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The Definition(s) Of Art And Why I Find Myself Hating It - Destructoid

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Take a gamer, a "creator", an actor, a procrastinator and throw it all together and you'd pretty much get me. I got into gaming by the Nintendo 64. Some of my favorites are L.A Noire, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Red Steel 2, Team Fortress 2, Gmod and plenty others.
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NOTE: If you are going to skim through it, and chances are some of you will, don't scan over the last part and immediately jump to conclusions, ok?

It takes me a while to think of something to talk about. Mainly I find myself thinking at a desk at something I tackle. And even then, I sometimes feel as if I'm just regurgitating things. Mainly when it comes to talking about video games. I'd like to be one that can bring up new points, but when other beat me to the punch and all I'm left with is reiterating that "fanservice is only good in moderation and shouldn't be a selling point for a game even though lord know that it will be that no matter how many feminists bitch about it". And even then I'd counter it with "GameJudge, you fuckwit, you're a man. You probably fap to this anyways, no matter how much of a 'nice guy' you are and you may just end up using it at some point in your life, so shut your piehole." Which leaves me to something else.

When I do make a "critique" that revolves around something like that, I have that sort of omnimous feeling that I'm going to turn on it at some point in the future. Like I'll become the soul thing I hate. But in that case, I might as well be the ruler of Venezuela with the mentality of a pop singer who only got famous because she was basically jailbait and had that stupid one hit wonder where she "did it again". But nonetheless, this usually stops me from even talking about it within a blog because in 20 years when I do become such a thing, that one person that bothers to know about me will start making campaigns against me saying that "GameJudge is a fucking hypocrite". But that's highly unlikely. Nonetheless, why do I bring this up? Well, maybe it's because I have a complex relationship with "art".



I love making art. But in the direct objective sense of making pictures. I sort of hate art for when it takes on a different meaning. The main reason being is that people who think of themselves as "artsy" come off as pretentious. "Hold on," a tiny voice in my head would shout out, "You're 'artsy' too, so you might as well be part of the pretentious prick clan." To which I'd reply, "Prove it," and then smile smugly to give the illusion that I won the argument with an entity only I can hear. That voice in my head would then instruct my hand to smack myself in the face and then say "Well, why is it that when you talk with some of your friends, you give off this idea that you're deep by bullshitting about your philosophy on 'religion', 'creativity' or 'life', if you're not the 'artsy' type?". At this point, I'd roll my eyes and sigh to that voice besting me.

Then an idea would pop into my head and then I'd say "Ha, you stupid voice! Don't you know art is subjective in it's definition?". And this is where I run into my first problem with it. Art is subjective in definition. That's not to say I hate the idea of art being subjective. True art really lies within the eye of the beholder. If some idiot wants to convince themselves that a bunch of dots and lines surpasses the Mona Lisa, then be my fucking guest. I'm merely pointing out that when people toss the word about, it can be confusing in what sort of sense they mean it. Technically speaking, a painter is "artsy" because he paints. But at the same time a painter can't be "artsy" because all he does is portraits.



That's the first subjective definition of art. The "creatively artsy" definition. Meaning that something that is lacking in a sense of creativity isn't art. Now that's a problem in it of itself because creativity isn't something you can measure. Sure, you can tell when something is dull as shit and when something actually has some flare to it, but what about something in between? How can I tell if Dali was far more surreal than Lovecraft? It's not often that those sort of art folk go on about how much more creative they are than someone else, but it happens at times, and it gets annoying.

The creatively artsy also seem to have a problem in terms of mixing up creativity with originality. And like I've stated before, nothing is original. Maybe in the caveman times, sure...but people have already done things before I have. And last I checked, people who are original are either in an insane asylum because they live in their own fantasy...that might actually sell good if someone could find them or live in the caveman times, as I said before. The true inspiration out of nothing is pretty hard to make up by yourself, because there will always be a trace back to it. Does that mean I should look down on Dali because he used a watch in his painting or Lovecraft because the word necro from Necronomicon derives from Greek to mean death? Not really. That would be kind of silly. Besides, as I've said before again, creativity is still possible. There's a bazillion stories out there that are the same, yet people fucking love them because someone included a giant elephant-hydra fusion into their version.

