Preface: I have written (most of) the following essay after logx told me that he was inspired by my first draft of Phoenix & the Rescue of Design, namely by what I had written there on art, industry and game design. He suggested that I should write more about this for our design concept. Hence I decided to elaborate on my ideas on art while using the project as an allegoric base. I think that when you want to be understood, it may be best to use the signs that readers are familiar with. In this case: Gothic as a common language. Here they are, the signs, if you use them.
Phoenix and the Social Critique
or Art and the Demonic Threat
Have you ever asked yourself what demons are?
In our lore, demons "live" in the demonic sphere. They are born by man and orcs alike which hide them there. But while the humans try to cut them off, while they declare the summoning of demons a heresy, the shamans of the orcs, going on their dream journeys, are working with them, trying to integrate them as a part of their lives. For the better? That will be for you to decide.
We would have no business telling a tale, if it had no meaning for life. And what are demons in our life? The idea that you can "summon" a demon into something or that a demon can "possess" something, we may explain here as an allegory for the simple truth, that we can become driven by a force, that seems to contradict our own interests. We may think that we work in our own interests, while we actually work both against our own and those of others, thereby summoning an illusionary conflict. There is no conflict of interests. The happiness of one lies in the happiness of all and the happiness of all lies in the happiness of one. A social order based on an ideology that is deprived of this truth, lets us act accordingly: we’re using others as means to an end. This is the opposite of love.
"Entertainment", as defined by me, is such a way of doing things. It is not something specific that you do or something you experience, as an artificial category, in which you place some works to mark them as products of entertainment in opposition to products of art. Something may be called a product of entertainment due to the intentions in which it was produced and is supposed to be used, but the entertainment itself, for me, is a way of doing, a way of experiencing and a way of offering experience, a demonic kind of way. And when I call something demonic here, then in a purely amoral sense.
You will and should become aware, that there are several terms that I do not use in the sense you may be used to, for the purpose of this essay. So if you want to understand me, you may need to engage with the terminology I am suggesting here.
After being entertained, you will feel empty, looking for the next thing filling the void. Maybe some smoke you inhale to fill your lungs with. Maybe some food you devour to fill your belly with. Maybe some likes you seek to fill your (a)social prestige with on platforms that sell your personality to corps. Maybe some money you crave to fill your pouch with. Maybe some dick you use to fill your womb with. Maybe some girl you possess to fuel your power with. In any way, you will take care to entertain the illusion of yourself, to fill the void it cannot endure, in which it ceases to exist. Darkness can in light not be, always needs to hide in shadows, as we hide in fucked up ways to keep us entertained.
Entertainment is a waste of time. And how to justify playing then? How to justify making a game? I consider it justified because I define entertainment as the opposite of play, as producing distraction as the opposite of creating art.
To play is not to entertain yourself. "Play is the labour of the child", as Montessori wrote. It is any work done in playful ways in order to learn, in order to develop, in order to grow beyond yourself, going to your internal limits. That is what play is about, as understood by me. You never learn better than when you play. And if you learn something about yourself by your work of play, the play time is not wasted and can never get confused with entertainment. It may feel entertaining, but it is never done in order to entertain.
Play is the expression of art and art is the impression of the play.
Entertainment evolves from boredom, while play evolves from inspiration.
Acrobatics for one, is nothing but play, a highly refined form of childish exploration into beauty, that can be endlessly flourished by playing harder and harder; a limit is none. Thus, art is never produced, always created in play.
When you develop a game, you can have different intentions: You may want to offer the highest amount of distraction and entertainment by letting the player feel better. You then feed the illusions about himself, by giving him what he wants.
In a game developed with such an intention, everything is done in a way to address as many people as possible. But who ever wants to address "as many as possible" or, even worse, is doing market research in order to reach the majority, will automatically fail to address others, who they can not reach on their "middle ground". Some may celebrate their product, we don’t.
We clearly see its void, the lack of character and depth that they have build into their game to fulfill the expectations of “the market”. A loveless market ruled by anti-values, therefore surely not valued by me. In order to be as less restricted on their player base as possible, they're restriced as fuck in their design. Every design decision has consequences and with everything you do, you bring a sacrifice. The "medium of everything" is not the holy grail.
