“Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead…but don’t be surprised if we don’t uphold them.”
The thing about urban legends is that no matter how you try to explain them, it’s as if the generation that started the bogus ones, usually for shits ‘n giggles, did so knowing that when they’re dead and gone, those stories would still be pissing people off because they were left unexplained by the original source.
Not to say there aren’t good ones which ended up being real.
Take for example, the urban legends associated with me. They’ve gone on for years, but even though they were dispelled as either rumors, fun stuff, or just plain lies, there are those who, hand on heart, swear that most of what they’ve read, or heard, is true.
Since I’m about to be exposed to a whole new generation of anti-social misfits, not to mention an industry event in which, by the time the dust settles, everyone’s going to want to have a piece of me, attack my credibility, employ character assassination – again etc, let’s explore this fascination through the years, shall we?
1. THE GREAT COKE MACHINE INCIDENT
This one is my all time favorite, for the mere fact that it’s humorous, and gets quoted a lot.
What had happened was that, back in 1996-97, when I was working on my first game, Battlecruiser 3000AD with my publisher, Take Two Interactive (the old company, not the new present-day company), I had gone up to one of their studio locations in Pennsylvania to work with their team on the game. Pretty standard stuff for its time, since back then, remote collaboration wasn’t common place or even possible.
After being there for some months, things weren’t looking good, and the publisher was adamant about getting the game out for that Christmas season. So fed-up, I said screw this, do what you want. And I was outta there.
You have to understand, it wasn’t like I wanted to be there anyway. Being sequestered in a small town in PA – though on a golf course community, is not my idea of fun. Especially when I was locked up in an apt coding, day and night. I hardly even went to the office because I never liked those guys, and they didn’t like me either. I was boss. It was my game. They get to do what I wanted. Man, I was on an ego trip.
In an attempt to cast me in a poor light and assign blame, as publishers were quick to do back in the day when social media was really the print media, and a bunch of loudmouthed clowns in on-line forums (Compuserve, BIX/CIX, AOL, Delphi, Usenet etc), the then CEO, Ryan Brant (who later ended up a convicted felon) spoke to a writer for CGW magazine. In that discussion, someone said that I was furious at the decision, that I kicked a coke machine in the break room; then left without finishing the game.
And just like that, it showed up in print.
It wasn’t until several years later, in 2001, when the same magazine was doing a follow-up interview, that I indicated that a condition of my doing it, was for them to confirm that the incident never happened, and to print a retraction.
So they investigated, located, and talked to one of the producers who was there, and in that very same meeting that happened before I stormed out. They then clarified it in that 2001 issue, as an event that never happened.
But Take Two is fed up. They believe Smart will never finish the game. They told him the game is shipping in October, finished or not, for a Christmas release. He’s horrified and furious, and his frustration boils over. A huge argument ensues. Online legend has Derek attacking a Coke machine at this point, which he denies to this day (and an email from a former Take Two employee backs him up on this point).
2. SAY HIS NAME THREE TIMES. I DOUBLE DARE YOU
LOL! This is another one, and it too still gets cited today. In fact, according to Google, this is the most popularly cited one by far.
Back in the day, there were very few forums where most of us geeks and gamers, congregated. Usenet was by far the most popular. As it became cheaper (!) to get online, most sites (Blues News, Shacknews, Adrenaline Vault Quarter To Three, PlanetCrap etc) showed up and eclectic gaming communities formed around them. Back then, nobody knew that, decades later, the advent of SJW nutcases, would pretty much ruin it for everyone, and suck all the fun out of it. I swear, if all of what we said back then were outlawed, and with no term limits, most of us would be virtually hanged by now. At least according to modern day standards. It’s like going back and haunting war criminals, due to there being no term limits.
Anyway, typically, most of us would troll through Usenet several times a day, because unless you were rich, you simply couldn’t stay online for long periods of time because when that dial-up (most of us started back when 1200 baud Hayes modems were all the rage) bill comes at the end of the month, it’s heart attack inducing stuff. So you’d get online, do as much as you can, log off, come back later, see what’s new – rinse, repeat.
So when the new communities started up, there weren’t many of them. So you would go online, visit the ones you frequent, participate, then leave.
