Strap in. This is a long story.
In 2007, when Katawa Shoujo made the leap from a 4chan thread to an “official” forum, I was one of the first people to join. Back then, apart from the admin who created the forum, all voices were equal. Every day was cacophony. It was exhilarating.
I wanted badly to be a writer, so I contributed often. Even back then, I knew that the secret to being noticed (and liked) was feedback. But I was especially interested in how we, the ex-Anonymous, would form the necessary infrastructure to develop a game. This was probably what helped me stand out the most. When the admin finally decided to put together a team — an interim government of sorts — he asked me to join. I happily accepted.
It was a disaster.
I think what we wanted, in our naïveté, was to harness “crowd creativity” for production. So at first, we held public polls for little things, like what the characters’ names would be. This was fun. But as enthusiasm waned and people wondered when some actual development would start, we bumbled and stalled. Displeasure grew. We fled to our secret team forums, and it became increasingly clear that this pseudo-democracy wasn’t going to work in the long run. The project needed a leader.
But therein lay another layer of intrigue: The team didn’t really like the forum admin. We hid it from him, of course, in the cowardly tradition of young men talking crap on the Internet. As much as we didn’t like his leadership, he seemed poised to become top dog by default. But patience was wearing thin. People were dropping out, and it looked like the whole thing was going to die.
So, my last act as a member of the Katawa Shoujo team was a coup d’état. I went behind the admin’s back, got support from the rest of the team, and publicly announced that a young firebrand named Cpl_Crud was going to be the new director of the project. I left him some words of encouragement, and then I took my leave. (The admin left me a goodbye as well. I didn’t read it.)
I haven’t followed Katawa Shoujo much since then. I understand that it’s about to be released in a couple of days. I’m happy for its success, because believe me when I say that it almost blew up in the hangar. But I still feel some shame when I see it mentioned, because it reminds me that my singular contribution to the VN world wasn’t my writing, or my ideas. It was playing Judas.
But there is one thing. One bright, little thing:
Way back, when it wasn’t even decided what the characters’ names were going to be, I gave a lot of attention to the burned girl. I thought that she should have a demure name, something a little old-fashioned – maybe even a little ironic. I pushed hard for it. And after all this time, past the long-buried mistakes of youth, I’m delighted to find that this one thing still exists. If there’s any salvation to be found for me in this whole sordid affair, it’s there.
Hanako… I gave you your name.
A fuller history of Katawa Shoujo‘s development, which puts the above in its proper context: A footnote, nothing more.