The Personal Is Always Important

So Rob showed me RWBY, a CGI animated series that fuses video game and anime styles. It’s by Monty Oum, and thus has quite a pedigree. I found it enjoyable if needing fleshing out, and did enjoy the use of game stylings a great deal – there’s a very definite Suda 51 vibe that appeals to me.

But what was weird in watching this fan production by a fan favorite is that I found my reactions were odd. How was I to judge it considering its pedigree? Considering it’s audience-friendly involvements and previews? Considering it wasn’t from a big company?

It reminded me when I saw Pacific Rim, which is a giant love letter to mecha films (both military and super). I mean I knew I liked the idea of it, I like what I saw, but my reactions felt strange. On one level it was totally targeted at . . . well me. On the other I wanted to judge it as I would any film.

Then I thought about Rogue Legacy, which I noted “spoke” my language. It was also a personal experience, and one that made judging the game different because that was the very goal.

I was not judging these things based on artistic merits entirely. I was evaluating them in a series of contexts like who did them, focus on the audience. It was very personal. Oh sure there were merits I could note, but in many cases they came down to merits that existed in a personal/social context.

When I look at films, books, games, technology – all the things folks like us make – it is always personal on one level or another. Always. I’ve become painfully aware of this as of late.

That’s the way we humans work. Humans are creatures of connection and socialization, that always matters to us because that is part of being who we are.

I think we ignore this at our own peril in our careers and our artistic creations:

  • First, people need to connect to something to truly appreciate it. If you can’t connect, you can’t recognize or understand. Serdar hit on this before by noting SF often has a problem with relatable characters.
  • Secondly, people love to experience something in a larger social context because that’s what we humans do. Just look at the events every time a Harry Potter novel came out. You have to build buzz of some kind not just to inform people but because the social connection is part of anything.
  • Third, people will tolerate quite a bit of delay, plotting problems or software updates if there’s overall personal unifying forces. Trust me, just . . . well you probably know whenever you’ve had people culticly praise devices you thought were crap.
  • Fourth, people love to be “in on things.” This is part of feeling special, feeling a social connection, and sharing an experience with others. Early announcements (like we see with RWBY, with game alphas, etc.) give people that rush and connection.
  • Fifth, being “inside” can also distort perspectives (I thinK Pacific Rim is a case in point). The insiders may praise you, but you can be very wrong about appeal, usability, or what have you outside of your audience. This is when “#4” above goes kind of wrong.
  • Sixth, you have to have a personal connection with your audience. If you don’t get them, they won’t get you. Sure you can throw money at the problem and have marketing or PR do it for you, but a lot of people don’t have that money (and a lot of companies can waste it).
  • Seventh, you need to get this personal element¬†to better understand things you don’t like. ¬†If people go gaga for something you despise or both get, understanding that personal connection will probably help.

In our own creations, engineering, and careers, I think understanding this social aspect is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal project or you’re at a huge company – social connection is an unavoidable part of making, marketing, and selling whatever it is you do. In a few cases, it may be the only thing.

It’s always personal.

– Steven