We Need More Newbies

By Adok/Hugi

Four years ago, I wrote an article about the demo scene for the German portal site jugendszenen.com. jugendszenen.com deals with all forms of youth culture, be it music, skateboarding or computers, and I thought that an article about the demo scene would be fitting. So I contributed the article, and it was accepted. It's still online today.

But now, I'm not so sure if the demo scene really fits to that website. After all, the demo scene is no longer merely a youth culture. With the average age of sceners being well beyond 30 years, it's a movement of grown-ups. A serious, grown-up art movement.

It may be true that originally, most, if not almost all demo sceners were in their teens when they started getting active. When you watch films of parties of the years around 1992 (such as this one), you see - "children", as Magic puts it. But today, anno domini 2010, even most of the youngest sceners have already celebrated their 18th birthdays, and the "core" of the scene, to use a term coined by Maali, already has children of their own.

The demo scene - finally a community of mature artists?

Sometimes this is hard to believe. Just surf to pouet.net, and you will see childish flamewars and trolling. But that doesn't change the fact that the quality of demo scene productions is higher than ever. Nowadays it's very hard for beginners to release demos and intros that match the standards of the scene. Maybe that is one of the reasons why there are so few newcomers, so little fresh blood, and why the average age of sceners is getting higher and higher. In days when even TV stations are reporting about the demo scene, the audience of the scene has certainly not become smaller; the opposite is the case. More and more people get to know about the scene. But fewer and fewer actually join it.

"Nowadays it's very hard for beginners to release demos and intros that match the standards of the scene."

Maybe a solution would be a split: a split into a "professional" scene and a scene for pure "amateurs". Sceners who work in the game industry, have a lot of experience in graphics programming, painting, modelling and making audio, will be active in the former scene. The latter scene, by contrast, will be open for newcomers who have little experience - people who have only studied the NeHe OpenGL tutorials and written a few programs of their own, trying to make their first steps into the world of demo creation. The "amateur" scene will be more tolerant to beginners, less critical of their productions, and have a more benevolent atmosphere. In contrast to that, in the "professional", or "elite", scene, the fierce competition for the best demos will continue.

I admit that this idea of a split of scenes is not entirely my brainchild: As a matter of fact, it can be observed that it's going on right now. In forums such as dbfinteractive.com and Retro Remakes, the experienced scener will almost only find unfamiliar names. And yet, these people are interested in demo making. They deal with the same things the pro sceners have dealt with when they were beginners: copperbars, shading, colourcycling, 3D animation, rendering et cetera.

Maybe a new generation of sceners is coming up without the old established "elite" noticing it?

I do hope that the scene will become attractive for fresh blood again. Making demos can be a fun and rewarding hobby even if the results of your work aren't as appealing as the ones of Farbrausch, Fairlight, ASD and the likes. What matters most is that you don't get demotivated.

The "amateur" scene will be more tolerant to beginners, less critical of their productions, and have a more

benevolent atmosphere.

And you can quite easily get demotivated because of the current scene structures. At the no.1 demo review site on the Net, pouet.net, everybody can play Ancient Roman imperator and thumb your production down with a mouse click - they don't even have to justify their rating. This very often happens with releases of inexperienced sceners. Like a scener said: "First productions usually suck." Some sceners at least have some sensibility and aren't as harsh if they know that a prod is the first one this person or group has ever made. But, unfortunately, that's just a minority. One of these "first productions that don't suck" was Zeila's 3D software rendering demo Bitamins, which she released under the group label Bitflavour. It has not received a single thumb down until the day I'm writing these lines. But: When Zeila made this demo, she was already 21 years old. In my opinion, the demo scene should be open for even younger people. In the early 1990s, the average scener was just about 16 years old! Why couldn't this become reality again?

I have one idea which could increase newcomers' motivation to work on demos: Create separate compos for newcomers at demoparties. For example, make a compo only for groups that have released their first, second or third demo. Of course everybody who would match this criterion should be allowed to decide whether they want to release their production in this compo, or in the main demo compo. I think this would make many more people get interested in attending a demo party and releasing their works!

Also, there should be forums on the Net where beginners could talk about their problems and experiences, and get help from veteran sceners.

What do you think about all of this? Write me your opinion!