A Visionary Prophet of Hugi
Warning: Reading this story might do harm to your mood and, if mood affects health, do damage to your health. Don't read it when you're too happy or too sad.
He was the star. He was the man who coded all the demos that were topping the charts, that pleased so many people. He was adored by his fellow coders, treated like a god. A god who was hard to reach but whom one could always approach for advice. Everyone respected him. Even his competitors, who were enormously jealous of him, knew that he was a man one could trust, that he had no intentions to harm them, that he was always willing to help, and a loyal supporter of the Scene.
In the eyes of others, the Scene was everything to him. He devoted his life to it. He wanted it to thrive, to make people reach new standards, and to get fresh blood into the Scene, too. On top of being a great coder he was also a great organizer: the born leader.
It was him who committed, not as the first one ever but in the most spectacular way yet: Scene Suicide.
His motives are unknown. One can only guess. And it is tricky to guess, as this is at odds with his picture, the picture of the ideal Scener. Obviously his personality was more complex than everybody had thought. Obviously his state of mind was completely different from what he displayed to the outside.
He never showed any signs of tiredness or resignation. Not before that day. Having always been the most active and most enthuasiastic man in the Scene, and it was him who convinced potential quitters to stay, and gave them new, fresh motivation. How come it was him who put an end to his Scene life in such a drastic way?
Since his scene debut ten years ago, he had been to all the major parties, in fact any party he had time for. He did his best to show new productions at every party, and often his entries were so outstanding that it was clear who would be the winner while the compo was still going on. Many Sceners tried to compete with him and failed, but he always encouraged them to persist and try to do better. Probably he did so in knowing that he would not be a member of the Scene forever.
It was at a great summer party where he killed his Scene identity. The party had been announced as one of the largest demo-only parties ever, with more than a thousand real sceners and only a handful of gamers, a weather that could almost be compared to that on the Bahamas, a great atmosphere and excellent facilities, with showers for everyone, swimming pools, the sea, brilliant sound systems and a bigscreen as in the most modern cinemas. Visitors came from all over the world, from Europe, America, Russia, Japan, Israel, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and even India, to list only a few. The core of the worldwide scene and the respective cores of the national scenes would be united at a unique event that would mark a climax in the annals of the Scene.
This was where he ended his career. And yet things seemed to go as usual at first: He was celebrated as the hero; he was welcomed by everyone and people felt honored to be able to shake his hand, and when he presented his new effects and demo engine, everyone applauded. His entry to the demo compo was well accepted, and the hall was bursting with awe. Yet, on careful observation, one could sense that his behaviour was subtly different: The enthuasiasm was not quite there. Everything seemed a bit fake, his happiness, his encouragements to continue working for the Scene, his pride of his new demo. Even the demo was somehow not a real demo of his, not what one was accustomed to. It was a quality demo, sure, but it didn't have the edge of his previous demos. Was it that there was no visible sign of progress, no sign that everything could be done better and the Scene should continue perfectionizing all techniques, as his philosophy was?
Yet he won the democompo, as usual, and was asked to come to the stage to receive his prize. Thw crowd cheered when the organizer suddenly handed him the microphone, with a smile on his face and the words: "Now our star wants to tell you something." He, the legendary coder, looked friendly as always and waited until the applause ceased and everybody calmed down, waiting to hear the master's words. All of a sudden his smile disappeared. He now looked very serious. His speech started, a very long speech, during which his face would sadden progressively, until all of it abruptly changed.
"My dear friends, I am happy to get this prize, but only as a symbol that the Scene has reached something new, that it has advanced, that yet another new standard has been set in demos. This is what I would usually say, maybe with a tad of variation of the wording. But today I have come to tell you something different." He paused. A whisper went through the audience. He continued: "I have been a Scener for a long time. Well, very long, longer than most of you actually. Yet I have to admit something today. I do not feel like a Scener." Another short break. "No, I'm not a Scener, not at all. I am a lamer, a dirty lamer, just a little fool who somehow managed to get a lot of fame and become a symbol for the Scene, a symbol for something he does not identify with at all. I repeat: something he does not identify with at all. I have been a symbol for a just Scener, a great leader so to speak, who knew what he was talking without ever being egocentric, who often gave his prizes away or distributed them among the audience, and who invested all his time and energy in supporting other Sceners, in making the Scene survive, grow, become better. But this is not me! This is what you think me to be. It is what I am a symbol of. But I am not a symbol, I am a man, a humble, dirty, stupid man, a man who has wasted all his life with something that is not interesting to anybody out in the real world."
