme emotions, and in so doing provide a kind of emotional therapy.
There it is, by writing this I have reminded myself about why I do what I do.
For a taste of my favorite TED talks, check out EDTED, a youtube playlist I made so I could easily rewatch my favorite TED talks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtSE4rglxbY&feature=share&list=PLE4D68C8871E9EA7B