Da Gabe Agenda

The Dragon

A couple weeks ago I was hanging out with a couple friends talking about all sorts of esoteric things: Art, game design, weird game ideas we had, how the human eye distorts images around your peripheral vision like the inside of a fish-eye lens, that sorta thing. One of those led to my friend Marty recommending I watch some of Chris Crawford’s lectures on YouTube. If you are not familiar with him, he is best known for being Atari’s “Graphics Wizard” in the 80’s; having created games like “Excalibur”, “Eastern Front 1941” and “Balance of The Planet”, and founding the Game Developer’s Conference in his living room way back in 1988.

At GDC 1992, Crawford delivered a passionate speech on the untapped potential of game design as a brand new medium for human expression, one which completely changes how artists can transmit their ideas by tapping into the richness of how human beings learn: Play.

The talk itself is a fantastic dive into a what makes game design so different from other mediums of expression, it is also a peek into his own relationship with the audience, who’s interests as consumers often diverge from an artist’s goals to explore uncharted creative terrain. It is also, in a more general sense, a speech on the journey an artist must take to reach mastery over their craft and create something truly great viewed through the lens of his own career. I won’t spoil everything here, so you should definitely watch the whole thing on Crawford’s YouTube channel.

The artists dream - their magnum opus - is depicted in the speech as a dragon, one that lurks in the peripheries of the artist’s skill for a long time. It takes years of practice and learnig to even catch a glimpse of the dragon, and once they can perceive the dragon, a lifetime to confront it. One cannot defeat their dragon, it is always present. In Crawford’s metaphor, it is not the artists job to slay it, but to continue the pursuit, even when it is painful. The dragon is the stand-in for our desire to create art, to express ourselves. A great power that can, and will, burn us from time to time but is always worth the sacrifice because it is what we do. I was moved by this depiction. His enthusiasm and disappointment alike resonated with me quite deeply. And this came at a time where I feel I’m constantly struggling with chasing my dragon; I can barely notice him but this year I felt the burn harder than ever before. The only reason I’m currently dealing with immigration issues is because of that damn dragon. Had I not caught a glimpse of it when I was a child, I might’ve been drinking a caipirinha at the beach right now instead!

I felt so inspired by his drive that I decided I need a way to access that powerful declaration of commitment whenever I feel the dragon tearing into me. To keep with the metaphor, I needed bardic inspiration. So I cut up some striking sentences from the speech and organized them to a guitar riff I wrote a while ago but have since just been sitting on.

You can hear the result on my Bandcamp.

Let me know what you think.