First of all, the following is just my opinion – to avoid me writing “IMO” over and over I’d like to apply it to this whole post right now. I also don’t want anyone to feel obligated to read or respond to this. This really should be read by people bored at work, having trouble sleeping, or just somehow interested in the subject. It answers the question of what is important when it comes to art but actually applies to any idea, plan, even the words you speak, body language, or basically anything you’d do that would require a motivation (ok, maybe that’s everything). People instantly judge others and their art based on their perceived motivation. Actors ask themselves ‘what’s my motivation?’. They are one of the few artists asking that right question. Sometimes the question is more important than the answer which means it’s just a matter of whether or not you asked yourself that at some point and understand your answer. The instant judgment people make when looking at art is first – “inspired” or “insipid”? Insipid means “without distinctive, interesting, or stimulation qualities” and we humans are incredibly perceptive to these qualities or the lack thereof. Just below the surface of these 2 opposites are their respective motivations. Inspiration requires a pure motivation like love and admiration and insipidness comes from any ulterior motivation like greed. There are people clever enough to fool us of course, but it’s a lot easier to just discover your own, real motivation rather than figure out ways of fooling people. This instant judgment is usually sub-conscious but when people perceive something as insipid the negative judgment is almost always applied to a more obvious and tangible flaw –the type of flaw that would be ignored or deemed unimportant if the judgment had gone the other way. But see, that’s easier for people to talk about – “oh I hated that movie, the way it kept skipping around in time like that – ugh!” Metallica. Whether you like that type of music or not I hope you can follow this example. When they released their “Black Album” many fans were outraged – the band made major changes to their music – going from a dark, heavier sound to a lighter more pop sound. This was the change people focused their opposition to - the heavy to light change, but there was a change in the song writing, etc behind the scenes that was the real problem. Up until that point, the music they made was truly inspired and their motivations can be felt – they were writing songs they loved and that rocked them. Ok, then they start singing phrases like “off to never neverland” and a part of me dies inside. Cliché is a word you can apply not only to lyrics but also to beats, guitar licks, melodies, etc. Think of the general melody of that song – without the heavy distorted guitar it sounds like the sesame street theme song, which is actually a common sound for heavy metal sell-outs. Hum Motley Crue’s “girls girls girls” to yourself but put the sesame street song at the end of it – it matches up pretty good. That is the epitome of cliché – to at least some-what copy a harmony like that from your childhood. Compare that to their first album – Too Fast for Love and the difference in motivation is so clear. On the other hand, copying something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cliché. Andy Warhol printed the image of a Campbell’s soup can and sold those prints as art. Many people said this wasn’t art, it was pointless and he didn’t create anything with it. But many others loved it, bought copies and proudly displayed them. How can a motivation be perceived through such a mechanical, unskilled process? Maybe those people that loved it were just fooled, but maybe not. He talked about the process as being mechanical and that that’s what he wanted. Is saying that’s what you want enough to say this is inspired? How about something less obvious, more in the middle. I like the TV series “Sarah Connor chronicles” – it’s a continuation of the Terminator series. Sometimes things happen in the show that would make critics say “oh that’s so stupid” and I can understand that. I see some of these things and think about how they could have fixed it and make it more believable. Every solution that I’ve come up is basically taxing, either it would have taken more time away from the action to explain or it went deeper than the scope of the show and I end up agreeing with the writer’s decision to gloss over that detail. And I just like the show – I enjoy it, it entertains me. And it is just a TV show, not a big budget movie. If the critics had to chose between the show being 100% true to itself (good luck with that dealing with time-travel) and the show not being on the air at all, they may chose the latter, but I’d rather it be there and more shows like that be there. Because I think the writing is imperfect yet inspired, which is much more important. I think if we polled TF2 players and gave them the choice between dozens of imperfect custom maps and just a few that look just like valve’s – what do you think they’d pick? Finally – totally recreating something – remake, cover, re-release, or what we mappers have – ports. How can it be said these are inspired? I’ve had a lot of friends in bands and always been around that scene and always heard people smacking the idea of doing covers (remake of others' songs). This is actually a recent development (recent as in last 100 years) and maybe it just wasn’t possible to have this prejudice before sound recording. Chocolate ice-cream is a type of ice-cream, a step-dad is a type of dad, and re-creation is a type of creation. Actually, recreating others' music is a very traditional part of being a musician and is actually one of the more passionate creations. If you did formal training you’d spend 99% of your time doing that. Recreation is almost always of a pure motivation – a tribute to something you love. It’s missing only one of the aspects of creation but holds all the others and adds a few – like interpretation not to mention the work and skill involved with recreating something. It’s not that writing or mapping original material isn’t without skill, but it has fewer limitations than recreation because you can go wherever you want with it. Having trouble making that corner of your map look right, you can just cut it off or go the other direction – not so with a port. Recreating a beloved map is a tribute and so pure in motivation and it has its own hurdles to cross. I can hear your thoughts now – “oh, I finally see the point in this post – you’re defending ports”. Actually I’m defending more than that but none of those defenses are the point. But I could defend other common gripes like not following the same texture scheme in a TF2 map. Remember “Who framed Roger Rabbit?” Not that it was the first to mix cartoon with real action. Grammar police are even starting to say that some previously considered mix metaphors are just fine the way they are. Is a TF2 map with real looking textures a mixed metaphor? hehe The real point of this isn’t to defend the common gripes but discuss how to approach art. Consider the very first and most important fork in the flow chart of how people decide whether they like something is the instantly answered question of “is it inspired or just insipid?” Remember you can always stay on the “inspired” side by continuing to ask yourself “what’s my motivation?” while creating/re-creating. Again, all this has been just my opinion, my thoughts. If you made it this far, wow – you must be really bored.