The black sheep of art and entertainment

Throughout the history of the video games industry, there have been many instances where the industry has been unfairly vilified or looked upon with suspicion or disapproval, and where its consumers are also unfairly vilified or looked upon with suspicion or disapproval. The video game industry has been around for well over 40 years, but only relatively recently have video games become more widely accepted.

In the 1980’s, video games were seen as market that only appealed to children. This is just one reason why Nintendo in 1985 had to market their Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) and its peripherals (like R.O.B.) as toys rather than as games systems. The other reason was the notorious games market crash that happened in 1983, which caused games to be viewed as commercially non-viable and most stores were unwilling to carry games systems until the NES became as successful as it did. The perception that games were played only by children continued to be perpetuated until at least the mid-to-late 1990 when it was clear that the industry was catering to a more mature audience, or an audience that has grown out of the games produced by, say, Nintendo when they were younger. Even before the 1980’s though, when games as a general medium tended to be associated with controversy over violence, there was an arcade game released by Exidy in 1976 called Death Race, which became controversial because the object of the game is to run over “monsters” that flee the vehicle and scream when hit. Then in the 1990’s, games like Night Trap and Mortal Kombat became the centre of hysteria over violent video game content. As the decade drew to a close people began to blame video games for the Columbine Massacre because the media reported that the perpetrators of the massacre played Doom and created death match maps that supposedly resembled Columbine High School, and people have been trying to video games for violent crime ever since – of course, their attempts are in spite of the significant reduction in violent crime that coincided with the rise of people playing video games, along with the general lack of evidence that video games cause violent crime in the first place. Not to mention, the media never got bored of a chance to paint gamers as psychopaths, such as in the controversy that surrounded Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 over the airport level. There was plenty of whipped up hysteria over violence in video games and usually it came from social conservatives.

When video games weren’t accused of making you violent, they were accused of being bad for your health. Back in 2009, the British government released a poster which insinuated that video games were the main cause of obesity and that children who play video games may die early by playing video games. This poster was released as part of the government’s Change4Life campaign which was, surprise surprise, their attempt to tackle obesity. Not only that, but the poster referred to playing video games as basically doing nothing. Apart from the premise just being inaccurate and misleading, what was really egregious this campaign was that this poster was released at a time when the video game industry was responsible for boosting the economy during a time of recession. And in general, this and similar accusations are generally based on the stereotype of gamers as fat nerds who don’t have a life.

And more recently, when games weren’t accused of causing violent crime or being bad for your health, they were accused of being misogynist, and their consumers were accused of being savage, racist, sexist and generally backwards. It’s significant that around this time we started to see the gaming press being infiltrated by feminist ideologues. This combined with the revelation in 2014 that Zoe Quinn, the creator of a text-based choose your own adventure book style game called Depression Quest, had sex with gaming journalists, apparently in order to get her game promoted, led to the online revolt known as Gamergate, and the controversy that ensued. Those who supported Gamergate did so because they were tired of what they saw as corruption, cronyism and a lack of journalistic ethics within the gaming press, along with its collusion with feminists like Anita Sarkeesian who were basically out to convince the press that gamers were sexist and misogynistic in order to advance their own agenda. But the mainstream media – even the gaming press – dismissed Gamergate as a hate mob concerned primarily with harassing women, even though only a few Gamergate supporters were actually guilty of doing so. As a result, there were now those who shunned gamers collectively and denouncing them as backwards individuals, thus effectively siding with the feminists and the mainstream media narrative.

A visual illustration showing exactly how things have changed for gamers.

There’s a certain aspect of this mistrust and ignorance that extends to game designers. Not many people understand game design as a discipline, people still tend to ask “what do you actually do?”. This is illustrated by Scott Rogers in his book Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design:

Let’s talk about making video games. To most people, making a video game is a mystery. The average party conversation goes like this:

“So you program video games? Is it hard to write all that code?”

No. I said I design video games.

“Oh, so you draw the characters? That must be fun.”

No, I don’t draw them. That’s what an artist does.

“I don’t get it. If you don’t code the games or draw the games what do you do?”

Apparently nothing.

