December 29th, 2009

Sailor Steeler

2009 Year In Review -- A Meandering Rant

Be warned, this is a rant without much of a focus or even much of a point. At times, I probably will contradict myself, but I only ask that you consider any such errors to be reflective of my inept writing rather than a deficiency in intelligence.

At the end of 2008, I approached the new year with a heart full of ambivalence. I did not mention this at the time, but part of this was due to the fact that I had just learned that Capcom had involved notable remixers of Overclocked Remix fame to compose music for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. While I was worried about Capcom possibly exploiting the talents of fans to create a product, I was also concerned that this would widen the division in fans -- the fans who enjoy products and who occasionally dabble in fan creations to no one's benefit, and those who build bases of power from their love of the games to use it as a means of controlling the thoughts of others.

It turns out my worry was justified, and it was even far worse and far more personal than I could ever dream.

This was in part because 2009 brought a change in the way video game companies operated with their fandoms. For the most part, the video game companies let fans have our way with their material, as long as the fans didn't abuse the use of that material. Don't make a profit, don't make too much noise, and you can create as many fan works as you wanted.

Then came the death of Crimson Echoes.

For those of you who don't know, Crimson Echoes was an unofficial, fan-made sequel to the SNES RPG Chrono Trigger. I had never played a Chrono Trigger fangame, I am still not into games on the computer in general, but let me just say from just the videos and the descriptions of this product, I was utterly floored by what was done in this game. This wasn't a mere modification or a poor man's recreation of Chrono Trigger -- this was an entirely new game, easily as big and grand as the original, and at times having better character development. I'm not going to lie and say I would have played it, because I wouldn't have. But Square Enix in their infinite failure decided to issue a cease and desist letter just before Crimson Echoes would have been released. This would be horrible in any case, but the fact that this was made by people who were true fans -- people who never asked for a dime (and still do not as for money), who never belittled other fans, and who have always treated others with respect. Square Enix did not care about this. Legally, of course, Square Enix is 100% right-- this isn't as egregious as Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube, so I can't muster up the strength to boycott them. But morally, they were wrong to squash the project, and to pour the near endless toil of countless individuals down the toilet is despicable. These fans worked tirelessly on this product, without profit or payment if any kind, for years of time spent on a game that Square Enix abandoned...only to be denied the ability to share their work in the world. This is not the only fan-project that was unceremoniously shut down, but this is one of the worst examples, given that it was actually near completion and fairly high profile.

Meanwhile, fans seem to decide to use other fans. When Crimson Echoes was shut down, Brian Clevinger, author of 8-Bit Theater ranted and raved about how fans had no right to question him or his motives. While the coding, event hacking, tech hacking, and spriting was now sealed away by a cease and desist notice, never to see the light of day again, Clevinger had the nerve to simultaneously claim that fan works were "playing around in the gray area of copyright law in a way that no one with the authority to make it stop cared." He deemed fan works as worthless and illegal, but noted that his efforts were  exempt from that illegitimacy because he worked hard on them. In fact, he has stated repeatedly that 8-Bit Theater is not a parody of Final Fantasy, but his original tale using Square Enix's sprites -- sprites also used in profit-making such as T-shirts and alongside his original text. I'd think that a ROM patch not made for profit or involving the exchange of money at all would only be used by a fraction of gamers is a far better candidate of the Fair Use defense than Brian Clevinger selling materials with Square Enix's sprites as his own work on his site with a much larger base, then banning people who don't pay for his work. (Notably, since he has stated on numerous occasions that 8-Bit Theater is not a Final Fantasy parody, he can't even claim that protection under Fair Use, since he already declared that sprite comics are not art.)

His broad pronouncements smack of more than hypocrisy. Instead, it is the denial of anyone else who was instrumental to his success (such as those who gave him edited sprites, the fans, or heck even Square Enix). It even slams those who dabble in fan art of any kind, as he proclaims only original art is "real" art. Giving the timing of his rants and the precise attack on sprites and video game copyrighted material, I wonder if he had a hand in Crimson Echoes being killed. For those who associate with Brian Clevinger to wish death those who disagree with them is terrible, and for Clevinger to sanction references the late Michael Jackson's chimpanzee in a post that contains faux-street slang and death threats is simply repellent. Karma seems to have paid him back with the printing of his work, but even that is not enough. Crimson Echoes is dead, while 8-Bit Theater lives on forever, and no one else sees the injustice.

Thus it took a herculean effort to surpass this act of arrogance and sense of entitlement. Indeed, after May, I thought to myself "Brian Clevinger is the Jerk of 2009." Unfortunately, a blast from the past with the screename woekitten swooped in and snatched that spot.

woekitten is no stranger to using her fans for her own benefit. This is a woman who contemplated charging people for a magazine for her fan characters in 2001. This was a woman who not only used abusive, racist language to dismiss me and my words, but allowed all her friends -- who were once our friends -- to mock me as well. I have written of her lies previously. I will say that finally, at least, these tales are being exposed for the lies they are, but the damage to Tinsel Korey's career has already been done as a months long campaign to associate her with me and with woekitten has taken its toll. Korey's name is now listed on gossip sites and has been branded a liar for no other reason than because woekitten has declared that she and I are the same person and that we're both lying about our identities.

Despite this, I have learned that I have been wrong about something for the past twelve years online. While talent can corrupt, I no longer believe that it inherently does so. Rather, the people who were talented I came across were jerks.

