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Posted by11 days ago

Early forum culture was a real pressure cooker for hobby drama. Lots of big fishes in small ponds. This post provides an example from a very specific niche community - that being amateur adventure game developers in the 2000s. If you're in for some old-school web drama with amazingly low stakes... well, read on.

This story spans 2000-2002, and the primary sources are mostly lost. Much of this post is secondary sources and personal memories, and it is, to my knowledge, the only comprehensive writeup. If you want receipts, the main primary source remaining is an FAQ thread from ~1-2 years after the fact. Though I recommend not reading it right now, as it'll spoil the story.

This ended up being pretty long. I hope it makes at least some sense.

(1) Home computing & the information superhighway

This post is about some old-school web drama, so we need a little background here. I'll try to keep it brief. If you're not interested, just skip this section.

Amateur game development went through something of a golden age in the early 2000s. Dial-up Internet access and game creation kits like Game-Maker and Klik 'n' Play were available to otherwise normal people. Now, everyone with enough patience and some technical skill could now create their own games, and share them with like-minded strangers.

One of these early game creation kits was Adventure Game Studio, an IDE and game engine for DOS and Windows, first released in 1997 by British programmer Chris Jones. Early hits included Larry Vales: Traffic Division and the Rob Blanc series - the latter by none other than Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. We'll talk about him later.

The engine was free and had its own web forum, so by the turn of the millennium, a small but healthy development community had formed. There were yearly awards ceremonies and a monthly Game Jam, one of the first of its kind. Good stuff.

(2) Reality welcomes careful drivers

So, communal spirits were high in 2000. This lead to an interesting idea: What if, AGS forum user 'Gravity' proposed, we made an open-source world? A shared setting that anyone could contribute to? The setting, characters and artwork would all be placed in the public domain. Someone would make a game, then another person would make a sequel to that game, and so on, creating a shared storyline and populating the setting with characters.

Once the basic details were hammered out, this project become known as Reality-on-the-Norm (RoN for short). That's the city named "Reality," on a river called the "Norm." There's that famous British humor at work.

The first game was released in early 2001. This was Lunchtime of the Damned, by one Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. Again, more about him later. By the standards of its day, Lunchtime is a solid effort, establishing Reality as a vaguely modern town full of quirky characters. The protagonist is a snarky grave-robbing teenage necromancer called Davy Jones, who would become the "protagonist" of RoN more or less by default.

If you're interested in learning more, there's a talk from 2008 archived on YouTube, held by Dave Gilbert, which goes over some of the history of RoN. The community was hosted on abandon-ware website Home of the Underdogs for a while, and you can poke through the archives there as well if you want.

Anyway, Davy Jones appears in most early RoN games. He was an established character, a bit of a nerd, and high-quality sprites were available for him. This status as a "default protagonist" was cemented by The Soviet Union Strikes Back,, which is usually considered to be the first "good" RoN game. That is the real starting point of the series, as it fills in a lot of lore and establishes a lot of fan favourite characters. RoN came into its own, and a flood of games followed.

So, about Davy. As a snarky wannabe sorcerer, Davy is fun enough as an adventure game protagonist. However, by late 2000, people were quickly falling out of love with him. There were several reasons for this, partially tied to the character - and partially to his creator.

(3) The smallest amount of fame that's ever gone to anyone's head

That creator, as I mentioned, was one Benjamin Richard "Yahtzee" Croshaw*.* He's a writer, author, video game journalist, humorist, podcaster, video game developer and haver of a Wikipedia article. He's perhaps most famous for the Zero Punctuation review series, though this story takes place years earlier.

His first AGS game, Rob Blanc, was actually the first project created with the experimental Windows version of AGS. It was an overnight hit, making Yahtzee one of the AGS community's first rockstar developers. (He's briefly talked about this experience on the Ego Review.)

So, Yahtzee was famous! Sort of! A little bit. At least in the AGS community. Rob Blanc received two sequels in 2000, which people also liked. Yahtzee collected award nominations and developed a bit of an ego. The positive attention went to his head immediately. He became abrasive and arrogant, developed a superiority complex, and soon started going on everyone's nerves. By mid-2001, he had already burned through the goodwill his projects generated.

Lunchtime of the Damned, the first RoN game, was essentially his last attempt to play nice with the rest of the forum. Shortly after its release, he decided he had outgrown the AGS community, and adventure games as a whole, and made a big flashy show of retiring. He never created another RoN game and never came back to the AGS forums.

