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Expanded Universes: The rise and fail of fan-fiction

4:00 PM on 04.04.2009 // Zodiac Eclipse

So far, we've seen some great articles dealing with the many diverse and exciting incarnations of expanded gaming universes (fair warning, this won't be one of them). We've had a fine sampling from movies, cartoons, books, and edutainment venues. But one growing part of the expanded world has been sorely overlooked and since nobody else wants to get down and messy with the dry-heave inducing media in question, I guess its up to me to bring you; Expanded Universes, the Fan-Fiction edition (Shipero totally sniped me, but I'm posting this anyway).

Let me start off by saying, I don't finish many games. Don't get me wrong, I love playing games, exploring new worlds and meeting fun and interesting characters. But generally, after playing something compulsively for a few weeks, I'll take a day or two off to attend to the petty concerns of real life and, typically, I don't find my way back. If I do, its usually been so long that I have no idea what I was doing, or how to play anymore, so all progress is lost and I start over. It's a vicious cycle, but lets move on. 

Fortunately, there is a wondrous thing called the Internet. Finally, I was able to get the story behind the games I loved, even though I hadn't finished them. Granted the walk-thrus and synopses weren't always the best source for finding out why something had happened or even what the outcome was, but it was enough that I could at least reach some resolution to the story I'd started. It got to a point where when I found a game I was interested in, I'd just read about it, not bothering to even buy it. This lead to my addiction to following game walk-thrus verbatim and not actually playing any games for myself for a few years (that's a blog for another day).

At some point the avid reader in me matured a bit and realized that I was no longer content with “kill the boss and save the world, game over” explanations anymore. I wanted to find out what Harry Mason was thinking while he explored Silent Hill, why Zelda was always needing some kid to rescue her, and what kind of hair gel Seifer used (okay, maybe not so much the latter). I really just wanted to get more out of the story, find out what made these people tick and why they did the things that subsequently lead to them either saving or destroying their worlds. It was on my mission for truth that I stumbled into the serpents pit lovingly called, fan-fiction (remember this is an article about fan-fiction).

In theory, this was the answer to all my prayers. Finally a place where anyone who was a fan of a game could give their take on the story, or even create whole new stories and worlds with the characters everyone knew and loved. It seemed so perfect that I can hardly be blamed for falling for its guise. How was I to know that lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly happy and tranquil utopia was some of the worst story writing and cringe worthy match-ups the Internet has to offer?

Yes I was young then, but I've learned a few things about why fan-fiction has gotten such a bad rep and I'm going to share these things with you. First and foremost:

There are no straight guys in fan-fiction.

(I wish I could tell you guys I didn't already have this pic on my hard drive.)

Really, none. No matter how macho and tough your favorite game character is, there is a fan-fiction somewhere where he is a limp-wristed sissy who only wants to be loved by every other male character in the game. Now, I enjoy fictitious male-on-male action as much as the next girl, but I have to admit, I was pretty shocked to see that there were no limits to how far-fetched the fan-fiction writers were willing to be in their attempt to ship their favorite paring. Even in the stories where a male and female character are the main pairing there is always at least a hint of bisexuality swimming just beneath the surface. It doesn't have to have anything to do with the story, (though usually it is the story), there will be some awkward groping sessions and a “we're friends and friends do that kinda thing so lets not be ashamed” discussion dropped in there somewhere.

Did I mention that anyone can write fan-fiction?

Oh yes, anyone and everyone. There are no rules or regulations (or grammar) to be concerned with. There are ridiculous amounts of angsty, emo, abusive drama fics, as well as fluffy “OMFG so random” pieces. There is no standard of acceptance here so even the most lack luster would-be author can churn out their own little gem that twists and corrupts entire game worlds. Quick example for the folks playing at home:

Viewtiful Joe
"Joe must defat the demon lord who has captured Blue and Silvia. He may need some help from an unexpected aquaintence, though."

A fire started it all
"Orphan Kim, has never liked Pokemon. Because berserk Fire Pokemon killed her parents. On her 10th birthday, her decision will change. When she visits Prof. Rowan, her starter turns out to be a Magby, the Fire type. OC's gladly accepted. Please R&R"

It's not enough to control the world, the writers want to live in it as well. The vast majority of the plot of fan-fictions stems from the writers wanting to tell everyone about their experience in the game, but as if the game were real. This leads to a metric ton of bad to mediocre “OMG I'm in Kingdom Hearts and I'm also the new keyblade master. Also, all the guys are like totally in love with me, OMG” stories.

There should seriously be an entire section devoted to these atrocities of imagination. If it were possible for ideas to have abortions, the result would be these type of fan-fictions.

But what about the good fan-fiction?

Okay, so not all fan-fictions are terrible. I've read some good stories by people who actually were decent writers, but you know what? As long as they write fan-fiction they will never be good writers. This isn't a knock against those who write fan-fiction (I'm guilty of it), its just an observation. Being good at writing fan-fiction (to quote that guy from Waiting) is like being the smartest kid with downs. When your only competition is the worst writers in middle school, you're stories are pretty much the best by default. Don't think that the shallow words of encouragement and praise that flood the comment section are full of anything resembling actual literary criticism. Nearly all the so-called comments on the fan-fiction site are something along the lines of:

“OH! Please I wanna know more! This is so awesome! XD I really hope you update soon! ^_^ “

“I can't wait to see more. Keep up the good work! “


So yeah you get some confidence in your writing, but at what cost to the beloved characters and worlds that are being raped by your ilk?

Is there no hope at all?

Having reached the conclusion of my rant, I feel compelled to point out that I still enjoy the concept of fan-fiction. It could be the perfect media to give me a chance to see the worlds of my favorite games from a different and often overlooked perspective. I could get more in-depth stories about characters I've grown to love and a better insight into their daily struggles outside of the scope of the game. However, good fan-fiction is like finding a quarter in a pile of dog poop. You know it's there, but you have to really psych yourself up to actually dig around and look for it.

Zodiac Eclipse,
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