My name is Chesley (Chess-lee, lrn2read) Oxendine and I am a burgeoning journalism major about to graduate with his associate's degree. I'm a massive geek on every front: books, comics, movies, games, theatre, you name it I'm obsessed with it. I'm also a self-titled writer and poet (none of which you'll see here.) I play every game I can get my hands on; genre typically doesn't matter.
I'm going to tell you now I am a big fan of people saying whatever the **** they want in their reviews, or columns, or articles. Journalistic freedom: if someone can back up what they say with a point, they have the right to say it.
That being said, welcome to the Chez Dispenser. Enjoy your stay.
Okay, so, here's how I look at things, and this is going to be blunt, so allow me to preface all this by saying I have nothing against anyone in particular and just generally disagree with the mentality I'm about to present:
I don't like the concept of fandom. I don't like how prevalent it's become, because it seems that the fans of something believe their appreciation garners ownership, and that's not the case. Games may be a business, as Aru pointed out, and they may garner expectations, but there is a huge amount of artistry going into a game. The writing, the artwork, the game design--there is a massive amount of right-brain-style creativity (not necessarily innovation, but disciplines that involve creating) going into every effort we see out there. For fuck's sake, the Call of Duty games can be said to have art direction. It exists.
That means there's a huge amount of intellectual property involved, and that's where the argument gets iffy--unless you own the IP, or the IP's owner extends the proverbial olive branch, you don't get a say in a franchise's direction, nor do you get to define what is or isn't part of a game series. If Square says a modern military FPS is the next numbered FF game, well, they get to define that. The fans play a critical part in the success of something on its financial end, not on its artistic end. They may be creators of their own content, but they did not create this particular content, ergo, they don't get to make decisions regarding it. It's highly unlikely that any of us have ever coded for a FF game, or designed a character for a Capcom fighter--and as long as that's the case, we are just fans. Our relationship with the artist begins and ends as we complete the sale, and so does our contribution to the art's success or failure.
Does that mean I don't think you should be displeased with a direction? No, god no. I'll be happy to rant about how much I hated Final Fantasy X or Metal Gear Solid 2 every day of the week--but the fact that I went and bought the games does not mean I have a say in where they go.
To me, as a writer, that's terrifying. That's tantamount to someone telling George R.R. Martin he can't kill a character because they've become emotionally invested in them, or telling James Cameron he can't direct a romantic comedy (I fucking hate James Cameron, for the record) because they want Avatar 2 instead. It's taking the art away from the artist and crowd-sourcing it among fans, and that leads to chaos--just ask your nearest theater geek what happens when you have too many directors and not enough actors. Ask a game studio what happens when you take that singular, focused vision and try to dilute it, catering to everyone's needs.
The art suffers for it, I feel, when you spread the vision out too far and rely on fans to design a game. The new DmC said "fuck everything" and changed so much, ignoring all the vocal outcry--and turned out to be one of the best games I've played this generation (and the first one since BL2 I couldn't put down until I completed it) because it committed to its decisions and ran with it, and became the second best game in the series as a result, in my estimation.
(DMC3 gets the nod because of its boss fights and I like the weaponry better. That's it.)
Fans will mention the word betrayal, but that's something I need people to understand: there's no existing contract. The only contract that shows up is that when you get that game going, it works. There is no promise of a sequel, even if there's a cliffhanger ending. There's no promise that the artist will do what you want them to do in the next game, or release that DLC you want so badly. Without that promise, that legally binding promise, there is no betrayal. They never promised you the sequel would be anything like its predecessors.
But Chez, sometimes fan feedback has really helped a game!--yes, it has, but I guarantee you the feedback was filtered and considered carefully as to whether or not it could fit in that original vision or idea, and that if there was a change, it was because the artist decided it was better. Whether the idea is good or not is irrelevant--I'm advocating for the freedom to have it and to own the characters, names and concepts you create. They are yours--not the fans'.
That's my problem with fandoms: there seems to be this idea that the artists owe you. They don't. They completed the transaction. You have a game, you have a book, you have a movie. The relationship, until they begin it anew, is over. You don't get to stand next to George Lucas, as fucked as some of the Star Wars movies are, and demand he change his vision. You get to complain about it, make your distaste known, and find something else to like. If Lucas takes your advice, that's great, but he is under no circumstances obligated to. There is no betrayal. He's done nothing to personally attack you--he simply went on with what he wanted to do with his stuff, which he is in right to do.
It's that mentality that makes me avoid calling myself a "fan" of anything. I like things. I enjoy things. But I'm not a fan, because the idea that an artist owes me something--that's scary.
To paraphrase Mr. Gaiman's letter in that link I posted: Game developers are not your bitch.