Media and Limits

For some time friends of mine were saying I had to see the series "Avatar: The Last Airbender."  I resisted this because A) it seemed like an anime-esque derivative series, and B) I wasn't overly impressed with Nickelodeon's other series.  It seemed like a no-brainer to avoid.

When I finally watched it, I was impressed – an epic adventure, well-done, thought-provoking.  Everyone in my apartment had a ball with it – and it also provoked some interesting discussion.

The show in question ran on what is essentially a kid's network, yet had many mature themes (it starts with a genocide for instance.  No, really.).  It is mostly bloodless, yet there is action.  It is family-friendly, but has multiple romantic subplots.  My roommate casually remarked that perhaps the limits on the show made the creators and actors stretch themselves.

That idea stuck with me for awhile.  I want to take a look at it – because in your geeky career, in your writing, editing, marketing, game development, etc. you may be running into a lot of limits.

You might be taking them wrong.

In the case of Avatar, an impression I got is that the challenges of keeping a story of genocide, love, religious figures, etc. in a family entertainment vein without making it lame actually pushed the creators farther.  They had to pick words and scenes carefully, they had to figure how to present things on multiple levels (such as violence and romance), they had to ask questions about what was "appropriate" (and what made sense).  In fact in the series there are moments that mock some of their choices or plot elements, showing an excellent sense of self-awareness.

When I look at a lot of the world of media, games, manga, etc. we often face an insane amount of limits – especially since it appears anyone will develop a hate for your creation based on the flimsiest assumption.  That's annoying and irritating.

Maybe we should view such things as a challenge.

Push yourself.  Figure ways to deal with the challenges of your market and your audience.  Don't give in (it'll just dilute your writing or game or whatever), but explore different ways to do things.  Push yourself to get that broad audience AND maintain your integrity.  If the world is going to throw challenges at you (even in the annoying forms of weird limits, strange demographics, etc.) why not figure a way to do the most with it?

You may learn something (certainly you'll learn to work around limits that are dropped on you) and it might make you better at what you do.

It's better than complaining.  Chances are some of your limits ARE people who are good at complaining.

– Steven Savage