Scene Spirit - Where has it Gone?

By Adok/Hugi


"Sceners nowadays tend to be pure consumers, it somehow becomes harder and harder, if not impossible for them to come into action, to take part in any way. To contact people on their own. Or just to leave a quick note how they liked what others prepared for them. Demos and Mags seem to be more like a meal, something you eat and something not to speak about. It is natural, it is vital to have something in your stomach. But does anybody give feedback to the cooks of a canteen? No, everything is anonymous like for example a canteen for students. You have masses of hungry consumers and a few people that are responsible for their job. And that is exactly like how I often feel in the PC Scene.

And if you receive feedback, it is something negative. Many, many people groused at the panels in Jurassic Pack #10 or #11 or about the fact that there are so few articles in each PAiN issue. And of course they were right that these graphics weren't state of the art. But is that reason enough not to even try to read some of the articles inside? Your mag is not a present, the panels are not a part of the packing. A mag is an invitation to read and to have some joyful hours. But at the same time we summon you to become active! The Scene as spectator's sport? Like those fat football fans sitting in front of their televisors, eating masses of chips and drinking beer, etc.? Sorry guys, that is not the Scene I want to be part of. And if it were like this, yes if it were - then please pay us active ones for the work we're doing. That would be lightyears away from what I wanted to do, but at least it would include a satisfactory aspect for me somehow.

The PC Scene can be really considered a big one with an unbelievable large number of involved people. Every day that passes, more than thousand visitors visit the institution Ojuice. But do you really think it is easier for Unlock or Adok to get support? Not at all!"

(Ghandy in Jurassic Pack #12)

In the twelfth issue of the Amiga diskmag Jurassic Pack, Ghandy of Scarab published an article on the vices of today's computer community that are most disturbing to him personally: consumer attitude, no readiness to contribute on one's own, lack of respect for the publishers of free magazines and works of art, no constructive criticism, only complaints, complaints and complaints, plus absentness of own initiative.

Ghandy may be exaggerating, but he addresses some important problems. The Scene is based on a special community spirit, which is about activity, creativity, friendship, constructive competition, and readiness to support others' projects. It is important for the functioning of the Scene that people give constructive feedback to new releases, contribute to diskmags, and so on.

The impression that this spirit has declined in recent days is what makes Ghandy state that "Sceners nowadays tend to be pure consumers". This statement is about the majority of people who consider themselves members of the Scene: not those who make the productions that place in the top three at big parties, but the ones that watch demos, read diskmags, and occasionally release a little production or publish a few articles. Ghandy feels that most of them take more from the Scene than give back to it.

"I make demojournal as an excuse for being in the demoscene."

These words of ps from the year 1998 are a bit drastic, but they show one important element of the Scene spirit: If someone wants to be "in the demoscene", it is not enough to watch Scene productions, but he or she is also supposed to actively contribute to it in a way.

Ghandy states that if people paid for watching demos or reading diskmags, then it would be all-right if they gave no feedback and submitted no articles themselves, as money would make up for the hours of work invested in the making of these productions. And yet, it would be "lightyears away" from his (and our?) actual intention. What is the actual intention of demo- or mag-makers?

Sceners release their productions for free because their motivation for producing differs from that of companies: Not only do they make productions because they enjoy being creative, but they are also especially interested in how other, like-minded people perceive their works. That's why they release them for free so that as many people as possible can watch them, without any (financial) barriers. In short, Sceners release their productions for free because they want to get feedback on it. And most of all, they are interested in constructive criticism because it shows them what has to be done better in future releases.

As a matter of fact, the Scene has been formed as a community of like-minded people exactly for the purpose that Sceners give feedback on each other's productions. If demos and mags were made just for the sake of being creative, then there wouldn't be a reason for releasing them and for forming a Scene. The Scene has been formed because people want to provide each other with new ideas, compare one's quality of works with each other, and support each other with constructive criticism that shows them how to improve their productions. An important reason why we have formed a Scene is also that this way it's easier to find people with special skills (which we perhaps don't have ourselves) to contribute to our projects and thus make some of our visions come true, which we wouldn't be able to accomplish alone.

This is the Spirit of the Scene!

Quote: "Sceners nowadays tend to be pure consumers."

Now let's return to Ghandy's initial statement. Actually it feels hard for me to agree to it because I'm wondering whether pure consumers deserve to be called Sceners at all.

For me, the Scene used to be so attractive in my early teens because I perceived Sceners as kind of "rebels" against the passive consumer attitude that predominated among the people of my generation. While most young people were only watching TV, playing computer games and pursuing other types of passive entertainment, Sceners were actively creating something new.

For this reason, pure consumers can't be considered Sceners in my opinion. Fortunately, there are still many people who at least provide constructive criticism or even actively contribute to diskmags and other Scene productions.

To my mind, the primary values of the Scene are activity, creativity and friendship. Sometimes I wonder whether it isn't even the moral obligation of every Scener to provide constructive criticism and support other people's projects if they seem worth so. If nobody - or only a handful of people - did so, there would be no reason why anyone should release productions for free. What would be the outcome of his work if he only received complaints on it?

By the way, the story of an Australian friend of mine suggests that permanent complaining of the consumers might cause even very altruistic producers to become commercial. My friend had quite an ambitious plan: He was building up a worldwide on-line network open to members of all countries. For citizens of third-world countries, he would provide access to this network almost for free - including hardware.

But while the work on the technical implementation was proceeding, he encountered unexpected technical and financial problems. On top of that, instead of support from his users, he only got complaints. He was close to desperation when his Chinese-born girlfriend, who had spent the first years of her life in the communist People's Republic of China and later moved to capitalistic Hongkong, told him that altruism was not in place when people did nothing but complain, and suggested that he ought to start charging money for his services. As soon as he did that, all of a sudden there was an end to the complaining - simply because the ones who weren't satisfied with his services just stopped using it, and only the ones who found it useful remained. Now he's living a much happier life - but the original, altruistic idea behind the network, including the nearly free access for third-worlders, is gone.

Let's hope that the Scene Spirit will persist.