Make the Demoscene You Want to See
The scene exists because of the people in it. Together we make the prods. We organize the parties. We stream the streams, give the commentary, connect in discussions online, and perpetuate silly memes.
Many of us have built years or even decades of heartwarming memories together. We have a feeling of family, of solidarity. Our closest friends are sceners, and they are there to help us celebrate our triumphs, and mourn those we lose.
The Demoscene Ethics Project is a team of sceners who want to carry on these traditions. The goal of this project is a demoscene full of vitality. Helping sceners support each other better is how we'd like to accomplish that.
A lively scene is one that welcomes and encourages newcomers and makes people of many backgrounds feel included. From visual artists and organizers to coders and musicians, a lively scene celebrates the contributions of folks of a variety of backgrounds.
We all do our part to make the scene a better and more pleasant place to be. With that same desire to make things more pleasant for everyone, we have some ideas to help us all create and sustain a lively scene. These suggestions address the needs we've heard sceners express, and can be applied both online and offline.
Resisting Assumptions, Building Empathy
We can come to parties and demoscene spaces with the best intentions but still end up hurting our fellow sceners. One of the reasons for this is a process called category activation. When we meet someone, our brains subconsciously try to fit the person into categories that are already defined in our heads.
If we are not aware of this and do not think about it, category activation can lead us to making assumptions about fellow sceners which make us more likely to say painful things to each other.
Some examples of painful statements
- "Oh, I'm so glad we met! Normally I'd never have talked to you because you are Black/transgendered/gay/disabled/etc."
- "What are you doing here?" (assuming there is something weird that this person is attending a demoparty or similar event)
- "Oh, you're so amazing! I didn't think a disabled/transgendered/gay/black/etc. person could make demos/attend demoparties."
- "Who are YOU with?" (assuming person is someone's date rather than a scener themself)
- "Do they have broadband internet where you come from?"
- "Everyone knows that girls/black/disabled/gay/transgendered people/etc. can't code/make music/do graphics/be intelligent/be good company."
- "Everyone knows that * do *." (general stereotypes of girls/black/disabled/gay/transgendered people/etc. stated as a truth)
Statements like these can make people feel that their abilities aren't real, or they don't belong in the scene. Experiences like these contribute to the overall level of stress as people who are marginalized face those same attitudes everywhere in their lives. The scene loses when people feel they don't belong, because they may stop releasing prods or coming to parties. And we lose because this is someone who could have been our friend.
Of course, the statements above are contextual. It's quite a different thing to say "What are you doing here?" e.g. to a visitor who entered an organizer area at a party or to a friend as an inside joke, but be mindful when using language described in the examples.
People who experie nce discrimination often may be afraid of how we will react if they say that we hurt them. So as demosceners we can make a more welcoming scene by avoiding painful statements, and stepping up to gently intervene when painful statements are made. And as sometimes we all make mistakes and hurt each other, let's be empathetic when someone tells us that we hurt them.
We also need to be careful which sorts of imagery we use to promote demoscene events. When we perpetuate stereotypes in our promotional materials, members of stereotyped groups may not see themselves as potential members of the demoscene or attendees of our events. This is another way we lose demosceners.
How we can help
- When you hear a fellow scener make painful statements, or tell cruel jokes about people based on their background, intervene. You can start by questioning what they said. A useful sentence is "I’m curious, what was your intention when you said that?" When a person from a visible minority is present, prioritize protecting them.
- We're all shaped by our environment. To avoid stepping on folks due to their background, it's useful to identify and question the assumptions your society has encouraged you to have. Apologize if someone tells you that you hurt them, even if you didn't intend to hurt them.
- Avoid non-apologies when apologizing. Non-apologies are phrases like "I'm sorry if" or "I didn't mean to". These phrases avoid taking responsibility for hurting someone by hinting that it was their choice to get hurt. Being called out usually feels uncomfortable and shameful but we all make mistakes. Instead of protecting your own ego and feelings, own your mistakes and apologize sincerely. Saying "I'm sorry I hurt you" is enough.
- Encourage demoparties to have a contact person people can turn to if they feel they're treated inappropriately.
