I don’t usually do personal posts on my blog. I try to keep it writing oriented since this is my author blog and whatnot, but I felt I had to post this here for a reason. It’s about art, artistic appreciation, and the usage of different mediums. It is also about the broad societal disconnect between art and understanding and the emotional divorce society seems to have. The emotional divorce from anything that makes a person feel vaguely uncomfortable, and the single minded drive for that happy dopamine rush of a happily ever after.
It is no secret that I am a gamer. When I’m not writing, or tending to my family, I play video games. I play for fun, I play to raise money for charity, and I also play for the story. I view video games as a new art form, a new way for people to tell stories to the masses, and as an author I can see and appreciate this new mode of story telling. It’s like a graphic novel up on a screen. There is a new video game out called “That Dragon Cancer”. It’s about a family whose young child was diagnosed with cancer and their fight to save their son. It isn’t for the feint of heart. It is heart wrenching. Now here is an excerpt from the PC Gamer review:
“Despite the jarring input and my spiritual disconnect, That Dragon, Cancer is unlike any game I’ve experienced. I want everyone to play it. Even if it doesn’t tell its story in the best way, it tells a necessary story. Once I finished, I was immediately reminded of a quote from a Charles Yu novel: “At some point in your life, this statement will be true: tomorrow you will lose everything forever.” We all inevitably lose everything. That Dragon, Cancer is a brave family’s journey through true loss and the search for relief. It’s not a guarantee that we’ll all be OK through thick and thin. The story is too personal for that kind of reassurance. More than anything, That Dragon, Cancer struck me as a terrifying, true question: What will I do when I start to lose it all?”
The reviewer understands the art, he overlooked the jarring gameplay and unappealing graphics and understood the core of the reason why the game was made. The artist was redeemed. Their message was heard. Unfortunately, people suck and ruin the whole thing by their jarring disconnect:
Little does this person realize, games cost quite a bit of money and effort to produce. Indie game developers are hamstrung by their budgets. This game was developed by a family with enormous medical bills as a way to heal and get their story out. Now I’m all for criticizing technical aspects of art, how can any artist, regardless of medium improve? Yet that wasn’t the point of this game. It wasn’t the reason why it was created; it wasn’t created to give the player a visual masterpiece, it wasn’t created to give the player glass smooth gameplay, it was created to tell a story. Yeah they could have written a book about it, and it would have been lost to the depths of Amazon’s self publishing mire. (Such as my own) It seems as if there is some kind of emotional disconnect. There has to be. This game is so incredibly gut wrenching that it will bring up emotions people might not want to deal with, but should.
this person gets it.
Another example of this disconnect, on a much grander scale, is how the world in general received David Bowie’s final album, Black Star. When the two videos, Black Star and Lazarus were released most everybody cheered because Bowie was back in the limelight, back to performing, back to entertain us all. Unfortunately, as we all know, that was not the case. I wonder, how many people actually grasped the meaning of the album, and the videos before his passing, instead of in retrospect? I know I knew something was off when I saw Black Star for the first time in November of 2015, and even worse when I saw Lazarus for the first time, which was released just before his death. I knew he was saying goodbye, so when his passing was announced, I was saddened, but glad he went out on his own terms, glad he had that moment to say goodbye to his adoring fans, even though many of them didn’t understand until it was too late.
If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the Lazarus video.
Now I know these are grim topics, and grim topics cause people to veer away. The thing is, they need to be discussed, people need to examine death and mortality because death comes for us all, no matter how we scream and kick. The relentless search for happiness and that next dopamine rush of joy is clouding us from the reality of it all. When something makes us feel vaguely uneasy, we call it a trigger and avoid it. This cheapens the value of the word and experiences of those who truly suffer from anxiety and PTSD, and it devalues their pain whenever they actually do get triggered because too many people are abusing the term so when someone actually does get triggered and experiences true distress, not just uncomfortable feelings, they are written off and stigmatized even further.
How does all this tie together? Well, the game addresses the death of a child, something nobody wants to fathom, it raises uncomfortable feelings we either need to examine, or disconnect from. Disconnection is not healthy, neither is avoidance. Art in general is actually meant to open up your emotions, to get you to examine things you would normally shy away from. It isn’t always paintings of pretty flowers or a rug that brings the room together. Sometimes critical thinking is needed. Hiding from it isn’t doing you, or society any favours. The haunting melodies of David Bowie’s swan song to the ending of That Dragon Cancer, thrusts your own mortality into your field of view and it’s not comfortable. Sometimes you need to sit with discomfort for a while and examine why it makes you feel this way. It helps you grow, trust me.