Initially I was going to title this like a question- "Will Capitalism Always Ruin Creativity?"”" But honestly, the answer is too easy to answer that its better to just make the statement. Capitalism will always ruin creativity. This sounds like a pretty downer article already, and I don't think I am going to say anything that others haven't already said... But recent occurrences got this on my mind again.
Most recent occurrence was hearing confirmation that the creatives that form ZA/UM and created Disco Elysium had to leave the company. The company exists and will continue to work without those who.. well, brought the game that we know and love to life in the first place. But without trailing off and making this another DE article... The other situation that has occurred already and many talked about, was what happened to numerous Cartoon Network shows on HBO max, and even all those Netflix animated shows that got canned before they could even come out.
Its sad for many to see this, and knowing many who work in the industry of tv and animation makes it all a bit more worse to watch when you get to hear from those people directly. Things that were brewing for years, suddenly gone. Things you thought were secure on that platform, gone. Its not even just about money for the artists (people on animated shows aren't getting royalties like live action tv people), but the fact that someone above then has taken their work out of the world. The progression of animated shows in the last years have shown that people are pushing the boundaries and creating profound works. These artists/creators really care about what they're making and, why wouldn't they? They probably aren't the one thinking “I'm doing this so I can make those executives more money!” But regardless of what those past showrunners thought when building their stories and getting them onto tv.... this new age of animation has more so made those growing up want to make their beloved original story into something like a series some day too.
I know I did, I went to the studios, I wanted to be like Rebecca Sugar or JG Quintel or literally any of the creators of those shows I adored. I had my OCs and my stories and I thought man, I want my story to be a series like that. I want to communicate my deep, profound ideas like Sugar did with SU. I want to put myself into this story and show everyone because I have something to say. These were the young and excited ideas of 15 year old me, of course. And I am not here to say that your dreams of working in animation should be thrown in the trash-- because that isn't what I did (though this isn't to say I am working in animation- I'm not. But describing the prior for context will help and doesn't mean I gave up any interest in that industry!)
Before I get off topic- the reason I bring up this feeling is that I know more and more younger people feel this way too as they consume all this media made by such lovely individuals. But its easy to forget... everything else- you're not just a lone creator saying to the studio "here's my thing, do you like it?" and then giving you money, and a crew, to make it happen. And I don't even just mean the changes that may need to be made for a show either- all the other stuff we have witnessed recently. The control they have over... so much more than you realize. And for a while, when growing up fawning over cartoons, I felt like getting something pitched and accepted at a studio was the only way I could have my work out there while being ignorant to all those other problems. Being a show runner for your show in a studio you love sounds like THE way to 'make it'. To achieve that goal of having your story seen. It gets aired across TV, maybe some merch (more unlikely nowadays it seems), a fandom sprouts from it, etc etc...
I didn't question this route because it seriously seemed like the only way. Sure, I followed some artists online taking commissions for art and whatnot, but I didn't really see anyone sitting down alone and making a whole series back then (often times when I did see attempts, they rarely got finished) or a AAA length game or whatever. It isn't easy to imagine that happening, and I have seen the toil that goes into those artists who do do it on their own (props to them, its incredible to see indie works!). Its so much work by yourself, so of course you need a crew! Of course you need money! And especially in the 90-early 2000s there were far less resources to imagine that happening on your own.
And perhaps you're still reading and wondering if I am turning this article around to say “do things on your own so capitalism doesn't control you!” … maybe a little, yes. But the main thing after witnessing whats happened recently, is that the system makes you really feel like this is the only option to getting your stuff made. What else are you supposed to do in this world? You go to school, you get a job, make a career and follow the way its always gone. And for creatives in the system it seems as well that this is the only route possible to not be a starving artist... and that is the worst part about it all, being unable to change the system as it is. No one is privileged enough to have loads of money and get the thing they want to make working all on their own. I will always desperately tell people to remember what they can do alone, but how much can you do? How long is it going to take? I wish that things didn't add up this way, I wish I didn't see corporations throw their artists aside, can beautiful ideas, cancel without warning to leave stories unfinished, and look at creators simply as working machines to churn out a show to get them the money.
Enough of the repeating points of how coorps ruin creative work. The basic fact is capitalism will always ruin creativity. It will never be your friend, they will never care, it will never understand the heart and soul attached to your lovechild of a project. Creativity is not for capitalism- Capitalism works one way and one way only. To make your work a profit and if its not profitable, its worthless. You are disposable to them. If you do find success in the system, this isn't to say "fuck you if you work with The Man!", its to remember that you cannot trust it. And admittedly, there is a much much larger discussion at hand regarding unions beyond the article I am writing... but that is not something I have time or knowledge to give further information on and how it affects all of the above.
So how do I close this? It was more a jumble of thoughts than a coherent article. Goddamn, what a horrible year for creatives. I've seen the dice falling for a few years now, so I guess its no surprise something worse was just building up. It sucks because I love creating, I love these stories I have seen over the years, and it would be a lie to say I wouldn't still want something like what they got. But I sit back down sometimes and remember what I can do on my own. You art can exist away from giant corporations, there's no reason to stop trying to make what you're dreaming of. I hope people will find more ways to make their things and keep it in their own hands.
updating this at the bottom just to state that this article was not really focused on the specific details of what happened with ZA/UM. and will clarify that some of the original writers behind DE/the DE world are still present at the company. Its likely that the sequel (which they seemed to know they were going to do from the start) was worked on long enough to even contain influence from those who left. Regardless, the company's choices and secrecy about the matter is still very relevant to this article.