The last time I was in New York I asked myself some of the same questions I always do in the world's wealthiest and most powerful city. One of the answers was exactly the same - which is that I would still want a penthouse in the Beresford Building and I would still want to buy the Russian Tea Room and have it be the greatest jazz club in the world. If I had the money. There was a new answer which begged a question about the arts in Western Civilization, and the answer was on Madison and Park Avenues. We still make some of the best crafts ever. Say what you like about the "1%", when we are all dead and recycled, they will dig up Tiffany's with awe. There actually is something extraordinary about the best clothes and furnishings money can buy. We human beings still know how to make beautiful things, and they are still all around us.
It's hard to remember that when you listen to popular music and wonder at why nobody has taken the place of Stravinsky or Ellington. It's hard to remember when you see what is done with the most extravagant and expensive motion picture technology. The beauty is lost somewhere in the piles of money and technocrap, if it was ever considered. More and more television and film is done by cartoon, cartoon arts for cartoon minds. It's hard to remember that we know how to make beautiful, inspiring creations in media.
In today's headlines, there is a company called Carrier IQ that is being paid by AT&T, Sprint and just about everybody else to have a little bit of spyware in every smartphone. There's probably a not-so-sinister reason behind it. After all, if nobody knows where your cellphone is but you and the closest tower, it's probably not enough, and don't we whine about dropped calls? It's easy to consider, as an IT professional, the marvels of what we have done. The geek fascination is certainly arresting, but there's nothing beautiful or inspiring about that. So I have to think, given a little time, about what is the greatest and most life altering consequence of all of the digital technology we've built over the past three decades. What has Moore's Law really delivered? Any art?
Yes. Although it's easy to forget that all tools should serve higher human purposes, there ought to be truth and beauty. There ought to be art. But if you look around, most people have forgotten all about that. Say what you will about Facebook. Say what you will about Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Sprint, Intel, Cisco, Dell, HP, Google and all of their greatest accomplishments. They have not created art - if they ever knew how, they have forgotten.
Fortunately, the people at Bethesda Softworks have not forgotten. Ever.
Yes, now you know that finally this is about the Elder Scrolls. It is about Skyrim. It is about a continuing story, a never ending one, the story of the struggles of man for peace and war and ambition and shame and adventure and all that comes about when times change.
You should be marking these years. There are millions of people making billions of 140 character phrases in a digital deluge of meaninglessness. They are lightyears away from approaching the million year million monkey Shakespeare contest, but Bethesda will be remembered. They are masters of their craft and we are now seeing what that craft can be. It is the new literature, and it is capable of being as profound as any opera, as any stage play. We only have to recognize.
I cannot say what edification can come from the fantastic quests with dungeons and dragons, good and evil gods and men. That is not the question to ask. What edification can come from living in a house by Frank Lloyd Wright, from wearing the finest Savile Row suit? There is something transcendent about the perfection of craft that reminds us of our fundamental creative powers. It is not that listening to Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations tells us something didactic, but merely that you witness the mastery. It is the opportunity to experience the genius in operation first hand. That is what it is like to live inside the world of Bethesda's creation.
Bethseda is not alone in this arts and crafts movement. There are other great video game makers, people who craft the music, the animations, the voice craft, the logic, the feel, the stories of all sorts. But the most immersive, the ones that have the greatest opportunity to leave marks on us as experiences are the roleplay games, and in that genre Bethesda rules.
We are living in the era when the greatest video games ever are being built. Recognize.