It rules to feel celebrated and valued. It sucks to feel like nobody likes you or what you created, or that you haven't done your best.
Wanting to prove yourself is one source of the competitive fire that helps keep the scene alive. But there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to keep that fire burning.
We need to soothe our pain when we feel we have failed, or are inadequate. One way we might do this is by finding someone "worse" to criticize, insult, or verbally attack. This creates a toxic atmosphere of insecurity feeding insecurity.
It's fine to talk about ways a prod doesn't succeed. But saying stuff like "This is crap a three year old could make" is not productive.
How we can help
- When we hear sceners being aggressive against other sceners, we can try to change the subject and redirect things in a friendly way, or ask the aggressive person "Why do you say that?"
- Encourage new sceners and others who place low in compos to keep trying, learning, and contributing.
- When we feel angry and upset about "failing", we can examine our feelings and talk to someone we trust about it.
- Encourage demoparties to notify people who enter prods if their prod is disqualified or not selected. This can reduce the rush of emotion when they discover this during the compo. Some parties already do this. One party system that supports this functionality by default is Wuhu.
- Reach out to new people, particularly if you are a well-known scener.
- If you want others to make better demos, give them constructive criticism that they can address in a real way. Acknowledge their effort.
We can do this
Small everyday actions like these make a big difference.
Undoubtedly most sceners already do these things.
You can be among those who commit to taking positive action in the future.
If you want your name to be in the list of supporters for this document click/touch here. (update is done manually, so it might take a while for your name to appear)
The following folks have already declared their support for this effort (in no particular order):
- metoikos, Vaahtera
- reality404, DSS^RBBS^RiFT^Poo-brain
- Uctumi, PVM / HF / LIA
- chaos, farbrausch
- Alkama, TPOLM + Calodox + Spectrals
- rimina, Paraguay
- alia, Church of the Spinning Cube
- Preacher, Traction^Brainstorm
- aldroid, slipstream
- PoroCYon, K2^TiTAN
- noby, Prismbeings, Epoch
- ferris, logicoma
- Response, Darklite^Hoaxers^Dekadence^RåRåtte
- visy, Trilobit^Quadtrip^DSS^PWP
- maali, Kewlers
- crobi, crobisaur
- bitnenfer, LIA
- cpdt, Monad
- zanaGB, Bun2
- viznut, pwp
- docd, TRSI & Hoodlum
- ne7, DCS^Napalm^Rebels^Scoopex^Triad^UKSA
- Jobj, RBBS
- Evil, Dead Hackers Society
- Gasman, H-Prg
- scamp, vacuum
- NuSan, Cookie Collective
- tat, avena
- Medo, TITAN
- DJefke, RBBS^BaaS
- Sir Garbagetruck, Accession^RBBS
- v!ML!^, DESiRE
- jobe, matt current
- Callisto, Syn[RJ]
- PulkoMandy, Shinra
- neoman, TITAN
- Flopine, Cookie Collective^Ohno!
- med, Mandarine
- Koltes, Cookie Collective
- Dysposin, Epoch^Ivory Labs
- 100bit, Nexus in Space
- Wurstgetrank, Poo-brain
- Arlequin (arleka) PVM^Impure
- romain337, nonotme
- Kabuto, TITAN
- HellMood, DESiRE
- Ziphoid, SceneSat^Razor 1911^Brainstorm^Active
- Weasel, Padua/ G*P/ C.A.P. TV
- ponk, Cookie Collective
- Dubmood, Razor 1911
- branch, ivory^Bun2
- Felice, Maggie Team
- Soundy, Deadlines
- mountnside, Bun2
- iks, Titan
- melkor / haujobb
- toshi, PVM^br
- Crypt / Slipstream
- reenigne / CRTC
- helgrima / tähtituho
- introspec, Life on Mars
- nnorm / LNX
- okkie / dekadence
- Shiz / WRD
- Stef / Spectrals
- Brittle / Dentifrice
- HonkHase, CCC
- Firehawk / TDA
- eimink / Wide Load ^ Vanha Mediakunta
- MRC / Abyss-Connection
❤ Together we make a better demoscene! ❤