It just so happens that back in the day, the great Battlecruiser disaster (the commercial release of the game by it’s publisher, while still in Beta form) of 1996, was all the rage, and the forums were – literally – ablaze with the controversy. In comparison, current social media wars are mere food fights, if you can believe that.
So anyway, because there were so few gaming forums, and always a chance that any one I visited was likely to have a topic either about me, or the game, I’d participate. Like clockwork. And it was glorious mayhem in its pure form.
Naturally, back then, being young, foolish, and mostly ego driven, I’d take, literally every bad thing said about me or my game, as a personal attack. Thing is, the fame, and notoriety, were all new to me. Deer in headlights kinda stuff. And that had all started from back in 1992 when I first made the cover of a leading gaming enthusiasts magazine.
And again, because this ended up being so alarming, and by a game developer, it was fish food for the gaming media, and as a result, they wrote article, after article about it.
Back then, unless you were one of the greats (Carmack, Romero, Hall et al), we the smaller guys, were usually the scapegoats for fluff media articles. And it worked out well for the media because, unlike those guys, and most of the publisher backed ones who never said anything outside of a publisher mouthpiece, we got most of the flak. If you think today’s media pandering is bad, you have no idea just how bad it was back in the day when you really needed to be in the good graces of most media people in order to actually get your game, or yourself covered.
In the end, the more forums I visited, the more noise I made, the more news traveled, and the more it got written about.
Then Google Alerts happened, and changed everything. I set it up to scan for my name, my products etc. And each day when I get a report, I’d filter the less interesting ones, pick the good (usually in forums where I visited – and not yet banned) ones, head over there, pour virtual gasoline everywhere, torch the place with confounding rhetoric – then leave. It was like a virtual drive-by flaming. And usually, I never even go back to the topic.
In my defense, most of what happened was just me allowing other people to push my buttons. I didn’t know how to respond to it. So upset, and furious, I’d respond in kind – which only made things worse. In time, I grew to know better, and it all kinda slowly died down.
As time went by, the denizens of these communities, came to learn that I had the uncanny ability to show up if they mentioned my name. So some smart-ass, in some forum, decided to turn that into a Bloody Mary type legend.
Say his name three times, “Derek Smart, Derek Smart, Derek Smart” and he will appear. People start shitting their pants. Others just put life on hold, and went to get more popcorn. Good times.
The rest is history.
This one confuses me because most current generation of people don’t even know what a troll is, or what trolling means. They just throw it out there with impunity. And modern day SJWs have literally re-defined the terminology to fit their, usually pure bullshit, narrative. By their very definition, anyone posting anything, that’s not in accord with their narrative, is a troll. Yes – it’s bullshit. Yes – they’re assholes. Yes – we don’t care what they think.
Here is the excerpt from the previously linked CGW article, which some people use to label me a troll:
“Sometimes when I get online, and it’s quiet, and I see something that attracts my attention, I’ll post just to piss these guys off. That’s why I do it. Because I’m in a good mood that day, I go in there and I start trouble.”
The context was in precisely the form that I discussed in the previous section. That being, when I go to a forum that’s in full-on Derek Smart bashing mode, I know that anything I post, won’t end well. Sure I could ignore it, or whatever. But most times, I don’t. I post anyway; knowing fully well that, depending on the time of day, Moon phase, or how many cups of coffee I’ve had, whatever I post, was going to set the topic ablaze. Carnage everywhere. Usually that’s precisely what happens. And it’s usually glorious, in a shit-for-brains kinda way.
Which is precisely why I’d get banned (sometimes permanently) because the mods expect me to know better (yes – I also thought they were on crack) either ignore it, or not respond in kind. Right. So there’s loads of shitty things there, they don’t moderate it – at all. But as soon as I post defending myself, and things go sideways, all of a sudden it’s all my fault, and I’m the perp etc. Talk about blaming the victim!
Not to say I was innocent in most cases though. Far from it. There is a reason some people describe me as an “Internet Warlord“. And to prove it, I’ve got the scars, a dictionary with tattered pages, sore fingers, and everything.
In comparison to how things were back in the day, all this crap some people are doing today on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook etc, is child’s play.
4. I MAKE BUGGY GAMES
I am torn about this one because, in a sense, it’s true. Let me explain.
You see, back in the day, you were expected, but not required to, ship games in a playable fashion. I mean, who has time for, you know, testing, fixing bugs etc? That’s just boring, isn’t it?
