Saturday, January 14, 2012

Opening Up

If you've followed the KS project at all, you're probably more familiar with me than any other 4LS member. Over the years, this blog has more often than not been a soapbox for me to talk about stuff that comes to my mind and I have made more posts on the public forum than some of 4LS members have forum posts in total. It doesn't mean by any means that I'm the voice of 4LS (Suriko, if anyone, would be that), most of my talking is just opinions and thoughts of my own. Since I enjoy doing this kind of thing more than most other members, it just often has ended up being me who does most of it. Thinking back about the stuff I have talked about, a few key points come to mind.

The early posts on the blog actually did contain stuff pertinent to KS development progress, but the blog soon started evolving into a chronicle of what it was like to make Katawa Shoujo. Many entries contain thoughts on a very general level, some not really pertinent to KS at all, some about all sorts of fringe stuff. All of it, however, is marked with some sort of openness about what we thought, and many of the entries got a mixed or even crushing reception. Still, we were a lot more comfortable with (and thought it more interesting) being open and honest about this stuff, even some of the ugly parts, than the mechanical details of development. I realize that this stance is one that a whole lot of people don't share (we did make quite a lot of people frustrated by our lack of progress updates), and also that it's one that we have the luxury to afford (more on that later). Either way, I hope that the people who've read the blog have found it a reasonably nice experience. I certainly had a good time writing it.

But why write a blog at all? I guess mostly because it was something I, and we, wanted to do. The days at the 4LS "office" weren't hardcore, ball-busting slave work all the time. We did fool around, chat about silly things, watch movies together, did KS stuff that wasn't development (blog, "fan" art, events like Secret Santas), that kind of thing. Though seemingly a waste of time, stuff like that helped us bond and engage ourselves more with the project. Having fun was important.

Speaking of engaging with the project, we weren't the only ones to do that. KS has been marked by a really active fan following, especially since Act 1 release. I mean, at the time of our release, Mishimmie had over 2000 pieces of fanart, our public forum had 8 times more posts than the dev forum and there were dozens of  fanfics and other fan creations on our forums and elsewhere. That's a huge amount of fan material for a game that didn't actually exist. The truth is that KS wouldn't be nearly the same without all its fans. We've had some great times with not only between the guys of 4LS, but also the IRC regulars, people on our forum, translators, everyone. We've drawn a lot of strength from everyone who followed the project. However, we've also always had a bit of a problem with fans of KS: we don't know what to do with them (the other, other white meat?). A commercial team has a clear incentive to get as many fans as possible, and make them as happy as possible: revenue. We don't have anything like that, so our experience with internet fame and adoration has been a little awkward. I guess we sought to connect with the fans by being open on the blog and the forum, and anyone could always come on IRC to chat, but I don't know how the relationship worked out from the point of view of a fan. On the other hand, the lack of an incentive to please absolutely everyone has also the positive flipside of us being able to conduct ourselves as we pleased, and we never had qualms about being straightforward or even blunt to unreasonable people, or making unpopular decisions that might've cut into the hype and following around the game. So, I guess our thoughts could be summed up as us not caring whether we had fans, but trying our best to care about the ones we did have.

Fans of course make us massively happy, even if we can get kinda weirded out at times. Fans can also surprise us. Something that has really blown us off our feet has been the large amounts of incredibly emotional response to Katawa Shoujo that we've seen. I've seen people confessing having cried after playing KS, or otherwise feeling moved. I've read touching stories from people who feel that playing KS gave them an impact to change something in their lives, maybe something as simple as starting to jog, or something as deep as contacting a long-lost friend or loved one, or trying to resolve one's own issues. I can't possibly express what reading feedback like that feels like. I mean, if even one single person's life is actually changed for the better as a result of KS, we've done something objectively good. That's a possibility that never crossed our minds until a bit over a week ago. The suddenly realized implications continue, and get stranger. The chances of something like KS happening to any one of us again are astronomically small. So, it's very likely that nothing any of us ever does in life after this will matter as much to as many people as this cripple porn game. That gives some really strange perspective to the past five years.

Tomorrow's post will be the final part of this series.

- Aura

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