Last weekend was my first time to attend the Nordlicht demoparty, which was also my first visit to a demoparty at all (“demo” as in demoscene).
I had sporadic contact to demos before—sometimes youtube suggested me some recordings of demos, sometimes Rene blogged some on nerdcore, and I even knew some people who attended this very party before. But I never had contact to “the scene” itself before, and was intrigued what it may looked like on one of those events. Since I knew a few folks going there, and is right nearby, I wanted to go there for some years now. But being who I am, I always forgot it or didn’t make it for some other reason. This time though I got reminded by accident, and I still had nothing planned for that weekend. Yay!
I quickly checked out their website and was a little confused by what I saw first:
Yes, those are obviously varicoloured tomatoes hopping on towards the event. Okay then.
I read a little about the competitions (the “compos”) and what to bring to the event. I found out that they reserved a little green spot for camping outside the location as well, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to test my upgraded camping gear I got in preparation for this year’s camp, the SHA2017. Perfect!
I quickly bought a ticket and made my plans. I turned up some time after the opening event, because I was still working then and 14:00 is a little early to be honest. But since everything was naturally delayed, and nothing too special happened until the evening, that was totally fine.
The location in the Lichthaus Bremen (the “house of light”) consisted mainly of one bigger hall with an entry area, an improvised sleeping area upstairs, and a really tiny room even further upstairs, which was reserved for some seminar sessions. Outside, beneath the small camping area, there was a party tent and some space for preparing and eating food, and a charcoal barbecue.
The main hall was big enough for ~50 people, about the amount of people attending, to sit in front of the stage and to program/game in the dedicated hacking area, where they would also set up their ancient hardware. People brought their C64s, their Amigas (“Amiiigaaaa!”) and their Ataris to finish their compo entries last minute, or just to play games with each other. For multiple reasons, this was not your typical nerd crowd:
- They all were occupied with their machines without the on-site internet working yet(!)
- They can drink very many alcohols without making fools of themselves
- They were a little insensitive when taking fotos (no asking if it was okay beforehand, generally not much caring about that)
You could summarize it as a party of people who happen to like programming graphic animations or sound, while showing each other their latest achievements on screen in little competitions. And those were quite impressive, I must say. Not only the oldschool and newschool demos were awesome, but also the music or graphics compos blew me away. The “executable music” entries were especially dope, in my opinion.
There are also compos that were more “beginner friendly”, e.g. for photos or ASCII/ANSI art. If I read more about the compos beforehand, I probably would have prepared an entry or two. There was also the possibility to submit remote entries for some compos, so you didn’t have to be there by all means. But the livestream can hardly transmit what’s happening on site.
Anyways, the atmosphere was awesome. This was one of the most inclusive crowd I met so far. If they’d even let you get away without speaking to you first, you could easily ask anyone what they were doing there, what their background is, and what compos they’re preparing for. Especially newbies like me were welcomed pretty well.
I also had the time to attend some of the seminar sessions on saturday, which were held by SvOlli. He introduced us to the Atari 2600 and how to program on it, and also provided us a simple framework for writing demos, some slides (you should totally theck out his ultimate Atari 2600 talk from 28C3) and example demos. Since it was an introduction, the original hardware was not required, but we used Stella instead to emulate our demos. Stella also happens to feature very useful tools for debugging. He published his materials among others on his website.
I didn’t come very far though with a short introduction, I always prefer isolating myself for a while to dig in the documentation and examples to figure out where to begin. I also missed the middle session so I could listen to the music compos. Maybe I’ll figure the proper programming out until next year and could present even a little demo in a compo, or so :)
After the barbecue and the big demos everyone waited for, Dojoe played a drum and bass set that completely destroyed me that evening. So I ended up happy and exhausted in my tent in the night.
The last day was mostly for prize-giving, for which the orga team had prepared some silly prizes in form of bronze, silver and golden tomatoes. After that, everyone slowly went to box their hardware again end eventually left, after a big round of goodbyes.
Well, I’m not good and that. So after I figured out how to fold my tent again, I just left and took the train home. I hope this post can express my appreciation for this event, and for treating newbies as “one of them”. I really enjoyed this weekend, and I will come again.