Going from development phase to shipped phase, was fast and furious. Publishers were always trying to release games in the crowded, but lucrative fourth quarter period in order to boost sales and earnings. In fact, it got so bad that, all of them got together one day and said “Fuck it, we’re just going to use shipped instead of sold, for accounting”. And since they were spending a sizable fortune to get articles, advertising etc in magazines that would be on stands during or ahead of the game launch, they literally threw all caution to the wind. Ship it, get the numbers, done. Next!
It was a mess.
As you can see, you’d think that, decades later, the practice would stop. Nope.
Back in the day, when I wasn’t as unhappy with the industry as I am today, I’d write. A lot. I’ve got papers, articles (in print, online etc), lengthy forum tomes about various topics, and about all kinds of things. Most of it, has been lost to sites going down, getting archived, being redone (e.g. gamedev.net), moved etc.
I wrote one such article in 1999 (three years after the release of my first game, while still in Beta) for the now defunct Game Developer Magazine.
The thing is that, even back in the day, it was very difficult to fully debug and test games prior to release. And the publisher pressure to ship at certain periods in a year, made things worse on so many levels. So the result is that, some games had fewer bugs than others.
Some were literally unplayable out of the box.
My first game, Battlecruiser 3000AD (aka BC3K), was one such game. It was released in 1996 incomplete – while still in Beta – by its then publisher Ryan Brant at Take Two Interactive Software. It was a buggy mess that didn’t live up to the years of hype. As a result, that reputation, being that it was the defining moment in my career, then all the noise around the game, me etc, the impression kinda stuck. This despite the fact that, I fixed the game, released patches, and after the out-of-court settlement with the publisher, I released it for free on the Internet in order to prevent them from continuing to sell it and making money from a buggy product – even though I had working patches out for it.
Funny thing is, unknown to, or forgotten by most, BC3K actually made a lot of money here in the US and in international territories. In fact, it was one of the games cited in Take Two’s SEC filings when they went public in 1997. So you could say that I helped build Take Two. 🙂
So, the fact is that, all games ship with bugs. All of them. In my case, since that first mishap, I have always worked hard to ensure that my games were playable, had fewer bugs etc. And of course, as complex as my games are, it’s a very time consuming process finding and fixing every bug in the game. And back in the day, we didn’t even have the tools and resources we have today. Since then, PC games have become so complex that shipping a game with known or unknown bugs is inevitable. Heck, day one patches are a thing now, in case you hadn’t heard.
5. I AM A RICH SPOILED MAMA’S BOY
This one comes up every now and again, usually from some idiot reading some stupid rumor online, quoting it verbatim, and out of context. You know, pretty much another day on the glorious interweb of disinformation and character assassination.
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t rich when I started out. And I’m not crazy rich or anything. At all. But being rich is relative. If you’ve never had $1m, and you then you have it, that’s one level of rich. To another guy who is crazy rich, $1m is nothing. It is safe to say that my rich, is the kind that “Fuck You” buys.
I started out in IT, then systems level programming – boring stuff, then game dev – which is my current career. Like most, I think I’ve had like, ten or more jobs over my lifetime. And, wait for it, little known fact: I was a gas station attendant at one time. True story. Still got the pictures and everything. All I did back then was play video games on the arcade machines every chance I got. Good times. Manager was so pissed, I think he fired me twice a week. Then hired me back because something needed fixing, or I needed to cover a shift or something. He’d fire me, I’d leave. Then a day or so later, I’d get a call, or he’d drive by the house “Hey, you coming in today?”. I’d be like, “Sure, let me get me go pack a lunch”. And off we went; like it never even happened.
He was a nice, older fellow; the kind you never had to lie to or have any reason to doubt. I have very fond memories of him.
His son on the other hand. The less spoken about that sorry sack of shit, the better. He was a bully. He kicked my ass all the time because he was bigger, older – and knew how to fight. I was just a skinny smart-ass geek, who knew how to fix stuff. He broke my nose once; and it never did get fixed quite right. So I go through my whole life with that physical and emotional scar to remember him by.
But I got even. I got an education. I got famous. I got rich. He died fairly young, and broke, after running his father’s business into the ground. I went to his funeral. I brought flowers, and everything. I mumbled some words about how he was like my brother; but that I hope the minute he lands in Hell, that he gets his ass kicked by some fallen angel. Not bitter at all. Nope.
