Friday, 22 May 2009

Demoscenes and mainstream

After posting the previous article about the demoscene, I remember and rechecked something else and interesting or scary thoughts popped in my mind.

What happens if something like the demoscene reaches the mainstream? What could be the common misinterpretations from the average joe? Could there be some dangerous ones? Which elements worked out well as a connection bridge between the one who can understand it deeply and the common person who hasn't heard about it before?

Currently there is a kinda funny term misrepresentation floating around the web, which is most probably harmless (even though the idea that such a mistake can be passed so easilly by the majority without anyone inside the scene being able to correct this, scares me). Several people, are mistakenly calling the demos as 'demoscenes'. Phrases like these are floating around blogs and forums right now: "Hey, have you seen the demoscenes I sent you?", "The Debris demoscene is only 170k", "The demoscenes are wonderful graphical programms of small size".

Just for the records, the programms are called demos, people! Demoscene is the community of people creating them. There is no such a thing as 'demoscenes' (in plurar). Learn that!

Now, as long as the meaning of demos hasn't changed (people are still impressed by the realtime graphics and the small size of some of them) there is no alert that there will ever be a wrong interpretation of the essence of the scene as we know it. It's maybe not that important if people are calling them demoscenes or megascenes or whatever. It's just that chill on my spine when I think about the power of the mass especially through the internet. Even if the term 'demoscenes' is wrong, if I now visit every forum or blog that misuses the term and clearly state the mistake for all, there will still be people around the globe calling them demoscenes. I am powerless over the influence of several people using the wrong term.

Let's examine also some more facts. Why 'demoscenes'? I even remember the time several years backs when I met some other greek people interested in the scene, one of them being a good coder and knows the difference between the terms, although the very first time I explained him about demoscene and those wonderful programms called demos, he somehow used the wrong term and also called them 'demoscenes'. He even face-slapped himself then (lol, not exactly) for spreading the whole mistaken term to every other people in his village who never had heard about demos before. I never made this mistake when I explained demos to him or in some of my articles about the demoscene. Why was he confused the first time? What drives people to prefer 'demoscenes' over 'demos'?

A simple answer. When people speak of 'demos', a misunderstanding is happening because the same term exists as in demos of games or commercial software (limited, time-trial versions, etc). Maybe the people, not exactly intentionally, but to avoid confusion they have to speak of them with another similar term. And
'demoscenes' could be what jumped easier in their mind. I am not sure but I think that this is one important factor. Which of course was a problem even in the 80s but it's only recently when I saw the new lame term 'demoscenes' circulating around the internet. Maybe that's because the demoscene and it's productions became more known through the internet only recently. In this one, efforts for scene outreach (which one I am watching with a positive eye), big companies being interested in the demoscene and of course kkrieger helped it to happen. It's quite interesting for me to see where this path leads.

I once described this recent phenomenon as the good mainstream. Big companies, siggraph, software houses, conferences at demoparties, demos digged, game sites with a demoscene section, maybe this is something good for me when I mention my involvement in the demoscene on my CV and suddenly the computer world outside the scene appreciates it. But what about the scene itself? The good thing here is that demos are becoming mainstream to the computer literate outside the scene who is not exactly the average joe. The average joe speaks of hacking as seen in the movies and he is of course thinking of security breaking (which he finds ultracool), not programming (which he finds boring). The scene is about programming realtime graphics, pixeling/3d modelling, writting music and generally being purely creative with a computer instead of playing games or dreaming of hacking the pentagon :P. This is why even with this shift to the commercial computer world, the inner notion of demos and demomaking will never change.

At the moment, I am not sure whether this shift might change the scene in other ways (some people think it will miss it's underground spirit but I don't believe so). Nevertheless, I think I am exactly tripping at the point in time where such a shift could occure. And it is interesting to me to observe and analyze what happens. To see an important computer community dramatically changing (or possibly not) through history and make my own conclusions while living this history. I can stare and see how is it possible for something to change so much (if it ever does) as something similar happened with the 'hackers' notion but I wasn't there living in the historic times to actually observe the change. Interesting times for the demoscene.

Another point. A primary element that currently is making the demos interesting in the eyes of non-scene people around the internet is that of size. Currently, the most blog/forum posts describing the demos (and even calling them wrongly 'demoscenes') give mostly as examples the small and tiny sized ones, namely 4k or 64k intros. Of course. People cannot be impressed by the realtime graphics notion. Demos are traditionally non-interactive and the big ones that weight several megabytes could be mistaken for videos so they would be just plain boring (even if video captures of such image clearness and resolution would need hundreds of megabytes, not only 10-20MBs). Only a tiny sized file of something less than 64k displaying smooth crystal clear visuals and sound would make the average joe being impressed. Most people keeps in mind only the <64k category when refering to demos. Another problem I see here is that year by year the size of the traditional demos is growing up. People are also posting demos at youtube. If the video capture (even as a low quality divx rather than the crystal clear realtime rendered frames) reaches the size of the executable demos then what's the point? Will there be a schism? Most probably not because sceners appreciate the traditional demo category as they can relate to the fact that it's still an executable producing realtime graphics. But what about the mainstream who just discovered demos as impressive tiny sized executables?

Only time will tell. It will be interesting to me to observe any possible (good or bad) transformation through the years. How will the scene be in 2020 or 2050?


  1. "Hey, have you seen the demoscenes I sent you?"

    HAHAHA... that's somewhat priceless! If I had ran into that little booboo it may have resulted in some "witty" comments from my side. =))))

  2. More fun here.

    I guess some of them will join the demoscene one day and they might learn :)

  3. LOL that thread's a good one! =D