For my course at UT Austin I’ve been asked to react to a blog post by a fellow student, which was itself a response to the same prompt that I dealt with in my last post. Lucky for me, not only did my esteemed classmate (who knows whether people want their real names used in places such as this one… I mean, I could ask… nah, too easy) also choose to deal with video games, he even focused on LittleBigPlanet (IGN review, trailer) and its sequel LittleBigPlanet 2 (IGN review, trailer), games that I too happen to have played. I think that my classmate’s post gives plenty of background information on LittleBigPlanet (a.k.a. LBP), so I’ll allow readers to follow the above link for that kind of coverage and thus allow myself to jump right into things.
Our unnamed writer concentrates largely on the opportunity for LBP players to create their own video game “levels” (clearly delimited segments of gameplay) using a set of real-time visual tools provided by the game’s developers (Media Molecule). The unknown Longhorn makes a number of fine observations about this aspect of the game, most of them leading to a description of the LBP creative process as daunting and even frustrating because of its emphasis on openness. To wit: “My biggest problem with LBP is that I want the parameters of the game to somehow reign in my creativity, to give me some specific idea of not just what can be done but how to go about doing it.” However, the dashing and mysterious blogger reigns in this very impulse soon after: “Rather than being frustrated with my LBP experience so far, maybe I should take a step back and realize that it reflects the creative process more accurately than I want to give it credit for. Creativity is messy.” The LBP level editor is thus found to provide a space for creativity which “teaches us how to appreciate that creative chaos once again.”
I think that this analysis is quite solid. It certainly accords well with my own experiences with LBP, as I have considered attempting to create a level, but have never gone as far as actually trying to do so. Knowing that the LBP level editor would do Little (hah) to hold my hand through the process (beyond explaining the basic techniques and tools), I vowed not to delve into it unless some moment of inspiration moved me to engage with the level editor. Such a moment never came, perhaps because I was too busy enjoying the levels made by Media Molecule, as well as a few of the thousands made by other users.
Nevertheless, while creation in the cyber space of LBP’s level editor can get players in touch with the general nature of “how human beings perform creatively,” it is also a specific experience. It is undeniably different than, say, creating a website or a blog post (within the bounds of cyberspace) or creating a painting or a live-action film (outside of cyberspace). I don’t simply mean that a website or a painting are different than an LBP level, I mean that the creative processes that lead to each of these things are themselves different. So, I think I might entreat the shrouded surfer of the web to take up two additional lines of inquiry: How is creating in cyberspace different than creating outside of cyberspace, and how is creating in LittleBigPlanet unique? Why cyberspace? Why LBP?
After thinking about this for a bit, I think that I still agree that LBP presents a creative experience which is open enough that it can be related to more general ideas about creativity, as my colleague suggested. Nevertheless, I think that LBP’s creative space can be said to be somewhat restrictive as well. The means to physically interact with the creative process are given by the PlayStation 3’s hardware, and the concept of the “level” is given by the nature of LBP, as is the means by which one’s creations are distributed. Then again, as LBP levels are “virtual,” so they offer essentially unlimited virtual space and virtual matter for creation, while real-world space and real-world matter are limited. I could come up with and elaborate upon more observations like these, but I’ll leave that for another time. For now, I’ll say that doing so could give an even deeper understanding of what LittleBigPlanet offers.