I spend a lot of time as an artist thinking about death. It’s morbid I know, but bear with me for a moment. It’s a fixation point in most of the artwork I create. I’m fascinated by grief, and more keenly than death itself, by the loss of possibility. I obsess over chance and possibility, what people could or do or choose to amount to. I find it fascinating to observe the decision-making process. And there is something keen about the onset of death and how it presses on all the people around who observe it. Whether they are personally connected to the death itself, or are a more casual observer.
I’ve done a tremendous amount of writing about death, and grief, loss and loneliness. Truthfully I don’t really know why. Stories about loss and death are my favourite, I write them, draw them, paint them, and make games around those moments. I know it’s weird.
But for a long time I have struggled to really capture the myriad whirlwind of how humans deal with death. I was really touched today when I read an article today by William Hughes. It’s available here. http://www.avclub.com/article/fake-deaths-cheap-resurrections-and-dealing-real-g-210402. The article is beautiful, and sad, and raw. It's raw because it means something, it's not covered in flowers and pretty words, it's harsh and hard, savage and ripping, and angry. Really angry. Angry at the possibilities of what might have been. Angry at the trivialities that creators are taking with death.
It’s hard for us as creators to think about death and grief. When we are in mindsets of creation, we want to capture pure emotions and reactions. Unfortunately we live in a society that is not obsessed with death like I am, but rather with killing. I find myself at a strange crossroads where people push me to put the action of killing into my games. Combat, warfare, weapons and guns. We are intrigued by the possibility of shooting, of pulling the trigger, of ending life. Killing has become the causality of this strange fantasy we have of power. We have actually lost sight of the possibility of death.
We rack up tremendous kill scores, ever increasing strange numbers of heads bashed in, limbs chopped off and bullets to the brain.
I’m walking this strange balance these days between designer and artist. As a designer I understand the fundamentals of a repetitious cycle that reinforces engagement and entertainment. I want to provide satisfaction, enjoyment and sloped ever-increasing challenges to my audience of players. As an artist, my heart writhes in boredom. I want to make games with stories, where there are no guns and no killing. I want to think about absorbing people in the ideas of what grief really is, where there is only one death, and never another replay. I’m in love with the game That Dragon Cancer, while my designer brain analyzes every challenge they will eventually face and wonders about how effectively they will overcome it.
These two sides juxtapose themselves against me, and I have no answers.
Well not no answers. I’m making a game, quietly. And I don’t know what it means.