Embracing Simplicity is Art

In modern media, there seems to be a desire to create things that are smart. Whether it’s about misdirecting the audience or deconstructing a genre, there’s no shortage of stories that try to be as clever as they can. However, art can also help us connect to our world better. We should never forget the basic pleasures of being human. Let’s look past the battle of wits, and examine some niche art that engages with us in a primal, simple way.

Our first subject is Playtime, a 1967 French comedy film where the dialogue doesn’t matter and the plot is non-existent. Rather than following a hero, Playtime’s main character is a futuristic version of Paris, or more specifically, its inhabitants. Each scene is full of people living out their lives, with different jokes playing out everywhere across the scene at once. You can re-watch this movie countless times and catch different visual gags playing out. If you grab a friend or two while you’re at it, you’ll find everyone laughing at different moments at gags playing out in all corners of the screen. The onus is on you to catch the jokes among the chaos of busy Parisians. This movie encapsulates the joy of people-watching, of simple visual comedy, and the fun of Where’s Waldo books from childhood. Despite its name, Playtime makes the viewer work for its comedy, making them a part of its strange world. It is a movie that transcends language and culture, connecting directly with the human experience of being one soul in a crowd. 

Put someone that isn’t accustomed to video games in front of one, and you will find them go through the same processes a baby does, all over again. Often they’re more absorbed into the acts of walking, picking up and using items, and such things that most gamers take for granted than any complex and deep game mechanics. Keita Takahashi, a man fresh out of an art degree working at SEGA, realized this and created Katamari Damacy. The game is simple: you have a little ball that can roll up objects smaller than it, thus growing in size and rolling up even larger objects. The player goes from rolling up small objects like thumbtacks to swallowing up entire skyscrapers. Its difficulty came in its time limits, moving around the oddly shaped katamari with all kinds of kitchen appliances/family pets/neighbourhoods stuck onto it, and the innate human desire to roll up everything into a big ball. With bright colours, a ridiculously upbeat soundtrack, and an endlessly goofy story and world, Katamari is a treat for all the senses. Regardless of age, it taps into the fundamental enjoyment of moving around in video games and collecting things in a mad dash.

Whether it’s the joy of people-watching in Playtime or the whimsy of Katamari Damacy, there’s no shortage of the beauty that can be found in simple, shared human experiences. As you sail the vast seas of modern media, consider the things you love: what do they stir deep inside of you? Beneath the wittiness of jokes or cleverness of plotlines, what is it that your favourite stories make you feel? Diving deep into yourself and your tastes is sure to help you find more joy in the things you consume, and certainly, in your own life as well.

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