"Wait just a minute," the voice in my head would pleasantly interrupt, "You know damn well that I know that art is subjective in definition. But you and I both know that there are only three ways you view the word art being used, and lord knows you're just stalling to talk about the one I'm calling 'future hypocrite' on." To which I'd grit my teeth and then look at you in frustration because something that's in my head and is probably being controlled by me and not some other worldly force is whooping my ass. That voice...or I guess I am right here. No, what that voice...I mean I am referring to is the "thought provoking artsy" definition. What's that? Well, stop me if you've heard this.



You ever read a book in class that you were forced to read? You know how the teacher would ramble on for hours and hours on how your book relates to something in this day in age while you were wondering why you have to endure a few more years of the same process, just with a different book? You know how in the end of it all, you have to write about that certain part of the book that somehow connects to something that's happened to you? Well, that term that you get the annoying introduction to is called symbolism. Symbolism is to mediums as chocolate is to being smothered on dollar bills. Mainly that the chocolate is nice, but I want my dollar bills.



Ok, vague comparison. Allow me to drill deeper. Symbolism is nice to see. When someone notices it, it gives a story a sense of depth. For example, I watched FLCL because a friend of mine was recommending it and I just couldn't stop thinking about that awesome Canti character. And to sum it up, it was a roller coaster of everything I liked in animes and everything I hated in animes. But after watching it, I tried to figure out what was so symbolic about it. Which comes to the first problem with symbolic things. What is symbolic and what isn't.

Many things that have to implement some message in them have the problem of either being too blunt or too vague. That becomes a problem either way because no one likes extremes. The too blunt comes off as being a dick or a joke. You ever watched something that had the character say "I learnt something today"? Well, that's the basic blunt way of symbolism. Now this isn't bad when you need to make a point that is vital to make (in either the sense that you really stand by it and hope that you can fight the good fight (which means that when you argue it, you don't come across as a dick) or because you need to teach kids that looking both ways before crossing the street would be a wise idea." But when it comes to politics, religion or anything like that, you might as well wear a hat on your head that says "I'm a fag that believe in X, and whatever you say about it can't change my opinion. FOLLOW ME YOU BRAINLESS SHEEP."



The vagueness of symbolism is actually clever in some senses but it brings more problems than when you're being direct. When you face the problem of being too vague, then this creates the "Blue drapes" argument. For those who don't know about it, someone said that when they were in English class, they would listen to the teacher over-analyze a story by saying "The blue drapes represent the sorrow that the character is facing, or some foreshadowing to a tragic death" when really the guy was thinking "The drapes are fucking blue". That argument is basically stating that what could be symbolic, might just not be. For one, foreshadowing can only be amounted to cleverness if pulled off right and if you look at something a second time. But that wouldn't really make that much enhancements to it. That, and it can also fall to the problem of being too blunt.

Then there's the actual symbolism vs the viewer's symbolism vs other viewer's symbolism. This is catastrophic if it's in a mess. I mean, with some symbolism-heavy medias, sometimes the message is right there in a subtle manner. In even less of them, the author actually holds true to the general consensus of the symbolism people let out when they look at the media.



Getting back to FLCL, for the most part, it bases itself on being a "coming of age" story, with many things posing itself. Like the beasts Naoto faces are hardships he faces, and Canti/Raharu being the will to overcome those hardships, the fake eyelashes Amarao wears to symbolize a fake sense of maturity, Raharu representing the things that we hate about females and like about them once we're at that level of maturing and whatnot. But you know what? The dude behind this anime hasn't spilled the beans that much on the message behind it. For all we know, he could have been making the anime for the hell of it. Which may not be a big deal to some but a big deal to others.

At least with FLCL, there's a general idea of what the possible symbolism could be, but in other shows, the message can be mixed. People can actually bicker about what the blue drapes might just mean. Hell, this sometimes pisses the creator off when he realizes that his nihilistic message actually gets translated to a message about how we should all help to achieve world peace. In fact, anything, general consensus on the symbolism or not, can be misinterpreted as something else. Something that I don't see as a symbol could be viewed as such by someone and vice versa. Symbolism ends up becoming subjective which ruins the point of it's objective.



