Demoscene Week: Blockparty —
I’m actually kind of at a loss as to when the whole idea for running/co-running a demo party of my own came to me, but I was likely on the phone with RaD Man of ACiD, who I have the pleasure of chatting with frequently these past few years. We had a fast friendship after meeting during the BBS Documentary shooting, and it turned out we’d both been at the NAID demoparty in 1996, although we didn’t really meet there. We both really enjoyed demoparties and the whole culture of them (with him being much more involved, running ACiD and all) and we’d considered putting one on ourselves.
Of course, starting a demoparty had been one of those packed-away dreams of mine going back many years; right there with starting a movie theater or living in a treehouse. It’s one of those combinations of really cool idea and really untenable idea. Ever since NAID’s last event, and as the years went by, I wished the right set of events would happen so such a thing could come true, be it theater, treehouse of demoparty.
But the idea came to me in a flash around 2004: just hold one at one of the events already going on, be it LAN party, hacker convention, or hamfest. Instead of trying to jump-start both an event and the many thousands of dollars in investment and outlay to bring something from nothing, become an event at another, larger event. We spied around for a while, kind of putting it together like you would a start-up; talking about it here and there while working on other things. It was a good idea, just not one that could be pulled off at the drop of a hat… and be any good.
But in 2006, we finally decided we’d take a shot at it. We talked to a LAN party called Nor’Easter, and started negotiations with them, touring the event while it was going on. It was quite impressive, and really, if you just took away the gaming, it was basically set up exactly like a Demoparty; the attention to net connection and power and rows upon rows of machines; I thought it was very impressive and said so. (I still do.)
However, another opportunity presented itself, and after some discussions, we decided we would hold a demoparty at NOTACON, an excellent con I’d been to three years in a row, in Cleveland. I’ve talked about this con a lot; it’s relatively small but fierce in character and energy. It’s both art and technology, photographers next to security experts, musicians dallying with network engineers. Nothing else really has this spirit in it. It seemed an excellent home for the first demoparty we were putting together.
The name we chose was BLOCKPARTY; a combination of references to graphics “blocks” and to the everybody-come-on-down character of a typical actual block party. Because it was available and because we could, the website registered was demoparty.us; made it pretty clear where we were located in the world.
It’s been going on for months now, the planning, the competition rules, the preparation, the gathering of prizes and the many questions answered about rules. As you might expect when prizes are on the line, the questions about the rules can get very intense. That’s been part of the fun. The other has been the challenge of integrating with Notacon so nobody’s stepping on each other’s gig. That’s come out pretty well, and notacon has a schedule up showing the combination of our speakers and the notacon speakers.
I wrote an essay about my thoughts on all the Blockparty speakers before, and that’s still relevant and worth reading, but here’s an interesting parallel worth noting: all of the speakers except Nullsleep were at NAID in 1996. All of us took the trip, went out to this special event. Some of us knew each other, others did not. But all of us share that time, either as speakers or spectators. In fact, that’s part of my motivation in booking many of the speakers; besides knowing their subjects, they were all at that Demoparty and were part of its success. Rub some of that magic off on blockparty!
Running things is a completely different experience from being an audience member. Some of it’s better, some is worse. But I’m proud that my history with demos, this line that’s moved through my life, will have this new junction point.
Demos make me want to live forever; they show there’s so much left to see, so much to experience; I can lose an evening just turning off the lights and downloading/running random ones. Nearly 20 years of them and I’ve never grown tired of them. Here’s hoping Blockparty adds a few more reasons to live as well.
And that, my friends, is the conclusion of Demoscene Week. I hope you’ve learned a bit, or re-learned a bit, and that, ultimately, a few more people get interested in this whole scene because of it. You’re in for a treat.
Next: Your Demoscene Link Buffet
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