At this point, Davy Jones had also worn out his welcome. The community already didn't like how people were gravitating towards Davy as the default protagonist, using the same character game after game, and his association with Yahtzee did not help.

There were good reasons to push Davy into the background - as edgy teenage necromancers have a limited amount of storytelling potential - but the idea was also seen as a way to deflate Yahtzee's ego a little. He had put his mark on RoN's history, but people were tired of him, and he wasn't going to be part of its future.

(4) Davey Jones C'est Mort

So, a suggestion was floated by the local idea guys. What if Davy Jones were to be... removed from the setting? Violently, if possible? By late 2001, a community member by the name of Captain Mostly decided to make that idea a reality. Surely, he could do it justice - after all, he was already famous for his achievements in the field of surreal blackface comedy.

The result of that effort is Davey Jones C'est Mort, which is broken French for Davey Jones It's Dead. It's notable for being the first post-9/11 RoN game, which, honestly, checks out.

The game is still available on the web, walkthrough included, but I strongly recommend not playing it. The graphics are a black-and-white mess. Shrill MIDI sounds blare you from your speakers as Davy is insulted by a "voodoo bebe." As for the plot, here's the summary from the official community website:

In this surrealistic game, Davy wanders through his empty house, into the town square, and into the office building. Finding a toilet in the middle of an empty room, he is then r***d by a man in a cow suit. At least that is one interpretation of this enigmatic game.

I've censored the word. In the game, it's not censored. You see genitals. Davey Jones is fifteen years old.

The whole thing seems to have been written as a deliberate insult to Davy Jones as a character, whose name is, once again, misspelled in the title. It's not kind to Davy, or to RoN as a concept. Even if you don't mind the fact that a teenager is sexually violated and killed, the essence of improv is to go "yes, and" rather than "no, but" - and it's just impossible to do anything with Davey Jones C'est Mort.

So, the best solution is obviously to treat this whole thing as canon anyway.

(5) Wait, are we really going with this?

RoN, from the beginning, was designed to be a community-run project. There was no administration, nobody was in charge of anything. Anyone could make anything, and it would all be in canon, and nothing could ever be removed. DJCM was the first real test of that policy.

There should NEVER be censorship allowed a project such as RON. If anyone - and I do mean anyone - actually puts the time and effort into the making of an episode of RON, then it can never be overlooked as something that never took place. Cornjob's said it several times: "if it has to do with RON, it will be posted on the site."

By December 2001, the news had spread. I Spy 2 officially acknowledges Davy's death, as do the games released afterwards.

So, we've done it! We have canon! We don't really know how he died, because Captain Mostly is a magical rat that only speaks in offensive jokes, but we do know that we have a dead kid. That much is certain.

Eventually, one of the more prominent developers in the community decided to clean this situation up a little. The Universal Equalizer (January 2002) is a non-interactive cut-scene that confirms Davy's death once and for all. It's less crude, but no less cruel - in the game, God speaks to Davy, calling him a jerk and graphically exploding his head.

From the AGS thread:

Helm21: Captain Mostly did something wrong. And I fixed it.

goldmund: :) Gory. But I still think that having their protagonist sodomized is a better attempt to make people avoid the character in the series.

So, where do we go from here? As a community, we're finally free of Davy Jones. What should we do next?

Well, obviously, we should make a little something called Davy Jones is Back (February 2002), which resurrects him.

(6) All hell breaks lose

The RoN forums are long gone, and the archives are spotty, but you can still tell from the thread titles that people had no idea what to do with any of this.

Davy Dones is dead

New game in REMPLACEMENT for Davy Jones C'est Mort

davy jones- dead or alive?

I'm making a game staring the 'cow' from C. Mostly's 'game'

New plot after the davys death

Bringing back Davy Jones!

Evil Davy game

Davy Jones

Davy Jones, Alive/Dead Magic Boy

Davy Q.

You see, the same "no backsies" rule that allowed Captain Mostly to kill Davy also made it impossible to keep him dead. If Charles Kelly wanted to undo the death, he could just do that. Worse yet, Davy Jones is Back is actually a real game, not a semi-interactive shitpost like Davy Jones C'est Mort and The Universal Equalizer. If you wanted to remove it from the continuity, well, it would be difficult to make an argument that wouldn't also apply to the "Davy is dead" games.

This back-and-forth ended up pleasing neither the people who wanted Davy gone, nor the ones who hated DJCM. It also left the character in a weird continuity limbo, which, incidentally, did actually have the effect of removing him from the setting for a bit. Nobody really knew what was going on with him.