So, in case you were wondering, this – and other reasons, are why I do not tolerate bullying of any kind; and grew up, to learn how to stand up for myself, both physically (I’m a trained martial artist) and literally (I can chant up the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa if it came down to it – using just words).
I’ve worked all over the world in various capacities as an engineer or programmer. I’ve been in sales, I’ve installed computer systems, networks, written bespoke software for various firms (including one that’s an early warning missile tracking program – yes, believe it), and agencies around the world. Most of that is all lost in time now since it’s been so long, and due to the fact that I was just “that guy” every man. Right up to when I made that decision to write (yes – I write too) a fictional world, then decided to bring it to life by building a game around it. Look how that turned out.
Since the gains from my first game, and sound investments, over the years, I’ve kept my developments small, manageable, indie etc. I don’t live a life of wanton spending and such. For example, I’m not going to go out and buy a $1m car, or a $20m house just because I can afford it. I live as though I run the risk of losing it all at a moment’s notice. That sort of thing keeps you grounded, focused, and true to life itself. Yes, I do have lots of nice things, nice cars, houses, apartment, I dress well, eat well, live well etc, but they’re not things I wouldn’t otherwise do or have if I had a $250K a year job. It’s all relative. And I am known for being generous, kind, thoughtful…wait…sorry, got off-track there.
I run my business the same way. I don’t overspend, don’t have lavish offices etc. If I run my business on $1m a year, I have no intentions of trying to spend more than that, regardless of how good the year was. And of course, some years are better than others.
I know what it was like come up in the world, and I never want to relive it. Plus, after my first game’s disaster, and how I was treated as an outsider by some in the industry at large, I made it my goal to do whatever it took to stay indie, call my own shots, pave my own road. Though it comes at great cost, and risk, it’s something that has served me well over the years. For one thing, nobody gets to fire, or high me on a whim.
So in the thirty plus years that I’ve been at this, with my first game being twenty-five years this year since inception, the way I live my life, as hazardous (online) as it can be, my uncompromising principles ensure that I get to do it for as long as I want to, not as long as someone wants me to.
6. I HAVE NEVER HAD AN INDUSTRY JOB
If you looked at the backgrounds of everyone who entered the videogame industry prior to my 1992 debut, the vast majority of them collectively built what was to become the “industry”. Some of them were truly indies, building games, and distributing them in sandwich bags and such.
Later on, a bunch of people saw opportunities to make money off these enterprising, and smart geeks. They became known as “publishers”. Most of them were run by people who were, pure, thieving, bastards.
But this is my story, we don’t care about them.
I have a detailed accounting of how I got here, from the notes journal which I’m using to write my impending bio (it’s going to drive a bunch of people stark, raving, mad – guaranteed). I will clean it up, and post it at some later date.
Fact is, unlike most who dropped in from college, other jobs, hobbies etc, I just kinda dropped in. Since back around 1988 when I was working the sci-fi story, and the game around it etc, I was playing other people’s game. They were already there before I even decided to join in the madness within.
I didn’t know anyone in the business back then. Just a bunch of people who I connected with directly through their games. It’s weird, I know. In the past two decades or so, even before the industry made it easy for anyone to jump into the fray, you could trace most people’s career path from college, school, mod scene, or QA, all the way up the ranks.
Not me. Nope. Never had an industry job of any kind. My work experience resume, after 1992, pretty much consists of the publishers who carried my games. Below is the list.
After the mishap of my first game, I wanted to be in complete control of my games, my destiny, and my future. To that end, I did everything I could to remain indie. So, in a sense, I’ve been indie since 1988 or thereabouts.
So once the Battlecruiser 3000AD (BC3K) fiasco blew over, the only other mainstream publisher that I worked with, was Dreamcatcher (now defunct). From that point on, everything was self-published (online, in stores), third-party distributed etc.
GT VALUE (the UK subsidiary of GT Interactive)
Picked up the European rights to distribute BATTLECRUISER 3000AD v2.08 in mid ’99. The title was released in Europe in October ’99.
Picked up the rights to distribute BATTLECRUISER 3000AD v2.0 in June ’98 with a first rights to refusal option to the full sequel, BATTLECRUISER 3020AD. The game was delivered in September ’98 and released in December ’98. 1999 opened with a flurry of great reviews for this industry classic.
