A Certain Intimate Dissatisfaction

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

I’ve felt a disinterest in media lately.  It was only after some analysis that I understood how much media lacks intimacy.

Something has been itching at the back of my mind lately, a dissatisfaction with most media.  It wasn’t  hatredjust a sense of being unfulfilling.  I’m not saying the media were even bad, but I felt something was missing.  Instead of trying to scratch this itch, I leaned into it to learn it’s nature.

This sense of unease was tied to a recent interest in old alternative music radio shows, strange zines, audio ephemera, sound collages, etc.    Those things were unique, with passion for once-obscure (and still obscure) bands, remixing techniques, personal interests, and so on.  Each one was a little ball of itself.

Compared to that, many movies, television, etc. seemed so sterile.  Oh, it might be good, but the market is filled with works that look alike, everything is overhyped, and it’s impersonal.  There was a lack of connection there.  I could enjoy some crappy B-movies more than the big thing I had to see, with a few exceptions (Everything Everywhere All At Once, for instance).

This ‘itch” didn’t apply to video games, which was another clue.  I love Early Access games, being able to give feedback, and be involved in the process.  I also loved digging up strange, obscure, and unique titles to play, those visions giving form.

I understood then – I craved the intimacy of media involvement.  Of being involved in the creation and sharing it (like Early Access games, or Zines).  I missed things that were personal experiences with that sense of craftsmanship (Zines, alternate music, strange films).  With this in mind, I’m finding my interests again, often in the strangest places – of which I may write more in time.

I think our modern media, which often produces things that can be good, also creates works that are mass-marketed, polished, and targeted.  Things may be optimized, but optimization isn’t personal.  When you’re just caught within a statistics range, you know.

I suspect this is an unappreciated part of fandoms as well.  Some fandom experiences are intimate, with fanfic, art, cosplay, conventions, etc.  The flawed or over-engineered creation can bring people together, who then transcend the original work.  Fandom can add something to the experience of a media, a something I don’t think is fully appreciated by many.

So now I have a grasp of this itch, this sense of dissatisfaction.  I miss work that is connected, personal, and above all not over-engineered.  I miss media that helps me connect with people and indeed to the “bigger picture.” 

I’m not sure where this will take my tastes, or my own creative works, but it’s going to be an interesting trip.  You’ll be along for the ride and plenty of blog posts – and what’s sure to be a connecting experience.

Steven Savage

Going Big To Go Small

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Sometimes minimalism requires excess.

I took an interest in “minimalist games” the last few months.  It started with “Vampire Survivors” a simple Castlevaninia inspired game that turned complex adventures into “automatically killing hordes of monsters.”  Soon I discovered games like Gunlocked, 20  Minutes to Die, and more.  All of these games too classic ones and stripped them to basics.

I found that these games refreshed me, taking oft overcomplex games and getting to their essence.  There’s a time I want to wander through a Vampiric castle, but also sometimes I just want to blow up monsters and go home.  Being able to get to one of the core elements of a game was enjoyable and sometimes what I wanted.

“Where were these games earlier,” I wondered.  Then it struck me that we needed excess in games – or any media – to know what the minimal is.  These games were no different that some light novels, down-to-basics movies, and effective minimalist music.

Excess is the key to minimalism.

“Going big” in a game or media means that you’re going to try many different things.  Many may not be needed, not work, or not be the best choices.  But by trying many different things, you have a chance to find what matters – then you can strip away all the excess.

Excess also gives one a chance to find the core of a work.  The true spirit of a work may not be apparent until you’ve played with a concept through a few iterations.  Though the “core” of a game or music may be there, it’s not easy to see – you need to mess with it and add things to find what points you to the heart of a work.

If you’re aiming for the minimal, you may need to look to or create excess.

Maybe you need to learn not from the streamlined but from the overdone, the broad, the excessive to see what lies at the heart.  Perhaps you even need to go overboard and elaborate in one of your creations, to see what points back to the heart of what to do.  Excess is not just fun, it might be what let’s you do less.

Perhaps there’s a larger dialogue here between more and less.  I’m sure I’ll explore it – to excess or to the minimal, depending on my mood.

Steven Savage

A Certain Sustaining Fire

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

As I crawl back to some form of normal creative pacing after the last few weeks, I got annoyed with how I spent some time.  When I found myself too tired to write, I’d do some graphic experiments with photoshop.  Was this a waste of time when I could write?  Why did I do it.

Then it struck me, it wasn’t a waste of time at all.

The creativity for my projects was dampened by being overloaded, but my graphics experiments were expressions of creativity that wasn’t snuffed out.  It wasn’t as demanding, but it was a sign that my creativity was still there and active – it was just playing more than working.

It was a flame that kept itself going, if not as bright as I wanted.  There was the chance it would blaze forth yet again (and it has been, slowly).

I realized that when you’re a creative under stress, any creative output of any kind is probably good.  It keeps the flame of creativity going – and reminds you it’s there.  There’s still part of you being you.

It’s easy to write off things like writing silly stories or making goofy modifications to family photos, but those are creative acts.  They’re just play, and when you’re tired play can both energize you and bring yu back to yourself.

As a creative, give yourself time to mess around – there are days it will be all you can do.  But it keeps enough of you going so you can create what you want to, eventually.

Steven Savage