Posted by Nathan P. on September 10, 2006
Last night I saw The Pillowman, a haunting and very, very thoughtful play about the nature of art and where the responsibility of the artist lies, among other themes. There’s also this thread where Ben talks about tradition over at Anyway, and this thread about why there aren’t any games about 9-11 at Story Games. Let’s not forget Jason’s thread about the ethics of game design, and I’ll humbly link to my own concerns on the subject.
All of which is striking directly at something that I feel very strongly about: the responsibility of the artist. As in, if an artist creates art, and that art causes someone else to do a horrible thing, is the artist responsible?
I think not. I think, that once you blame the artist for the consequences of someone else’s action, you are in effect telling them to stop making art. And that, my friends, is not acceptable to me.
I don’t think that you can blame the creators of a videogame for some kid taking a gun to school; you cannot blame a television show for the obsessive fans; you can’t blame a role-playing game for some nutjob doing a crime while “in character.”
But. Artists do still have responsibility and accountability, and that’s for fulfilling their goals as artists and seeing clearly what effects that fulfillment may or may not have on their audience.
In The Pillowman, the protagonist writes a story about a little boy who gets his toes chopped off by a traveling stranger. He tells this story to his mentally deficient older brother, the only family he has in the world. The older brother goes out and acts out the story, killing the child in the process.
Is the protagonist responsible for the death of the child? I think not. Is he responsible for forseeing that his brother, who has the mind of a child and who looks up to him for everything, might take his stories as something that he is asking the brother to do, and change (or not change) his stories as he sees fit? I think so.
I’d be really interested to hear others opinions on this. Where do you see the line?