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Team Spirit: Sceners Poll
by DJ Gruby/Oxyron

What does team spirit mean to you?

In the old "good" days of the C64 scene one of the most popular buzzwords you could spot almost everywhere, especially while reading disk magazines or browsing swapping advertisements, was "friendship". We all surely remember that. How have things changed since then? How has friendship evolved during all those years and what is it now? What is left from the old good buzzword? I still ask myself these few questions.

No doubt friendship was/is just a buzzword, and I was trying hard to figure out what could it mean now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, then I realized that nowadays a fleeting vision of friendship is most tightly connected with the team/group spirit. That is why within this article I am going on a journey in search of the group spirit. In particular, I am searching for it in the context of a demoscene group. Will I find what I am looking for? Will I get the answers to my questions? Has team spirit any meaning to group members nowadays? What about their leaders? What does it mean to be a member of a particular group? How is team spirit managed within different groups? Who gets involved in the process of taking care about it? What does being a member or a leader of a demoscene group mean personally to people? Are they just a bunch of guys centered around building new releases and nothing else? Or is there maybe something more?

These are not the questions that could have been easily answered without further investigation. That is why I asked a bunch of active sceners about their feelings on the topic of team spirit. I have received the number of responses to my questions that truly exceeded my rational expectations, and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who participated in this opinion poll and agreed upon sharing their thoughts with me. As we might have expected, there are different approaches to manage group spirit by C64 sceners, however we may still find some similarities, which I am trying to summarize at the end of this article. Here you can read the answers to the questions presented earlier in this chapter, which all can be shortened into this one sentence... "What does team spirit mean to you?"

ARSENIC + OXYRON

Speaker: Yazoo/Arsenic/Oxyron

I can just talk for myself, however I think the team spirit is one of the most important things which we have in Arsenic, like in many other demo groups. Without a good team spirit it's hard to get a big project done, because if everyone would just fight for himself, he could hardly make any compromises for demos, or work close together with the other team members. Also it's quite motivating to work for a big competition together with people, which you like and want to win together with them as a team. What has helped a lot is the fact that the initial Arsenic members lived close together, and had the chance to meet every now and then during the last couple of years. Maybe I should explain that Arsenic was formed in 1996 by Oxyron members (Axis and me) to create demos on the Amiga. We have released two demos ("Death Greedy" and "Fear Factory") in 1996 and 1997 - and an invitation for the Silicon Vention party. In 1997 we even made the 2nd place at the big Mekka & Symposium party in Fallingbostel. Then the group became inactive and was lost in space.

Back in 2007 Axis and me decided to return to the scene after a long time of inactivity. We just found out that Oxyron became 15 years old and organized a party here in Northern Germany. That party motivated ourselves to become active for real again, and when I found out that Arsenic was added to CSDb (which was quite strange, because Arsenic was not a C64 group), we decided to use Arsenic as some kind of a sublabel of Oxyron. The reason was quite simple... Graham and some other Oxyron members have raised the quality of OXY-releases quite much during the past years, and Axis and me didn't want to destroy the good reputation, just because we first would have to reach a higher skill-level ourselves. Also Graham, who knew how the modern scene worked, told us... don't make this, and don't do that (for example, don't make a "sad end part", because people don't like it... don't use too many logos in demo parts like in the past, because that became uncool, and so on...). He was right, but we didn't know shit, and just wanted to start with something without pressure and also experiment with stuff.

I also talked to you Gruby (at Breakpoint 2007) about coding demo parts and so on. As far as I remember you said that your code would not be good enough to be released under the Oxyron label, and so I asked you to join Arsenic, so you could also just release stuff without that OXY-has-to-release-elite-stuff-pressure. I started to like that "no pressure" strategy more, and slowly more members had joined, like my girlfriend Sphinx. She just started with the pixelling, and that way had the chance to become good. Just think yourself - if I had asked her to join Oxyron, and she would have released her first pictures under the Oxyron label, she would probably get smashed by the CSDb comments, because people would have too high expectations and probably loose her motivation. By the way, I think she became quite good meanwhile. :)

By the way, meanwhile I don't see Arsenic as a sublabel of Oxyron anymore. In fact it became a real standalone group, and so I am a proud member of Arsenic and Oxyron at the same time.

