The Beauty of Being Exclusionary or The Importance of Niche Appeal

Recently I read something on Tumblr that has been weighing on my mind. I saw a post that claimed that adding a political edge to any form of media was “inherently exclusionary and retrograde”. While calling this practice “retrograde” is probably a by product of the original posters intellectual insecurities, I do have to agree with their other point: it is exclusionary. And thank god for it. Now if you’ve been following me for any length of time you’re probably saying to yourself, “but William, I thought you were a proponent of making the geek community a more inclusive place all together”. So for those who have a hard time reading till the end before making an oh-so-informed comment, let me spell out my overall theses here: There is no medium that should be off-limits to any one due to race, creed, sexually ect. However, individual creators absolutely have the right to limit their own audience if it means perfecting their own artistic vision.
For example: i’ve been replying “Demon’s Souls” lately. For the two or three of you who don’t know anything about the “Souls” games, there are a trilogy of games that the developers, From Software, made with the intent of being the hardest games of the last generation. The choice to pick up any of these games is the choice to be frustrated and made with the knowledge that you may not make it though the game. This means that, in order to make the game they wanted too, From Software looked the 1.2 billion+ gamers world wide and said to each of them: this game may not be for you. Because of this, they only soul around 500,000 copies of the original “Demon’s Souls” in the USA (or so says the games wiki). That means they old sold to 0.0000416% of gamers world wide. And yet, it’s a game people still play and love. I still see people when I bother to play the game on line. From Software made a game they were proud of and let those who wanted it to come to them. This is how art should be made.
Now, lets compare this to “Call of Duty”, one of the highest selling games in recent memory. With each installment meant to be accessible, the creative teams behind the games have made one of the most lucrative game franchises of all time. However, even with their millions of players, i’d say no one really cares about the game itself. Most people use the single player as an extended tutorial for the multi-player, and the multi-player servers are ghost zones almost as soon as the next game comes out. So what happens when the fad changes? What happens when the masses get tired for first-person shooters? What will keep players invested in Call of Duty instead of the next big thing? I can;t think of anything, can you?
While neither of these are inherently political, they each help to serve my point: the thing that excludes certain people from enjoying certain things is, in part, what keeps others coming back. The extreme challenge of the “Souls” games will turn off some players, but that challenge is why people are still playing the first game after it’s had two sequels and a spiritual sequel in “Bloodbourne”
Now, lets get political! Why has “Star Trek: The Original Series” been a pop culture phenomenon sense it aired in September 1966, where as the two movies directed by J.J. Abrams seemed to just kind of….go away after a while? Because the show was a depiction of a Leftist Utopian society and the movies were just…dumb. Really, really dumb. Sure, the movies were prettier to look at, but by giving viewers something deeper to chew on, the original show gave viewers a reason to keep coming back. However in order to do this, the creators of the show had to be okay saying to a largely conservative USA “i don’t really care if you like our show or not”. In that same vain, look at Ayn Rand, I’ve never read anything she wrote, but I can still tell you i’m not a fan due to her political views and the views she incorporated into her books. And do you think she would care? No. And if you are a fan, ask yourself, if she had writen the same book, but left out her Objectavist philosophies, could you really say the books would be “better”?
The fact is, the bigger an audience you are trying to reach the dumber your art has to be as you can’t run the risk of offending anyone. And if you want to say anything through your art, you have to okay knowing that those who disagree with your theses is are going to, in all probability, going to dislike your piece because of it. So I say, be exclusionary. Make the art you want, aim for the Niche audience that want to hear what you have to say. Except the fact that some will criticize your work, as that is the right of the audience, but be comforted that you fulfilled your vision, which is the duty of the artist.


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