Friday, December 14, 2007

Style Over Substance, Again

On a recent episode of South Park called "Guitar Queer-o" Stan and Kyle have become obsessed with the "Guitar Hero" video game, in which contestants use a controller that simulates a guitar. Stan's dad comes in and asks them if they want to learn how to play real guitar, as he breaks into a song by Kansas. "Nah, that's gay," says Cartman. "Yeah, Dad," says Stan, "real guitar is for old people." For Millenials, real isn't necessarily better and might actually be worse. South Park is perfectly tuned in to the aesthetic of kids -- my own son recently tried a Wii and argued for buying one by stating that he could play the Wii instead of real sports: "It's the same thing, you're still moving your arm." On South Park, it turns out that Stan is much better at Guitar Hero than Kyle. The question this raises is "what is talent?" and is talent for playing a video game worth less than the talent required for playing with other objects? Will the winner of a Guitar Hero tournament someday earn more than Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen? Talent in authorship and songwriting have always had intrinsic value, but as interactive social media become more pervasive, will showmanship and style trump creative content? Will form become dominant over content? Will virtual worlds and social media beget a triumph of style over substance?


Catherine Liu said...

hi eric,

every new medium invites doomsday talk of the "end of creativity" and the end of authenticity.

remember electric dylan?

Eric Forst said...

Good point, Catherine, and good example...I do think it is interesting how video games kind of blur the lines between a creative medium and a consumptive experience. Don't you think that is new? Machinima certainly takes creativity into a new realm, but the act of playing a video game that like playing a guitar or using a synthesizer? Is there a new art form in social media? If you are great at playing Club Penguin, is that somehow comparable to playing music in front of a live audience, which is also a social act?

Calvine said...

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