What We Stay Alive For
DISCLAIMER: This post is not about games. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to share some thoughts on art and being an artist during this time of global crisis. This post broadly defines "art" as any media or medium whose primary purpose is entertainment or leisure and "artist" as anyone who creates something to entertain and inspire an emotional response in an audience.
Greetings from quarantine, everyone. It's been a scary few days. I'm fine and I hope you all are too, but watching the world go into lock down has definitely had an effect on me, as I'm sure it has for you all. Mostly I've been reflecting about my place in this hilariously awful world, where I am now and where I go from here.
For those of you who don't know me, let me give you some context: I'm a graduate student in my last year of the USC games program. I'm working on my thesis project, a 3D action platforming game, with a wonderful team of fellow artists. I'm getting ready to graduate, apply for jobs, join society, all that jazz. It's very strange to be in this position when the world is grinding to a halt. It feels particularly strange as an artist. I've found myself asking a question more in recent days that I'm sure many artists have grappled with: does what I do matter? In the grand scheme of things, what impact do I really have as a creative person in a world that is crumbling?
The short answer is yes, my art does matter, though its impact may be difficult to quantify. I know this because my silver lining these last few days has been that I have time to play, to read, to watch, to write--to create and indulge in creation. I know this because the only thing that made me stop feeling utterly empty and hopeless on the first day was reading webcomics. I know this because I still believe in the vision of my thesis project and the visions of the amazing people in my cohort, and I will continue to believe in everything we've done together even if we never get to properly celebrate.
Having art in our lives is a saving grace often understated. Even as someone who's been making various forms of art for as long as I can remember, I was having trouble grasping its importance until I read a slice of life comic and realized I didn't remember the last time I smiled before then, or how good it felt. So over the next few weeks/months, while you're learning to navigate a life confined to your home, play games. Watch anime. Read books. Engage with art in any way you can, and if you're able, support indie artists with kind words and financial aid. If you are an artist, keep creating. If you don't think you're an artist, this could be a good time to pick something you've always wanted to do and try it out. Our fragile human spirits are strengthened through art.
I want to be clear about something: I'm terribly sad right now. I'm filled to the brim with a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings that my body doesn't know how to handle so it just settles on "sad." I think a lot of us are feeling this way, and we should let ourselves feel it because this might be the hardest thing most of us have faced in a long series of hard years. I'm making this post in part to let that sadness breathe and to let anyone who reads this and feels the same know that you are not alone. Primarily, though, I'm putting this out there because I think the last thing any of us need to feel right now is unimportant. Fellow artists, know that your art only needs to make one person feel like they can make it another day to matter--and it's okay if that one person is you. Fellow art lovers, you have more power than you know; I cannot emphasize enough how much good you do by telling artists what their work means to you. In this difficult time, I hope that we can rally around the joy of creation to connect and support each other. I hope the art you interact with makes you smile, makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you cry cathartic tears. Most of all, I hope it makes you feel like you can survive because of your humanity, not in spite of it.
I'll be back soon to talk about games, but since webcomics helped me a lot this week, I want to recommend some to you today (fair warning, most of them are romance themed because, another fun fact about me, I love love!!). All of the following are available on Webtoon:
Let's Play (Romance) by Mongie: She’s young, single and about to achieve her dream of creating incredible videogames. But then life throws her a one-two punch: a popular streamer gives her first game a scathing review. Even worse she finds out that same troublesome critic is now her new neighbor! A funny, sexy and all-too-real story about gaming, memes and social anxiety. Come for the plot, stay for the doggo.
My Giant Nerd Boyfriend (Slice of Life) by Fishball: Having a boyfriend who's a full foot taller than you might seem adorable at first, but it usually just ends up causing a whole bunch of minor inconveniences. Follow Fishball as she navigates the Malaysian life with her 6'5" geeky boyfriend.
The Wrath & The Dawn (Fantasy) illustrated by SilvesterVitale: Khalid, the Caliph takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. However, Shahrzad has a clever plan - not only to stay alive - but to end the murderous King's reign of terror once and for all.
Lore Olympus (Romance) by Rachel Smythe: Witness what the gods do…after dark. The friendships and the lies, the gossip and the wild parties, and of course, forbidden love. Because it turns out, the gods aren’t so different from us after all, especially when it comes to their problems. Stylish and immersive, this is one of mythology’s greatest stories -- The Taking of Persephone -- as it’s never been told before.
Yuna & Kawachan (Post-Apocalyptic/Horror) by Lauren Schmidt: When monsters descend upon their hometown, two best friends - a school girl abandoned by her family and a mascot with PTSD - must work together to survive the apocalypse.
Brass & Sass (Romance) by Antlerella: It may have been the music that attracted her to band class, but it was love that made her stay…even if she doesn't have any musical talent whatsoever. But what high schooler Camilla lacks in ability, she makes up for in passion – especially when it comes to Victor, the handsome musician who’s caught her eye. Will love rule the day, even when your crush-of-choice is a real brass-hole?
Crumbs (Romance) by Whitherling: In a very special town, there’s a very unusual bakery where the house specialty is a selection of baked treats hand-crafted to help you make your dreams come true – whether you need inspiration, support or confidence, they’ve got a cake or muffin fresh-made with magic to meet your needs. But for Ray, a quiet young woman with special powers of her own, the order is always the same: a hot tea with a delicious side of romance.