A monthly glimpse into whatever gaming bugaboo Rob’s got on his mind.
I remember when it used to be fun to like nerdy stuff. You’d discover that a kid in your class watched the same show or had the same toys and it was like being in some sort of secret club that other people didn’t know about. At least that’s how it felt. Sure there was always the chance of ridicule, even after “becoming an adult” (whatever that means), but there used to be something special about calling yourself a fan. Now that geekdom has entered the mainstream and the internet is, well, the internet, that’s not so much the case anymore. Here’s the thing: If we’re being honest, fandom is trash.
There are so many different types of problematic fandom that I’ve been asked to narrow the focus of my rant for the sake of space, which is understandable and also extremely sad when you think about it. So for the sake of brevity, I’m going to talk specifically about fans who get so attached to a story/world/characters that any changes, no matter how slight, to their perception of whatever they’ve latched on to can turn them into festering mounds of Not Being Very Nice At All.
This is something I’m semi-guilty of myself, truth be told. I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil games from the very beginning and as such I wasn’t thrilled with what was done to Leon’s character in the ever-popular Resident Evil 4. The Leon I was familiar with was a rookie cop – a glorified boy scout, really – who got tossed into the middle of a viral outbreak. Suddenly that rookie is a government agent (not a big deal) who thinks and acts like a Hollywood action hero (kind of a big deal). This bugged me. I didn’t do anything other than complain about it on an internet forum, but it did grind my gears.
These days, it’s almost fashionable to take disgruntled feelings and weaponize them. How dare a comic book imply that my favorite Overwatch character is canonically gay! Stephen Universe did WHAT with my favorite character? Oh, hell no! I didn’t like the script for the most recent Star Wars movie so I’m gonna start a petition to try and force Lucasfilm and/or Disney to remove all of the events from the movie from official Star Wars canon (I still can’t wrap my brain around that little gem). People need to calm the fuck down.
Look, I get it. I do. You get so attached to a thing that you almost start to feel like you’re a part of it. You’re so familiar with these characters they begin to feel like old friends or even romantic interests – which, I mean I get, I crushed hard on Jill Valentine for over a decade, but always remember that these are fictional characters. My point is, when someone comes along – regardless of whether it’s a fan with a different set of expectations or someone directly involved with the official product – and says “this is different now,” that can make you feel like your world has been turned upside-down. And feeling like that is okay!
What’s absolutely not okay is taking your anger and frustration over those feelings out on anybody else. If someone writes a fanfiction you don’t agree with, bite your damn tongue (or sit on your hands if you’re typing) and move on. Their personal take on the subject is just that: Their personal take. If a new episode or film comes out that “ruins” the story or a character for you, well, first of all deal with it, but second of all there’s no rule that says you can’t strike those changes from your own mental record and imagine up something of your own. Hell, even if you can’t escape to your own version of a thing you can still not turn around and harass someone over it.
If you have a problem the way a thing you like is changing or has changed, that’s normal because unless you’re crafting it yourself there’s a good chance the person running the show has different ideas. Don’t let that displeasure or disagreement turn into the type of behavior that will actively drive people away – both from you and from whatever it is you’re a fan of. Let other people know you don’t like a thing, sure, but we all need to draw a line somewhere. I think drawing the line at being an insufferable dick-weasel is a pretty good (and obvious) place to start.
Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne