Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 12, 2011

Email: Regarding your stance on ‘creativity’


been reading your blog for quite a long time now, and much have I learned, but of course, not always did I agree. I just read your article Japenese ‘culture’ isn’t the reason why Japanese games no longer sell worldwide and I felt like commenting on that.

You’re not wrong, and neither are you right. You’re treading in a subject that has no real right or wrong, it’s like a phylosophycal conversation, no one ever wins in their argumnent because it always falls down to a matter of opinion, and that’s the point I’ll try to make here.

To me, what I read seemed pretty one-sinded, as a subject that you already gave thought before in your life and already decided what to think of it, but that’s due to what creativity means to you. You seem to be thinking at creativity as really pure creation (or combining two things that probably will go wrong), possibly there really is no such thing, maybe there is in some rare events in some weird minds, but creativity can mean something much more simpler than that for other people, and they might see creativity around in a daily basis. Can be something really simple like, guy has hole in the house and he patches it in some weird way that he just thought about at that moment without really giving it much thought, and it ended up working pretty well. Some would say he was creative, some would say he wasn’t, but who would be the right one? It’s like discussing the word ‘love’, purely intangible, everyone will have a different opinion of what means love.
So, it’s not that you’re wrong, it’s just the way you said it, and the way you said it makes me think that if you see an interview about random game designer, you would smirk at him just by him saying the word creativity during the interview. Such guy could smirk right back at you just because you overestimate the word creativity. Yeah, you could say I’m trying to lecture you a petty lesson (I would say it is), but I probably just felt like doin g it because I respect you. I say you should just try to use the words ‘my opinion’ more often, or not, I don’t know, you’re not obliged to care either.

It’s about winning versus losing. In all my experience in the theater of the mind, it is the LOSERS who keep waving the flag of creativity. “Building my audience doesn’t matter, all that matters is my CREATIVITY.” What type of BS is this? Like a plague, it was spread throughout the entertainment mind and is a huge reason why so much entertainment content literally sucks.

The measurement between winning and losing is building an audience. If you attract an audience, THAT IS GOOD. If you make the audience flee in fright, THAT IS BAD. Frame the issue of creativity between winners and losers. What wins the audience?

The winners in the Theater of the Mind all tend to have one thing in common: they do everything they can to understand the world around them. They read history, literature, math, science, current news, law, all sorts of things. This allows believable stories to be told. Moby Dick could not have been written had Melville not sailed on a whaling ship three times. Shakespeare could not have written much without a solid grasp of history, law, botany, and his studies on Ovid.

What makes ‘Science Fiction’ possible? It would be ‘science’. It was the science fiction writers studying science which allows all our Sci-Fi TV shows to be able to exist (like Star Trek). It did not emerge from any ‘creativity’.

What makes ‘Fantasy’ possible? Tolkien could only write Lord of the Rings due to his steep academic study into ancient mythologies and societies (as well as his Catholicism).

These movers and shakers of the Theater of the Mind will tell you they do not believe in ‘creativity’. Shakespeare said it best when he said all he was doing was holding a mirror up to Nature. Success in the Theater of the Mind depends highly on knowledge of the real world. Characters must behave according to the laws of Human Nature or they are not characters, they are sock puppets, and your audience leaves thinking you have no ability to tell a story.

The advice given to new writers of ‘write what you know’ is to combat this ‘creativity obsession’. You write (or paint, or make a movie, etc.) of what you know of the world.

When the first video games were made, there was no preceding games to draw on. So the game makers went with what they knew (or to be more precise, what they could program the computer to do). They knew table top board games like Dungeons and Dragons, so those created the Computer Role Playing Game. They knew science fiction from watching Star Trek and reading science fiction books, so this is where all the ‘sci-fi’ video games came from.

It is pure vanity for any entertainer to think their purpose is to be ‘creative’. Their purpose is to build and maintain an audience. Without an audience, there is no sales, no ratings, nothing. A fork is before you that leads to two roads. One road is called the Winner’s Street. The winners rely on show preparation and actual research and understanding. The other road is called the Loser’s Street. The losers think preparation and actual research of the world and nature has ‘too many rules’ so they prefer to remove all these rules and do whatever pleases them. This process is called ‘creativity’. It only leads to losing in the real world.

