This post is for those of you who feel new to this site, who want to get your music in games other than Geometry Dash, or films or animation shorts, and are struggling because nobody would listen to a new musician on the site. I am writing to tell you that I empathise with all of you, and I am writing this as a means of hopefully exorcising this demon forever. I hope that, if you've felt similar to me, you can share what you feel in the comments section below and we might find a way to turn things around together.
I am not going to name any names because I don't think this concerns them -- though perhaps, they may have their own stories to tell if they should ever see this post, and perhaps they may be forthcoming about their experience. This post is uniquely about my experience, my thoughts and feelings, the processes that went into these thoughts, and feelings, and tracks. I doubt that this post alone will resolve things, personally; however, I still think that it's about high time I wrote this and made it all known.
Talking with a good friend on Discord brought all these memories up.
2012 has not exactly been a good year for me creatively, or at least, I don't consider it such. Not only did I have the trauma of this game, but also the first release of Mio/Homura to deal with. The latter, however, got exorcised in 2017 when I finally gave people what for with this track.
As for the former, I thought I'd let it go.
Well, evidently, I haven't, if I've felt the need to write a whole fucking post about it.
Back in the days of Flash gaming on Newgrounds, there used to be game jams hosted by Newgrounds proper, and they'd have themes and all sorts to them. You got into teams and created short games within a short amount of time -- if I recall correctly, Newgrounds Game Jam 7, which is the specific one I'm talking about, took place in the summer of 2012 and participants had one week to form teams, come up with a game and assets and all sorts based on the given theme. Game Jam 7 had us all working on a Core Mechanics Diagram; you can find the archive of all entries here.
Having one's music in a film or a game was still very much in the common consciousness of every Newgrounds musician back then; I'd been on Newgrounds for a year now and I wanted to immerse myself in what was going on on the site. One of the ways to do it, I surmised, would be to take part in this game jam. I'd written various instrumental pieces of music meant for video games; I believed I could do the same here.
Like any other musician eager to participate, I put my name and availability down in the NG Newspost that was made. For the Newgrounds Game Jams, that NG Newspost entry served also as the classifieds; people looked for missing team members -- primarily artists or musicians -- and formed teams by sending people PMs.
I remember feeling very, very disheartened because...
Well, if you're a new user on Newgrounds who knows that you have something to give that others haven't, how do you prove it? You could have people listen to your stuff, but most wouldn't. They see the signup date and think, "oh this person must be a fucking noob." As I mentioned in my Grounds Patrol interview, the whole "there are no girls on the internet" culture was so strong that I would likely have been assumed to be a he, and a fucking noob.
Eventually, I was on the verge of giving up but then the programmer of what would become the game, Dropping Loads in a Cave, decided to give me a chance. The painful thing to note, however, is that with game jams, it's the luck of the draw as to whether you'll get a decent team on your side; every programmer who has taken part in these knows this all too well. But if a programmer thinks it's bad, oho... for an artist or a musician, it's a hell of a lot worse.
Dropping Loads would be my first ever game on Newgrounds. And the thing about game jams, and games in general, is that the primary quality on which a game is judged is not its art, or its music, or its feel, or its story. It's how the game itself is. I think that's fair enough; that's the whole point of quality control over games on Newgrounds, the whole Under Judgment system, and the various competitions for game developers. Now, Dropping Loads had no bugs. It was one of a select few games in that entire competition that had no bugs. The programming was excellent. But to many who played it, it felt middling at best.
And you see, as a musician, it's a fucking kick in the teeth.
Because if it's your first ever title, you're bound to pour all your love into the soundtrack for it. You're bound to want to make it the best it can ever be. You hope, you hope that the music that you make might positively influence the quality of the game. But everything apart from that is completely out of your control. And the fact that I had to practically beg for someone to finally give me a chance at scoring a track makes it even worse. I felt very bitter then, and I feel bitter now, for the exact same reasons.
You always, always remember your first time doing anything. Your first gig. Your first crush. Your first love. Your first job. Your first house. And, in this case, your first game.
Having looked back at it, and knowing what I had to go through only for very few people, if anyone, to care in the end, I'm tempted. I'm tempted to take EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE of these tracks and fucking delete them and never have them seen again. You always remember your first game score, and I will always remember mine, because of how bitter and upset the experience has made me feel, not just then but also over the years.
But I can't. Because apart from the game, this soundtrack as it exists on Bandcamp and Newgrounds is the only record that I even made any of these tracks, and the only record that on my first game title ever, I was able to deliver.
Here, I even mouse-drew an image for myself on MS Paint and PowerPoint back in the day just because if no one else could be proud of that fact, I thought I needed to be.
But who am I kidding? What does it matter if I was able to deliver or not?
Today I am able to do many things which very many people in 2011, 2012, 2013 have pooh-poohed me over. I have to acknowledge how far I've come. In my last newspost I mentioned that while I had previously thought that the definitive version of Mio/Homura was my magnum opus, I've since composed something that completely blew that piece out of the water, simply because I believed I could. And if ARM Circle, my doujin circle, is ever thinking of making games -- think along the lines of RPG Maker stuff, or visual novels -- I'd happily oblige, and I know that that door is open.
It's not something I would actively pursue, but then I ask myself some blistering questions:
- How much of it is down to the current climate surrounding game development, Flash, monetisation and all that stuff?
- How much of it is really down to that traumatic experience I had back in 2012?
Because you may not think much about experiences such as this now, but I'm sure some of you will relate to me when I say that anything that has made you doubt your self-worth, anything that has dealt a crushing blow to anyone's belief in your abilities and skills, is traumatic. I've written enough in past newsposts about similar things dealt to me by people around me, especially those closest to home.
With the impending death of Flash and everyone's desperation to move onto other development platforms, many beautiful game ideas have been relegated to the ash-heap. Bet many of you will also relate to that too. Some of us hold out the hope that an indie gaming spring might happen again, and so we play the long game... or like to think that we are.
As musicians, we help with immersion. We help someone feel well at home in anything for which the music is played. If it's a game, we help them get into the game. If it's a visual novel, we help them feel the story. If it's an album or a live performance, we try to give listeners the experience of their lives. I don't doubt that every musician on NG is acutely aware of this fact. So, for a musician to be disbelieved and then forgotten when they're doing their damnedest to be heard is an insult to their very purpose, I think.
And the biggest kick in the teeth is: when that happens, it doesn't fucking matter whether a musician can deliver or not. IT. FUCKING. DOESN'T. And it serves no one any good to just pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen, that this sort of trauma doesn't occur.