Entire research labs are doing nothing else than finding out the wishes of the masses, what their illusionary self desires to fill the void in the most convenient way. And everything produced under this premise, cannot be considered art by any means. It is the product of (wage) slaves affirming slavery, evolved in the shadow of a system to affirm the system. And this gets even more serious when you take into consideration, how so many developers in the industry are getting abused by their companies in order to ship their useless bombs of entertainment.
Our intention is different. We do not try to let anyone feel better in the comfortable ways we're living in. We do not try to feed our illusions by giving our false egos what they need to reproduce themselves. Success is not a part of my vocabulary. “Doing what we love” does not care for if it will be successful, or, to put it differentely: By doing it, it already succeeded.
I do not care for what they wish and in which way they want our game to be; I rather ask how I can challenge their conditioning (as well as mine), to enable them to utilise our tale as a tool to overcome their internal constraints and to soften their hearts in the process. All of this includes me: by working on the game, I am working on myself. I work on the game, while the game works on me. And I think this should be the case with every work we do.
Whatever is created under industrial conditions, may have its value and may express art to some degree, however not because, but inspite of it. It could be so much more, would it be liberated from those industrial constraints and the need for financial success, from which we keep our distance, to not infect and corrupt what we do. We take good care not to be part of the entertainment industry and give a fuck about market research, that exchanges art for profit.
Striving for profit I consider as another demon, another virus, by which the economy is possessed and infected; thereby losing its original function. The demonisation is like an infection that it needs to overcome. And if it can't, it will be mutated by it, distorted into something totally different from itself. An economy driven by profit is an anti-economy by definition: Whenever something is produced in waste, whenever work is done without it being needed, whenever growth in production, distribution or consumption is strived for, independent from the needs of the "house" (oikos), it is un-economic in the truest sense of the word. And therefore I proclaim that the current ideology of growth is a demon par excellence. Nothing but a fucked up virus you have accepted to live with.
What is the vaccine against this demon?
You may not share my perspective, you may find it funny, but when you ask me, my reply will always be: Radical deprofitisation of everything, which I fight for ever since. Internally, we need to overcome the trade logic in thought and get rid of the perverse ideology of growth, that we have internalised. You feel powerless? Me too. But we can strengthen our immune system by constructive work: We need to build deprofitised structures now and promote them as the new economic standard, that is bound to overcome the old. Thereby we get stronger and step by step, the ideal turns real and the impossible turns possible.
Call it as naive as you wish: this is how things work and I’m proud of this naivity. We just need to know what we want and do what we can.
You see: The nameless hero in Phoenix is nothing special. He is nobody, representing everybody. But he has realised the simple truth, that he cannot wait for others to do what is necessary. He is ready to do whatever it takes to find a way out of the barrier, while we are waiting for others playing the hero for us. This is the embodiment of irresponsibility.
All we need is a decision. And... a few friends.
In social work we cannot wait for others doing what we wish to be done; as it is in every aspect of our lives. Just as I couldn’t wait starting Project Nyx even though I had wished someone else would have done it already. I had no skill whatsoever necessary to make this come true. But no one did, so did I, and teached myself what I needed to know. In exactly the same way everyone of us can start new non-profit projects in other areas of life, - more important ones than this little drama we create - to overcome the old profit-driven ones and their standard of economy, which is simply outdated. It is bound to cease.
The profit-driven economy is just as outdated as party politics. And just as them not even realising how they’re slowly being transcended by direct action of the people beyond their party system, those corporate demons will not even realise that they are about to fall, when you stop to support them, when you stop to buy from them, when you subtract the worthless essence they live from: their money.
By radical boycott and cooperative self-sustainibility based on love, that you oppose the loveless competitive shit that they consider normal. This is the only revolution worth to strive for in post-industrial societies, it is way more radical and at the same time way more gentle than any revolution before.
Art gives a fuck about money. It's subversive. And it needs to be.
Art does never try to favour. It’s challenging illusions, not comforting them. Children play to challenge their skills all the time; without doing so, they wouldn't develop. They play to process experience and to grow beyond themselves, they do not play to keep being what they are and to keep doing what they do, by hiding from the input that would challenge their specific status quo.
