So before I talk at all about this subject I'm gonna talk about my elementary school art teachers. (An endless stream of deal with it sunglasses falls from the sky onto every dog in the world.)
At my elementary school the art teachers were a team of two and they were very cool, relaxed, chill, and at the same time very serious about what they were teaching. When you're in elementary school and the teacher is joking around and being hilarious, you will relax and have fun. When the teacher is serious but chill, you will relax and really think about what you're doing. So that's what happened. Art class was not considered a "fun" class at our school. It was a real class!
Here's what I learned from my elementary school art teachers:
Everyone should be an artist - everyone can and should create art all the time. If you give a presentation to a committee at your workplace, and you pay attention to the aesthetics and effect of your choice of words and explanation, then you are being an artist (the art of rhetoric to be specific). Doodling idly isn't art not because doodles can't be art, but because you're just doing it idly. If you're doodling to try to represent something or express something, if you're conscious of your work in any way, your doodle is art. If you write down a dream you had and give it to a friend, that can be art if you are trying to convey your experience in the dream. If you draw a picture of someone and you're trying to get across anything other than just remembering how they look, that is art. Basically if you do anything for any expressive reason whatsoever (as opposed to, say, taking notes for class so you remember it or doing your taxes so you don't go to jail) then that is art.
As a direct result of this incredibly expansive definition, you are responsible for your art. If you draw a mean picture of a classmate, even if you never intend for them to find it, you are responsible for the hurt it might cause if someone else sees it - or, they pointed out, the hurt you might do to them because your own thoughts and feelings in creating your mean picture will stay with you, and even if you change your mind, you can't change the picture. If you draw a picture and 20 of your friends are fine with it and 1 is hurt by it, you are still responsible for the hurt. Of course in elementary school we were taught we never should hurt people. But this lesson, like the best lessons, took on a new meaning as we grew up and realized that we did have the capacity to hurt people, and would, inevitably, in our time on this earth, hurt people.
The second thing we learned was that because everyone can and should be an artist every day, virtually all of what they create will be garbage. Believe me, this was a hard lesson for a fifth grader to learn. I didn't actually absorb it until I was over 20. My mom said I was really smart and talented! Why is this art teacher telling me that maybe I need to practice to get good at drawing? (This is why I am bad at drawing.)
And just as your amazing robot monster sculpture may turn out looking like trash, your supposedly innocent creation may hurt someone without you meaning to. Your intent doesn't make your robot monster sculpture good - not even your imagination makes it good! Only your work will make it good. Your ideas can't save you, your work is what counts. So if you hurt someone, and you didn't mean to, it will almost always be because you didn't work hard enough on it. You didn't understand something about the world or the situation. (Just to allay anyone's school/kid/youthful esteem-related upset, art class was primarily about improvement under this model. "Compare this drawing to the one you did just two months ago, see how much better it is? Show it to your partner and talk about how each other have improved. Okay, let's talk about our next project.") Sensitive people are doing you a favor if they react badly to your work, because insensitive people will miss parts of what you're doing, overlook some things or not think them all the way through. Sensitive people show you where you need to work. Similarly if you did something that all your friends like because they get the in-jokes or have all watched the same dumb cartoon or whatever, that's fine, but lazy, and the first non-friend person who says "I don't get it, that seems horrible/stupid" is actually helping you far more than your backslapping jackass friends, IF you are interested in improving your work.
I think virtually all of what RPG players (of all kinds) and designers do is art by this very expansive definition. It's art, but art is no big deal - kids fingerpaints put up on the fridge are art, an 8th graders mix tape for their secret boyfriend (OKAY, WHATEVER THE KIDS ARE DOING THESE DAYS) is art. RPG participants create not just for purely administrative or intellectual purposes, but for our own aesthetic pleasure, whether that be in a well-turned strategy, a fun portrayal of a character, a satisfying plotline, or even just something we will enjoy with our pals together (sum that up and that's Creative Agenda, BTW.) As a result, our RPG play and design carries responsibility, and the way to carry the responsibility has nothing whatsoever to do with our intent, but instead, with our work.
Even if you don't agree with this definition of art, and there are certain things about it that I don't agree with nowadays, I do agree very strongly with the allocation of responsibility for expression.
Or, as I might say if I was a 1950s boss who drinks two martinis every day for lunch and smokes a cigar, "fuck your pure heart, get back to work."
I'll get more specific on RPG stuff in the next post.