TAKE-TWO INTERACTIVE SOFTWARE
Bid on the rights to Battlecruiser 3000AD after reading a story in Computer Gaming World. Bought rights from Mission Studios in early 1995 and released Battlecruiser 3000AD ahead of its time in September 1996. They then signed an OEM deal with GameTek (UK) who also released a version of the game in Europe in March 1997. Take Two Interactive later bought Mission Studios in late 1996, and GameTek (UK) in mid 1997. The latter is no longer in business. In an out of court-settlement, 3000AD got the rights back to the Battlecruiser 3000AD franchise.
During the period when I was allowed to stay or seek a new publisher, they bid on the rights and then due to a disagreement over source code release, the deal never progressed beyond a letter of intent. Showcased Battlecruiser 3000AD at 1995 E3 (back when they were marketing William Shatner’s Tekwar). Intracorp went bankrupt shortly after.
Signed distribution deal with Interplay Productions for it’s products. Showcased Battlecruiser 3000AD at 1994 winter and 1994 summer CES under the Interplay Affiliated label brand. Had two high profile products (which were both late) in production. Due to financial constraints, an amicable agreement was reached which allowed me to seek a new publisher for the project.
The partners split up and I signed Battlecruiser 3000AD with Mission Studios, the new company formed by one of the partners.
Held rights for a year (1992) and went out of business shortly after. Product showcased at 1993 COMPUTER ELECTRONIC SHOW (CES).
7. THE MOST HATED MAN IN GAMING
If you go by the sheer volume of material that is out there about me, I still think that there are others who would probably win that crown. I’m not going to name names, but back in June 2003, I ranked #2 on the The Five Biggest Jerks in Gaming
See, this is very simple. I don’t like being bullied, attacked, or harassed. It goes back to my early days, and going into adulthood, it’s something that I stand firmly against.
I make absolutely no excuses for who I am, what I’ve said, or what I’ve done. I make a mistake, I own it, I move on. Whoever hangs on to it, like cancer, it’s on them.
I don’t try to be who I’m not, because I’m not out to impress anyone.
I have this attitude in everything that I do, especially how I run my gaming communities. If someone is polite, and respectful, you get much farther with me. Behave any other way, you’re getting yelled at, perma-banned, and kicked out of my frame of mind where you will remain forgotten.
I don’t have a single contractor, or business partner who will, under oath, say that I’ve said, and done anything out of character, or treated them with anything short of respect. It’s just my way. The old school way. As I’ve said in numerous interviews, I take pride in those sort of things because they are important to me.
Even if business goes sideways, I try hard not to burn bridges because relationships are everything, and you just never know when you’re going to run into people again in this life, or this Godforsaken industry for that matter.
All the industry friends that I have and know today, for example, Phil Adam, Robert Sirotek, Ricardo Sanchez etc, I’ve known for many, many years. I know CEOs of large corporations, all the way down to the guy who does boring web work. I’m every man because where I come from, everyone is equal, and must be treated as such. No exceptions. No matter how you feel about them.
Yes, I’m exceptionally eccentric, I’m not a people person in that I don’t thrive on doing things with people in real life. Over 90% of my interaction with people, like, you know, humans, is online. I don’t do the “buddy” thing because I don’t know how to “hang out”. I don’t drink strong alcohol, smoke, drugs (unless you count meds) or anything of the sort; the activities that most people tend to do socially.
Being around people, quickly gets boring; and if I’m not talking about something that I’m passionate (e.g. science, sci-fi, gaming, software development etc) about, I zone out. In mid-conversation. If you’ve ever seen, or heard me do live interviews, podcasts etc, then you already know that I’m exceptionally passionate, and excitable when I speak. Sharing knowledge, and opinions, is what works for me.
Going to industry trade shows? LOL! I prepare months in advance. And most of the time, I’m a daze. That’s assuming I ever leave the hotel room. It’s always a struggle.
In case you didn’t figure it out yet, though some of my friends know, I suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, and was on medication for a time, before I quit cold turkey. It hasn’t gotten any better, but it’s manageable.
Though I’ve been written about in many a publication, recognized for my work in almost all, done industry talks, sessions etc, the bullshit Internet flamewar, for a time, was looking like my claim to fame. I hated that. With a passion.
