On Art (& Gaming) 005 - Kristin Mullinax

Art, and what defines it, has changed significantly over the years. “Good art is art that allows you to enter it from a variety of angles and to emerge with a variety of views.” (Schmich, Mary). In the primitive era, cave paintings were considered art. In the 15th century art was often defined by ingenious written works, lavish paintings, and silver- tongued orators. I believe I, as a millennial, am experiencing a significant shift in what is considered art and have, perhaps, the broadest assortment to choose from. In my generation art can encompass anything from traditional mediums, such as paint and the written word, to non-traditional mediums, such as technology. To me, art is multidimensional in its execution and its consumption. To the artist, art is a pouring out of the soul through a medium.  To the viewer, art provokes contemplation, motivation and action. Art is deep, meaningful communication that moves people.      

    I’m a gamer. For those who don’t understand the term, it means someone who plays video games on a regular basis. I started playing games regularly when I was a kid, then life got in the way and I stopped for many years. Some may say that stopping was a good thing but I disagree. Gaming taught me resourcefulness, problem solving, how to work hard to reach my goals and how to feel confidence; things my parents neglected to instill in my sister and me.

In an article titled “The Millenials are coming,” Marian Salzman says of Millenials “Some of them are the greatest generation… They have these tools to get things done… They are enormously resourceful.” This reminds me of my sister and me when we were younger. We grew up as latchkey kids who, more or less, raised ourselves. To stave off boredom we developed keen imaginations that kept us busy for hours. When our imaginations failed us, we read books or watched cartoons on TV.  Then, one evening, my father brought home a computer he purchased; along with a box of random software and hardware, from a man he worked with. The only internet connection available to us was dial-up which was prohibitive in its slow speed. With internet use limited, my sister and I played the games that came with the computer.

    My favorite game to play then was called “Jill of the Jungle.” In this game you play as an Amazon woman named Jill who zips through the trees on vines as she fights various jungle monsters. Jill was strong and brave; the polar opposite of my timid self, and I aspired to be her. For a while the hope of that identity shaped how I acted. However, that dream didn’t last for long. Merely surviving the popularity contest of middle and high school consumed most of my time and energy. My childlikeness began to be replaced with insecurity and games were not “cool” for girls, so I stopped playing them.

     In “Outcast Generation” the author writes “My new friend… introduced me to a world...where I never thought I would find others like myself.” By the time I was 23, I had moved to Seattle, left my religion, and was in the process of reinventing my life. I felt lost and foreign to Seattle until I met the man I dated for a while. He was an avid gamer and he introduced me to a game called Legend of Zelda. Legend of Zelda is an action adventure game about a boy named Link who is on a quest to save his homeland, Hyrule; and the princess Zelda from a man named Ganon. In order to progress through the levels the player often must solve puzzles, problem solve and think critically about their next steps. The game highlights friendship, loyalty, and courage. I carried elements I learned in the game out to my everyday life and applied the principles to situations at home and work. Once again, games began to inspire change in me and shaped parts of my identity. As Dave Marsh said, in “Fortunate Son,” “No longer did I feel powerless, and if I still felt cheated, I felt capable of getting my own back, someday, some way.” Through gaming I felt equipped to step out into the world and pursue my dreams.

    The game I most love is called “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.” Even as an older game, it is still one of the most immersive and aesthetically pleasing games available. It is an open world, adventure RPG (role playing game) in which you create a character who will become the Dragonborn: the savior of Skyrim who defeats the dragons who have been terrorizing its people. Open world games are fascinating, they're created to have very large boundaries so that players can explore the world where the game is set. A player can choose to travel around a mountain, or climb it; they wade through a river or simply follow it to their destination. The player levels up by gathering resources, forging weapons and tools, and practicing their skills all while accepting quests to assist Skyrim’s inhabitants. This game has, perhaps, shaped me the most as an adult.

    My character is a woman. She is brave, she fights dragons daily, as well as other monsters that stalk the land. She is a fierce dual wielder who attacks her enemies with the speed and precision of a well-trained warrior.  She is also a skilled magician who can call fire from the sky and ice from the air around her. I aspire to be like her; with obvious exceptions. In real life I try to be brave, I work towards being strong in body and in mind, I practice and study to develop skills needed to pursue my goals.  The vivid world I play in has inspired me to create a similar world for myself. I live in an open world, I can travel around the mountain or I can climb it; I can wade through the river or follow it to my destination. I haven't battled dragons or search for treasure, I haven't joined any guilds or helped shop owners locate missing items, but my life is an adventure nonetheless. My quests are my goals and dragons are challenges I face along the way. Like my character when a dragon looms above her, when I encounter a problem in life, I fortify myself and I draw my sword. When I approach problems as I would in the game I am able to think through them and execute appropriate solutions.

    I am not an anomaly. The gaming community is large and in it you will find many creative, passionate, driven people. Gamers live much of their lives on a quest for excellence; even if excellence is obtained by getting the highest score in Mario, maxing out our Two Handed weapon skill, or creating the perfect replica of Altair’s sword for our costume. Games feed our imaginations, but they also feed our drives. Game designers, who create these stunning worlds and orchestrate mind boggling challenges, are definitely artists. Their art speaks; it inspires and motivates a group of people who may not be driven by promises of wealth or fame, but by promises of titles such as Vault Hunter or Dragonborn.

Kristin's MBTI preference is INFP, and she is a college student and creative. This is just one of many perspectives of a gamer, and it's so awesome to step into her world with her words.