Holding Out & Thoughts About That Internet Niche ;)

It’s no secret if you know me. I have made the web my life. When I first started “web development/design” there was no name for it, UX was a non existent concept, and this wasn’t being taught at colleges. I remember my teachers ALL (no exception) telling me to stay away from the internet because it’s a niche, I’m wasting my future, or because it’s going to destroy my creativity (there where many variations of this).
My interest was interactive art online. Judging by the amount of people that told me I was throwing my future away with “this internet thing”, I was really crazy pouring my life into this.
It’s hard to describe the amount of creativity that was happening in web design (seriously insane NEW stuff). I miss it so much. Everything was being re-invented, new concepts explored, “oh someone already did that, let’s do something TOTALLY new”.
Websites where an amazing platform for self expression, where anything was possible. If you could dream it up, nothing could stand in your way. Everyone had to have one, even your dog…
We where talking about composing soundtracks for websites, websites as movies, sites as out of this world art as you could think of. Then, when we started dreaming 3D capabilities, the 3D web was just around the corner.
Yes, I get it, a lot of this was abused too, and this was used in places it should not have. It often leaked into the realm of bad user experience, but (to be honest) UX was born here too. Exploring all the ways of making something easier for the user, as opposed to today where everything must be easier for the user to find the ad/click on the ad/monetize them as efficiently as possible. In defense of experimental experiences, our present approach to user experience is more geared toward monetization than it is to a good experience.
As things changed, and the web became a commodity (you can make money there), the scene changed with your average print agencies, and other standard businesses moving in. I found it funny how they all acted like they “invented it”, or “always had a vision for it”.
I remember this one case (but also a very common one). A friend, with a successful print agency, was one of those who would consistently tell me I was throwing my life away with the internet niche. Then they where forced to provide the same services as I specialized in. The stated vision on their website was comedic, because they acted like they where always on this cutting edge internet thing.
It was an exciting mentality shift, but also a largely unfortunate one.
I often like to take youtube as an example of this.
Youtube, at the beginning, was something amazing to be part of. It was a wonderfully supportive community of “video bloggers” and artists (remember geriatric1927? I loved all these people). Comments to videos where largely constructive, and supportive. Negative comments where the exception to the rule.
As reports of viral phenomenons, and “millions of views”, hit the TV news (the famous youtuber phenomenon), youtube started becoming popular. With this popularity everyone joined and the crowd became more hostile. Comments turned into death threats, homophobia, and racism. The cultural relevance of youtube (with a few exceptions) largely disappeared. I think this is where the innovation dies.
So this is how web design is today. It’s a large market, and everyone is terrified of stepping out of line. Conservative UX is king (unfortunately because I don’t think people preaching it really know what it means). There is no more innovation, or experimental, to be had from websites. There is a strict rulebook you must follow, if you step out of line then you risk being threatened by google. I’m pretty beat trying to fight it. If it’s not hack attempts, then I have to deal with emails from google about x, y, or z impacting my search engine ranking (if I don’t fix it, they will do whatever). I find it interesting that they are no longer about search, but more about dictating their own standards (pushing their own vision on everyone).
For someone making experimental art sites, and trying their best to create their own platform for games (my own internet here), this is making it impossible. It’s one thing that people preach these standards, it’s another when you have a unique breed of internet police enforcing it.
So here’s one thing… I love javascript, css, html, but I also love Flash. It is my firm belief that you need both. Flash is lightyears ahead of HTML5, and I don’t think HTML5 (whatever version) will ever catch up, because of companies like Google, Apple, whatever list, enforcing their own agendas.
For example, currently the web is being held sort of hostage by the mobile browser. Apple has no interest in improving many of the problems it has (these mainly impact making games geared toward the mobile browser, but the same “needs” games have experimental websites have too). They want the phone to be used for Apps. If you have something that needs a lot of media, you make an app. They make money off this model, and if the browser where any better it would cut into apps. This isn’t going to change.
HTML5 has many restrictions that make “stepping outside it’s comfort zone” impossible. I can’t make the type of games I want to make with JavaScript. Not by a long shot. I can make certain games with it, but there is consistently a “critical mass” these project reach where things will simply not work, and I must consider another platform (like Flash) to do what I want.
