Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Slow Wax and Wane of Inspiration

So, as you might have noticed, there's not been much activity on my blog lately, and not all of that is because of work/ life commitments. See, while I've been trying my active best to keep writing and drawing, something's...been missing lately. And since I've thought about the whys and wherefores, I came to a rather interesting conclusion (for me, anyway). Note that this is just my personal opinion, but it seems worth sharing.

During my medical school years, I took a year out in between studies to take a masters degree in Medical Humanities. Part of this included topics usually confined to English Literature degrees, but one of them was Gender Studies. Now, before you all raise the SJW roasting pitchforks, no, this isn't a feminist radicalisation module, it just looks at literary works and applies a feminist lens to them as a form of critique. This really opened my eyes to media trends across the ages, the very limited roles of females represented and how it's really only been relatively recently that this has started to change.

That module provided me with a useful grip on analysis, not just in media but even in trends in my own profession of medicine, and it is truly amazing how widespread old, constricting traditions are (I'm still asked when patients see me if I'm a nurse, for example). But, sticking to media, it's also really limited the things I want to watch/ play/ read about, which has had a knock-on effect on my own creativity.

I've been a fan of many things, including various anime, games and books. These have not only provided great entertainment, but also fed my own creativity, inspiring my own stories and artwork. But as I've grown older, with this new lens to view the media I enjoy, I notice that more recent things just doesn't grab me like the older ones do. I haven't watched a film in cinema for years now, because every film just comes across as the same tired and boring story filled with character archetypes (bar a few exceptions here and there).

The majority of anime has simply degraded into pure fanservice, and it becomes so distracting and off-putting it breaks my suspension of disbelief in the story and characters. They also don't seem to want to move off the 'teenage boy chosen one' trope, which has really lost its appeal since rarely is it ever done in an interesting way. Many new Japanese RPGs, which used to be a staple love for me, have sadly followed the same path, and they don't really try to break out of their tropes and have thus become rather stale.

Now there are exceptions in all those genres, as there would always be, but when they are so outnumbered by the others, they become very hard to find, and the effort to find something then doesn't seem worth the dearth that it uncovers. But this then starts a vicious cycle, in that, for me at least, creativity stagnates when it's not being fed by new or engaging ideas. Thus the time I want to use to write or draw also becomes less fruitful, as nothing truly inspires like it used to.

And it's odd in a way, because, looking back, the things I did enjoy had their fair share of these flaws too, and yet they never seemed as overt. Could well be the nostalgia goggles talking, but I never remembered having fanservice shoved in my face constantly in Final Fantasy 8, or it being so distracting as to break me out of the story of Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, and I was overjoyed with Final Fantasy 12's take on a story that didn't have you playing as the Chosen One.

And I'm not saying such things have to be stripped out entirely- I just wish they didn't consume the majority of media right now, that there was more variety and less reliance on doing the same things over and over and over. It does seem to very slowly be trickling through, and one game in particular I hope is a sign of better things to come.

That game is Horizon Zero Dawn, for the PS4. I'd heard lots of positive reviews for the game when it came out and was eager to play. And, for all the criticisms that 'it did nothing new', its story was absolutely incredible, and far, far above most competitors on offer. It's not perfect, of course, but it's such a welcome breath of fresh air. I was deeply impressed with its robust and water-tight plot, its immense scope, a likeable female protagonist who wasn't overly sexualised for the sake of it, a diverse and interesting cast of side characters that all added to the world, yet the best thing was its sense of mystery. Uncovering one answers added extra questions, and the game manages to keep this up right til the very end. It really had me gripped in a way that no game has for a long time, and had me playing continuously until I reached the end.

So, perhaps my tastes have just become super-picky now, and I need to ease back. Or perhaps I just need to look harder, get better at finding media to my taste. But either way, it's been a useful reflection, as now I can try and tackle my issue of not imagining as freely as I once did, and hopefully return to feeling refreshed and inspired like I once did.