Today’s art is brought to you by Alec8ter! And no–one else. I gotta hand it to Alec8ter for their comical “art rules,” as if art was something that was bound by rules and not the neverending river that is culture. Well, whatever. Freedom is being free to ignore good rules and make bad decisions, and to ignore bad rules and make good decisions. Pirates like us do the latter… most of the time.
Well, I’m just going to make this quick, lest this turn into another Undertale situation. Have I played Night in the Woods? No. Do I know a single thing about it? Absolutely not. What I do know is that it’s showing dangerous signs of actually mattering, in that Hotline Miami way of slowly dripping into the cracks of culture, before one Halloween you find yourself unironically listening to Outrun, your outfit being your old Varsity jacket, with the middle schoolers at your door wearing gory animal masks.
This time with Night in the Woods, I’m expecting a combination of coy self–depreciation in that Bojack Horseman way, followed by a renewed interest in weird furries, crayon–coloured art, and cigarettes. One day you’re behind the vehicle of a large automobile, and the next day you’re thinking about how you got here. Well? How did you get here? Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…
Seth Godin just made a blog post about how real changes occur as a result of a small, steady output of hard work, combined with thunderclaps of massive action, a bit like Nintendo existing for a hundred years before they single–handedly created the video game market, causing a huge kerfuffle every few years. Well, Night in the Woods hasn’t had that thunderclap yet, and with a game that’s caught the eye of more than a few subcultures, It’s not a matter of if it will occur, but when. We have to remember Five Nights at Freddy’s was obscure for a couple of weeks before it became fucking massive.
I get the haunting feeling that games like this one which appeals to a very specific, though sizable, demographic of counter–culture youngsters will be a dead breed by 2020. During the 2010’s we had a massive output of QQQUIRKY games that just created cultural noise and made Let’s Plays the butt of a billion jokes. Now during the 2015’s we have slightly less “quirky” and more “too clever for its own good”, with games like Undertale trying to be deliberately subversive and instead coming across as trying too hard to be hip, which will be especially funny in a decade when it’s but a memory like Earthbound is now.
But I’m not seeing that particular type of awkwardness when it comes to the fan output of what I will now call NITW because ain’t nobody got time for all dat typing, where the original artwork that Undertale fans made was traditional in that it showed more imagination than 90% of mainstream sources and yet was still a cut below what could actually be done with the medium of digital art, and yet the work from NITW fans appear to me as consistently unique and attractive, at least before it becomes saturated by this year’s end like Undertale’s was, tee–hee–hee.
It’s impossible for me to judge NITW because of me not knowing anything about it, but what I can only assume is that there are two lesbians, their relationship isn’t token, that it has something to do with the miserable place that is [your city], and that nobody has threatened to parachute to where I live and beat the shit out of me with an oversized door handle unless I play it. These are all very good signs.
And it’s despite all of this that I still feel some unknown feeling towards this game. It’s a combination of several, with some focus I can identify as equal parts jealousy and hopelessly. Jealousy that for what appears to me as a simple game in both construction and aesthetics, it did not come out sooner, and I did not make it. Hopeless that for a game that I expect will have a great impact on a great deal of lives, it is still under the burden of copyright.
“Froge, you anarchist cult–leader son–of–a–bitch,” you continue to libel without saying a single true adjective, “isn’t it good enough that people are enjoying something without you putting your free culture bent on it?”
Well, the funny thing about copyright is that it was designed specifically to prevent people from enjoying things. All the fan art out there is of dubious legality, and anything that uses the original game’s assets is definitely illegal. And it’s a shame. It’s unjust. It’s an injustice that something that respectfully appears on my radar and leaves an impression on me without feeling any animosity towards it at all is something that deserves, most of all, to belong to the fans who are creating its legacy in the world.
The art style is beautiful, and fans can’t dissect it and see how it was made, because it’s not open–source. It’s a simple game, and aspiring game developers can’t see how it’s made, because it’s not free software. It has an air of respect that will never be imbued in anything else, because it’s held under copyright, and nobody may use it. Copyright kills culture, and that’s why I feel no hope for the future of this developer.
Anybody who makes work so impactful, like Undertale or FNAF or any of Nintendo’s games, and refuses to release the work to the culture that it impacted, is selfish. Those who follow copyright are, simply, selfish and bitter and deserve no respect for them keeping their work hostage from the world. It takes the power away from the fans who inscribe the work in legend, and puts it in the hands of individuals whose goal is to exploit that power as much as possible. It’s a manipulative system, and the only cure for it is abolition.
So if I do end up playing NITW, which I will when they invent the eight–day work week, it will be given to me by a friend of a friend of a friend who uploaded it on Pirate Bay. I have no qualms about paying a little extra for a game on GOG; it’s how I pick up games with Linux ports. But when it comes to developers who don’t respect freedom, which also includes developers that don’t port to Linux, I feel no qualms about not patronising them, because they have proven they don’t deserve my patronage.
Night in the Woods is available for Linux… but it’s not free. And unless a snowball drops down into Hell, it won’t be. What a shame. It’s telling how the only way to be free is to break the law and be a pirate, but then there’s no difference between what’s right and what’s legal.
Date: 2017–03–06. Size: 9,538 bytes. Colours: 2.
Upscaled Dimensions: 734×1306. Original Dimensions: 367×653.