Party Report: Assembly Summer 2014

Earlier this month, I went to see Assembly Summer 2014!

 Assembly is a demoparty held in Helsinki, Finland since 1992. Although their gaming elements are increasing in recent years, they remain as one of the biggest and longest standing demoparty on this planet. If you go see “demoparty” in Wiki or other kind of references, photos from this party will most likely come up first. (There’s Assembly Winter too, and this one is purely gaming event.)

* If you are wondering what demoparty is, I recommend checking this and the movie!
Assembly has been my dream place to visit, mostly because I first got interested in demoscene via mail magazine distributed in 90s (not reading them real time though, I read them after a decade or so.. hello DemoNews!) Assembly is the place where Future Crew released “Second Reality”, a legendary piece which has been changing so many people’s life, and around that time people considered Assembly is THE party to go and release their bestest work..
And it seems like this tradition has carried on till now. If you watch the demos released at this party, You will sense that this party is something special for sceners.
For years I’ve been thinking that I have to visit this party to see its demo compo and grab Hesburger before it’s completely turned into the gaming event.. plus, Finland is a land of Moomins… so this year, I gathered my courage and booked my flight on the day they announced the date.

On my way to Helsinki. A bit of study (or lookback for me). 
David Hasselhoff was talking about Compact Disc and Boom box.
Assembly’s venue, Messukeskus was located around 20 minutes away from city central (by tram). Right next to this place, there were business college and a hotel. Also there was a train station nearby with some shops in.
At the ticket counter, the very first thing they said to me was “you are here for oldschool, right?” (gasp!) oh.. is that too obvious,, do I look that old…?? 🙁 Well, I felt a bit sad about this, but a couple of minutes later I understood why. When I looked around, most of people are super young and I (mid-30s) could easily be one of their mom. That’s quite surprising…
At the entrance your baggage will be inspected. They checked everything to my Frisk case, so don’t even try to bring anything funny. And mind you, Assembly is alcohol-free event.
Inside the venue. First you see the gaming area, and then main hall.
In the gaming area, you can check some game competitions, try some games at company’s booth, play some retro arcade games and take a nap (there was a big floor sofa).
First time seeing the eSports event. Ohh, indeed. It looks like sport event 🙂
(Left) Now you understand why people can tell you’re oldschool… Lots of young hopes.


(Right) One of the booth (was it Kajak?) had Oculus Rift and they let us try DK1 and DK2 and their demos. I’ve heard a lot about this VR goggle but never tried one, and… well my reaction must have been textbook.
Seminar area is located in secluded place. Nice and quiet.
…And the main hall.  I wonder how many computers were there..
Of course I was very happy to get here, but my first impression was not that positive and I thought “oh.. it’s too late, it’s no longer a demoparty..” I walked around the hall, checked their screens and people, and majority of them are very young people playing multiplayer RPG-ish games (sorry I’m clueless in those games). Well, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about gaming event or MMO, but since I came here to see real demoscene it was bit disappointing..
Kawaii! Who said there are not many girls in game and demo events? I’ve seen quite a lot of them! Go geekette <3
Wkter, who we became friends at Tokyo Demo Fest was attending and had seat, so while his friend was away I sat at the table and experienced Asssembly atomosphere… (basically I kept lamenting.. sorry)
From time to time, they were showing some demos on the screen. 

“Spin” on Assembly’s screen!


Oh, by the way, here’s the comment and general tips 
from Wkter for someone who wants to join Assembly party.. 
– Assembly is pretty much a LAN party at this point, and it can be difficult to get to know gamers. It will be safer and more fun if you have a reliable friend with you, and it might be easier to strike up random conversations with people.

 – It might also be a good idea to check what the trends are in the gaming community, because, as mentioned earlier, the majority of the visitors will be gamers who have little interest in the demoscene.

 – It might also be a good idea to check out the oldskool table, that’s where all the cool people are 🙂
He also said that sleeping area was quite cold. So if you sleep there, better bring something warm to cover up.
However, things started to change around compo time…


From 1k compo. Amazing.

More and more older people 😀 showed up (where have you been?) and people started to gather around oldschool and screen area. I could finally see some faces and names that I can recognize through years of stalking studying..
And here comes the compo time.