Before Sakamoto released Metroid: Other M, the big reason why I was so sure the game was going to end up being… ugh… was because Sakamoto proudly boasting of his ‘creativity’ and seeing himself as a ‘creative angel’. Those who worshiped Sakamoto as a Game God did so only because they saw him ‘creating’ the Metroid Universe (these imaginary universes are actually constructed within your own head, not his head). When Metroid: Other M came out, there was negative reaction in many, many ways. But most fundamentally, the game would break its own rules, the universe would break itself. It makes no coherent sense why Samus Aran would be damaged from lava when her commander could have turned on the Varia Suit. This is a problem to the audience because the audience has this expectation for things to make sense. The ‘creative’ person becomes offended when people demand things to ‘make sense’. Why, that would mar the ‘creativity’. People ask me how did Nintendo release Metroid: Other M? They did so because of this nonsensical belief in ‘creativity’ as the mover and shaper of entertainment. It isn’t. When people pledge allegiance to ‘creativity’, all I see coming from them is garbage. When their stuff doesn’t sell, they then attack the customers to say how ‘stupid’ they are for not seeing their ‘genius’.

Have you noticed that the DS and Wii success stories came only from the uncreative games? Brain Age, Nintendogs, Wii Sports, and Wii Fit are all works that do not allow the developers to be ‘creative’. Yet, they sold like wildfire. When Super Mario Brothers 5 came out, critics hated it because it wasn’t ‘creative’ like apparently Super Mario Galaxy was (Galaxy’s universe didn’t make any coherent sense). I remember when Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda came out. Zelda was received as if Nintendo was re-telling old myths. Pulling the sword out of the stone? King Arthur. Wake up the sleeping princess? People said Zelda II was Nintendo’s take on Sleeping Beauty. With Super Mario Brothers, people saw it as a telling of Alice in Wonderland. In one televised interview, David Sheff said this exactly while Shigeru Miyamoto stood right next to him.

Imagination is very important. But whose imagination matters? Only the audience’s. The role of the entertainer is to spark and encourage the audience’s imagination. The entertainer’s imagination is irrelevant except in devising ways to spark and encourage the audience’s imagination better.

It is extreme vanity to think these ‘creativity believers’ to think they, alone, have ‘thoughts’ and ‘imagination’. They believe the audience are incapable of imagination. But they will provide their imagination, and they actually expect the audience to sit there in awe.

It is actually all backwards. The audience has a huge imagination. The entertainer’s craft revolves around harnessing the audience’s imagination. It is the entertainer who should be in awe of the audience’s capability of imagination.

The concept used to be well known. Even back in the Renaissance Period, people would write books about what excited the Human imagination (works that the future Shakespeare and other people would read).

Have you ever been an actor? When I first tried to act out my Shakespeare, I thought I would do really well because I knew my Shakespeare. I had a huge imagination on the subject. But, my acting ended up being very bad. Why? It is because the requirements of a good actor has nothing to do with his or her imagination. The entire point is the audience’s imagination. The craft of acting is to make the audience believe you are someone else and to be interesting. But this relationship between the actor and the audience is identical to every entertainer and audience.

I’ve always marveled at the resistance or shock people have when I say what I do about ‘creativity’. If I said something like ‘God is dead’ or ‘God is a giant chicken’ or something blasphemous, there would be no reaction. But somehow over the past few decades, this ‘creativity’ is given reverence beyond anything else I have seen. Young people never question it which is why it must be questioned.

The resistance, I believe, is due to people thinking to not be ‘creative’ is to not be ‘Human’. That would mean a drone-like existence where existence is measured, calculated like a scientist or engineer. It would be a drab personality. But a ‘creative’ person gets to be an artist which means he/she gets to become a personality. Life without ‘creativity’ is, I gather from these resistors, is ‘no life’ at all but a Borg-like drone existence.

One thing that has really colored my outlook on the world is that I come from an engineering and science family (which is why you see me mock engineers and academics). No one wants to grow up to be like their parents. So I chose another way than engineering and science (and paid for it dearly in how it hit me financially). But we can never truly escape who our parents are and what they believe.