At this point in the conversation, I tell the person that games are made by elves. (Sometimes it’s just easier to tell someone a fantasy than explain what I do for a living.)

–  Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design(page 28) by Scott Rogers

Also, when we were having our talk about what to expect of the third year, we were introduced to the third year space and the lecturers had to explain a few things about the space. We were encouraged to put content on the walls such as concept artwork and research, but we were warned about putting up anything that was too violent on the walls because of the possibility that such imagery would be noticed by passersby (some of whom are apparently women in their 50’s) and by the lecturers’ boss, which would mean that the lecturers have to fight for the right to keep that space for us third year game design students. You have no idea how lucky the third year students are to basically have their own space where they can just work on their projects, and apparently there are people who would do anything to take that from the game design course, and any thing that convinces them that games students don’t deserve that space is enough to make them feel that they can take it.

To be honest, regarding my university, I feel like there’s envy coming into play. The game design course I study under is a course where you can potentially learn a wide pool of skills. You need to know not just how to make a nice 3D model, but how to do it efficiently, up to standard and in a way that you can get your computer-generated asset to actually work in the game engine. You need to know how to rig the characters you make for your games. You need to know how to animate them. You need to know how the game engine works so that you can import your assets into the game, or if you’re going to actually manage the content in engine in order to make it work as a cohesive whole. You need to be able to communicate effectively with the rest of a given team, and even how to operate as a team – which also means you’re going to have to balance working with others with your own individuality. You have to figure out how to tell a good story, design good characters, and design levels. You to learn how to organize and plan effectively, because good game design really needs good planning. You might even have to learn skills involving leadership and even entrepreneurship. You learn and grow as a designer and as a person.

This is a course that offers several skills, some of which can be transferable in that you might find a way to use them outside of game design, and our course is apparently home to some of the hardest working students in my university. So if you’re a game designer or game design student and someone asks you “what do you do?”, you may actually have to respond with “what don’t we do?”. Some art and design courses are, by contrast, geared towards more specific areas of work, which may offer less skills.. The animation students, from what I understand, are just learning 3D animation, possibly geared towards the film industry. Then you have photography students who do, well, photography in an artistic context. Fine art students make visual art under a nebulous category that includes painting, sculpture, and everything else. Illustration and graphic design students, to be fair, actually might have a number of profitable jobs going for them, with graphic design students finding work in advertising for major companies and illustration students designing covers and illustrations for books (sometimes children’s books) and magazines. Then you have the glass art people who seem to me like they spend their days making stained glass windows and other stuff that exists mainly for show. I could go on. The way I understand it, other art and design students may have less options open to them because there are quite the few art courses where you’re basically just an art student without much transferable skills. And from what I hear from my course’s program director, there are students from other courses who complain that they don’t have what we game design students have.

In our course, we’re the black sheep of arts courses probably because what we are working on is not purely artistic and passive media, we are very much learning how to make entertainment. Video games are not a purely artistic medium, like a painting, a sculpture or generally anything passive. Video games are a medium of entertainment fundamentally defined by interactivity and whose primary goal is not artistic consumption but simple enjoyment by a player. There is certainly artistic and intellectual merit that can be found in video games, but it’s important realize that fun and entertainment – and functionality I might add –  come first when designing the game. In other words, we’re an art and design course that isn’t purely about making “art”, so we’re looked upon a little differently by people of other art and design courses. Again, at least that’s going from the program director. And I’ll tell you what, I am glad and also pretty lucky to be studying under the tutelage of lecturers at my university who understand video games as they are and clearly appreciate the medium accordingly. Going back to Gamergate, it seems that other academics did not understand this, and wanted video games to serve a role that it might not need to serve by turning it into a more “artistic” or even social medium. It should come as no surprise that these academics were rejected by actual gamers. But for this, they have been vilified by those same academics and their allies in the mainstream media.

To me, it’s telling that games and game design students have had this reputation of being the black sheep in culture, even as video games are already accepted in the mainstream and have been for years now. It’s also telling that video games give people what they might want in a very powerful way, and in turn provide happiness and entertainment to people in a powerful and direct way. It just feels like there are individuals and interests who are very much against such a thing.

