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E Pluribus Milady

· 6 min read
Scatter Psyops Director

How a robust derivative subculture solidifies Milady's place as the dominant cultural force.

As any community, niche, or ideology grows, its success and expansion often bring accusations of dilution, subversion, and compromise. When a group of people have deemed something important and it gains traction, there is always a fear that newfound attention and opportunism will destroy whatever made that thing special.

This phenomenon is almost ubiquitous throughout the history of human culture, be it fringe political movements being embraced by moderates, avant-garde musical groups gaining mainstream recognition, or writers engaging in perceived self-censorship to meet editorial standards. No matter the context, the diehards fear potential change brought about by fresh perspectives.

In simpler terms, normies ruin everything. But is it always this way? More importantly, does it have to be? These are questions we've grappled with at Scatter.

Remilia Ecosystem on Scatter

Derivative Controversy

The debate regarding derivative collections and how they should operate within the Remilia ecosystem has been a contentious one, and it's likely to only become more complicated as our corner of web3 grows in reach and influence. Many well-meaning observers have pointed to a perceived saturation in Milady-centric collections, with many being low-effort slow mints that amount to little or nothing.

The perceived threat here goes beyond financial malpractice or grifting. The concerned parties more deeply feel that these low effort, paint-by-numbers collections detract from the sacred aesthetic or vibe of Milady. While understanding and sympathizing with these concerns, the Scatter team has grown to think the opposite is true.

Milady’s image dominating the art-scape of Web3 from high-effort 1/1 grails all the way down to the 10k rug core generative grifts, is a testament to Milady’s domination of the network, not a hindrance to it. To illustrate this point, we must, as we often do, look back to the internet of old, to the content mecca of the early 2000s internet, Newgrounds, and more specifically its beloved character turned mascot, Pico.

Newgrounds and Pico

If you were on the internet between 1999 and 2005, Newgrounds likely needs no introduction. A hub for independent, edgy, and often offensive flash-based games and animation, Newgrounds represented a golden age for subversive digital content, and at the center of it all was a pixelated ginger schoolboy named Pico.

Pico’s School

'Pico’s School' was one of the first Flash games on Newgrounds to gain widespread popularity. Praised for its originality, humor, and scope, Pico’s School became a phenomenon in the Adobe Flash world and the broader internet. Despite the runaway success, a true sequel to Pico’s School from the game’s original creator, Tom Fulp, infamously failed to ever materialize.

What did come about in the wake of Pico’s School’s popularity was a sea of Pico spin-offs and tributes from third-party creators (usually fans/users) within the Newgrounds community. Pico Russian Roulette, Pico vs Bear in the Big Blue House, Pico Dating Sim, the list goes on. Flash creators were en masse taking the Pico character and reworking him into various scenarios, settings, and aesthetics.

Some of these unlicensed spin-offs were incredible, some were good, some were bad, and some were enough to make you wish Adobe Flash had never existed. Their quality aside, however, each new iteration and interpretation grew Pico’s status as a symbol within the flash development community and the internet culture of the day. Very few people talk about the bad Pico games anymore, but everyone remembers Pico because he was everywhere all at once, in the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Pico Day 2022

Instead of detracting from what made 'Pico’s School' a treasure, the fan-art and at times sub-par third-party spin-offs served only to cement Pico’s place as the standard for Flash animation.

How Pico Escaped the Normie Trap

What was it about Pico’s rise that immunized him against being co-opted and ruined by normies? How were the team behind Pico and, more broadly, Newgrounds as a platform able to maintain their edge/authenticity while allowing the mid-wit masses to do as they pleased with the site’s flagship IP?

In our humble eyes, it was a result of the directional flow of influence within a (at the time) niche but ascendant space/community. Due to the creative team behind Pico’s School embracing and encouraging derivative work, an entire generation of aspiring flash developers and artists cut their teeth with Pico as their muse.

By the same token, a subculture established on constant reimagining and reinterpretation ensured that, for the core fanbase, the magic of the original Pico’s School was not diluted by the lower-quality community creations. Flash games and animation would ultimately be supplanted as the internet’s medium of choice by things like mobile apps and streaming services.

To this day, however, Pico is treated with a certain reverence by those who lived through the Newgrounds era, and his likeness and references to Pico’s School continue to be found in a variety of new online media.

The Future of Blockchain and the Role of Milady

Blockchain, Crypto, Web3, whatever you’d like to call it, unlike Adobe Flash, probably isn’t going away anytime soon, and right now a not insignificant portion of focus from participants of all competency levels is pointed at creating something Milady adjacent, and we think that’s beautiful.

Of course, it can be depressing to think the “early days” are over, and it is often disheartening to see hucksters and charlatans profit from the Remilia wave. Perhaps, however, it must simply be accepted that bad faith actors are part and parcel of the open, 'permissionless' nature of our industry.

With that in mind, we ask those genuinely worried about the explosion of Milady derivatives to zoom out and consider the magnitude and beauty of the fact that as it stands, no matter where you look in NFTs, from high-end auctions to large generative collections, the influence and reach of Milady is immediately apparent. No matter which way the web3 winds blow, they cry Milady, and we here at Scatter believe that will pay cultural dividends for years to come.

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