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Keep on going - Carve upon my stone: I will go on
by Gargaj of Ümlaüt Design and Conspiracy

A couple of years back, when I was still a little kid, anxiously following any sports-related event or programme available through the radio, I encountered an interview with one of our Hungarian wrestling champions, and he, in retrospect of a recent tournament, noted a saying he claimed to have heard from his mentor: "People standing on the second step of the podium never smile." I remember how strange I found this at the time, and in the same time, how true to life I realized it to be: The winner is joyful for winning the competition, the bronze medalist is happy for just arriving on the podium, but the person or group in second place is just second - perhaps nearly first, perhaps deservedly, but in any aspect, merely second. Analogously, The Acts of Gord contain a note where a gaming tournament organized by the protagonist only had lucrative first and third prizes given away - "The Gord likes to remind people that second place is just the first loser."

The winner takes it all

And that's just the way it goes - that's the obligatory "all-in" spirit that comes with the race. The late Scatman John once sang about the sour taste of winning when someone loses in the meantime, but both winners and losers are all aware of this - otherwise they wouldn't be doing this. Competition always boils down to several circumstances, some of them momentary, some of them prepared, and some of them entirely unexpected - part of the gig, as one would say. There are moral winners, straight-out winners, debated winners, lucky winners, and in general, one can say that an ending result is just a snapshot of the race taken in a designated moment. In other words, we're all Schrodinger's cats, when we compete: no winner is decided until the whistle is blown and the decision is made.

I used to think that when one's best isn't enough, it's a statement. It's not. It's a simple one-time situation, and one has to learn to treat it as such: wipe the dust and carry on. We've all been through our respective highs and lows, some more than others, each in their different ways, but the fact that we're all here shows that we go on.

And of course, this is finally where the huge rift is reached: Why? And this is the point where I reveal where I'm going with this.

The spirit of Breakpoint

I've recently been to Breakpoint 2007, much like a considerable portion of You. I experienced all the competitions, live acts, and all the challenges the party could offer, and I have to admit, the best word for all might be "hardcore". Most things seen and lived through in those challenge-related aspects were extremely tight, incredible amount of quality and dedication displayed in several angles of those few days... And again, winners and losers.

Breakpoint party hall (courtesy Sobec, Slengpung)

Oxyron makes a really great C64 demo, but loses to Resource's and Chorus' conversion of Desert Dream - a surprise to us all, but a clear winner in any aspect. Blueberry and Loaderror produce a smashing Amiga 4k that, again, exceeds expectations - but stays behind Scarab with the unbelievably minuscule amount of THREE points. With 968-965, mind you. It hardly gets any tighter than that. The Shitfaced Clowns produce yet another GBA epic, but stay second after TBL's surprise slickness on an alternative platform. Hikey produces an undebatably fun game with ragdoll physics - but then there's Sumotori Dreams, a game with perfect physics AND a large amount of humour in it...

And then there are the PC demos.

I always trusted in Pixtur. Ever since Trocken, and later the stomach-churning eeriness of Perfect Love, I know that he knows something. He feels it. Whatever he does has this certain yet unexplored layer of human emotions, revealing sharp contrasts between dark and bright worlds, in the end closely knit together with the cream of direction, perfect camera angles and cinematography, while making the most of the capabilities of the engine. LKCC demos have a certain edge to them that can discomfort or comfort, perhaps both at the same time, in a strangely captivating way. Above was certainly one of the highlights of the demo competition of Breakpoint, and I'm sure I'm not alone to be able to say this.

But then, there was Traction -- the group that almost created their own brand of demos, prompting some to label them "the new Replay", which, sadly, wasn't always far from the truth. Demoscene groups tend to take inspiration from themselves rather than from the outside world. All this is excusable though -- we all did so at some point. But then, we, when being the audience, also secretly hope for those groups to kind of go wild a bit... just to take some unexpected direction, just to do something we didn't count on. Just to entertain us, really. And that's exactly what Traction did. They did not reinvent the wheel, obviously, noone expected them to do that. Instead, they just took more of the same, but in a much more tasteful, mature way.

The whole demo feels correct by rations, not just in terms of timing and colors, but also for feeling, tempo, and general execution. Preacher's way of demomaking just flows through the entire show, but one can also clearly feel the Rale-touch. Two completely different characters finally creating something that everyone was waiting for: the best of both worlds. And hey, here's a personal note: I was proud. Not that I was involved in the production in any way, but watching it during the competition felt like Iwas seeing a cocooned butterfly I've been observing finally breaking out from the shell. It was something I'd been waiting for.

But then, there were also the Synesthetics - the group no one knows and everyone likes. In my opinion, entering a remix of last year's winner to a demo compo takes cajones; not just because of the obvious booing from the less tolerant, but also because of the "seen before" factor - attention-span grows shorter as a party progresses, and even the mention of a year-old demo can cause people to snarl.

On the other hand, I myself consider remixing as one of the finest arts - it requires a lot of knowledge and insight to take something already finished, and reinterpret it in a different manner, often just leaving shards of what the subject used to be, all while maintaining the quality level of the original. (We're talking about last year's winner here - people tend to bite down on things like that.) And here's STS taking a brooding psytrance trip, turning it into a mushroom-happy LSD travel of pulsating eyeballs and amusing drug-culture references - completely taking out the venomous teeth of the original piece, and replacing them with silly rubber prosthetics. And it works - a memorable demo, not just because the assets behind it, but also because of that strange cheeky feeling that balances tiptoeing on the red line of mockery and over-the-top dissection and reassembling.