The state of music

I had only recently found out yesterday afternoon about the death of David Bowie, one of the most beloved rock musicians of the 20th century. Even though I’m not a fan of his work, I know he was highly prolific musician and he was very talented. He released several albums between 1967 and the present day, and throughout his career his albums took on a different sound and look with each new era of said career and each new incarnation of his ever-changing artistic persona, all while making a massive impact on popular music with his unique take on both rock music and pop music. He collaborated with several artists during his life such as the Pet Shop Boys, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, Brian Eno, Mott the Hoople, Nile Rogers, Freddie Mercury, and Iggy Pop (who was also a dear friend of his). His final album, Blackstar (which was released on Friday), was his own way of leaving the world with a parting gift and a sign of great artistic character. My brother is definitely a fan, and I can tell that Bowie’s death was probably the biggest thing on his mind today. When I heard about it, and didn’t yet know if he had heard about it, I thought “Oh shit! He is not going to like this news at all”.

To be honest, I feel that David Bowie’s death could hardly have come at a worse time. In 2015 we not only lost Philthy Animal Taylor, the drummer of Motörhead, but also Lemmy the lead vocalist and easily Motörhead’s driving force (and after Lemmy’s death, Motörhead immediately broke up). I think we are in a climate where people are thinking that all the good musicians are dying, while in the public consciousness the void looks set to be filled with the many inane figures of homogenized commercial music culture. I don’t even need to name them, seriously you should know by now if you’ve paid any attention at all. It’s actually a very familiar climate: one that Bill Hicks once alluded to when he said in his stand-up routines “John Lennon was murdered, yet Milli Vanilli walks the fuckin’ planet”. And it feels like that today too: Lemmy and David Bowie both die of cancer, and guess who walks the Earth today? It’s all too familiar for lots of people, and I think this is particularly true for those who fall outside the realm of mainstream and popular music and belong to the realms of other forms of music: particularly metal or punk, but especially metal in my experience. Over the years the world of metal has seen the loss of its own icons besides Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor. Among them we can name Randy Rhoads, Chuck Schuldiner, Cliff Burton, Quorthon, Ronnie James Dio, Darrel “Dimebag” Abbot, Per Ohlin (a.k.a. Dead), Paul Baloff (the original Exodus vocalist), Mike Scaccia (of Ministry and Rigor Mortis), Jeff Hanneman, and Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus), all of whom proved themselves as an invaluable part of metal music for their talent, for being powerful and inspirational forces in metal music, and for leaving behind their own legacy. Some of us, myself included, can be inclined to complain that while they are no longer among us, purveyors of mindless pop, rap, and inauthentic forms of rock music still walk the Earth. And it’s a lot worse when you feel like these musicians die too soon, and even when Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor died it felt like they left this world too soon.

I actually felt like reflecting on the state of music today, because as I have discussed earlier here, while good musicians are dying and increasingly relegated in public consciousness, they have already been replaced in the minds of the masses by purveyors or more homogenized music, and the more homogenized music currently dominates popular music. And again, if you’ve paid attention to any media at all you’ll know who these purveyors are. I believe that a similar phenomenon is occurring in the realm of hard rock and heavy metal music, as you might see when you pay attention to the realm of mainstream “heavy music”. Essentially, this is the world of heavy metal, hard rock, punk rock, alternative rock, metalcore, and just about anything perceived as hard-edged and heavy are just fucking forced together and made part of a more homogenized heavy music category. You see this sort of thing promoted by the likes of Kerrang Magazine, Download Festival, and a bevy of ignorant youths who don’t even know what they’re listening to because they don’t think about it. These are the kinds of people who, let’s say for the sake of argument, think bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, Poison, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Green Day, Slipknot, Rammstein, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, and Black Veil Brides all belong to the same category and the same family as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Pantera as well as each other. They don’t: the example shown for the sake of argument is a disparate group of musical acts representing different musical genres, and also bound to convey a different ethos to each other, and no one in the right mind would pair them together as though they were in the same family. But that’s what’s going on in mainstream rock culture, or at least hard rock culture: we’re creating a monolithic heavy rock and roll category, even when it should be clear that they don’t all belong to the same category and they all deserve to stand on their own and by their own virtues.

