This article was published on the "Gamecentral" area of the Metro Newspaper's website on 21st April 2012 here.
The following is the original article that I submitted.
Some of you may have noticed that Phil Fish has finally released FEZ. Of those that noticed, some appear to be boycotting the game due to his comment that Japanese games 'just suck'. There was a follow-up article, though it seems to only exist on Kotaku so it is not too surprising that not everyone has read it.
Was he rude in his comments? Absolutely. Did he have a valid point? Keiji Inafune and Jonathan Blow apparently think so. Am I trying to defend him? Not particularly, but I feel that people should be informed on the subject. I also felt that the boycotting of a piece of art due to the views of the creator is an interesting phenomenon that deserves some analysis.
Warning: The following is extrapolated from personal experience and opinion. Relevance will vary from person to person.
Some people argue that art should stand by itself, independent of the creator. Though that is a noble ideal, I believe the issue is more complex than that. It is sometimes possible to tell the difference between a song that is created purely for the purpose of selling CDs, and a song which is created as a piece of art – there is of course some overlap, and some factor of human error.
In my opinion, I can only enjoy music as long as it feels 'authentic' (in an existentialist sense). A song created to sell copies feels hollow and meaningless by comparison, even though the songs in question can have identical subject matter.
Why is it possible to determine this? Maybe it’s a delusion, but I think that when an artist creates something, they put part of themselves into it. I believe that art is a reflection of the artist, and when you are immersed in a particular art form, it becomes easier to determine what feels authentic.
Art is a reflection of the artist because it comes from within – after all, how can you create something if it doesn’t come from thoughts and feelings inside of you? Perhaps when you really like a piece of art, or at least can claim to understand it, it is because it is also a reflection of you.
The art, being a reflection of both the artist and the consumer, forms a connection between the two. As such, you not only identify with the art as a reflection of yourself, but with the artist. You may feel that that artist is similar to you, and perhaps that the artist truly understands you as a human being.
But they artist is also a human being, with views and opinions. They may be raving anti-Semites like Mel Gibson allegedly is. They may try to deny horrors that their country has committed during wartime. Or they may even be rude and say that Japanese games 'suck'.
When an artist we have previously identified with and felt similar to expresses an opinion that we find distasteful, or even repulsive, it is understandably difficult to resolve their views with our own sense of personal identity.
Some people start to enjoy the art less, as they now identify with it and the artist less. Some people manage to look past it, and enjoy the art while ignoring the artist. Some people start to boycott the works of the artist entirely.
Each person is entirely within their rights and entitled to react in whatever way they do. Everyone is different, everyone has different limits, and everyone identifies with art in different ways.
Or, at least, that’s how I interpret the situation.
Due to some of the interesting discussion the article prompted in the Gamecentral inbox I have decided to reproduce some of the letters.
You don't have to like them
This weekend's feature by Joseph Dowland made for an interesting read and got me thinking about some of the points raised. For me there is an important distinction between liking and respecting an artist. I can think of a number of people who I dislike or who have expressed opinions I disagree with yet I can still respect their work and what they create.
To be honest it is easier to think of examples within the music and TV/movie rather than the video game industry due to the relative anonymity of the people behind most games but it would take a lot more than the comments made by Phil Fish for me to miss out on a game that the creator has obviously taken a great deal of care with.
Great reader feature on Saturday - really interesting point of view about the role of the artist. Personally I haven't made up my mind, but readers may be interested in this very famous (and mercifully short) essay written in 1967 [warning: PDF] by Roland Barthes that helped bring about theories of art standing apart from its creator.