Allow me to enter into my virtual confession booth. I apologize if my words offend some of those in my field, but I have to get these thoughts off my chest. Umm Hmm. I’m going to talk about art and money. Yeah, I’m the kid with the motto, “In a world of CREAM, I’m FLOM’d out.” Don’t run to Urban Dictionary for an explanation of what was just stated because the suburban kiddies that write dictionary entries have no idea on how to properly define FLOM. I will define CREAM before defining FLOM. CREAM is cash rules everything around me. That is the backbone of our nation. You can receive all your inalienable rights and earn a few extra if your dough is longer than Pilsbury or Betty Crocker. FLOM means for love of money.
In one of our classes, we opened up a can of snakes by debating which is better creating niche games or mainstream games. The class was totally split on the issue of why highly successful, large publishers won’t publish more niche ‘arthouse’ games? My question is why would they publish more niche ‘arthouse’ games? Another Charles Babb saying is that all businesses are in the same business no matter what industry. That business is making money. It actually bothers me that people believe that businesses are always working in the interests of elevating the consumer. Should businesses produce products at the expense of their existence to increase the cultural intellect of society or satisfy the appetites of a niche audience? I would think not. The smallest mouse scares the biggest elephant. In business terms, the smallest flaw or mistake made by a successful big business can irreconcilably tarnish its image. So, successful video game publishers shy away from taking ‘unnecessary’ risks on producing video games designed for a specific niche with no possibility of breaking into the mainstream. Yes, there are niche games that find some legs and become runaway hits. Usually, publishers release ‘niche’ games that are low-risk and have high probability of being accepted by the mainstream, i.e. Guitar Hero. Sure Guitar Hero is made for a niche audience that loves rhythm games, but come on, who doesn’t want to be a guitarist? Better yet, who doesn’t want to be a guitar hero?
I know, I know niche and artsy games are not synonymous. There are games that are artsy such as Okami that play toward the mainstream. Yes, Okami is one the most artsy action adventure games of all-time. Even with critical acclaim, it did not penetrate homes like God of War. It is arguably a better game, but the art got in the way of the game. Your average action adventure game player did not know how Okami. Not all masterpieces fall short of reaching their audience. For example, Bioshock dominates the game scene. It is a first-person shooter that doesn’t introduce a new over-the-top saleable game mechanic. But, this game is graphically an uber masterpiece. It abandons the clichéd military, standard horror, space alien, and urban environments for a more industrial, dark, 1940’s deco gothic environment. The game’s artsy visuals paint a world that is eerie and frightening. The world of Rapture makes the gamer want to explore it, but more importantly want to escape it. Don’t get me wrong making wonderful art to raise the art intellect of the masses does not trump making money off the masses. Yes, I’m thinking like a suit.
Honestly, what businessperson wants to sacrifice time and money for an endeavor that has no tangible returns? Businesses measure success by profits like athletics measure success by championships. No one praises the team that played well together and never received a championship. When we do talk about such teams, we immortalize their stories as tragedies. The story usually starts with this line, “Do you remember the such-and-such team that played well together, but didn’t pull it together in the final hours?”However, we do praise the team that hates one another and plays in an unorthodox manner, but pulls off the unthinkable, nearly impossible clench of the championship. With that said, let me lunge into another example of “suits” versus “artists.”
My favorite television show, Entourage has an enraged movie director under the moniker of Billy Walsh. Billy is one of those arthouse geniuses that create so-called arthouse films that are mainstream accessible. He is what we call true genius in the entertainment industry. The Industry crowns people, who have the ability to maintain their creative integrity and slightly push the bar while making the masses easily relate to final product, as geniuses. What this scenario usually creates in the minds of our pious artist that is counterculture for counterculture sake think that artistic identity prevails over product understanding. They believe Billy is an artist that sticks to his guns and always comes out on top. They don’t realize that Billy sacrifices artistic identity while holding onto his artistic integrity to produce critically acclaimed work that would sell to the masses. For example, Billy created a film called “Queens Boulevard.,” which was a black and white film that maintained the authenticity of Queens, was colorized by an overzealous studio. The studio ruined the film’s emotion, which made the film authentic. “Queens Boulevard.” was colorized, thus distracting the viewer from the real focus of the movie. The studio thought it brightened a movie that was meant to be gritty and dark. Billy stuck by his creative integrity and not the artistic look of the movie and had the movie sanctioned. Billy mentions in the episode, “If the movie would have been better in color, then I would have made it in color. *Stupid* suits.” Your savvy artist would have understood the power of Billy’s statement. Billy chose to shoot the movie in black and white because it gave him a better chance to win the coveted Sundance Award. The general public could digest the film. Critics and judges could rave about how different it is to other films. On the other hand, the studio believed people like color, so they want to give people only color films. Billy would have been willing to compromise if it would have made the film better, but it didn’t. High-strung artist interpret Billy’s line as suits are vile people that are money grubbing and willing to destroy great art for the sake of profit. That is a slanted perspective of Billy Walsh’s statement and Billy. In the series, Billy loves money, he wants his art digested and he is willing to compromise for acceptance as long as it doesn’t destroy his artistic vision. Billy detests and opposes suits because they want to denounce his understanding of high concept art that is easy to relate to by the general public and dumb it down based on their statistical marketing research that does not explore people’s acceptance of art. See, Billy’s integrity is based on knowing how to produce high concept films that the general public will love.
Most pious artists believe the general public doesn’t understand their “great” art because they are dumb individuals waiting to be led like sheep. These artists never reflect on themselves. Most never realize that the reason the public doesn’t like your art is because it just sucks. Many artists believe the starving artist should martyr himself for the sake of art. I believe if an artist loves his craft, then he should create it in a manner that the general public can relate to the conveyed emotion. I’m not saying suits know what’s best, but good suits know business. And, business has one purpose and that is to make money. Artists believe suits don’t have an artistic bone in their body, but they do. Suits know the art of making money. Now, that is something everyone can relate to. Word to the wise: Artists learn how to sell your art to the masses. If you don’t some suit will. Now, where is my tie that matches my new hipster t-shirt?