That to me is why when symbolism comes up, I laugh at people who go on about the message behind it. Or in some cases steam like mad. "But you inconsiderable twat, you just went on about FLCL symbolism," that voice will remind me. True. But I think what annoys me more is when people argue it as if it's a fight between who gets to fuck the hot damsel in distress they just saved and when people really center themselves on it. I'm ok with people being deep about things. It gives them a sense of complexity, as if they look at the world in a unique way, adding and taking away things they see fit. I'm like that. And sure, if people are civil about symbolism in mediums, it could make for some wonderful fancy dinner talk. But it gets a little preachy when someone just has to push that sort of idea that things have to be just that when there is no sense of dumb fun.



Now I know what that voice is going to say. "You want to hit Daniel Floyd in the balls, don't you? You've practically made it clear on occasions that you have a complex relationship with him. Hell, if it weren't for him, you wouldn't be writing this blog. You'd be playing InFamous right about now." And even though I'd like to be Mr. Different by being a guy that has a quasi-hatred for a guy many idolize, that would just make me look shallow and stupid. Plus, he has a bigger following than I do, so I'd probably lose a subscriber or 20 if I dared to do so. And let's not forget that bitching about internet celebrity's opinions is pretty fuck basement dweller of someone to do.

More importantly, I don't really hate him. I just don't have that same sort of "respect" for the guy that others do. I'm pretty sure he's a really nice guy. He sounds like it. I like that he speaks very elegantly and makes for good points without being as pretentious as others do. Hell, he evens states at times that he can enjoy something for it just being dumb fun and not filled to the brim with a "message". But something about what he does irks me a little.

For the most part, he's pushing this idea that video games need to become more evolved. Tackle tougher subjects. That video games are in a farther medium than anything else. Yadda yadda, all that good stuff. That's great, but doesn't it feel a little...forced? Ok, ok, I know. I'm crossing the line between civilized blogging to an annoying over-analyzation of Extra Credits, but I just want to point this out. With other works, the sense of evolution within a medium wasn't made by someone saying that we should propel the medium to becoming deeper with our minds. It just happened. Daniel's sort of forcing the change in evolution. Not directly mind you, but indirectly. And it just doesn't feel that natural. Besides, the medium of video games is still young and I'm sure that it'll happen at some point, but to ask for it feels a little unnatural.



Don't get me wrong, he makes good points in his videos, but the overall goal just feels iffy. "Will you stop with this already?" the voice (and probably most of you) yells, "Why are you bringing this nice chap up that you shouldn't really be over-analyzing so much anyways?" Reason being that Daniel's mentality, as I perceive it (HA! I knew I missed something), is the same mentality of the artsy folk that are thought provoking. Except at times, it gets way more extreme. Mainly they don't have a sense of "fun" and nitpick things. That and they just make the idea of symbolism seem more pretentious that it already is by the people that force symbolism. That's why I end up having this sort of hatred for something that I know I might implement to something someday.



It seems to me that the definition of art gets tossed around as something that I feel should be objective, but then takes the form of subjectivity when people bring in up in certain contexts. And while some fall under the category of "That's just how they view it" or "That's why they prefer X over Y", other times it falls to people having really effing high standards or me ending up with a fight against myself. What people think is a work of art is up to them, creativity is something I've discussed all too much to tread over again (until realizing that some people may just not understand that difference) and thought-provoking, symbolic works aren't necessarily bad. If something like a book, a movie or a game that's based on a fictional realm can actually trigger a person to think about more philosophical ideas, it actually doesn't really detract that much if done right. It probably enhances it. But I fail to see how some artsy work actually enhances the quality of works that aren't of such a thing.

Nonetheless, each definition of art manages to get me to hate in some way. The creative definition annoys me because people feel the need to confuse it with something else. The thought provoking definition angers me because so many manage to muck it up while leaving me with a confused taste in my mouth. And the objective one frustrates me because I can't be bothered to make it due to an immense sense of procrastination. I hope you enjoyed this read. And Daniel Floyd, if you somehow stumbled upon this blog by god knows how...no offense and no hard feelings. You're a nice bloke, and I'm sure that you're just doing that you think is right for this medium. I hope no harm is done.



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