A photo taken of Download Festival 2014

And when we’re not doing that, we’re still favoring an idea of metal that usually consist of music that seems metal, but the vocal style and other elements (such as lyrics) can feel like nothing of the kind, a phenomenon that might have been introduced with the rise of metalcore and screamo. In addition, there’s a gravitation towards the famous and popular metal bands like Black Sabbath, Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Machine Head, Amon Amarth, and Arch Enemy (not that any of them are necessarily bad, especially not the ones from the golden age of metal), as well as the popular but only vaguely metal groups like Slipknot, Bullet for my Valentine, Trivium, Rammstein, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Bring Me the Horizon and others, but there’s not a lot of looking past that. I fear that in that climate, more traditional forms of metal outside the popular range of bands may be seen as welcome because the younger audiences may find them passé and are thus relegated to the underground. And I don’t mean old bands (though I do think people could explore the gamut of classic metal more), I mean new ones who play more traditional styles (this usually goes for heavy metal, speed metal, thrash metal).And is it me, or do a lot of the more popular bands also seem like they have a more extreme sound, even when they’re not strictly death metal, black metal, or grindcore? Is it because of the assumption that metal is all about aggression? Aggression is certainly a key element of metal music, but I think most metalheads know it’s not the only thing that makes metal what it is. Is it just because it seems cool, because it’s the thing that’s popular?  I hope not because believe me, that’s not something metal should be put through constantly. In the 1980’s, glam was popular and some traditional metal bands (like Accept and Judas Priest) as well as hard rock acts (like Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper) briefly embraced the hair metal ethos and sound at one point because that was big at the time, and they quickly rejected it. Hell even Discharge (a hardcore punk band) and Celtic Frost (the famous extreme metal band) put out a glam metal record at one point for some bizzare reason. In the 1990’s, some well-known thrash metal bands began to either embrace a more radio-friendly heavy rock sound or simply a slower sound following the success of Metallica’s self-titled album (examples including Testament, Exodus, Megadeth, and Nuclear Assault), while other thrash metal bands chose to embrace a more mid-tempo groove metal style popularized by Pantera (examples include Overkill, Sepultura, Prong, Anthrax, and Demolition Hammer). In the 2000’s, metalcore and nu-metal were becoming popular, and then we got a lot of bands playing heavy music that did stuff like that. We already know what it is to just do what’s popular because it seems popular or even because it’s “cool”, but has no relevance to what you’re actually doing and what you’re actually about.

I can’t help thinking this happens because of a fear of being passé. But since when did metal become passé. And we never say this about classic metal bands. We dare not! We don’t do this anything with the reputation of being classic. In fact, often it’s only when old media continue to do the same thing we are briefly reminded that there’s nothing wrong with still making good use of your old tropes. In movies, the recent Star Wars film was a both a massive commercial success and a great movie, partly because it carries forth a popular already-familiar brand, but also because it managed to do something new without it being completely different. At first, I thought it bothered me that it recycled elements from the original trilogy and keep referencing it, but this was not only inevitable due the film’s continuity from the original trilogy but also it also made sense because the original trilogy was memorable, and why take away what was already good? So it is with not only old metal bands who continue with their art but also new bands that carry on the torch of classical forms of metal and its subgenres. It may seem familiar, but that’s because it’s good. It deserves to be familiar. Not at all like the homogenized forms of music we see today, which are only at least credible.

Even though I’ve discussed a hell of a lot about metal and hard rock culture, my main point is simply about that climate we feel when good musicians die and we get left thinking about the musicians and band still with us, or when we think about the music of then versus the music of now. But it’s also worth remembering that if we care about that, we could at least try to make a contribution. I may be doing game design, but I do feel motivated at times to think about making metal. I’m still not very good at the electric guitar, but no matter what I do in life I’d still like to learn to make real metal and some day give it to the world, because I love metal. I would think anyone with an interest in music would feel the same about genuine, non-homogenized music. That’s one thing to take

One last note: fuck Kanye West. Just fuck him.