The other problem is that you still must make custom exceptions/fixes for each browser. This is intrinsic to HTML (consider it a “native” feature :) ), and hasn’t changed since ever. So I find myself patching for each browser. This is all fine if you have your typical website, but if you’re making a game… Nevermind, I could go on and on about pitfalls. People say this will change, but saying this to someone that’s been with the web since ever, and knows the nature of HTML and how these companies “enforce” standards, is dismissive of the problem. This will not change. It’s the same “browser wars” under a different name.
So, back to my point, websites (web) has reached a point of stagnation. We are all OK with duplicates, and clones, and the same fluid layout you’ve seen over and over and over and can’t tell one from the other.
As we remove plugins we also remove the vision of the future they where created to enable. We remove the ability to circumvent the limitations of standards (javascript, css, html), and give our standards something to aspire to. We also remove choice, freedom for developers to experiment, and create an environment of uniformity, where we are perfecting what we have but not doing anything new.
Doing this for reasons of security, performance, or “battery life” is simply ridiculous if you take into account all the performance flaws, and security issues just javascript has. It’s not an honest reason for doing this.
So, now I am here, today, looking at the web, and the crap I have to deal with just to keep my stuff/vision/dreams running in the browser, not getting banned, blacklisted, removed, blocked, hacked, or hated… and I’m wondering what I’m even doing with my life.
It’s an interesting point to make, but the sexism, and abusive work environments I’ve had to face (unfortunate result of my gender) have me reconsidering life decisions.
There’s simply a breaking point where the crap you deal with outweighs the passion. I find it almost comedic that just when I got to a place where I don’t have to deal with sexism (it’s a dream come true), I now have to deal with technology elitism.
I use Flash, a lot, it’s no secret, but now my skill level is stigmatized by that. It doesn’t matter that I’m equally as good with JavaScript (or a lot of other stuff), it just matters that I have a history with Flash. Enter your typical prejudice.
Media have done themselves a massive discredit by all the blatant demonization of the platform. The narrative here is simply manipulative. A lot of it has left me scratching my head wondering where they even get this information from. Probably each-other, but tech news has largely changed too. I remember it being full of enthusiasm about the future.
I think, as a result of the internet now being a standard, it’s no longer some “basement geek” passion thing, it’s a platform to make money. So you need doomsday stories, and common enemies (like Flash). Now a lot of gossip columnists (or any other typical writer) is writing about tech without really knowing anything about it. The lack of research here is astounding. They basically use each-others articles as reference, and weave their own reality based on popular narrative (not actual reality).
Nevertheless, I digress. The point I’m making here is that websites are dead. I’m facing the impending reality that, no mater what tech I use (Flash or JS), it’s going to become impossible to make the over-the-top rich experiences I love (and used to dream of) making. It’s very hard to hold out in the current environment.
The point here…
Indiegames, altgames, and the experimental game scene, is very similar to how experimental web used to be.
It reminds me a lot of it, and gives me much hope for the future. In many ways I find it much more supportive of art, and experimental, than the web was, because a lot of people there are very passionate about being inclusive and fixing the problems. I’ve dealt with a lot of sexism in the past, questioned my own humanity as a result, and all the other stuff resulting from “being handicapped” by outward appearances. It’s been all too often heartbreaking. So, here I find an environment where so many people are aware of problems like this, and even openly discuss fixing it. It’s in popular dialogue.
On the other hand, I also see it predisposed to a lot of the problems experimental web had that inevitably killed the creativity there. Like over-emphasis of standards (best practices, do’s, don’ts, “this is not a game!” arguments)… I could probably sit down and make a list, but that is beside the point. Many people are making lists, and I think this is where the hope for the future lies. The fact people care enough to keep art relevant here, and that so many people are willing to listen. There is a discussion here the web never had. Maybe it’s because the web always had too much money involved for its own good. When there’s money, there’s an industry, and art inevitably disappears from the picture.
I wish I had a crystal ball, and could accurately predict how things turn out. I’m not very optimistic. Part of me sees games (or anything like this) turning into a stagnant pile of repetition and money making success stories. Then again, I also know that, as long as there are artists too stubborn to quit, that will not happen.
At any rate… I’m very happy to be able to be part of this a little longer, and keep telling myself I’ll hold out as long as I can. Even if somedays I just want to quit and never touch another computer ever again. It’s utterly exhausting to deal with so much of the crap that gets thrown at you.
So I’ll hold out as long as I can! :)

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