Fans Make the World Go 'Round
By Tara Roth on July 26th, 2012 (10 comments)
Fans are an important part of any entertainment industry. They provide a reliable source of income and are a phenomenal source of emotional support for the creators. Fans are there to cheer you when you’re riding high, hug you when you’re riding low and, like a best friend, are always willing to support and protect you from those who may attack. Sadly though, there is a dark side to fandom. Fans are notorious for being blind to faults from the side they’ve chosen to support and in no place is this more exemplified than the console wars.
There’s a reason we call it a “war.” When consoles are brought up in an online conversation things get very personal within a few lines.
Xbox fanboy: “The PS3 has no online community and takes like 20 minutes to update every single time you turn it on! Though I wouldn’t expect you to pick up on that PS3 n00b, it probably takes that long just to get your brain to register that you sat on the controller and accidently turned the fucking thing on.”
PS3 fanboy: “Yeah?? Well the Xbox 360 has the worst interface, looks like shit compared to the PS3, and nickels and dimes you over every single fucking cord and GB of memory. But I guess you wouldn’t notice that r-tard. You’re so busy grunting insults into a mic and trying to suck your own dick that you didn’t realize I fucked your mother in your bedroom BITCH.”
Nintendo fanboy: “Well... the Wii is...”
Xbox and PS3: “SHUT UP NINTENDO.”
The truth is that, both of these people are right. The Xbox 360 has a horrible interface, the PS3 frequently updates itself and will not let you even so much as watch Netflix until you give into its demands and the Wii is - not really comparable. None of these consoles are perfect, but that doesn’t matter to a fan. They will defend their choice to the death because it’s no longer a criticism about a game or a console, it’s a criticism about what they love. It would be like looking at pictures of someone’s newborn baby and saying it looks like a red-faced, cone-headed, wizened old man pulled from an alien egg that shits a horrendous black smelly tar. It may be the truth, but it’s not going to win you any Miss Congeniality votes I can tell you that for fucking sure.
Fans are important drivers of the industry. The support and love they provide can put a tremendous amount of pressure on developers to release additional titles to a beloved series. The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy are prime examples of this with 18 and 14 editions respectively (not including -2’s). This support can allow developers to evolve and embellish their stories as they had always hoped to do, but it can have a negative impact as well. In a way, the developers are just as dependent on the love of the fans as they are on good title ratings and may rush to put out a sequel before they’re ready. The games that have touched our lives, such as Super Mario Bros, have enormous fan bases that drive the production of sequels to these originals even if they’re just reusing older levels from past games, covering them with a new coat of paint and adding a random, non-essential peripheral <long, penetrating stare>.
Nintendo probably carries the brunt of this devotion, most likely because it has its beginnings rooted in our childhoods. I grew up with Super Mario Bros and have walked next to the little large-nosed fungi-phile as he’s evolved over the years. In some ways, you could say that Nintendo represents my childhood but I won’t hesitate to admit that there is a reason so many people find fault with it. If there was ever a company that embodied releasing sequels to feed the fans, regardless of whether they were inspired or prepared to do so, it would be Nintendo. It’s the fans that support and encourage developers to soldier on even if they should perhaps focus on coming out with new titles instead of releasing The Legend of Zelda for the 19th time. But, then again, it is the fans that have allowed the production of side projects from companies like Double Fine and Valve that have brought me so much joy over the years so I guess I can’t complain too loudly.
In a way, Valve is a very interesting company when you consider how it virtually ignores its fans. We all joke that they can’t count to three because they have so many games that just simply end at the second edition. Despite the enormous and often aggressive prodding from the fans for the third Half Life to be released, Valve has remained mute on the subject, only occasionally letting slip that the series is not lost. In my opinion, if Valve is demonstrating that it is willing to risk the love of its fans to release something that they consider to be well crafted (as opposed to just being afflicted with a company-wide version of ADD) that is quite laudable. Should this sequel ever be released I expect to see great things from this excellent company.... hopefully.
Valve, I will be devastated if you pull a Duke Nukem Forever.
Tara is a part time writer and full time scientist living and working in San Francisco, CA.
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