The death that awaits establishment

Thinking about my time in university leads me to another train of thought as well: I read a post from Summer Thunder, a blog from a friend and fellow Satanist Mo, and I read about how bounded groups are losing the authority they once claimed they had to dictate spirituality and losing the monopoly that they had over the right to interpret belief and practice, and how independent spirituality seems set to claim a new world for itself and leave the old order of things (at least, that’s how I felt reading it). I got a very clear sense in my head that the age of dogmatic forms of authority and order were dying, and it didn’t seem unreasonable to me that this might apply to all manner of cultural structures besides religion and occultism. To me, the world of tightly wound norms is slowly dying, and only base ignorance stands in the way of the end of the old order of human beings.

One question I have when I think about it, though is why does academia still hold on to notions of restrictive and bounded up order? In the world today it feels to me like going through the traditional pathways to academia is the way to success and to prove your talent, and I don’t think I hear much about people learning on their own without going through any expectations and rules. Not to mention, academia seems like it’s more about getting you into a job than about making you great and talented, which is weird considering in academia you have freedoms (and restrictions) that from what I’m told do not necessarily apply in the career world. How often you will have to conform to the standards put to you in academia in the world of work. And I certainly don’t see you writing dissertations and following rigorous rules for doing so outside of university. Sometimes it feels like we think little of people rising from almost literally nothing, achieving their dreams without following any rules as to how, and I always think about how in the world of metal, and the old days of game design, you had to do without the established channels and you could still be successful if you applied yourself.

Also, in general, there are other questions I have about the world. Why do we hold on to this idea that in order to prove yourself in the world and advance yourself in terms of having a career and a name you have go through institutions that ultimately have you go through sets of unwritten rules? Why is it that in our world people always follow patterns? Why do we confine each other to roles and limitations that we don’t really want to observe? Why do we gravitate towards idols and call upon them to save us? Why do we value numbers over the individual? Why do we always try to put each other in boxes? And why is it that this is all at the expense of the human spirit when we do it?

I have a feeling that the world of numbers and putting people in boxes and assigned roles will be around for a long time, long after the time when I leave this world. If we’re not chaining people down with organized religion, we’ll still be doing it with politics, and we’ll also do it with memetic popular culture, with technology, with science, and even with relationships. But I can’t abide by it, because the world I believe in is different.

The world I dream of is a world ruled by freedom, a world where truly we live by our own feelings, passions, desires, and values over the expectations of others, uncorrupted by ignorance; a world where we remember we have a choice and never succumbing to patterns set before us, nay where there are no patterns set before us that we blindly follow; a world where people can put imagination and creativity over any rules except the ones they devise, and not even the need to survive and compete, or the need for structure, would stop that; a world where fear and ignorance are always defeated by a noble and powerful spirit, no matter how much they rise and grow; a world where humans don’t ever become cogs in a much larger wheel, peas in a much larger pod, or anything like that other than individuals act as themselves and operate on their own will and that which propels their lives; a world where freedom is immortal, and dies for no one, no God, no fear, and no other ideals, not even the desires in people’s hearts and minds; a world where there’s always some reason to have fun without being obnoxious about it. Truly, this is not a world for everyone, truly this world is too good for humans in our world. As such, this is probably a world I would deem as my vision of heaven, and as a vision that I suppose lies chiefly in my mind, and perhaps that means I won’t really be separate from it either.

A world without patterns, a world without a wheel to turn the people, a world with no boxes to put people in, a world where human life is principally characterized by choice, freedom, imagination, creativity, and our desires and passions. Most people might have a word for this vision: Chaos. And I suppose, I would embrace that term, because that’s perhaps where the meaning of Chaos really lies: it’s about the vision for the world at large, something that runs deep in me ever since my initial enchantment and enamorment the Megami Tensei series of games. At the very least, how gratifying this Chaos feels to envision and imagine. I know there’s a value to structure and order in our lives, but most of the time we have to but don’t want to, because we have some semblance of order and pattern crammed down our throats or attached to us, and we kill ourselves to conform to it. Besides, when I think about it, all forms of order and structure, at least in human terms, are derived from the imagination, will, and the capacity of the mind, not from some great laws ordained by the outer world or by any great Logos embedded in humanity. In a sense, it’s probably true when we think of the formation of order out of chaos, not order out of order.