That was the start of Arsenic. I had to make these long explanations, because the group's history may be important to know to just understand where the team spirit comes from. It's very nice to reach a higher level together with people, if you (re)start together from the bottom of the scene. It would be totally different to just join a group, which already has a great reputation. So a big part of the team's spirit is to see where we have started, and where are we now (remember demos like "Frighthof" and "Toxyc Taste", which in my opinion already have almost the same quality level as some Oxyron demos). Still it is not a problem to have a changing quality level and members with higher and lower skills combined in one team, which for me makes Arsenic a really great group. So, important in Arsenic are not the actual skills which someone has, important is that everyone in Arsenic give their very best and try to improve themselves to release awesome stuff now or in the future... show some potential, so to say.

Another very important point is that we try to organise meetings sometimes, just as the legendary Arsenic barbecue series at Mactron's place. which is perfect for this. At those events we mostly meet to have some party feeling, beer, loud music and demos on a big screen rather than just sit beside each other and tap on our machines. So liking each other and partying, and accepting differences in skills is what the Arsenic team spirit is built on. The group meanwhile became quite big, but we still try to organise those events and keep exactly that spirit. Also my girlfriend Sphinx created Arsenic T-shirts for almost all the members. Wearing the team's shirt together, and representing the team at scene parties also isn't too bad.

All of that above should answer your question, how the team spirit in Arsenic would be managed. You also asked me, what it means to me to be a leader/organizer/member of a demo group these days. At first it means some work. :) Because it seems often people forget to communicate with each other in a team. So I try to know what's going on in the group... Who is coding what kind of part, who is the right person to join the group, how are chances to have another meeting... And so on and so on. I also try to be one of the first to reply on forum posts in our internal forums, just to show that someone is always there who cares about stuff.

Talking for Oxyron, which is a much smaller group, it's still much more work than for Arsenic, because that group is the one with ambitions to make everything just as perfect as possible (often we fail, but we always try). So when we come to the final development phase, it means organising Skype events, send previews and reminder e-mails to other members, and try to know the answer to most questions which can pop up. For Arsenic it's much more relaxed.

So in the first place being an organizer is not just fun, or playing a big king who gives orders, but just work you don't get much fame for. But I believe that someone has to do the job. I always try to fulfill that position, however sometimes it doesn't work well, because I also have a real life, I am sometimes demotivated or simply busy myself with pixelling or learning how to code - because that is my main target - to become a better graphician myself and improve my skills for the whole teams, and also myself. The positive aspects in being a group organizer is that it gives me the possibility to influence stuff like who is going to join and who is not, and to be the part of the most important decisions, which can be quite satisfying. But as I have mentioned before: it is not about giving orders to others... We are all grown up adults, and everyone makes his own decisions. I can just try to influence things a little, and do my best for the whole group's success. In the end I am just a little part of the team. No more, and no less.

About your question, if we are just a bunch of people centered around building new releases and nothing else, I cannot give you a straight answer, so I will just talk for myself again. With some members I also meet for talking, concerts, beer, poker, barbecue - whatever. Some live more far away, but we keep sending mails to each other, which also contain more private informations, which don't just consist of scene bla bla, and there are also some members, where we just talk about scene stuff and releases, which is also okay. It's just like in the real life, I would say. We are actually 16 members in Arsenic, and 7 members in Oxyron (plus some inactive ones - some in both groups, but still many many different people) - so you cannot have the same kind of connection at the same time to all of them. But that's not something negative... At parties we meet, come up with a demo together, or drink beer - and I like them all. :)

With Axis (and sometimes Graham) I also met for having beers during all those years, when we were both out of the scene. We hardly ever talked about scene-stuff in that time.

Yazoo/Arsenic/Oxyron

AVATAR

Speaker: The Shadow/Avatar

Yes, team spirit does have great meaning to Avatar members. Team spirit has enabled Avatar to work on cracks with group effort. Between 4 to 8 members work together on a crack at a time. Making new games is also a group effort. New upcoming games from Avatar are being produced by almost all the members of Avatar. Future games from us will be dense with rich code, graphics and music.

