9-Year Anniversary and a Much-Needed Name Change

Hello, Popfan here!

We’re now almost a full month-and-a-half into the new year. Hope all of you are doing well, staying healthy, staying safe. As of last month, I’ve picked up my regular workouts again and started taking walks every morning, though while I’m still not sure if it’s had much of an effect on my body yet, it does make me feel a lot better about myself. Having a consistent morning routine is really nice…

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, though. What I’ve really wanted to talk about was the circle itself, because it’s going to go through a really big change right now.

Exactly nine years ago, I woke up to find myself added to a Skype group by Spaztique, where I met FullHitPoints, someone who I was told knew how to write games. With his coding expertise, Spaz’s writing and music, and my design ideas, we felt like we had a very real chance at making Endless Blue happen. Obviously it didn’t in the end, but that was the day our team was founded, which we eventually settled on naming “Team Gaijin Alex” — a pretty blatant pastiche of “Team Shanghai Alice”, since we saw ourselves as sort of the western counterpart (back in 2013, the western fangame scene was still practically nonexistent, to put it into perspective) and we really wanted to get our foot in the door making lots of Touhou fangames and music albums.

We had big ambitions… and failed to fulfill any single one of them. Endless Blue got canned, MajiKana got cancelled and we lost out on the opportunity to get a legitimate console port, the guy we brought on to draw character art eventually flaked on us, and even Spaztique and FullHitPoints eventually retired from the team due to all of us growing up and having new priorities to focus on in life. It took over five years for this team to finish and release something that was actually tangible and playable, and that was, for all intents and purposes, a one-man project.

Their sensibilities weren’t the only ones to change over time, either. Last month, I looked back and began seriously reconsidering the (at the time) current team name. Was that really what I wanted to be about? Nothing more than an imitation of something or someone else? I’m barely even all that invested in the Touhou fangame dev scene anymore to begin with. My music has been becoming a work of my own, not overtly connected to Touhou in any way, and while chain of lucidity is obviously from an era where I was still comfortable simply aping Touhou in terms of design philosophy, I plan on carving out my own niche for future games, or at least stop wearing my inspirations on my sleeve.

And so I sat down and began thinking long and hard about what I could rename the circle to, and after several hours of just writing down my stream of consciousness, the end result is:

I didn’t want or need too drastic a change, so the visual design is still the same as before, but I feel like this new name summarizes my current outlook on life fairly succinctly. Allow me to explain…

“Retrograde” means to move backwards — or, in the case of the kanji I picked for the Japanese version of the name, to be facing backwards. The road, on the other hand, is a metaphor for how far I’ve come, and how much further I’ve yet to go. Not just in terms of the creative work I produce, but also my sensibilities, my personal growth, the overall progression of my life… I suppose that, if you’re moving forward while looking back, then you’re also walking backwards — “moving in retrograde”, if you will.

I’ve always been a sucker for nostalgia. Memories of my earliest childhood from playing Mega Drive games, later on PS1 games; my early teenage years marking the rediscovery of the former, realizing that I didn’t break our console, after all, and spending a lot of time with it in addition to playing Master System games on an emulator; then my late teens, where I began playing PSO1 with friends and uploading gameplay videos to YouTube; my early adult years when I first got into game development and attended Touhoucon; all the work I put into COL and other projects, as well as the payoff when I was finally able to release them…

In other words: no matter the time period, I’ll always have at least one nostalgic memory from it that I can think back to for solace and comfort. And I know that I will keep making new memories I can be nostalgic for in the years to come. I’ve realized that this is what life is about for me: not to live in and yearn for the past, but to have past, present and future all coexist in my mind. To make the most of my present in order to have an exciting and fulfilling life, so that I can look back on it from time to time and realize just how much I’ve accomplished, how much has actually happened.

The worst thing anyone can do is to just waste their days away doing nothing. You only have this one life, after all — make it worth your while. And yes, I know… depression and other mental illnesses and disorders can make it very difficult to get up and do even the most basic things to sustain yourself. I’ve been there, and I’m not intending to portray myself as some kind of success story about how I overcame all my inner demons and got on that grind or whatever other buzzwords motivational speakers and self-made entrepreneurs are spouting these days. It’s perfectly okay if it takes time. It’s perfectly okay if you’re a late starter. You’re no less of a person for being trapped in your own misery and listlessness. After all, it took me nine years to come to this realization for myself, to finally find the strength and the support I needed in order to get started making those changes to my life — and I’m still nowhere close to out of the woods.

If you can, then by all means work as hard as you’re able to in order to create your own nostalgia. But if you can’t, then feel free to partake in mine for as long as you need and want.

Because this Retrograde Road is wide enough for all of us.

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