They look for it, they try to face what might dismantle them, what might destruct their illusions, because they have not yet forgotten, that there is still something more, something beyond their current experience. And this is the reason for their transparency of character, for the "lack of" a firm personality, because they couldn't put on the mask yet, they don't know yet what to identify with as strongly as adults do. And so: Children masquerade to learn some truth about themselves, while adults masquerade to hide the truth from others.
The reader hopefully will have already realised by now, that I am not idolising children, but I am speaking about two different modes of being, one open, fluid, playful and essential, and one closed, rigid and distracted from the essence of its self, not necessarily connected to age.
When “adults” play, they do so mostly to distract themselves from what they are, not facing it. They (ab)use play as another mask, another layer, a surface hiding their caves and the innermost temple of their heart, the demons’ abode, sleeping inside. They want to keep it asleep, because otherwise they would be forced to endure the ugliness of their lives, that hurts to see.
They "play" in form of mutual sexual abuse, in form of parties, in form of politics, in form of prostitution on the labour market, in form of their career; all of this not for a single bit more serious than childs’ play. If not done in a mode of playful creation, as a work of love, it is meaningless, inane.
While children are unlabeled, - struggeling to become what adults are and what they wouldn't want to be if they knew what it meant - adults are marked and injured. Or am I the only one bleeding internally in the midst of the chaos, among the unholy ruins of war, that they call civilisation?
Their 'play' offers them their desired suppression of the unconscious, while childs’ play gives them the realisations they need to grow. For adults, play may enable them to keep driving forward to function in their alienating social role, while the child's play is beyond social function and is driving them upwards - a direction into which we have unlearned to move.
Similar, in our lore, the humans ban the(ir) demons into the demonic sphere, while the orcs consider those places as holy, at which the separation of the spheres is dissolving. But what chaos would it be! What chaos it would be, would they open the gate to the temple of their heart. What chaos would it be, would the unconscious become conscious, would the invisible become visible. Would we be able to endure them mares? Those dreams of the sleeping creatures in ourselves, created by our own experience, our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own decisions, that we hide. And to which we bring our sacrifices, day and night and all this blood, just to keep ugly things asleep. Things we do not want to look at.
Art does never try to favour, nor should you.
Whenever you try to appeal to anyone, you have already lost yourself. You pose on social media to appeal to the crowd, you play all kinds of roles to appeal to whoever you think you should appeal to. To your parents, to your teachers, to your friends and to strangers you think are worth to lose yourself for. And anything produced under such a condition, will reflect the void it is made of. Anything created in order to appeal is wasted creation.
You do not do it because this is what you want to express in truth, because this is what you really feel or because this is who you are. It's what you think others may like, others may expect, filled from the need to appeal. Anything done to appeal is the opposite of art.
Indeed, art can appeal, as well as you can do all kinds of loving things appealing to people. Just as the words that I am writing here; they will appeal to some, to which they correspond, while others will hate them. But nothing of it is done in order to appeal, nor do I wish that they hate me. It being appealing is a side effect, not its purpose, nor is its purpose to displease; I just want to express what I love, just as I want to show why that love is fucking hurt by a world so full of unlovely things, which we allow to be and which I want to perish.
A deed done out of love, sometimes will appeal, sometimes will displease. It is done because it has to be done, like a child that has to be born. The child wants to come and you cannot stop it. It fills you. You are its mother, pregnant with the idea that grows in you until it is ready to come. You may desire to realise it, you may desire to repress it, but if you allow your body to become a vessel for its growth, it will be realised in pain.
If you aren't inspired, you shouldn't create.
I do not care for the success of what we do. What is important is how it is done. What is unimportant is the fruit: How it will be received does not matter. The flower does not care for the pleasure offered by the scent of its blossom. It only cares about flowering, which is its form of being true. Indeed I care for reactions. But I shouldn't. And because I do, I am not yet the flower that I need to represent.
In the industry, how it is received is all they care about, they blindly reverse engineering truth and ruin it, because they are possessed by profit. Thus, they burn true creativity down. In the industry, they need to deliver. And thus art is corrupted, work wasted, love hurt.