But then there's Andromeda. Yes, THE Andromeda. The Norwegian group of cold-blooded professionals, conquering the scene in the peak era of the AGA demos, and immediately retreating into seclusion for thirteen long years. Thirteen years, which, if you place the start of the demoscene to the early eighties, is almost half the time the scene ever existed - in terms of a nation's history, this would be enumerated in centuries. I might be too young to state this, but I never saw or heard of a comeback this conscious before. Sure, we saw "old groups messing around" every now and then, but again, let's recapture this: A group massacres the AGA scene in 1994, and then for the 13 following years, nothing. Absolutely. Most sceners would, understandably, slowly fade out of the loop, eventually expressing distaste in "the newskool crap", and perhaps disappearing forever. But here's Andromeda, picking up the long unused armor after over a decade, polishing it off, just to slam the fist on the table and have their say again in the new club.

When their demo started on the bigscreen and the name "ANDROMEDA" appeared, with the succession of all the names we saw appearing at all those Amiga nostalgia moments while shaking fists in the air to the beat of Nexus 7, well, I could only think of one thing: "It's worth it." Because yes, they showed me that if a group can come back and enjoy the same thing we do after 13 years of not being connected, it validates our work as "the new guys". It shows that we're in line with their "heritage", that we're still worthy of being called the same demoscene they used to be part of. And of course, when I asked Archmage whether this was a one-off performance or will they stay, he was happy to note that yes, they're going to be around.

When loosing doesn't hurt

But they also lost. Andromeda arrived second behind a demo that's going to change the way the demoscene is perceived -- and who else would do that again, if not Farbrausch. The guys who burst several balloons in the scene since 2000, all having a large enough pop to resonate outside the community. They forcedly took the IT-world's hands on the spotlight and dragged it to this group of computer maniacs producing magic -- and everyone around them. Us. You. When we last saw them, they felt like grooving -- a demo that cheekily claimed to be popular, before it got popular; and now, after three years of busting a nut, they present us the complete anti-thesis of it: destruction. Shingles flying off buildings, bridges plummeting into the ground, strangely discomforting streams of blue cubes whirling around all of us, buildings levitating around each other in a hypnotic dance of geometry, with unsettling industrial shrieks and pulsating beats as an accompaniment, all presented picture perfect from the assumed point-of-view of a bystander to witness this all.

The demo goes on for seven minutes, but about two minutes into it, you know that once this ends, it's going to be pandemonium in the Rundsporthalle. And you don't want it to end. But it ends, after all the detailed world with unprecedented texture-work in just a mere 180k crumbles into the void, the noiseburst cuts off, and after a second of silence, 800 people scream their throats out and perform a standing ovation for the group that just did it again. And this is where we suddenly understand.

Because losing to Farbrausch isn't a loss. Because losing to Andromeda isn't a loss either. Because losing to Synesthetics, Traction, LKCC, Fairlight, MFX, ASD, whoever... it's never been a loss.

Because in the scene, it isn't just the first and third smiling. It's all of us.

The scene is a competition, true. High level at that, regardless of who says what. But there's one aspect of this competition that we like to emphasize on -- we know each other and we all have the same goal: to do something jawdropping while having as much fun as we can in the meantime. We all have loosely the same principles, the same ideas and same mindset -- we know that if we come second, it's usually because the other entry was better, and that's a good thing, because it just keeps the quality level higher, and we can be proud of each other as sceners, and we can be proud of the community we are in. "Scene is a meritocracy", said Gasman, and perhaps we should add that we like to have nationalistic feelings about it too -- but that's perhaps taking the metaphor one step too far.

When loosing fuels motivation

We got second at Breakpoint behind Gopher / Alcatraz. His 4k was also a single effect, but he executed it better. Nowadays, when we talk (I didn't know him before, but hey, another good thing -- social interaction), I keep promising that next year he won't get away with it that easy. This of course might not mean a thing -- we can keep our promise and win, or he can win again, or a third group can kick both of our asses. And even if we might not be able to overtake each other, we will do our best to take our own respective personal progress and push it as far as possible, put the pedal through the floor and put the gear up a notch.

We're rabid. And not just me, mind you; I'd say a respectable portion of the scene lives on competition and for the sake of competition. In that matter, Breakpoint was perhaps the most inspirational party I've ever been to in terms of productivity, and I really want to do stuff now. And I don't care if we get second again. Or tenth. I want to be content, and if I will be, I'll smile from the silver medal place.

You should too.

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Comments: (click here to comment the article)

001 Gargaj
It's spelled "Losing" :D
Posted 27/8 2007 - 22:41

002 BarZoule
very nice article, motivating -b -b
Posted 27/2 2009 - 22:14

003 ALiEN^bf
Oxyron makes a really great C64 demo, but loses to Resource's and Chorus' conversion of Desert Dream - a surprise to us all, but a clear winner in any aspect.
That's like having Project Genesis by Conspiracy and Candytron by Farbrausch in the same 64k compo at Breakpoint 2003? History repeats itself.
For me it was more like Audience 1st, CNS 2nd, FR 3rd, the winner takes it all. ;) Great article.
Posted 2/3 2009 - 13:29

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