Friday, 24 May 2013

Task 22: Creativity, the talent myth and craft

The idea of creativity is often rather ill-defined. It’s often used in the sense of generating new ideas from little or nothing, or at least ideas that nobody else has thought of first. The phrase “be creative” is usually intended this way – that is, it’s an invitation for someone to make their own choices about what they do.

There’s the seemingly conflicting concept that limitations boost creativity. Plenty of sources recommend this. To give a few:

 When taken in that context, creativity can be seen as the ability to explore all the possibilities of I situation. I think this definition is a better example of my own type of creativity. If something it too open-ended, I have the tendency to be indecisive. Think of it this way: if people are allowed to, they will go with what it familiar. Imposing restrictions pushed them out of their comfort zone and forces then to do something unfamiliar.

Possibly creativity is instead the ability to actively seek out inspiration, and to implement self-limitations. After all, inspiration works much better as an active process than a passive one. This might explain why creative people can seemingly be better at coming up with ideas from nothing; they’re actually just better at looking for them, and seeing potential is things that others wouldn’t.

Talent generally refers to an innate ability or aptitude for something. It is often used interchangeably with skill, but talent really doesn’t say anything about someone’s ability to do something, only their potential. In terms of visual art, someone who is talented my find it easier to learn certain things, or they may automatically be able to do something that others have to learn.

Talent only goes so far, though. For instance, someone who has an eye for composition may be able to arrange elements in a scene without having to know why they look best where they do, but unless they learn the technical aspects behind what they’re doing they might never get any better. At the same time, someone without a natural eye for composition may have to learn what looks best, but through actively trying to understand composition, gain a much deeper understanding of the subject, one that isn’t just based on whether something feels right.

Given how broad the definition of creativity is, it’s difficult to say what isn’t creative. Programming might not typically be thought of as something artistic, but it shares many of the same creative properties, such as thinking of new ways to achieve tasks.

Who is more creative – the person coming up with an idea, or the people who expand on it? Within video game art, in very simplified terms, you could see the art directors as the one who sets limitations, and the artists who defer to them as the ones exploring the possibilities. They are all creative roles, even if they show different types of creativity. Similarly, the initial concept of a game may seem like the big creative factor, with artists just churning out content that fit within a set parameter with no input it what it looks like, but unless what they are producing has been rigorously predefined, then any input they have on the final product could be considered creative.

Games tend to be defined by large ideas, but more often than not it is the entire scope of them that defines the experience.

For an example of creativity, take Portal. The idea was one that had not really been explored, at least not as a large game, and was created within the restrictions of a first-person shooter engine. In turn, the levels and puzzles in the game were created within the abilities of the in-game world.

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