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Atari Scene Quo Vadis?
by CiH, co-editor of the Alive Diskmag

Hmmm, now you're asking about the future when there doesn't seem to be that much of a 'present' going on for the Atari scene?

To put things into a longer perspective, the Atari demoscene has been 'dying' since 1990. When it is made by an especially egotistical individual, such a statement can usually be taken as meaning that the 'Scene' will die without ME! But, at the same time, it is hard to avoid the narrative of an ongoing year by year decline.

The Atari 16/32 bit scene has been running in parallel to the mainstream, and set in its proud and lonely path until the last year or so. I think that this separate evolution has helped to keep it alive with a sense of defying the mainstream, sticking our tongues out at the 'PeeCee Lamers' and so on. However times have been changing, and a reconciliation and closer co-operation with the mainstream has been actively pursued. This has been beneficial in some ways, with a generally higher profile among the Pouet crowd and favourable reactions to those Atari 16/32 productions which are made. Also there is a belated breaking down of the 'Atari vs the rest' barriers on both sides. In other respects, we've yet to see the benefits as the Atari contribution to the bigger parties so far amounts to little more than some beer and pleasant chat. In fact, the current activity level, if measured by the crude but effective yardstick of releases, is at a low point.

There are several reasons for this, and the laziness of individuals is only a part of this. In common with other demoscenes, time pressures are more acute than ever. No-one is getting younger, and our people are at the time of their life with the heaviest outside commitments. Careers and families often take over completely and hobbies and fun stuff get neglected. The post-university period is the most earnest, focused, and Stakhanovite [Ed: exceptionally dilligent]. I think that a lot of people in their twenties do take a sense of humour bypass operation and don't regain their sense of fun until they are a lot older! This is not favourable to strange and time-consuming hobbies like ours. I accept that a number of ex-demosceners are that way because they genuinely got fed up and moved on, but at the same time there is still a considerable hardcore of people who really want to do new demo stuff, but step constantly into life's little cowpats of distraction!

The other problem which I've personally encountered over the last year would be the demon of demotivation. Currently, the Atari scene is not generating that much of a community feeling. Atari people have retreated back into small and secretive inner circles to the detriment of the overall scene. There is not much sharing of news and views, and there is no excited 'buzz' for the next big thing. People have been historically over-afraid of hyping something they can't immediately deliver, and go into complete secrecy and silent mode to avoid being criticised. This lack of talking has a corrosive effect on scene morale and is the sort of thing which could actually destroy the scene feeling. This may be only my view, but it is my direct current personal experience, and some other Atari sceners may be going through the same numbingly silent times as me. (I might add that one or two recent online conversations have removed my feeling of sensory deprivation and given me some hope back..)

Also, we need some sort of event to anchor interest to and stimulate productivity, whether it is a party or more in the way of online competitions. (I would take this opportunity to thank the organizers of the Outline Party for their excellent ongoing support, and to give a kicking to myself for not being able to make it there this year!)

On the hopeful side, if you scratch around there is still stuff and rumours of stuff being made. My favourite piece of new and exciting news is a new team-up of some high profile talented sceners such as Keops, Ultra, Stingray, 4Mat and Kenet in a new multi-format team called 'Orb'. They will be producing PC, Amiga and Atari releases, which is great news, considering that Keops hasn't kicked out anything on Atari for years. Oh, and by the time you have read this, I hope you all enjoyed issue 14 of the Alive diskmag!

Another new and potentially interesting development is the growth of the 'Hatari' open source ST emulator to include a partial but growing emulation of the Falcon 030! This means that a whole lot of other people are introduced to this physically rare and expensive and hard to obtain computer. So one prediction could be that someone with no prior experience of the Atari 16/32 platform decides to experiment and does something interesting with it?

And one final thing, as it's on my personal wishlist, I'd like to see more Falcon '060 stuff!

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