Yesterday I visited Leeds where I attended an evening with Alan Bennett, an event for Script Yorkshire members. It was an incredibly enjoyable evening as you’d expect from such a man. His book, A Life Like Other People’s, is among my favourites.
He started the evening with a reading that was very nostalgic, like much of what he does, which looked at the way that names come in and out of fashion and had us all in laughter on numerous occasions.
Alan then took questions about his work and his writing process, which he answered very insightfully and most enjoyably. It was difficult to come away from the evening without the feeling you’d learned a little something. The thing that particularly stood out for me was something he said when going more deeply into his work.
He said that many people can learn the craft of writing – dialogue, prose, etc. – but art is something different. With writing as a craft, the writer knows where he or she is going with the piece they are working on, much like a chair maker will have a clear idea of the type of chair they are making before setting out to do so. When writing is art, the writer sets out with the possibility the whole thing may fail and certainly with no clear idea of what the finished work will be like at the outset.
Since then I’ve been thinking about how this relates to games and it really does show that the vast majority of games will never be art because the developers have a clear idea of where they are going from the outset. But not only do they have the end in sight from the beginning, they have a very clear schedule of how that end will be achieved. Like all the other creatives in the industry, I’m just a craftsman working to production line deadlines.
When games are developed as an exploratory expedition in search of something meaningful, then they will become art.