Practice 2013 got off to an excellent start with a talk about breaking competitions. This is an area I know basically nothing about, so it was fascinating to hear about the issues involved: subjective vs (supposedly) objective methods of scoring bboy battles, cultural concerns around commercialization vs retaining a “raw” (and thus more authentic) battle experience, gender issues, and the degree to which bboy performances resist being made more accessible.
Several people in the audience compared bboy competitions to Street Fighter matches, but I’m not a very competitive player of video games.
I am, however, very interested both in playing and in attempting to create virtuosic games — pieces that inspire awe and surprise because they accomplish something that one would assume was impossible. I sometimes feel a bit guilty about this taste because skill is not the only criterion of quality, and because I do not want games culture to be as exclusionary as breaking culture appears to be. Talking only about high-end craft can make it seem like one is only interested in showing off or placing people in hierarchies of skill.
Still, watching the breaking battle after tonight’s talk reminded me of the human value of virtuosity. Because those dancers were amazing. Watching them was exciting and surprising and funny and joyous.
Admittedly I may be the only person on earth who yells “Holy shit!” when I see some really awesome parsing taking place.