The second half of 2002 mostly free of Davy content. His next appearances weren't until The First Stitch (December 2002) and Purity of the Surf (January 2003), and even there he was just a side character.

After his revival, it took a year and a half for Davy to receive his next starring role, in Before the Legacy (September 2003). This was followed by Stuck at Home (July 2004), so we were back on track. Then he dies again in Yet Another Death of Davy Jones (February 2005)... which again doesn't stick, because he's inexplicably back alive in I'm Only Sleeping (December 2005).

(7) The dust settles

Cooler heads prevailed, eventually, but the Davy situation was an ongoing problem the RoN community. This is where that thread from 2003 comes back in - people were getting really sick of having to explain it every time.

The situation was eventually acknowledged in the official FAQ. Without other options, the community decided that they needed to have some rules, officially banning major character deaths.

There also was an effort to assemble something of a "canon" timeline, which ended up including Davy Jones is Back but not either of the games that actually killed him. The ambiguous continuity surrounding Davy was never resolved, with the paragraph being essentially a shrug in written form.

As things stand now, the general consensus seems to be that Davy died in some strange unexplained way and was resurrected in an equally obscure fashion. If you want Davy to be dead, do so. Just make sure the it takes place between the two death/ressurection games.

(8) Today

Davey Jones C'est Mort would go on to be nominated for, but not win, 2001's "P3N1S award." This was a booby prize awarded to "the most uninspiring game created with AGS." The medal was taken home by something called Andy Penis Big Adventure, which DJCM just couldn't measure up to.

Yahtzee never commented on the situation. Supposedly he gave permission to kill Davy, but I never found the primary source on that. His otherwise very complete Ego Review video series skips right over Lunchtime of the Damned. When he's asked to list his games, he goes Rob Blanc, Age of Evil, uhhhhhh, Trials of Odysseus Kent. The game has never been listed on his personal website, and the post where he disowns all of his old stuff doesn't mention it either. Even Wikipedia glosses over Lunchtime.

Captain Mostly stuck around the AGS community until 2004 or so. He never made another RoN game, but he's been sporadically active in the game development scene. According to Mobygames, he was a designer on SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis (2007), which to my knowledge does not feature blackface comedy or crudely animated sodomy.

As for the RoN... it survived the Davey Jones incident, and continued for a few more years. When Home of the Underdogs went offline in 2009, it moved back in with its parents (the Adventure Game Studio forum.) The project peacefully died of natural causes in the late 2000s. AGS is still around, being a niche engine for a niche genre with a small but loyal audience, in 2022 as in 2012 as in 2002.

The last game in the RoN setting was released in 2019. Its protagonist is a grave-robbing treasure hunter named... David Jones.

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Posted by16 days ago
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Posted by13 days ago

I say that the only conditions that it could be remotely necessary are for legal/civil or medical purposes.

I feel like people are being very divisive, yet oblivious to reality.

These are things you just don’t really need to ask people, especially if it’s not relevant of anything at hand.

Even, in workplace settings, if you are asking someone about these things, like where they are from or their racial/ethnic background and they don’t answer your questions or don’t want to, but you keep pressing them. It’s pretty much turning into harassment the further a person takes. Which lends itself to perhaps individual might be prejudice… that might give people the idea that they could be racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, etc.

People cling to the argument that they are not any of these things or believe in any kind of bigotry. No one says they individually are, but they are setting a precedence that a person must always answer such a question in good faith. While, in reality, alot of people do not ask such questions in “good-faith” and often manifests different types of prejudiced behavior. One or several honest or well meaning individuals do not negate the fact that someone’s privacy can be negotiated.

Hypothetically, if someone were to ask me about my race, gender/sex, class, or marital status in public. In most free countries, I have the right “to not answer that question or give them any answer” as I please. I could tell them “I’m from another galaxy and not of any Earth species and have multiple genders. I’m married to seven different people.”

A person could laugh at my answer and move along, everything is fine. Same, if they don’t respond or react to it.

But, what about the people don’t?

The people who may ask “Where are you actually from? What is your actual race or ethnicity? What is your actual sex … you can only be born a man or woman? What is your actual citizenship status, everyone knows you can’t be from out of space, but even if you are which country were you naturalized in? Who do you owe your allegiance to?”

Are already violating a social contract norm in some societies or committing social faux pas. Because, you are right at policing someone you don’t know to answer questions for your own benefits, concerns, or curiosities when it’s not necessary or appropriate.

EDITED: Reference to “Lady Hussey/Ngozi Fulani” incident, but it can apply to many different situations as addressed in the comments.