He took a break in order to breathe. Among the audience excitement could already be felt. Many people were obviously very astonished, did not know how to react, exchanged puzzled looks with their neighbours. Then he continued.
"I am not the ideal Scener you have always thought me to be. No, I am just as despiceable as anybody most of you would call lamer. I know that you actually hate me, I've won the competitions, you didn't, I got all the fame, you didn't. Well, now it's your turn - I will no longer be a Scener. I have ended my Scene life, committed mental suicide. Actually I already did that long ago - I said it already: I never felt as a Scener. Now I really want to leave the Scene, in such a way that I'll not be able to ever return to it. I'll throw away the last ten years of life, the last ten years of work, to finally end this period. So now I will show you that I do not deserve your respect!"
Suddenly he started grinning maliciously. His look was really evil, something nobody would have expected from him. Everybody looked shocked, except the party organizer who was standing on stage next to him, with a little distance. The organizer seemed to have kept cool. Maybe the great coder had already informed him of his plan, perhaps he knew exactly what was to come next.
"You guys think I'm helpful, but in fact I have never helped anybody. You're just stupid enough to buy that! Sure I have always handed out sourcecode and gave explanations, but the code was full of bugs. Yes! Remember the demo Mayflower by Future Gods? The scene which ended on the compo PC all of a sudden, because the demo crashed? Yes, this was due to code which I wrote and gave to the coder of that demo! I knew it was buggy and I also had a bugfree, even faster version with more features, but of course I didn't tell anybody." The indignation among the visitors became visible. "And do you know how I got my first 3D engine? I ripped it! You didn't notice, right? It was a straight rip from LeoArt's game Robot Assault, I did not change a single byte in the code! The only reason you missed that was that I had compressed it with an illegal copy of a commercial packing program. You really believed I'd been working hard for six months to create this masterpiece! Idiots! I didn't do any work whatsoever but gave bad advice to everyone on the IRC!"
Now the audience was becoming hysteric, some of them started shouting. "Yeah, how stupid you were! Not to see what a bad man I was! And do you know who formatted the harddisk of my friend and former mentor Sunboy at the 1994 summer meeting? Right, it was me! I was jealous because I knew that he had cooked up a new shading engine which could have beat my demo in the compo, so I destroyed it! You believed that I supported progress in the Scene? You fools, of course I didn't, I only wanted to win the parties and get prizes. Of course I also faked votes massively, and once I even won a party although the majority of the votes were for another demo. How? Good connections to the organizers, who manipulated the results for me!"
The audience was up in arms. Some people tried to throw projectiles like beercans at the coder, but they missed him. He just roared with laughter. Other Sceners tried to run onto the stage, and the party security guys were very busy to keep them away. The police had already been informed and would arrive in a minute, just after the end of the speech. The noise was really loud, voices could not be understood, and yet the legendary coder could continue his speech, as his microphones allowed his voice to stand out clearly of the rest.
"Guys, calm down! You've missed the best thing! Know who was the man who in 1995 informed the police on illegal copies of development software used by some of you? Yes. You've guessed right. It was me! Yes! You fools, don't believe I had ever been honest to you. There is nobody who is honest! The world is full of shitheads, and I'm just one of them! So leave me alone, will you?! I am not your leader, your god, I'm just a wretched dirty fellow, somebody worth nothing, not worth living actually, yes! I'm just like you."
Then the police arrived, sprayed heaps of water at the rioting masses and safely escorted him to his home.
His reputation in the Scene had vanished, although it soon turned out that he was not guilty of the crimes and Scene-crimes he had tried to make the audience believe he was. In fact he had not even attended the party where he claimed to have formatted the other guy's harddisk. It had been one of the few exceptions, the few parties near his hometown he had missed during his scene life. Also, further inspection showed his first 3D engine to be completely different from the one used in the game. It seemed to be his own work. Needless to say, it had not been him who had caused the police raid, either. In fact one could not even call it a police raid: Only one Scener had been arrested in 1995 because of illegal copies of development software, and it had been a local friend, not related to the Scene, who had informed the police.
He seemed to be innocent, completely innocent. He had really worked for years, only striving to improve the Scene. Why did he throw away the achievement of his life?
We do not know. All we know today is that he is working as a lawyer today, and rather successfully, too, although he does not seem to have any great ambitions in his life anymore. He is just a normal man - to the others. But who knows what is happening in his interior?
Adok/Hugi - 10 May 2000