Amazing thing was that people in the hall actually turned off their lights and sounds as organizers instructed. I thought all these gamers were really not interested in demoscene (because when I was sitting among them no one paid attention to the screen or stage) but 500 seats before the screen was suddenly full and floors in front of the seating was crowded with so many people. After all, this is where Assembly came from… and I thought this is very nice that they show their respect to demosceners and tradition of Assembly… (I dearly hope it continues that way..) 
To be honest, I sensed the people’s excitement and tension of the hall and they are so strong that I got nervous and started to feel sick before the compo… just imagined if I brought something to show on the screen… I think I would faint..
“I enjoyed it so much” is way too mild to describe what I felt. I should rather say “I was in shock”. Of course my dream just came true and I was insanely happy, but I was shocked and completely overwhelmed that it took some time to stand up. I know it really sounds stupid and banal but I can’t believe how big screen and speakers can make that much difference. You can feel the floor bouncing with beats, and effects and colors on the screen is so dynamic that it almost looks like attacking you. And all these people’s presence… their reactions were so raw.
1st at Demo Compo Assembly Summer 2014
“Black And White Lies” by One Studio Off (DL)


You can check all the releases at Assembly website, and of course you can download the files through pouet. Their game compo had some fun games too!
After the compo I got really emotional and Sir Garbagetruck (he’s one of the demoscene icon, you hear him talk on SceneSat Radio and you saw him in Moleman2) rescued me. And when I realized I was sitting on that famous compo studio sofa…
At Assembly, Assembly TV holds talk session with sceners after each compo. This compo studio program is the best place to hear sceners’s opinions and get some trivial information. (You can check archives from Assembly’s website or YouTube.)
Can you see there’re so many staffs behind the camera? 
As one of your viewers, I’d like to say big thanks to staffs to make this happen every year! Kiitos!

I don’t remember anything I said (man, I was nervous!) but I do remember I enjoyed hearing all other guests’ sharp comments. Thank you everyone, and thank you Arrogant Bastards for extra support.. (Sir Garbagetruck and Franky – the host of compo studio – make radio shows for SceneSat. They were not arrogant at all though!)


After the compo, I was thinking… what I experienced was something similar to music concerts or theater, but there’s something decisively different from them. And that is probably the “distance between creators and audience”… which is extremely close and critics are very direct.. I guess this is why live compos are thrilling, but when I try to see this from creators’ point of view, there is a huge risk.. I mean, if you spent many days and nights to create something and if that’s booed by this much people.. chances are, your pride and confidence will be crushed to the point where you cannot turn your pc on again. (I know there are some people who are okay about these things, but let’s not pretend, most of us are not that strong.)
I’ve learned that, in demoscene, if you release something it will be criticized. Harshly (look at Pouet!). And that’s part of the culture. But when I experienced the live compo with this much of direct reaction, I can’t stop thinking “if I released something here, what should I do to get through this situation?”

I kept thinking for a
while. And what I reached was, what you can hold onto in that whirlwind criticism is probably a conviction that you did something meaningful to yourself or you did the best you can. If you create something to please audience or to seek approval from others, you’ll feel great if you succeed but if not, it will be devastating. (But don’t worry, just like Sir Garbagetruck said in demo compo studio, someone will like your work. Maybe this someone is not in the same room, but somewhere out there will definitely do. This is the beautiful and sometimes yucky thing about humans..)

It’s definitely important to have some objectivity, but you need to be tough enough to protect your own world. (And not just for demo, this should be applied to everything related to self-expression.. music, dancing, drawing, writing, editing, anything) In the end this is not a business, it’s a grand playground and you can steal someone else’s time for about 5 minutes… So why not step out and show off what you’ve got?
I imagined demoscene is a place to express, brush up skills and get to know with people with similar interests, but I realized that this is also a place to help you grow and help you become an artist through these others comments. I do have respect for all people who submitted their work. That’s really courageous.
All these motivations, excitement, disappointment, fascination.. I think I now understand why Assembly has been special for demoscene. And somehow, I myself was really encouraged by this experience. I’m so glad that I came, and I’m so glad that I encountered demoscene.

To wrap up…
– For people I met at Assembly, Thank you so much for giving me warm welcome! It was lovely meeting you all! 
– For Assembly organizers, thank you for the great time! Must be tough to keep doing this for years but please be there and keep your history going!
– If you want to join Assembly as a demoparty, be sure to keep your seats in Oldschool area.
– Assembly started to accept remote entry, so if you can’t make it you can submit and watch the compo on stream.
– If you want to check out your local demoparty to see what it’s like, check this website for coming up parties. There are quite a lot of parties going on in Europe. (Revision in Germany are strictly demoscene party and it’s the biggest. Evoke in Germany too.) For people in US, there’s @party (Atparty) held in Boston. And I heard there’s one in Montreal, Canada (check ben ça). And people around Japan, there will be Tokyo Demo Fest.
Thank you for reading my long report till end!
Coming up: My Helsinki travelogue (I did some sightseeing too… :D)

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