My daughter loves movies. I’m still hoping I can parlay that interest into teaching her about animation and how to create it, since Couch Potato still isn’t a real career, unemployment reform attempts notwithstanding. Still, she loves animated movies, as most children are wont to do. My own childhood fascination with animation turned me early to the part of art and creativity, and despite my lifelong fascination and competence with math and the sciences, I simply find it more personally satisfying to do something artistic with my time.
I’ve had more than one occasion to wonder about the nature of work and welfare, and to wonder just what it is that I should be doing with my peculiar and particular talents. As I watched a bit of Disney’s Beauty and Beast with my little ones, I found my love for books framed in a new light.
As the Beast and Belle build their friendship/romance, Beast shows Belle to the castle library and tells her reverently that it’s now all hers. There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of books there. It’s a great scene, as Belle adores books, and Beast clearly wants to do something nice for her. Beast is starting to understand the joy of giving, even as Belle takes in the sights.
I had to wonder… what if I had a library like that? What if I were a monarch, with a castle full of retainers, trained to cater to my every whim? What if I had no real purpose in life but to consume and be coddled? Would I spend all my time in that library? I think I would spend a lot of my time there, though I’d want a nice science lab next door and perhaps an orrery and observatory in the highest level of the library, maybe a foundry for some nice steampunk experimentation a little ways off, next to the wood shop.
I love books. I devour data, and am almost always reading a few books at a time. I love learning and thinking, finding new interconnections between bits of data.
And yet… I don’t think I’d be content with a life of pure consumption. At some point, the itch to create would grow unbearable, and I’d have to go paint, draw, build, sculpt or write. I just can’t life a life only comprised of taking, I have to give; I am driven to create, to contribute, to turn my energies to constructive ends.
Like Gordon’s “word monkeys”, the thoughts and ideas that are prompted by the education represented by consuming those books just have to go somewhere other than the recesses of my grey matter. This is why I blather at length about game design (and other tish tosh) rather than just letting myself get sucked into WoW or the latest Civilization game. Sure, I like consuming well-crafted pieces of gaming almost as much as I love reading… but I have a deeper itch to give, rather than take.
And sometimes, I have to wonder if perhaps games, of all forms of entertainment, might not be the best suited to scratch both itches at the same time. Ours is an interactive medium, after all, and we really can let the player do extraordinary things in fantastic settings that just couldn’t happen elsewhere. To me, that’s the strength of games; the ability to facilitate exploratory and investigative thought in situations that might not otherwise be available. Perhaps we might not harness gamer impulses to cure cancer or Save the Universe… but I do think it is very possible to let games foster creativity and constructive impulses rather than be mere passive entertainment.
This is why I write here on the blog, it’s why I pontificate about making new games and explore new ramifications for fictional constructs like magic, it’s why I’m not working on movies like I was trained to. I see something here in the medium of games… and I want to explore that potential. I want to contribute something positive to the world and my posterity, even though I’m a mere artist with delusions of adequacy.
Time will tell if I manage to do so, but in the meantime, please forgive my protracted blathering here and there; I’m muddling my way through like any good muggle with only a foggy view of the more expansive reality around me. Here’s hoping I can poke through to the light here and there, and show others some of the sights.
In the meantime, thank you for all of your comments and conversation. As much fun as it is sending these blog posts out into the digital ocean in little WordPress bottles, it’s gratifying and humbling to see when someone lobs a message back, and all of us learn a little more.
Best wishes for Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it! If you don’t, well, here’s hoping you have a good weekend anyway!