I hope that the reader will not construe my words as a theatralic over-exaggeration of what this project is about; he will see, that what I do is using the project and my words, wrapped into this cloak of drama, to express something that lies beyond the purpose of the game, which just serves as the most nearby means of expression due to personal tendency and contingency, or you may say: due to fate. I cannot stop myself - at least to try - to fill all I do with what I consider most important: That we wake the fuck up and fulfill love in earnest in all areas of life. Phoenix may be a labour of love, but everything should be a labour of love, to overcome the lovelessness surrounding us.
We are suffocating from the demonic radiation of lovelessness, that has pervaded our society, somehow fighting to survive like stalkers in the zone. In search of people, not of masks. In search of work, not employment. In search of value, not of money. And in search of love without conditions.
In a world so captured by illusion, art will obviously hurt the feelings of those that are identified with the illusions they have built their lives on. In challenging the illusion of what we are, art is shaking the prison we are kept in.
The dreams that we hide inside the temple, are real. They manifest in deeds, with which we hurt ourselves and others. And if those forces are active, that are ruining our lives, they won't be overcome by passivity. Action is needed.
So, what is this "sleeper" about, that threatens the world? How do you fight a monster that represents sleep? Isn’t it by awakening from the dreams it leads you to believe? It may take us some more years to finish this game and to let you break into the temple, hidden deep below the colony. But it does not take a second for you to dive into the temple of your own and to explore the darkness within. Do so, since our survival may depend on it. And this is no metaphor. Survival of the species depends on our ability to overcome our current sleep as the reason of the crisis we are in.
The darkness will transform you. It will be hard. You will have fear. Demons will assault you. And you won't be pleasing those who are urgently trying to protect their lifes captured by illusion. And why? Because true art is dangerous for the illusionary self and the illusionary system it has built around it. It is the greatest revolutionary force and thus: Art is a threat. A threat to the demons.
If you acquire this force, this hidden sword of fire, the convicts will perceive you and everything you do as a danger for the prison they have built their world of, with which they are identified, which is providing them their magical ore; the magical ore, which is the demonic power that promises to protect them from the "evil" forces outside; from the forces that are nothing but manifestations of what they themselves have hidden in their chests. This is the dilemma of the time.
I foresee the people wishing death to the barons.
The barons, who are running the prison. As soon as they start to perceive the prison as such. But the barons are not the problem. We are.
Society sucks. But we have created it. We maintain it. We are responsible. And we need to create a suckless society. Will you participate in the work to destroy the magical barrier of society by destroying your own? "If there is a way out, I will find it." And this way leads inside. This is “the deed that has to be done”.
Video Games today are mostly designed to make you addicted.
"Immersion" sometimes adds to it, by pulling the player into the world they present, like films and books and series do. But video games give you the feeling of having an effect. Here you can save the world, while outside it is falling apart and no one seems to care. Sometimes they display the ugliest human deeds to get attention, while they want attention to get press coverage, while they want press coverage to make sales. And following the rules of this world of suffering, that we ourselves maintain, thereby they sell their souls and take care to let the lovelessness prevail.
Our purpose is to tell a story. And not a trivial one. A story that deals with questions that matter. To us. And probably to you. We create something first and foremost to express ourselves and give something from us into it. And we wouldn’t, when we had nothing but entertainment to offer. It wouldn't be worth the time. And we would have no business creating in the first place.
Phoenix is not to be consumed. It is to be digested.
I understand when games are used as a distraction. Distracting us from a life that is boring or overbearing or meaningless, or all of it. And sometimes I have used this project myself to distract me from what is devouring me. Because the nightmares inside this valley of decay are so hard to endure, if you are not using these drugs of distraction which make you blind for the lovelessness around and provide you some external joy.
I can understand, if someone seeks refuge in the game world we create, but it cannot be our goal to keep him in. We attempt to let our game become a tool that can be used to overcome the reason to escape.
At this point in time, video games may be the most impactful form of art, at least potentially. Our game wants to be a drama to guide you inside, not to lead you astray. Just as your character struggles with the prison he is kept in, so do we… so do I. All the time. We do not see that it is the magical barrier that slowly drives us mad, the magical barrier, that we have created, that we maintain and that we are too fucking lazy to change.