What it means to be a member of Avatar can depend upon main focus of members. 1/3 of Avatar members focus on cracking and 2/3 of Avatar members focus on creating new games. Some of the members focus on cracks and games. We all love our focus. Leading a group has a very interesting parallel to business. If you can have a successful group in the Commodore 64 scene, you can have a successful professional business. You can improve your professional life by studying the ways of the scene.

Avatar members interact in more ways than just improving and creating new releases. Strong personal friendships have developed within our group. People meet, who may not have met otherwise. Not everyone has the opportunity to make it to copy parties in Europe. Would be nice, but vast land masses and oceans tend to be significant obstacles. ;)

The Shadow/Avatar

GENESIS PROJECT

Speaker: Hedning/Genesis Project

Team spirit is of course the glue that needs to be present in every group that strive for continuity - Genesis Project is no exception. The spirit in itself changes over time, and with the members, but there is a certain hard core spirit in G*P that I believe has been there since 1986. A member of G*P creates out of pleasure, not pressure; still the member needs to have a genuine feeling for the tradition as the way forward, and a natural curiosity, skill and will to create. There is no "management" forcing people to be in a certain way to uphold a written code of team spirit, but I believe the members have found and taken their places in the group by themselves - places are not given to anyone, because that would only feel forced. The only thing we really plan and deliver to nurture team spirit is parties, big ones like Datastorm, and smaller ones like Isterparty and Gubbdata. When it comes to who gets involved in the process of managing the team spirit it's up to the members that feel like organizing smaller internal meetings. Members that live close to each other tend to meet in person, often just to drink a beer, but also to work on productions. We do have an internal forum and IRC too, and the majority of the members use these channels to discuss productions and to get to know each other better. The structure of the group is quite organic, and as an organizer of G*P the work as a gardener fits pretty well - personally it means that I have the interest, time and devotion to monitor and plan(t) stuff. I became an organizer, because I already did the stuff organizers do. The same principle fits every other member of G*P. Finally: G*P is a group of strong creative personalities, many who I would call friends, and we do what we do because of the common interest for demomaking, preservation and to serve the public. When we don't create scene stuff we tend to just have a great time, chatting, planning, meeting and discussing... How to take over the world. Moahaharharhar.

Hedning/Genesis Project

GLANCE

Speaker: Hydrogen/Glance

Glance was founded among a group of close friends who spent their youth in different scene groups and who decided to do some serious work in their mastery years.

All the members of Glance are very close friends and they meet up regularly not just for scene related events but also for just hanging around or chatting (even if Nightlord and Norvax are currently in the USA).

Team spirit is very strong in Glance. There is no leader in Glance since everybody takes the responsibility when need be. In some situations some of the members take the lead and accelerate the progress. The only criterion to produce something in the group is the confirmation of all on the quality of the designed stuff.

For me being a part of Glance that is consisted of a randomly gathered talented people who have been friends for many years is a great honor and happiness. Also for me Glance means having the pleasure to compete neck to neck with other talented sceners throughout the world.

Gathering of Glance for a demo is a greater motivation than releasing a stuff in a scene. Almost all of us are getting to our 40s and working in the jobs that take the majority of our time in different parts of the world. However, Glance brings us together for an aim. There is a considerable difference between meeting for daily chat and for creating something. As long as Glance stands, there will be many effects that we will code together, ideas that we will chase and musics that we will compose. This makes us feel the same excitement as we felt when we were teenagers and brings us together no matter where we are in the world. I think that there is nothing more valuable than this in a friendship.

Hydrogen/Glance

OFFENCE

Speaker: Pal/Offence

Team spirit is what make Offence so special... In the start of our return it was most about me (Pal) sitting in my flat designing parts and graphics for the return demo "Another Beginning"... But as time went on I called all my good friends and we teamed up again to create the demo that turned out to be the winner of X'2010, and one of the best demos ever in my opinion on the C64...

To be a member of Offence means that we care about each other and that we are friends and try to set time to have nice times together. We tend to meet up and gather at my (Pal's) place and have dinners and nerding hours, we have a nice time at that all of us... We think it is so great that we can have something totally special together, and that is the C64 scene... But it is not that we do this for being in the C64 scene, it is more that we are just good friends and have something in common that we can have for ourselves... It is just ours, something weird and strange and then we have that massive friendships between us... It is like this... If one member of Offence meets troubles in life, he knows that other members are amongst the best of his friends and will stand up and be there for him through hard times... But as in life one has to tell friends that something is great or wrong, because friends can feel something is strange, but they still won't know... And that is Offence... We are friends and we will be friends till the end...

