What is a Demoscene?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A demoscene is a subculture that blends elements of art and computing. People who belong to a demoscene either make or appreciate demos, audio-visual presentations that are designed to render in real time on a computer system. Demos are not animations, but a form of multimedia presentation that is usually designed to be of very high quality. Like other subcultures, the demoscene can be tight knit and people who are new to the scene may have trouble breaking in until they demonstrate their skills.

The origins of the demoscene lie in the 1980s, when software crackers began breaking the copy protection on games and re-releasing them with short demos that acted as signatures. When the games were loaded, the demo would begin, and then the game itself would activate. Demos typically credited the members of the group involved and might tell stories, display flashy graphics to push the system to its limit, and make insider references.

Over time, the demoscene began to be less closely yoked to the hacking and cracking scenes. While some people who make demos are involved in piracy, not all are, and demos can be developed as standalones rather than signatures attached to cracked software. A typical demo is made by a demogroup, a collective of individuals that works together to design and code it, and some groups have become notable for the quality of their work as well as its innovation.


Members of the demoscene can meet up at demoparties, social events where people code together, display demos, and engage with people who have like-minded interests. Many parties feature competitions. Demoparties and other events in the demoscene are tracked on a number of websites and forums, some of which may be locked or hidden in order to limit access to certain members of the scene.

Being involved in the demoscene requires a knowledge of coding as well as art, although different members of a demogroup may have different skills. Some may focus on developing music, others on storyboarding graphics, and others on the actual coding needed to produce the demo. Demos are formatted as executable files with the code and any necessary supporting materials embedded inside.

Every demo comes with detailed credits. Many demogroups have a signature style that is recognizable to fans. Taking credit for the work of others is frowned upon and people with a history of failing to offer credit may be excluded from the community.


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