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kjohnson1585 avatar 10:45 AM on 02.25.2010  (server time)
Why very few fans actually don't know better

While Jim Sterling's infamous article outlines exactly what the problem with fanatical fanboyism, he stops short of explaining why fanboys particularly aren't good at developing their vision. A few commenters mentioned that, because fans essentially engulf every detail and aspect of a work, that there is perhaps a modicum of correctness in the fan's desire. Theoretically, yes, but practically - no.

Why? Fans, for the most part, don't have proper training.

... kinda like this.

"Proper training" means here that they fail to grasp the elements that go beyond that intrinsic desire for self-satisfaction. They don't quite understand the ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE of development and story, of appealing to demographics and financial backers, of conflict and nuance and drama and change. They don't understand the work involved in the creation of anything - and the constant need to proliferate that work beyond the first iteration. In other words, if fans had their way, the very thing they worship would be over in about an hour.

The Sonic 4 issue is not nearly the singular outrageousness that fanboys exhibited over the years. I recently read this article about Chuck fans and something or other, who had issues with the TV stars awkward love triangle (or quadrangle). They wanted the two lovebirds to become instant lovebirds. Problem is, if you do that, you don't have a TV show. It's over. Same with Lost fans, who wants their questions answered as soon as possible. While I have issues with the show's pacing (ie, is this really an effective storytelling pacing or a deliberate method to pad?), it definitely "works" for the show itself, and people are indeed enjoying the show's final season. Had a fanatical Lost fan been given the reigns to develop the show... well, I'm 100% it would have been awful.

Fans are rarely trained in storytelling, in conflict or character development, in pacing, style, and meaning, in programming, design, PR, in which ever genre they're engaging it. They look without watching; they enjoy without playing. Sonic ISN'T just about speed. If it were, then the hundreds of speed-based games out there would be just as popular. Sonic was released essentially as the "anti-Mario," the perfect mascot character with 'tude that marketing 101 would tell you best reflected the angsty teenager mentality, the one that grew up on the cutesiness of early Nintendo gaming and wanted to rebel against it. Nostalgia, coupled with a swath of decent games, barely-mediocre comics, and cartoons ranging from bad to passable, has fans thinking of Sonic in terms beyond what he actually is.

For a project I am working on, I have done a bit of research on Sonic, and, well, it's been hard. Take a look at the writeups on Sonic both at wikipedia and the various Sonic wiki sites. They're terrible. Look at that ridiculous Storyline Summary. The writers fail to understand the encyclopedic necessity of conciseness and clarity. They ramble on as elaborate summaries instead of clear, point-by-point descriptions. Imagine, now, what their fan stuff is like.

What makes this particularly frustrating is that because fans are so in-tuned into what they enjoy, they may have indeed some great ideas in their collective heads. But because they're so fanatical, they end up making insane threats, moronic claims, and outlandish rants that seek to annoy developers and casual fans alike. Fans don't need to shut up so much as channel that erratic energy into something that people can profit from. Star Trek and Star Wars fans produce novels, videos, songs, hold conventions - stuff that, while a bit weird, showcases a controlled talent that suggests an enjoyable experience as a fan-production instead of a scrambling diatribe on some message board forum.

(FYI: A friend of mine was so worked up over the ending of Dawson's Creek that she and a number of other fans created an alternate ending to it. Crazy? Yes. But she's an aspiring screenwriter, so it's not as if she posted an illegible post somewhere. She attempted to pool her skills into something that she and others felt better served the thing she enjoyed. I don't know how it worked out [I've heard good things], but the point is, she made something work because she knew how to make it work. She currently is attending a screenwriting program in Vancouver film school.)

It's pretty much understood that developers and filmmakers claim to listen to fans, but they truthfully don't. Because their ideas suck. BUT, if they spent a few weeks looking a bit more critically at the very thing they enjoy, perhaps maybe they'd be more appreciative and - GASP - learn something about the craft to help formulate their arguments and/or create something amazing, like this Mario-fan trailer.

Or at least they'd finally realize how terrible Heroes truly is.

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