And the only thing we would need to do, is to dissolve the demon that we are collectively possessed of. To accept a system and a way of living that is ruled by money, is one way in which this demon manifests. And to celebrate the people, which embody this system, - all these influencing marionettes celebrating a lifestyle of luxury, which conditions the misery of the poor - is clearly showing, that this society worships the very idols which are the driving force of the machine, that is producing their own nightmares. They either celebrate them - because they are blind and irresponsible - or they blame them - so they are just as irresponsible, inspite of that they see. While what they should do, is just to stop the fucking engine. Then they would drive us nowhere.
But instead of stopping the engine, - which is fueled by our very cooperation that we offer happily, like sacrifices that we bring to wrong gods, which are fooling and abusing us - we continue to mine this ore for the barons of this world, we continue to be these slaves instead of taking responsibility. We think that we are so independent, that we are so adult, but we aren't more independent, we are not more responsible than any animal or any little child. We continue to work against our own interests, we continue to use each other as means to an end. We continue to hurt love. To hurt ourselves. And to conceil the truth.
While people are arguing trapped inside the rules and structures of an outlived order, in which trade and use and jobs and markets and whatever useless loveless human invention prevails, we should attempt to live cooperatively according to the safety that we dream to achieve individually now. Not by means of power, but by serving each other. The most natural thing to do.. but we don't do it! The external purpose of human society is to transcend the fight for survival, to overcome the realm of necessity into a realm of freedom. Trade needs to be overcome by share. Money-driven jobs need to be overcome by passion-driven contributions. Dependent employment of mutual abuse will be overcome by independent, mutual service, as love expressed in action. And thus, art will prevail and beauty will pervade our culture.
We all struggle to survive. Those, who won this fight in the past, they all have done so by means of violence or theft or lie, be it in form of the appropriation of land, fraud or whatever, they have risen above the struggle by means of power in form of money (which is charged with that power like a focus stone by everyone of us, through a ritual called 'the acknowledgement of shit as gold'). Those who have won this fight, who have risen above the struggle, are now exploiting those who are still forced to fight for their survival. They utilise the other's exigence to fortify their position. We, being enslaved, because we are forced under this necessity of the struggle, are providing them their freedom. Don't you see that?
While they are proud of our so called civilisation, considering humans to have risen above the animal sphere, the truth is, that most of us are still struggling to survive like every other animal. But at the same time society expects us not to behave as other animals like us. If we would behave like that, we would just take whatever we want and the only thing that would stop us, would be the strength of others whose interests we come in conflict with. But we do not behave like that, because we are "civilised". We think that we have risen above this, we have developed morals, we have invented the 'state'. But the main function of those modern kingdoms of this world and their morality is not to overcome our struggle, to establish economic peace, but to protect private property. That's all. The welfare of all should be considered sacred and the maxim of our deeds has to be what serves this cause - the welfare of all through the welfare of the individual, and the welfare of the individual through the welfare of all, but this idea is not what they adore. Their ideology is property, their dogma, their fetish, and they don't care, if it's causing weal or woe.
While they carry-on, giving a fuck about the sorrows they create, the only sane men are to be found begging on the streets; those who cannot endure the sickness of society, those who cannot stand the struggle for survival and the slavery associated with it in our system. But most people prefer to ignore, they come to terms with it and I will never accept this. This system we currently live in, the system that most of us consider normal or even necessary, I consider cruel; neither can I even wish to overcome the struggle by exploitation of others, as all the dumb fucks do who strive to rise above the fight for survival - I would rather choose to wear the beggar's cloth, than to degrade myself by dressing up in their dirty suit filled with their blood money gained by exploitation. Nor do I know how to escape. But I know that I need to enter the darkness.
Like Orpheus we need to walk blindly into the unknown, into the depths of the underworld to rescue our love. And if we fail, then wait for the Nemesis to come. The Nemesis we ourselves have summoned and the rage we may deserve.
Hard read? Then you know what is awaiting you in our drama.
We try to make a game full of love in opposition to the loveless world we’re living in. That is what we want. That is not a promise. Our project serves a purpose, but as the flower it may vanish when its purpose is fulfilled. And what its purpose is and how long it will serve it, I can not say, since I am just the mother and I do not possess my child. But I wish it to be filled with atmosphere and meaning. And that the scent of its blossom will be too beautiful to ignore.
Florian aka flosha
15. April 2021
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