(warning, long read: better have a smoke and/or a cold beverage handy)
so Ive recently visited my second demoparty ever, the Ultimate Meeting in Karlsruhe, and Ive had quite a time there (well, except for the trip with the Deutsche Bahn, but that is another story).
If one thing can be said about the Demoscene is that the people who roam this community are incredibly nice, skilled and creative (the ones I got to know, anyway). I wont go into detail here what the Demoscene is or what its history is (if you dont know, there is a lot of information about it on the intarwebs, i.e. here), but if youre into computers for some time now, the chance that you came across it one way or another is certainly high.
At first I had the idea to write a party report about tUM, but there are probably people better suited, people actually active in the Demoscene and with a lot more experience in demoparties than me. Instead I will try to explain what I experienced, what my thoughts about the community are, where I fit into it and why I care.
To understand what Im aiming at you probably need a little knowledge of my (technical) background.
First of all: I am a lazy bastard.
When I was a kid the first 5-7 years of school were absolutely no problem for me. I barely paid attention in class and I still managed to pass every year without any trouble. Instead of doing my homework I sat in front of my computer gaming or doing other fun things like annoying the shit out of my parents. I dont know what that tells about my intelligence (Ive been called incredibly smart and dumb as fuck – I guess the truth being somewhere in between), but I do know that I never learned to motivate myself to a point where my ambitions were bigger than my laziness and lust for fun. Blame my parents, blame my genes or just accept it, as did . Eventually the path of education I chose was getting more and more demanding and somewhere around the 12th grade it just didnt work anymore. Teachers hated me for my slacky nature, grades were dropping down below and I wasnt willing (or able) to change – so I dropped out and chose something different. After some in-betweens and a failed attempt of studying CS (who would have thought that also requires a shitload of devotion and work?) I ended up with my current job in tech support at an ISP. The job is mostly fun, not too hard and doesnt pay too bad, but the constant thought of what could have been remains.
Despite, deep inside I am a nerd: I love computers, I love networks, the talk and topics of the “common” people mostly bore me and yet I am not skilled enough to fit into a (productive) nerd-community.
Why am I telling you all this?
If it had not been this way there is a pretty good chance I might have looked twice at all those programming handbooks, music and gfx tools that I always had at hand. Well, I did not.
Instead I played games until my thumbs ached (and enjoyed the cracktros up front).
Dont get me wrong here, Im very interested in everything tech and picked up quite a few things along the way: I just never dug deep enough to seriously arrive somewhere (still I know I’m better than most of the posers out there claiming to be so pro at everyhting but in reality neither understand nor care about how it all works. The internet doesnt need you, go away!).
I know about the Demoscene as a community since somewhen in early 2001, when Farbrausch and the.product came along, dropping jaws and spamming IRC-channels. I knew about “The Scene” a long time before, but that was mostly due to the old cracktros and of course game and music releases (I love music!). But this was no cracktro, this was a whole new level of awesome.
Eventually I stumbled across the (at that time pretty fresh) website of Pouet and began to discover all sorts of intros, demos and what else is there. The next few years I spend checking out the Site for new productions then and when.
That changed in 2006, when I discovered that the biggest demoparty at that time, the Breakpoint, was offering a live stream. Being an IRC(net) junkie since the late 90s I hopped over to #breakpoint to share my thoughts on whats going on over the stream.
To my surprise not only enthusiasts gathered there, but also some of the people who actually made this stuff!
So far I had believed every scener was just calling (or rather surfing, it was 2006 after all) some elite boards where I would never be allowed at, but the internet (and the legal nature of the Demoscene) made them gather just a /join away from where I hung out all the time anyway. So after Breakpoint was over, I stayed on the channel and it became clear that Im not the only one doing so. Slowly I began to make contacts and have a nice chat here or there.
The Scene had changed from a secret underground society to a lively and accessible internet community. Thats how it was until 2009, when Scamp announced that the next Breakpoint would be the last one ever. For that was the last opportunity to actually witness this event live, I took all my money and courage and booked a train to Bingen for easter 2k10.
Breakpoint itself was an experience with mixed feelings: On the one hand I felt instantly comfortable amongst those people and the competitions were absolutely cool (it doesnt get much better than seeing Agenda Circling Forth live on the bigscreen), on the other hand I could not ignore the fact that I knew basically nobody there. The party itself was so big that small groups (often sorted by nationality) emerged and largely sticked to themselfes. Since Im not the most extraverted person out there (one could even use the word “shy”) I didnt feel like intruding a random group of sceners and pushing the fact of my existence down their throat. Sure, I met a couple of them on IRC already but what do they look like? Do they even remember me? After all its not like I did something to leave an impression to the scene. On top of that, since I arrived a day late, there was no free table left for me (at least at the places I asked around). So I basically spent my time in some corner of the partyhall on the ground, chatting on IRC with my netbook on my knees, taking a walk outside to grab a beer and smoke something or to the front of the bigscreen, when some event was on. An exception was a short but nice talk to Streetuff/TRSi, allthough I didnt knew who he was at that time.
