Soapbox: The founder of Newgrounds receives an award at GDC – that’s why it’s important

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There are things I could say right now to pinpoint the ages of most of our readers. “But I am tired.” “Badger Badger Badger.” “Wobble, yellow center.” But most of all, I can ask: which website did you visit most often in the early 2000s? If the answer is anything other than Neopets, EBaum’s World, Homestar Runner, YTMND, Something Awful, MySpace, Albino Black Sheep, A Softer World, or Newgrounds – well, you’re still welcome to this article! We will not have age discrimination here.

But pretty much everyone under the age of 25 who had the internet and a thing for gaming in the early 2000s was on Newgrounds. Browsing silly Flash videos like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny and playing Flash games like The Crimson Room was my lunchtime dose of fun before YouTube was a thing. Now Flash is dead – dead like my dreams of one day becoming a great marine biologist, which was my goal back then. Now I’m just a short game journalist. Ah great.

The Crimson Room was an early example of an escape the room gameThe Crimson Room was an early example of an escape the room game

But Flash’s legacy lives on, as does Newgrounds, which is still running and still run by creator Tom Fulp. In fact, the Game Developers ‘Conference just announced that Fulp will receive a special honor at the Game Developers’ Choice Awards this year along with industry veteran Laralyn McWilliams.

So, as promised: that’s what it’s about.

If you’ve been into Flash games from the start, you’ve probably seen how many of them have moved from browser games to full-fledged console games, many of which are on the Nintendo Switch: Super Meat Boy, N ++, and even Hollow Knight, which originally was was a game jam game made in Flash. You may even know that the creators of Among Us Innersloth started their careers with the mega-popular Henry Stickmin games!

Us's new Airship card is actually a reference to the Henry Stickmin gamesUs’s new Airship card is actually a reference to the Henry Stickmin games

But more than that, Newgrounds was the breeding ground for the indie game scene we have today. Everything weird, bizarre, experimental, and unusual wasn’t on consoles – it was on the internet, and just as Neopets was the place for anyone who loved small animals and free omelettes, Newgrounds was the place to play games.

The sheer number of fun-looking games with stick figures as the main characters speaks volumes about the people who made these games: small teams or even just one person, with little artistic skill (sorry!) But easy access to Flash, a development tool, that made game development possible more than ever.

Meat Boy is the Flash-based precursor to Super Meat BoyMeat Boy is the Flash-based precursor to Super Meat Boy

These days development tools are even more accessible. Flash wasn’t really free – although we might speculate that a lot of indie developers have found ways – but modern tools like Unity, Unreal Engine, and Blender are all free, with plenty of online tutorials to help you learn the basics. Accessibility is a big part of the indie explosion Switch has benefited from, and without accessible tools, we may not have the diversity and creativity that can be seen in the eShop today.

Would any of this exist without the foundations that Flash laid? I dont know! I am not a historian! I just really like flash games! But I suspect that the landscape of indie gaming on the Switch (and in general) would be completely different if Newgrounds, Flash games, and even Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) hadn’t proven there was a huge, hungry market for You.

So, congratulations to Tom Fulp on the Pioneer Award (and Laralyn McWilliams on the Lifetime Achievement Award!) And thank you for your contribution to video games. Without your work, I might actually have become a marine biologist.

Rest in peace, Flash.  You did well.Rest in peace, Flash. You did well.

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