Year after year, I watch the people who run the industry Boy’s Club, showcase and highlight people less talented than myself, the one-hit wonders who you forget when the cheering ends, and their five mins fades. But I’ve always been here, making games, and quietly making a small fortune for my “Fuck You” fund. But, I take it all in stride because, for me, nothing speaks louder than my volume of work – not even all this drama.
To be clear, I’m not bitter or anything, nor do I think it’s all because I’m some Black (I’m actually mixed) guy in a mostly White industry. No. I wasn’t raised to think that way. So I take it all in stride.
I did get a consolation prize though, when April 2009 issue of PC Gamer magazine, gave me a honorable mention in their 49 Greatest Developers article.
I love this industry, and I’m about to dedicate the rest of my tenure in a battle I firmly believe to be the right thing to do. It’s right for me, it’s right for the industry, and it’s right for gaming. If it happens, it will be part of my legacy. And depending on how it goes, I will most likely end up being the most hated man in gaming by the time the dust settles. But in time, those who see it that way, will come to realize that it was for the greater good; and that someone had to do it. I’m the indie outsider, with nothing to lose, and everything to gain for the greater good.
And if nobody stands with me, that’s OK too, I’m used to standing alone. It’s been the story of my industry life, for the most part.
Fun fact: I’ve been semi-retired since around 2012. Only a few people, including my PR people (e.g. Tom @ Evolve) know, because we were discussing a bunch of creative ways to do a proper “Supreme Commander Retires” send off skit, similar to what Bill Gates did when he left Microsoft. It was inspirational, and fun for me.
Oh, and I’ve been writing my bio for few years now. It’s going to be exceptional; even if I say so myself.
8. NO NEURAL NET AI IN BATTLECRUISER 3000AD
This was yet another of those silly things from the Usenet days. And, yet again, the media are solely responsible for this.
The fact is this, I am primarily an AI programmer. Though I have intricate graphics, and computational experience, I love AI.
Back when I was building a game around my sci-fi world, I needed to find a way to handle the AI process in terms of data, decisions, dialog etc. I tried LISP and Prolog. They were inefficient for what I needed to do.
So I trashed it all, started over. In less than nine months, I wrote AILOG, my own AI language, from the ground up.
Then I built the game on top of it.
I talked this up in various interviews, articles etc. It made headlines when the first appeared on the cover of the May 1992 edition of Computer Games Strategy Plus magazine.
Once that appeared, despite the fact that the game was actually running, with complex entities being processed, in a massive – massive – world, some of the industry big wigs at the time, chose to vilify me for it, simply because they didn’t understand it. Here is a choice quote from one such developer.
“I have a hard time believing it’s in there… the concept of training [neural nets] to do the complex tasks required in a game is inconceivable. It’s mumbo jumbo. I guarantee you that if there’s a neural net that does anything in [BC3K] this man would be in the Computer Science Hall of fame”.
Then, they did it again in another popular magazine, Boot (now Maximum PC), when one of the writers trashed it, and reduced the game, my life’s work, to a joke about giving a dog a set of Scrabble titles, and it crapping something more coherent.
So naturally, with this (and the next item below), I was not only battling for my reputation, but also for that of my work. Meanwhile, a bunch of people were in full swing character assassination mode.
Nobody, in the history of gaming, has ever come to such scrutiny, and ridicule as me, over a work product. At the time, I was the low hanging fruit “outsider” who most everyone got to pick on. Especially since they knew how I’d react.
Though not all of them of course. Guys like Andy Mahood, Denny Atkin, Steve Bauman, Johnny Wilson, Jeff Green, to name a few, all the old guard, were very fair, and unbiased. Even when they were being somewhat unkind, I think shell-shock or PTSD prevented me from being too upset.
That’s when I started giving away my games to the public for free after their shelf life has expired. Starting with that first game, all the way down to the Universal Combat CE v2.0 version I gave away on Steam this past February.
And when I retire, as I’ve done with my games, I intend to put my entire body of work, source code and all, including my extensive video game library, into the public domain.
9. I DON’T HAVE A PH.D.
This is another fun one from back in the Usenet days.
It all started on Usenet back in 1996 after my first game disaster. I was on Usenet, mouthing off as was the norm back in the day. Then at some point, someone saw the Ph.D. in my signature and asked what it was for. I said Comp Sci, thinking that was the end of it. Hilariously, it wasn’t.