Dont get me wrong: I will never regret taking that trip, but if I had some peeps to hang around with, I would have gotten more out of it. So afterwards the decision was to intensify some contacts and to visit another party soon, preferably a smaller one where I wouldnt drown in the crowd instantly.
First I planned on visiting Evoke, but that plan was doomed to fail because an old friend of mine decided that weekend was perfect for him and his future wife to get married and invite me to it. Since I didnt feel ready to go international (and frankly, still dont) my choice fell on the Ultimate Meeting at the end of the year. Plenty of time to intesify some contacts up front, too. The plan was forged and finally executed.
When the taxi dropped me off in front of the partyplace the first guy I saw and recognized was Topy (which I knew from IRC already and, in any case, is hard to miss) so I seated myself at his table. As it turned out he had brought a lot of audio equipment for streaming the whole thing over SceneSat, so that kept him quite busy most of the time. Soon after Sunspire (who also was involved in the streaming) and his pal sentcool were arriving and gathering around the table, both pretty nice guys. So being alone was a non-issue this time and of course I also met a lot of people I already talked to on the net before (shoutouts go to wzl, tEiS, paniq, faith, jihad, urs, SQUelcher, Joooo, jco, Saga_Musix and probably some more I cant remember – greetings also go to mog and streetuff, who sadly couldnt make it).
The chronological chain of events is kind of blurry, especially around the second day (and Topys wine punch took a big part in it, but it was so tasty!) but I remember having a nice seat in front of the bigscreen when the componight was on as well as a really nice DJ set by Bombe the first night.
Also happening was a quick round of poker with Scamp and some other lads whose names I sadly didn’t get (if youre surrounded by 100+ people you dont know, asking for their names gets kind of tiring after the first few times). Well I was too intoxicated to play serious and luck wasnt on my side so I lost my whole Stack pretty fast. It was a fun game, nontheless. Also worthy of mentioning is Franky, a belgian scener who actually brought a whole pinball game (F14 Tomcat) with him and held a fun compo of who gets the party-highscore. I had a pretty good pinball-run during the streamed Music competition and it turned out nobody beat me to it (must have been because jcos “End Credits” are just pure pwnage), so I actually won the first compo I ever took part in. Yay! I also received my copy of the Album by paniq and while I have been enjoying the tracks on my PC for some time now (and I dont even have a cd-player apart from my DVD-drive), it is really packed with beautiful art (made by faith).
The last day I felt quite miserable. It was a strange mix of emotions, experiences and hangover resulting in me being barely able to think straight and focus on whats before me. I tried to help Topy pack up his things but I fear I wasnt of that much use after all, sorry for that. The train-ride home wasnt a pleasure either (I arrived in Bremen 2am in the morning), but as I said, this aint gonna be a DB bashing post, so lets skip that part.
After all I had a great time at the Ultimate Meeting and the way things are looking right now I’ll also be in Saarbrücken around eastern to celebrate the Revision-Party.
People usually join communities because they do get something out of it and are considered a member by the community because they put something back in. As I lack the skills (and/or motivation) to come up with something appealing to the Demoscene I dont consider myself part of it, yet I get a lot of fun and fascination out of it. Of course I could try and put _something_ together, but, while it would most certainly be viewed as an honorable attempt by most, I’ve seen too many ‘wannabes’ who were just so eager to be part of the Scene, gain fame and respect, but failed in the long run. More often than not it ends up in frustration, lack of self respect and a (mostly) decent flame war. I simply dont want to go that road.
The Demoscene is full of interesting and incredibly skilled people who deserve far more respect for what they are doing than they actually get. While I cant judge most of it from a technical side, I more than appreciate the beauty and the flow. Fascination for this kind of stuff, as for most kinds of art, is hard to put into words, but I feel it. And as much as I understand that respect given from people who really know whats going on underneath is worth a lot more than from your average Arv, I want to make sure the Demoscene knows that it also has mine – and lots of it. Thats why I write comments on Pouet, thats why I hang around them folks on IRC and thats the main-reason I visit those parties: not to pretend I’m a real Scener or to be a smartass (I apogolize if it seems like that, sometimes), but to show that there are people outside – looking in, with a glance in their eye.
Thats my contribution to the Scene.
I think Im mostly done here, not much left to say. Thank you for reading that far (if you really did) for I know this is an awful lot of text and pretty egocentric, too (care to count the “I”s? I certainly dont). Ive proofread the whole thing once and will do so again before publishing but as english is not my native language Im quite sure there are some spelling and/or grammar errors left. If you find some consider them a gift and keep them.
Oh, and once and for all: “wysiwtf” is my “other” nickname. I use it on Pouet and also on IRC for my shellclient (which nests in a screen session on this very server). I know it is kind of confusing but I really like the WYSIWYG reference, yet I cant just ditch my ‘Arvenius’ one, either (its my virtual ID for over 15 years now, come on!). Also, there are other people with 2 or even more nicknames, get over it already!
See you @ Revision!
– Arvenius 2011