I do not believe those who follow the ‘creativity’ dogma even understand engineering and science. They think they do, but they do not. Engineering and science are not ‘drab’ existences. It is quite the opposite. My perspective on engineers and scientists are my family and their friends. These include those who worked on the transistor, who helped invent computers, and one of my siblings does work for a company that sells a new type of wireless technology. Before the Internet became popular in the late 80s and early 90s, I was on it debating things with scientists. The astronauts that I’ve met… well, anyone who thinks an astronaut’s life is ‘boring’ doesn’t know anything.

It is the ‘modern artists’ who I’ve found to have the most boring, gray, and uninteresting lives. They also seem to lack a personality. From what I’ve seen of these ‘artists’, they tend to be extremely vain, love to indulge in some sort of drugs, and everything that comes out of their mouths is a cliche. Of all lives to be, they appear to be the most shallowest form of existence. And they also appear to be the unhappiest.

Show me a ‘creative person’, and I will show you a loser filled with vanity. The path of ‘creativity’ doesn’t lead to fame, wealth, and happiness. What I see is that it leads to defeat after defeat in the marketplace and creates great unhappiness. What anyone sees in such a path is beyond me. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Why can’t these ‘creative angels’ ever, for once, try not to be creative? It is like that is the only thing they will not try.

I have so many examples of ‘creativity run amuck’ that destroys franchises and series. A very good example was the sci-fi show called ‘Farscape’. The show went on for four seasons with the ratings plummeting at the third season. I suspect the only reason why the show lasted as long as it did was because of the Henson puppets and fantastic make-up and production work. I’ve never seen worse writing in a science fiction show. So vain, the writers kept putting out cliffhangers and got stuck at the fourth season end when they weren’t renewed (clffhanger had the destruction of the main characters which I thought was a fitting conclusion to this mess of a show).

Why couldn’t a show like Farscape keep its audience? In half the episodes, the characters would transform into something (like a monster or something). In the other half, they would deal with the most ridiculous season arcs I’ve ever seen. They were all ‘chases’ where some villain was chasing the main character for a reason. The first season was the unbelievable and ridiculous reason was ‘to revenge the villain’s brother’ because the main character accidentally ran into him exiting the wormhole in the first episode. The rest of the seasons was because of ‘wormhole technology’ that was magically placed in the main character’s head. The individual episodes were poorly written. In one episode, it actually shows an old woman urinating by squatting over a cup and having another character drink it. How could anyone think that would be entertaining to watch? It is that type of stuff that causes the audience to run away (which they did).

Here is where it gets interesting. On the last DVDs of the fourth season, it shows the speech the showrunner gave when it was realized the show got canceled. His first words: “WE DID NOTHING WRONG!” It sounded like denial.

But if you listen to the writer and actor commentary on the last episode, it crystallizes the attitudes behind the show. The writers established a rule that the Pilot alien could not be separated from the ship. Yet, they broke that rule “just because”. There is a kinky ‘sex scene’ because the actors thought it would be ‘fun’. You never hear any talk of the audience. It is like the audience doesn’t matter. The only purpose of the audience, it appears, is to get down on their knees and be in awe of such ‘creativity’. The main actor said he gets asked by members of the audience why there is so much sex in the show. What the audience is really complaining about is that they cannot share the show with their family (with their kids). Both Star Trek and Stargate were family friendly which was why they had endless seasons and spin-off series. The use of the puppets was interesting and the show could have been far more popular in a broad range than ‘adult only’. The actor made fun of the audience member’s question as if what the audience thought didn’t matter. The writer then talks about the fifth season, how it was all in his head, as if he felt entitled to get a fifth season.

When I listened to this, I heard the unifying theme of ‘creativity’ behind it all. The reason why I oppose ‘creativity’ is because ‘creativity’s actual definition and practice is: “fuck the audience”. Whenever the audience is unhappy or so, people retort back with ‘creativity’ which means exactly what it was in the last sentence. “This show isn’t very entertaining.” “SCREW YOU!” i.e. “I am being ‘creative’.”

If entertainers would grow up and stop acting like big babies and orientate themselves toward the audience instead of this ‘creativity’, they would be far more successful, interesting, and happy.



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