He finished his book a few months ago and I started reading it last week. It's about his time in Portland from '98 to '02, when he was living with a peculiar history professor. I've been enjoying it and it's full of her philosophy, which is really nice. She was such a peculiar woman, she had all of these different ideas. She isn't a gigantic influence on me, but she drew a conclusion that I had been thinking about lately.
I'll quote a few lines for you.
"...People never show enthusiasm. True, much we encounter in life is uninspired, but that should make us all the more appreciative when true genius is experienced. People love diminishing greatness. They will say, Wagner didn't like Jews so we shouldn't appreciate his symphonies, or Leni Rienfenstahl filmed a Nazi rally so her movies cannot be admired."
"Well," I put in, "it's difficult to separate the personal from the creative. We can't help seeing art differently depending on who made it and what they believed. There was an exercise from one of my writing textbooks last week where one page reproduced a painting with no explanation. I turned it over and found the same image but a caption now stated 'van Gogh's final work before his suicide.' You couldn't view it the same way anymore."
Babette cocks her head. "That is quite true. But more importantly, I hope you can appreciate art without knowing its creator or particular curiosities that surround it...when I hear a beautiful symphony, it doesn't matter if it was written by Anton Bruckner or Gustav Mahler. If it is performed well, I don't care if the first violinist kicked their dog or held some unpopular political views. The experience of genius makes all else irrelevant. It cannot be described, but only understood when you are in its presence as we were tonight. I don't know about Hitchcock personally and I don't want to. It is enough we enjoy our time together when brief glimpses illustrate what people are capable of at their best."
This is a terrific dialogue. It makes me think of a lot of things.
When I played Braid, it was the best gaming experience I had ever had. After I completed it, I looked into Jon Blow to see what he had to say. It turned out he had a lot to say, with several lecture videos on youtube and podcasts around the internet. I started to check his twitter and I saw a different side of him. He'll get into little arguments with other people and a lot of the time he can be really short and dismissive. I wouldn't say that he's a complete jerk when it comes to arguments, but he comes off very arrogant.
I don't usually argue with people, especially if I feel like they can't be convinced. It seems to me that the people he argues with are those people, who are just too focused on being right. And sometimes it seems like he's the same way too, just trying to talk sternly enough until someone gives up.
Several times now, I've read a line where he has dismissed a game after playing a little bit of it, which seems so strange to me. He has this strong belief that games shouldn't waste time, so when he feels like a game is wasting his time, he immediately puts it down. He doesn't look into it further to see if there's something else there, something more powerful. And I don't agree with handling games that way.
If I had put down The World Ends With You once I hated Neku (which was relatively early), I wouldn't have seen this amazing character development he undergoes. If I had stopped watching Mad Men after the first five episodes (which I did because I felt horrible after each episode. I had to pick it back up months later), I wouldn't have all this appreciation for how well those characters were written.
When I picked something up, whether it's a television show, a movie, or a video game, I try to ride it out all the way through. And you know, sometimes it isn't worth my time. I watched episode after episode of Twin Peaks waiting for it to improve and get better, but it never happened. And even though that series ended up being a waste of time, I don't regret trying. I gave it a chance and I rode it out for as long as I could.
I don't like hearing Jon dismiss games he's only played a little bit of, but that happens. And you know, he's not perfect. He has flaws as a person, and that's just who he is. It hasn't prevented me from liking Braid as much as I do, and I still have respect for him because of his vision for video games and his passion to improve them.
Jon's situation is an instance where what he was like didn't prevent me from liking his work. Even though he isn't the ideal role model for my life, I took what I could from him. And I continue to look into his twitter and see what he has to say. I've accepted that this wonderful game came from him and I'll always appreciate that.
After thinking about Braid and Jon Blow, I start thinking about Fez and Phil Fish.
Fez has such a terrific atmosphere and I love the way it plays. The music is so spot on and the areas are so magnificent. It's an intense puzzle game (which I'm not into), but I can see that a lot when into it's style and visuals, and I love that about Fez.
When I look into Phil Fish himself, I see something completely different. He's this childish, tantrum throwing adult. He's this guy who handles his situations poorly and he just bickers with people over the internet (which is, again, a total waste of time). I look at his guy who I wouldn't be able to stand knowing, who I can't understand. And his entire being taints the spirit of Fez, holds me back from enjoying the game.
I think about how people do this. We want to distance ourselves from the people we dislike. I've heard a few stories that go, "This guy I hate likes this band I like. And now I don't even want to like that band anymore." We don't want to have anything to do with those people we hate, even if it's just a mutual appreciation for something.
I do the same thing with Fez. I dislike Phil so much that I don't want to enjoy his game.
And it's so obviously an unreasonable thing to do. As Babette says, what the creator is like shouldn't stop us from appreciating genius. It's a logical fallacy, but it's one that many people do, something a lot of us can't help but do.
I haven't drawn a conclusion from all of these thoughts yet. I don't regret looking into Jon Blow, but I sure do with Phil Fish. I think about how the best way to communicate with an artist or designer is through their art, their work.
When you read a book, that is a one way communication between the author and you. And that's the only bit of communication you'll probably have. You'll won't meet them, and if you do, you won't know what to say.
Which is how I feel all the time. The other day I messaged a Gaian telling them I read their journal, and let them know that I hope things go well with them. They thought it was completely strange, and I agreed, it's a strange thing to do. But I want to say something to them. I want to communicate with them the same way they communicated with me.
I read a short story in a magazine about a month ago, and I wanted to contact the author. But I thought about what I would do if I could contact them, what would I tell them? "Hey, I enjoyed your story. Keep writing." It's such a strange relationship to have, the one between creator and reader. Designer and player.
It's a terrific gray area. When you love someone's work, do you want to try to find out more about them? Does it really matter what an author is like?
I think one of my problems is that I look for role models, but it's a bit different than that. Probably about a year ago I resolved it in myself that perfect role models don't exist. People are people, and they make mistakes.
Now, I look for things that I can take from people. I took passion and vision from Blow and I took small influences from Andrew. I take this little piece of philosophy from Babette and so many other things from the people I admire, despite their flaws and faults.