You see, the general thinking back then was, Black (?) guy, Ph.D., buggy game. Alarm bells!! Kill it with FAYAH!!! Fraud!! Hail! Brimstone!!
Of course, when you’re out bragging about shit, in the middle of a flamewar, everything related to common sense, goes out the window. Since my school, by US standards, wasn’t anything to brag about, naturally I was cagey, and embarrassed. I mean, who goes bragging about their fancy sports car, then gets seen driving a clunker scrap heap? Have you no shame?
As expected, that went downhill real quick.
And before you knew it, the conspiracy theorists were all over it, fueled by the main detractors who, thinking they’d finally found something else to discredit me for, aside from the game, went on a campaign based on that one thing.
Eventually it became the equivalent of modern day doxing. Except, since I never even went to school here, they found nothing, even with the name of my thesis. OMG!! Red flag! We were right!! Who last had the rope?!?
Of course, I refused to tell because it simply wasn’t relevant to anything, especially seeing as I didn’t hold a job anywhere and didn’t need to disclose it to some nutcases on the Internet. So I didn’t. Plus, I don’t take too kindly to being bullied, or harassed.
I shit you not, it went from ludicrous, to the plain absurd, when people started thinking I was some agency (think CIA, NSA etc) plant, in witness protection or something. Seriously, it was nuts. There wasn’t a single Usenet thread I was involved in, where the goon squad didn’t follow me to. We just burned it all to the ground. Like, every day.
We’d be back, like clockwork, the next day, to do it all over again. It was a full time job for some people.
Eventually once Wikipedia was created (yup, I was there), the battle moved there; with both sides fighting for who got to put the most bullshit on my page. I lost count of how many times we were all virtually marched into arbitration for our incessant bullshit. It was glorious. Back then, we all knew how to spell, and compose a coherent sentence. Nobody wanted to look like the idiot in the room. This despite the fact that, well, most were idiots. Who could spell.
Even after we all moved on from Usenet, that farce followed me everywhere (Blues News, Adrenaline Vault, Shack News etc), and continued for many years, and various legal actions (taking down defamatory websites and such) afterward. This despite the fact that nobody actually cared, one way or the other.
I swear, a bunch of people probably got their law degree on Usenet, because there was so much legal mumbo jumbo going around, most of us had to do research to grasp all of it. There were in fact quite a few scientists, lawyers, law enforcement people, doctors etc in there. Anyone who had anything to say, was quick to flash credentials, chime in, made everyone catatonic – then leave.
I’m telling you, it was pure, unadulterated mayhem. Even when a Princeton professor showed up one week, proved who he was, said that from what he knew (I had shown and told him in confidence), if I applied for a job, he’d hire me. They still rebelled. They needed proof!!
And we all who were there, remember it like it was yesterday. It was our time growing up crazy.
The two opposing camps literally came to be the creators of the The Great Flame War Of 1999. With yours truly at center of it all. To this day, most of the participants, and observers, as ludicrous as it was, think of it fondly. Crazy thing is, those were some of the most fun some of us ever had online. Who cares about, you know, playing games? The aliases were the battleworn avatars, with words being the weapons of pure mayhem, and mass destruction. The gaming Usenet forums were a battleground where even angels dare not tread.
In the end, because I’m a crazy bastard, who doesn’t cave in to bullying, or anything of the sort, I was just hoping that one day, some rich dumbass would end up in court, across from me, bring it up, and find that he was wrong. I then got to own all his shit by the time the dust settled. I banked on that for many years. Thing is, most of the tools who were harassing (that’s what it’s called now, apparently) me over that back in the day, didn’t even have two dimes to rub together. So legal action would’ve been a wasted effort, as there would have been no financial remedy.
It wasn’t until in recent years when I filed an unrelated lawsuit, did the prerequisite declaration etc, that I ever had to address it in a legal setting. As expected, it went nowhere; and two people learned a very valuable lesson they won’t soon forget.
Fact is, I have two science specific degrees. One in Comp. Sci and another in mathematics. Go ahead and re-write the history books. Be sure to send me a copy.
10. MY NAME IS DEREK SMART
….and this is who I am.
“Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead…but don’t be surprised if we don’t uphold them.“