The Inevitable “What's Wrong With the NES Scene” Article

Author: Mike Craig

I have no complaints about the NES web scene.

I begin my article with that statement because it seems to me that everybody is bothered by one facet of the scene or another. If I had to choose one thing about which to complain, it would likely be how infrequently some of my favorite sites are updated -- but I can hardly chastise anyone for doing what they want/need, so I do not feel I have any gripes that merit being written into an article. Outside of that one reality, I have far more concerns than complaints -- the difference being that complaints exist entirely around trends, whereas concerns are outgrowths of them, dealing primarily with the future (ahh... the pretentiously semantic lengths to which I will go to make myself seem lofty.) I do not feel we are in any immediate danger of plunging into chaos, nor do I worry much about our lack of a gathering place.

Granted, the rationale behind my latter statement could be a by-product of my predisposition to avoid large groups (with the exception of football games.) I never went to #nes98, so I can obviously not miss whatever it is that used to transpire there. Likewise, I am not one of the original (early 1997 and before, to may way of thinking) members of this scene. I showed up before new sites began coming out in droves, but well after the scene had flowered beyond NES World, NES Nation, and |tsr’s NES Archive. As a result, I never earnestly visited those sites; and, excluding |tsr, I cannot say that I’m much better about it now.

The purpose of that little narrative is to indicate that I am not bothered by the fact that our scene no longer has one central site -- one bull’s-eye around which everything else circles. In fact, what concerns me is precisely that bull’s-eye mentality. Its potency, however, was for a long time unclear to me. I assumed well into this year that I was going along pleasantly enough, interfacing with my fellow NES webmasters and making an adequate contribution to the scene. Then, “it” happened.

“It”, of course, was the ruination of Octopooki had offered more space than he was authorized to (I do not remember if this is exactly how the event was related to me), and as a result some obscure higher authority decimated his server, taking with it the Nintendo Review Archive and Spazzoid’s NES Stuff -- two of the community’s more prominent sites.

I spent approximately a month-and-a-half waiting for that “Not Found” message to go away; and it finally did, though it only gave way to a standard 404 message stating that Octo’s personalized 404 message could not be processed. After that vigil, though, I accepted reality, leaving myself with only Loogaroo’s NES Lair and the Classic Review Archive to visit regularly. Those two sites comprised most of my surfing for the next month or so, but then it occurred to me that, during the last days of the NRA and SNS, I had spent about three months waiting for them to be updated, checking very little else.

All in all, I have a noticeable anti-establishment viewpoint -- at least, that’s what I say when I don’t want people to know my actual, if admittedly incongruous, political sympathies: “bitter” and “indifferent.” So in all frankness, the fact that NES World has now taken on the role of “just another site” tickles me. Still, there are many who want something to assume that central position, so as to assure that we will have a focal point. The problem I see with that focal point, though, is that by staring intently at it we never see the people behind us. Many of the spots near the center of our proverbial board have been vacated, but in the back several layers have been filled in.

I was introduced to those layers by a fellow named Quizzle -- that is, by his links section. It propounded to me an entirely new generation of preservationist sites, to some of which I have since linked. But Quizzle’s links section no longer exists, unfortunately -- nor, for that matter, does his site and its characteristic warmth. Quiz has moved on to aid in the resurrection of NES Nation; and I am happy for him, although I would have preferred that he continue with his original project.* Nonetheless, the days of three central locations and a horde of vassal sites have come seemingly to an end. I seriously doubt that this NES Nation will become the core of modern-day preservationism -- in fact, all due esteem to Quizzle, but I hope it doesn’t.

The time, I suspect, has come for a new, vaguely utopian sun to rise on the NES scene (this is the part where I sound like a revolutionary political theorist, but without the recognition of government.) But in order to bring this era to its fullest potential, we must acknowledge the many new sites that have come and are coming into our lot. This, therefore, is my salient fear -- that those of us who are somewhat influential will continue investing most of our time in staring at the ruins of the scene’s old castle -- in which levels of importance were conspicuous and firmly upheld -- and fail to utilize our now evenly distributed importance to build the all-encompassing pavilion I suspect is the wave of our future.

Will this pseudo-Camelot fall apart as did the original? I don’t know. It should be noted, however, that we are not a government, and aren’t responsible for distributing natural resources amongst ourselves -- so, at the very least, we do not have that onus to drag us down. The central beacon of what lies ahead for us will, I firmly believe, not be any single site, but the idea of our community. And all we who have been around a while have to do is give the newcomers a chance.

Now, just to toss a practical consideration into the pot, I am not asking that every NES webmaster go out and link to every site he/she can find. Gigantic links archives usually just abet indecisiveness. If we each simply stick to our own tastes, and give a fair assessment to those who request that we link to them, I think everything will be covered (and if not, we can all use Big Stu’s links page.)

I worry that we will spend too much time rigidly adhering to old favorites, when a potential new one is no more than a click away. I worry that hostility will divide us, and, to cite a specific case, prevent us from realizing that “plagiarism is the highest [if not perhaps the most just] form of flattery.” I worry that we will let criticism become judgment. I worry that even if we build this pavilion we will not undertake to expand it. I worry that we will fail to realize the difference between gathering and community -- that we will consider it better to be irritable at a large party than to be content in a two-person conversation. And yet I can’t help but think, perhaps a tad idealistically, that we can eliminate those possibilites quite deftly -- by greeting one another “with a glass raised to toast [our] health, and a promise to share the wealth [if not necessarily in the monetary sense.]” (from A Muppet Christmas Carol.)

That is not altruism, nor is it strict etiquette. Altruism involves having no self-interest but altruism itself, and etiquette is the threshold over which grace becomes nit-picking. What I propose is simple kindness -- something very much in the self-interest of the NES scene. Likewise, I am not exhorting people to be nice all the time. Sarcasm can be quite cordial if one accords it that right. Pleasant honesty with one another, appreciation of that honesty, and acceptance of those who want to create new sites, is my hope.

All the same... if you’re still out there, Cord, it’d be nice to have you back.

* Literally seconds before I had fixed to post this, Quiz informed me that he had elected to leave the new Nation. However, if only to produce an effect, I have decided to leave these statements unchanged. They were true for me until five minutes ago.

[Ed. Note: I do not claim to uphold perfectly all the ideals I am suggesting here. If I did, they wouldn't be ideals.]

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