Against the myth of the lone genius

Check out this fun article in Slate questioning the myth of the lone genius (also known as the “auteur”). Money quote:

The shift in understanding creativity is well underway. The stereotypes of miraculous breakthrough moments—and the incessant drive to locate them in the head of epic individuals—are slowly yielding to a portrait of complex, meandering, inherently social paths toward innovation.

I couldn’t agree more! The article certainly jives with our messily collaborative approach to making games here at the CPH Game Collective. Reflecting my own design practice, I definitely do my best work feeding off the energy and inspiration of other people. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than sitting down with Lau to brainstorm a new design, working in tandem with Nils on a strange prototype, or drinking beers with the gang while we kick around ridiculous game concepts. Indeed, it is precisely this social milieu which gave rise our B.U.T.T.O.N. project. The core concept for the game cannot be traced to any one person; it must be attributed to all four of the original team members.

As Dave Hickey writes in his book Air Guitar:

I still endorse Peter Schjeldahl’s advice on how to become an artist: ‘You move to a city. You hang out in bars. You form a gang, turn it into a scene, and turn that into a movement.’ Then, I would suggest, when your movement hits the museum, abandon it.

To be clear, I would never call myself an “artist.” But I think Hickey’s advice applies to anyone working in any kind of creative endeavor.

Innovation and creativity are socially situated. Ignore this wisdom at your own peril.

(And even if lone genius does exist, it sure doesn’t sound like much fun…)

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

23/09/2010 at 16:40

The aspect of the origins of an idea and creativity is very fascinating. Steven Johnson has written a book called “where good ideas come from” that debunks the myth of the lone genius and their “epiphanies”. You can see his inspirational “tease” talk on ted about the topic.
I think I’ll be preordering this book.

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