I am Chaos by Followers-of-Eris on Deviantart; something I kind of feel like as I write this.

In a weird way, I sort of feel like I know where my roots are when I think about this, and perhaps with a slightly better understanding to go with it, or it just relates to some of the things I really want in life. That’s why even if it seems radical I can picture myself shouting “Holy Chaos, death to Order” (and then that’s pretty because it sounds like the start of Holy Hell), and if I say that I would salute the death of establishment and the reign of freedom and the chaos of the human spirit.

Are video games art?

Less than a month ago, a video game called Hatred was announced by a development company called Destructive Creations, and it became controversial due to the fact that it’s a game where you play as a psychopathic mass killer who hates humanity and kill as many people as you can. The developers describe the game as a reaction to perceived political correctness in video games and the idea of games as art. That last part has been a debate for a long time, and people still argue over whether video games can be called art.

Some people say that video games are an art-form in and of themselves. But this is very untrue. Some people also say that video games are incapable of being an art-form, or anything more than mere entertainment. This also very untrue. And there are those who say that video games exist only as a commercial enterprise, a business. That’s only half-right.

As I see it, video games are principally a kind of software that presents an interactive world for people to play in, usually with rules influencing how you can play. That is the basic premise of a video game. Everything else, such as graphics, story, environment, and all the details of a game are basically layers of that software world.  Now this basic nature can have its artistic and creative merit, and if you think that alone is artistic in its own right, then that’s fine but you’re also kind of missing the point. Video games CAN be artistic, but that doesn’t mean they are works of art in they’re own right. In fact, most video games aren’t artistic in they’re own right, and I’m not just talking about all the popular games that people play today. Today, video games are primarily a commercial enterprise, and it’s been that way since the 1970s, but at the same time video games were never incapable of creative merit, it’s just that art and creative media were not the point and they still aren’t. Video games can be artistic in the sense that they are capable of telling a story, conveying ideas, and presenting an aesthetic world, but the simple truth is that this is not the first thing that enters into their design, nor is it the fundamental purpose of creating a game.

So my opinion on the matter of “are games art?” is no with a but: they aren’t artistic on their own, but they can have artistic merit potentially in terms of what they do aesthetically and in terms of story, or just in the eye of the beholder.

More doubt, and why I don’t think I want to be a designer

Today’s morning lecture at university has arisen many feelings of doubt and negativity in me, and I think I am becoming interested in the idea of getting into the video games industry. I still like video games, but the thought of making video games and being a games designer is starting to seem like something I have a decreased interest in or compatibility with.

For the second time I was reminded that all of us who go into designing are not considered artists. We’re expected to make something for someone else, unless you’ve got your own company or possibly if you’re in indie games. If you’re designer, your making designs for someone else, for a demand, and you’ll likely have to get used to people telling you “your designs are shit. change them”, and then you’ll probably get used it and become more like a drone, perhaps never realizing it. That thought alone makes me feel extremely doubtful and even resentful about the path of the designer. If you don’t create for yourself, and for your own vision, then you’re not an artist, and I don’t want to live a life where I stop creating and writing for myself. That’s not even getting past the other fact that the games industry isn’t even about art, or about individual expression. If you think that, then you’re a fool. Games are made for an audience, and there’s a ton of people working on them. Who’s vision are you going to be designing for if you’re in the industry? You’ll be lucky if it’s your own unless you’re running your own company. Half of me is tempted to rip on capitalism because of my sense that it produces such client-oriented models, but I can’t completely rip on it (you probably know why). In general though I have more reason to hate this world because of how group-oriented everything tends to be and individuality is usually shafted to the side in favor of society and the mass client.