There are plenty of talented people who are not jerks, but kind, caring people who think of themselves as normal people. XHunter created video masterpieces but did not respond to even the worst of flames. Zeality can be opinionated but maintains a friendly atmosphere at the Chrono Compendium. James Beaver has been a master spriter for years but instead of crying "MINE, MINE, MINE" he deflects hotlinkers with humor and is a source of encouragement. Even LittleKuriboh, in spite of his success at YuGiOh! The Abridged series, has avoided getting a big head. These people are fans -- they don't go on tirades about how critics are whiners or how celebrities are lying. They don't call people slurs then claim to be joking (Oh, Andreas Kostamanidis, a.k.a SnappleMan, don't think I forgot your little one liner). No, when they ask for opinions, they want opinions, good and bad. They want to know what they did right and how they could improve. They don't cry "passive-aggressive" when you say that a particular portion of their work is less than perfect; in fact, unlike Kel McDonald (a.k.a. kellhound1365 ) they welcome criticism.

The problem is up until 2008 or so, most of the talented people I knew were jerks or at the very least hung out with jerks and absorbed some of their mannerisms and opinions. They didn't think of themselves as superior because they were superior due to their talent -- they thought of themselves as superior because they were jerks and they just happened to be talented enough to enhance their own bases of power.  Their talent merely correlated with their bad behavior, and was not the cause.

In large part due to this Tinsel Korey affair, I began to see see where I was wrong. I begged for people to tear down popular figures because I believed they were irreversibly corrupted, and here, a group of people did just that, targeting an actress because she got a role in a widely-seen movie. Here, I had been preaching the politics of envy and now both woekitten and her followers have actually followed through in their actions.  In fact, her actions are even worse than "Kurosen" Clevinger's disdain. As bad as Clevinger's tirades against artists and commenters are, the effect on fan artists is not direct: people could choose to ignore them, even if they won't. On the other hand, Tinsel Korey's name has been withdrawn from lineups where she was previously invited, and I fear it is in large part due to LiveJournal posts woekitten wrote then deleted.

That is precisely why I am disgusted, as this ball of racial identity politics mixed in with popularity and well-written prose is really about the same thing -- power. And now one who is smaller is succeeding at taking down one who is bigger, repeating the micro-scale collectivist tactics on a larger scale. It is ironically what I wanted all this time, and now that it has happened, I understand how foolish it was to want destruction for the sake of destruction. There is no place for envy, as it is an emotion that will tarnish careers, create scandals, and ruin lives in the name of revenge.

So I will focus on the positive. With YouTube, in spite of all the "drama" that goes on there, I found fans like myself. While there are those who compete for views and would kill to have more subscribers, I have to admit that I like the relative anonymity I have there. I'm just an occasional provider of videos for people to comment on. I don't have to write diatribes to slam people who disagree with me. In fact, people don't gang up on me and make videos on why Nangbaby is the devil.

And through Twitter, I have discovered more people who have legitimate wit and substance who don't pile on other users they despise. They maintain a positive attitude and encourage each other. Instead of saying, "You suck" and making a successful fad about how I'm a bad person, they simply say "Keep trying, keep striving" Instead of calling me insane or stupid, they think I'm different, but cool. At worst, even if they don't care, then that's it. They don't care enough to follow my ever word, or to come after me long after they've supposedly disassociated with me. They don't base their viewpoints on my by what a popular person has to say, but instead focus on me as an equal.

It is really sad that I not only had to indirectly suffer through some of the barbs thrown by Clevinger at others, but even sadder that woekitten now has irrevocably defamed me and claimed that I am lying about my heritage (for the record, I'm not of East Indian descent) to cover up the fact that she was able to throw another slur in my direction. This is even though now she says she doesn't know what ethnicity I am, despite her whole recent argument being that I am Tinsel Korey and lying about being Aboriginal...(please woekitten get your story straight). And it is saddest of all the people will choose to not only follow dishonorable and rude people like them, but to shut out anyone who doesn't worship people of their caliber, even when common sense could tell you that they're spinning tales of woe to make themselves look better. But this year (even more than last year), I've found people who truly don't care about them, who don't make decisions on me based on who I choose to support, but who like interacting me with me no matter what. There are people who, in fact, have chosen to cheer me up when kicked around by the all of the crowds, forums, and LiveJournal users who simply think I've committed blasphemy by speaking ill of certain people. There are good people out there along with the bad, and I can't be afraid to open up any more.

If the haters want to hate, then let them hate. I will simply await the day that we can become friends. Despite my anger, I am always ready to forgive anyone if they are willing to reconcile and let bygones be bygones.  That would apply to anyone, even the shadow people lurking in my journal -- heck, even Clevinger and woekitten -- as I'd rather have those I criticize as the friends I thought they were. I don't have any more time or energy for enemies, but if anyone who has a problem with me will not be my friend, then I ask that let me go unfettered until the time comes that we may join together. After all, I have realized I can be wrong, too. All it takes is revelation and respect -- respect I have found from new friends and not from most of the older, former ones.  I can only hope the people who dislike me are also capable of seeing the error in their ways.

I'm willing to give peace a chance, and I've decided to gravitate toward people who are willing to build me up and encourage me so that I may do the same to them in turn. I can only ask that those of you who seem to find fault with me would join in on the encouragement.  I'm not too proud to accept your help and kindness.  I'm too tired to keep fighting.

I'm tired of war. What about peace in 2010, okay?