Sunday, March 29, 2015

Notch and George Lucas

This is the tale of two men. Both start men rose from humble beginnings creating works of art with humble means that captured the imagination of a generation.  Both of these men handled their elevation to icon status in very different ways.  One embraced his status as an icon and became what he hated. The other shunned his icon status and can now do what he loves.  The two men I am referring to are George Lucas and Markus "Notch" Persson.

In a post on his blog on September 15, 2014 Notch described him self as not being a real game developer, and he only does what he does because he loves doing it.  Notch never expected anything he did to become a huge hit like Minecraft did.  He describes his experience of being a symbol and not a person.

"I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter."

As I was watching a documentary, The People Vs. George Lucas, I realized how similar the situation was for George and Star Wars as it was for Notch and Minecraft.  In interviews in the documentary George Lucas discusses how his dad was a business man and he never wanted to become a business man like his dad.  The documentary even discusses how,THX and American Graffiti, were both edited by the studio causing George to feel cheated and censored.  Again it shows an interview with George where he states that he has become the head of a such a studio.  One moment stuck out to me that really brought the comparison to notch in to focus, when George said he was a film maker and that's all he wanted to be, and we all know he's much more than that now.

"From being a struggling, starving filmmaker to being incredibly successful in a period of a couple of years is quite a powerful experience, and not necessarily a good one."
-George Lucas

This comparison between Notch and George Lucas sheds interesting light on the sale of Mojang to Microsoft and Lucas Film to Disney.  Both of these sales happened for the same reason, to give a measure of freedom back to there creators.  Neither of these two men can win. They are both put upon to create more content but can never escape huge amounts of criticism from the very people demanding more from them.  The sale of there companies are a public admittance that what they have created has grown beyond their individual control and has become something bigger that needs to be curated for a community.

Both George and Notch value there creative freedom and don't feel that they should be told what they can and can't do with their art.  When this censorship comes from a studio or publisher the public is usually on the side of the creator demanding creative control by the creator.  When a work becomes so immensely popular the public itself takes on the roll of the controlling studio, demanding the work conform to their idea, their image, of what the work should be.

As much as we don't want to admit it, market research works in creating content that people like. This is one of the major advantages that corporations like Disney and Microsoft has over individuals like Notch or George.  The sale of both Lucas Film and Mojang took the stress of balancing artistic expression and customer satisfaction off the plates of both creators of these great companies and intellectual properties.

New Curmudgeon Cafe featuring Timothy Herman

Timothy Herman is a friend of mine from when I worked at the community access station in Tualatin Valley.  While he was hosting his show on the cable access station, he always had such passion for what he was discussing, I knew there must be a story behind that passion.  Timothy shares his experience in the Navy, working with his father, and moving to the northwest.

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