Utility if Overrated
“What good is it?”
As the creator of innumerable software toys that serve no useful function, I find this type of question, and its close relatives (which include “what did you make that for?”, “how are you gonna monetize that?” and “so?”) a little vexing. These questions are the blunt weapons of the unimaginative.
A question like “what good is it?” presupposes that all things must serve some common good. They must save lives, or repair toasters, or solve the world’s fuel shortages, or above all, make enormous sums of money. In short, everything must have a use, and frivolity should be avoided.
Personally, I think utility is overrated.
It is this overrated notion of utility that separates arts from crafts. A work of art will not save the world, a work of art will not cure any diseases, a work of art will probably not make you any money (unless you are one of a fortunate few).
Utility is also what separates the things we call toys from the things we call tools. A toy will not repair your home, balance your checkbook, or do much of anything beyond instilling a modicum of wonder and delight.
Wonder and delight is all we should require of our toys, and it is all we should require of our art.
To ask anything else is to ask for utility. And when a work of art becomes useful, it becomes a craft, or it becomes propaganda. When a toy becomes useful, it becomes a tool, or a weapon.
And a world full of nothing but tools, crafts, weapons and propaganda is a joyless world indeed.
There is a reason that joyless people are often called “tools”.
Now I have nothing against tools – they are the very things I use to make toys!