Almost exactly a month ago (I’m a day late writing this), I started a new project. Since May 1st, 2022, I’ve been building a fan/archival website dedicated to the video game series Boktai. Aside from a bootstrapped portfolio website that I made as part of a college course, this is the first website I’ve ever built from top to bottom in HTML almost entirely on my own. Some backstory:
For a couple of years now, I’ve been loosely planning out a documentary project around Boktai, a series of weird Game Boy Advance games made by Hideo Kojima. I’ve written about these games here before, if you want to know more about what they are and why I love them so much. I’ve been a fan of these games for almost 20 years now (yikes), and saw an opportunity to try and tell their story to an audience beyond the relatively small and dedicated fanbase the games still enjoy today, and to try my hand at collecting and presenting a fuller picture of them than I’ve seen anywhere else on the web.
This loose idea led me around in circles for a while, as I tried to decide on an angle to approach things from. Should it be a straightforward recap of the events of the series, telling the story of the games as it happened? Should it be a historical recounting of the games’ development, release, reception, and afterlife? Should it be a deeper analysis of the games’ world and timeline, looking at their themes and lore? Should it be a series containing all of these things? In the end, I couldn’t decide. I still want to make something in that space, but I still don’t know what that will be.
In part, my indecision was the result of a repeatedly stunted research process. By and large, I could only find bits and pieces about the Boktai series around the web. There’s really only one solid wiki, and it is woefully incomplete and underdeveloped. This series just hasn’t gotten the leave-no-stone-unturned treatment that other pop culture series have gotten from their online audiences and fandoms. This was, of course, part of the reason I wanted to start making something about Boktai in the first place, and so I found myself in a sort of ouroboros of pre-production. I would, more or less, look for information, not find it, and end up right back where I started with renewed resolve to save these games from being forgotten, but with even more work to do myself.
Finally, something broke the cycle. A certain rich dick decided to buy Twitter. Bear with me. His announcement prompted discussion of alternate online venues, which led to discussion of what made the internet so nice before social media, which led me to Neocities. Neocities is — if you’re of a certain age — exactly what you think it might be. It’s a revival of that good-old free website host of the AOL days of the internet, geocities. Neo-geocities. Neocities. If you’ve never heard of it, check it out. There’s a good chance you’ll become as enamored with some of the vibes people are creating there as I have.
We’re almost there. Once on Neocities, just as I was about to give up and decide that I had neither the time nor interest required to build my own website or blog from scratch and stick with it in the long run, I stumbled upon a site called Distant Skies. It’s a fan site for an old NES video game I’ve never heard of called Crystalis. It was at this point, looking at this fan site someone had dedicated to a video game from their childhood that made an impact on them, that I knew what I had to do. I would be the one to build the internet’s greatest repository for all things Boktai. I would gather all of the available information about these games I could possibly get my hands on, organize it, and present it in as simple and beautiful a way as I could. I would build the website, the reference library about this game that I wish existed. And I would call it The Boktai Database.
Borrowing heavily from the design of Distant Skies (thanks to their Creative Commons licensing), I spent about a week in April figuring out the basic design of the website. I know I’m working on the right thing when I can’t put it down. Once I got this idea in my head, I could not stop working on it. Morning, afternoon, and night, any free moment I had, I would pour into bringing the site online as soon as possible, in its earliest state of functionality. I bought a domain (boktai.info), made header and nav graphics in Photoshop, hyperlinked the pages together, edited CSS, and learned the syntax of Distant Skies’ basic setup that would become the backbone of my new site.
On May 1st, 2022, I setup a paid Neocities account (for the extra storage and custom domain support), and uploaded my files. The Boktai Database (yes I’m going to link to it every time, I’m excited) was online. And my next project had just begun.
In the past month, I’ve added the beginnings of the games’ story, locations, maps, and music. I’ve listed countless other sites and resources on the Links page. I’ve also gotten in touch with a group of Boktai-dedicated folks through Discord, who’ve massively helped my effort of saving and hosting (or linking to, as is appropriate) a number pieces of Boktai-related media and associated materials on the Media page that were released alongside the games, or that otherwise tells the story of these games as cultural objects in the world.
The Boktai Database has been massively rewarding to work on over the past month, and I’m only getting started. It’s going to take a lot of time to finish a project of this size, and it may never be entirely “complete,” but I hope one day it can stand as the place on the internet to find any and all Boktai-related information. And I really hope that one day it helps me finally make that documentary project.