I (Pal) have been a sort of leader and still am, I try to make good things possible for us all... It is in fact important that a group has a person like me, and also more and more Bjorn as well... Because without persons like that nothing would ever happen... It is maybe the thing that I am the most proud of, it is the fact that I try to organize and inspire all others, maybe they do not see that, but man it takes lots of time and we are all different, but I love that!

Pal/Offence

ONSLAUGHT

Speaker: Jazzcat/Onslaught

A great question which I think means something different to each member. Speaking for myself I can say that the team spirit in our group is strong, particularly our online IRC presence. I guess the reason the IRC core is really strong is that we are regularly chatting to each other, sometimes computer talk, sometimes crap talk or discussion on the challenges of our life, experiences etc., the regular contact allows for a deepening friendship, not only related to the C64, this is the essence of a good spirit in a scene context (my belief). We try to boost internal interactions (the key part of group spirit/participation) by online presence through IRC, Facebook group, internal forum, mailing list and our internal sub on the 'Antidote' BBS. On a party level, our real connection can take place, the last time a lot of us got together was X'2010 (around 13 members or so). Next will be the Flashback party (around 4-5 Australian members). These parties allow a different dynamic of communication which is a positive spirit booster - we can all wear our group T-shirts, share drinks out of the skulls of our enemies and feel part of a tribe!

"Leading the group" feels a bit old fashioned; sure - I pull some strings and try gel everyone together and get the right mix of people. A successful and active group is self-leading in most respects and in that sense I can sit back and watch what happens (allowing me to do work on the diskmags, preservation and other various projects I am involved in).

Our group is a true international group with members from all over the place, which means it is a lot different than members from one country only. This makes it harder to have that 'local' feeling (that many groups take for granted), because of this challenge we strive to become more than 'just a business' by communication as regularly as our lives allow via the aforementioned channels. My goal is that members in the group can feel that their membership is scene home for life with the possibilities of friendship along the way; in the group we help each other create a road to deliver digital output.

Jazzcat/Onslaught

PLUSH

Speaker: Skate/Plush

Team spirit is extremely important for Plush members and Plushies never hesitate to sacrifice for their members, even for a single one. For instance, I'm the only international member of Plush. Plush team has 15 German and 1 Turkish (yeah, that's me) members at the moment. Since all members used to speak German natively, Plush mailing list was naturally in German. As soon as I joined the team, mailing list language turned into English just because I don't understand German. I wouldn't mind if they continued in German and only write those parts in English which concern me. Instead, they started talking completely in English even if the content has nothing to do with me. That way, I have never felt like a stranger in the group.

Our leader is Matthias (Map/Plush). Matthias is a great friend and a good team leader. Once I've invited him to Istanbul at X party. He came to Istanbul just a week later with his girlfriend Ines. It's not very often my foreigner friends respond to my invitations that quick! :)

I haven't met with some Plush members in person, yet. But all members I met or chatted are great guys like Map, Krill, Cosowi, Eyesee, Brix, Seba, Tecmo, Dgazz, Dow Jones, etc. Friendship is very important for me. I have very good relations with my previous groups' members as well, like Glance, Bronx and Ascraeus members. So, it's not only about my present group, it's about my fellas in the scene. Groups and products are side and natural effects of the friendship in the scene, not vice versa.

Skate/Plush

DJ Gruby is here back again to finalize this very interesting discussion. I would like to thank all the speakers involved in this opinion poll at first, thank you very much for sharing your ideas and thank you for dedicating your time to let the world hear your voice on this very intimate subject.

All in all, we may conclude out of hand that team spirit and good friendship established between group members are one of the most important and the most valued factors amongst contemporary C64 sceners. The significance of friendship cannot be underestimated, and was proven to help people maintain their cooperation more and more efficiently. Good spirit is still one of the most clearly reported features of successfully performing teams by leading members of best C64 groups to this day.

DJ GRUBY/OXYRON

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