Back to the point though. Honestly, I had more creative freedom back in art college, and even they sometimes restricted me, but in retrospect they have restricted me far less than the video games industry ever will. But I don’t feel like I can drop out of my course. It would not only disappoint everyone else but dishonor myself, especially given the short amount of time I have been on this course compared to the time I have left for this course, and I would only end up wasting the money I put into it and the financial support I’ve got and will gain for the other two years. There is also transferring to a more art-related course, but I just know they’d make me do art history again. And besides, it’s not like I didn’t find something good out of the course I’m in (in fact, the games design history lectures are the best part and they’re surprisingly enjoyable). Either way, if I leave the course, especially now, it affects the group I’m in, and I’ll probably end up leaving them with my unfinished business. And you can imagine that might be annoying. That or they get rid of the input I provided. Speaking of the group, I kinda feel like the role I’m taking as a guy who keeps everything in check is not as appreciated as it should be. I feel like I might be seen as a guy who messages people constantly to the detriment of everyone else’s nerves when all I’m trying to do is create some semblance of organization and enhance it for myself. I half-feel like they don’t appreciate that, when they should.

I don’t know who to talk to, I feel like a fraud and it might only be a matter of time before people see, as I increasingly do, that I don’t fit in very well in my course, and I feel like I’m gonna be crushed sooner or later. In general, I don’t know what to do, or how long I can stay in the situation I’m in.

An embarrassment of virtues

Today, while preparing for a show, I was bringing some work over from the first few months, and I  thought I wanted to hide it because I was worried about the impact and ignorant, immature fools not being able to deal with it.

An older friend of mine found out I was putting it away, evidently she had a good opinion of it, and eventually made me realise that all I was doing was hiding, when I should be expressing myself openly and honestly. I felt humiliated, the thought that I was hiding was an embarrassment to my personal virtues, for which I will ask my brother to strike me hard on the back for later as a kind of penance. After that, I decided to display the work.

It also made me think that I’m really not as good at dealing with people outside the internet as i sometimes like to believe, and I had (and perhaps still have) a great lack of faith in people in the real world at large (not everyone, just most people). Perhaps because then I’ve been dealing with them in too shadowy a manner, if at all. But if I really believed in arming myself and my will, why hide?

Social change is not the only purpose of art

Art is very likely to reflect the world surrounding the artist, and his/her sentiments, experiences, and even the prism through which he/she sees the world. It is because of this that art inevitably acquires the ability to be used as a medium to affect society. There are a number of voices both in the present and the past who argue that art exists as a medium for social change and consciousness. But this argument is nonsense because it ignores the many other ways art could be used.

At its heart, art-making is about creation, it’s about physically expressing something in creative means. Those who say it exists only for the sake of social change and consciousness ignore art as a means of personal expression and feelings, of spirituality, or other non-political purposes. Not all art is protest, nor should it have to be.

In my personal opinion, artists should make art for themselves, and for the sake of their own passion for art, their feelings, and the desire to create and express something dear to them. If they devote their careers to serve society, then they are no longer creating art for themselves or for their own sake.

My art is my own, not of the past

In both art class at school, and in art college, I keep being asked to compare my art, drawing, techniques, and ideas to past practioners and theorists, even when I can’t. Why, when my art is my own? I am the progenitor of my work. The only reason teachers would ask me to compare to past artists I don’t know or even care about is so they can fill in blanks, tick boxes, and grade me.

That is not to say I am without any artisitc inspirations. The way I draw fire, for instance. I get inspired mainly by esoteric Buddhism of Tibet and Japan, and the fireballs that dragons are seen with in Chinese artwork. And I draw characters in an anime-like manner, and I am often inspired by the demon designer Kazuma Kaneko, of Shin Megami Tensei fame. But I simply see no relation between my work overall with work of any historical artists, with names at least, nor do I see any relation between my art-making philosophy and that of art theorists and philosophers, any more than I see much relation between my philosophy and that of other philosophers (though as with my art, my philosophy is not without its sources of inspiration).

I also don’t like the notion that my worldview, especially artistic worldview, is somehow determined by what generation I’m from, and the artistic and cultural disposition of that generation. I was born in 1994, so were a hell of a lot of other people, just like every year. The opinions and worldview of each varies wildly, despite being born in the same generation and similar upbringings. I don’t believe I should be labelled as having the same way of thinking as everyone else in my generation.

I do get inspired by things, but I did not create the same art, and I should not be made to compare with other artists and theorists. I wish only to make my own work.