The Froge Anniversary
Where it is said that great men do, and the rest of us think, I have done more during the past year than most people do in their entire lives, and with this small sampling of the human experience, it is fair to say I have earned my right to live.
I had started Froghand with the expectations and the desire to become popular beyond my wildest dreams; as this did not happen, I was forced to refine my craft into the wonderful 10kB. At the same time, I had launched The Degenerates, an artist’s collective and copyright abolitionist… the extremely hostile reception, from the artists who I most loved, left me to leave it dormant, and made me reconsider how much respect I may give them. You are now seeing the third installment, what I may call the best, being Kratzen. This, my friends, is the blog I have wanted ever since that May 20.
My job is coming up with a thousand ideas a year, and I have come close to fulfilling this quota. In Froghand, I had started off with Web security, then moved onto a smattering of Web culture, artistic reviews, and my famous opinions, especially The Industrial Steamworks — an article so controversial I was banned from three different subreddits, including the PC Master Race one. In 10kB, I cut my teeth, talking about the art I enjoyed most, while not losing the delicate touch of my beloved stories. And now with Kratzen, I have taken my writing more seriously than ever before.
I cannot remember what happened to me last week, let alone last year. My memory is a toolbox: if the knowledge is not useful, I forget it. To talk about the history of me is to talk about the history as I believe it to be, and not how it actually is. Being my only keeper, it is inconvenient that I had such a deletionist philosophy, so that nobody may learn from who I was when I was younger. I am sorry for that. But I will try to recount how we got here.
The abridged history of Froge
In the beginning of 2016, I was aimless. I spent my days on YouTube watching speedruns and playing video games. I knew nothing of what I would like to be, for I had batted around in my head the idea of being a critic, a writer, an artist, or a programmer… in all of these things, I have always wanted to follow my greatest passion, being video games. They are beautiful in their own way, where all other forms of art are limited to what they are constructed in. Games are, simply, the most free. With this freedom comes the hardest work you will ever do in your life. I had learned this when I made one.
The simple story of an alien Queen driving back home against human oppressors, with only a spaceship and the conversations of her wife, an engineer, and a captain providing the story. It was the perfect game for a first – timer: a story based entirely through dialogue, gameplay which was Asteroids up to eleven, crude art and even cruder sound design, and total obscurity. I had been called by the writer of Subnormality — and if you read Subnormality, you would know that Winston is one of our great writers — as having writing which, he says, “was a hell of a lot more articulate than I was at that age”. I had sent it to several other friends, and more objectively, unknown artists who I wished to collaborate with… I had received universal praise, aside from the controls, which I admit are kind of a pisser.
I had already known my writing was decent, the gameplay was functional, and the art style was crude. I agree there were things I could have done better, though I had spent six weeks, ten hours a day, creating the product, and to even come up with the five levels that I did was a small miracle. I did not expect these issues to be impediments for being rejected from Good Old Games and getting no anonymous downloads on Itch.io. I was like Icarus: I had neither set my sights too low, nor too high, and I had made a product that I could be proud of, but only seen by two – dozen people.
To this day I consider whether or not it was as good as I expected it to be, a fear that is alleviated by my keeping of all the source code and all the versions, thank Chaos I wasn’t so neurotic as to get rid of my pride and joy. But it is made with — what else? — Game Maker Studio, a proprietary embarrassment. I’d have to get a baby box, a Windows computer segregated from the big boy Linux boxes, to play it. I am now playing around with Superpowers, a promising little engine that, I will be honest, makes me wish there was a free software engine as friendly as Game Maker. Really now, Superpowers? Typescript?
You see, there are people who pour their heart and soul into something, see that it doesn’t work out for them, just isn’t good enough for the world, and give up out of misery. I am that person, who acts like all I do is the most important thing in the world, because for some anonymous, silent fan out there, it is. The difference between me and the rest of the world is that, upon failing, I try again. I try, and I treat each and all that I do as an experiment, so that should it fail, I will at least have learned more than those who refuse to try.
The further history of Froge
It is only after this project, a failure by an objective account, though the most important learning experience I’ve been through, that I started to develop writing. I had started with a Blogspot discussing typically inspiration things and snippets of knowledge. You know, like Seth Godin does, only with a design I could be proud to put my name on. I had not gotten more than 50 views a day, and so I decided that, for all the interesting things I had written on it, to move on. I had eventually deleted it. None of those writings survive. I am sorry for being so selfish.
There were silly things I had made along the way… a Tumblr as an extension of the blog, though a dry well. A Twitter, too, also dry. But along the way I had developed an appreciation for classic art, such as the Picasso Bull, and the now – legendary Van Gogh Skull, which I put next to my alarm clock as a reminder of what’s to come. I am still not interested in the pretention of modern art, where success is a function of branding and storytelling, as opposed to any actual artistic skill. But I know good art when I see it, and the previous two examples are good art.
There was an awkward transition period after I abandoned the blog where I happened to be nothing at all. My remaining written work was what I had attempted to freelance, and failed due to no websites accepting submissions, or otherwise my not hearing back from them. I look back on this work, and I understand it is not terrible, though it holds no quarter against what I develop now. But I still knew, thanks to Van Gogh reminding me of such, that I will die. And I would rather be remembered for what I did with my life than to die alone with the billions who are forgotten.
I had deleted every online account I ever had, for they were but distractions, and furthermore were cluttering up my password manager. Then I changed my password manager. Lastpass, mate? Why would I ever use a system where I store all my passwords online? In fact, why even store passwords at all? Anyway, Master Password is a good system, one I wrote about. Riding the rainbow of my newfound liberation, I had decided, once again, to get back in the saddle, start up something I can be proud of, and write like I always wanted to: mostly like Yahtzee Croshaw. I mean, it worked.
I had looked for a blog provider which I knew would not burden my blog with advertising, or require any sort of fees. Naïve as I was to believe such a thing existed, even more naïve were the founders of Neocities to create such a thing, those bloody nutters, them. Neocities, despite still being obscure, despite having no ambition to advertise and become as deservedly popular as it should be, is still good to me. It is a dry well for popularity, but it is an extraordinary service provider. I am indebted to it, often forcibly. And on Neocities, I had spent two weeks of so crafting Froghand before it went live. As you can see, I have found it to be the key turning point in my life, a project, without which, I would be a far worse man.
Artists: I want you to get this into your head, and keep it buried in there for the rest of your life. Kill the perfectionist. For being perfect breeds fear, for when you don’t have it, you feel like a failure, and when you do have it, it is an illusion, for you will always, always have made some stupid mistake which you will beat yourself up over. As the same Yahtzee said, “the worst thing you can do to an artist is tell them their work is perfect when it isn’t.” I agree with everything except the last three words: your work will never be perfect, and anybody who tells you such is damaging you as a person.
When I was an amateur, I never published my work, for I never thought it was good enough to be published. I thought that nobody would care about the characters I created, would see past my stilted prose, or think that I had made, most of all, a story somebody would like to read. I was embarrassed. In this attitude, I was also embarrassing. Now I am a professional, as I have gone through my artistic puberty with the antics of Froghand, and now I understand this simple philosophy: good work is good enough, and though it isn’t as fantastic as “fantastic,” among friends, good is all you need.
I am almost done my month – long sabbatical. When I come back, I expect to see at least one new game that changes my life. And if I don’t… well, then it’ll be just like old times, won’t it?