May 6th, 2008
DP’s Editing Notes: I spent a long time thinking about how to approach this article and upon completion I feel genuinely disappointed that I have not expressed my feelings to a level of accuracy that makes me feel content. I might sound like a broken record but I am truly having a difficult time in fully understanding the ins and outs of the issue of culture (on many levels), an issue which fascinates me. I feel that this article may perhaps in some instances sound illogical and possibly domineering. Still I find it necessary to share with you my observations so if any of this makes a vague bit of sense then please share your thoughts.
I’m still thinking about culture and I just can’t shake a few ideas that are bothering me. I’ve talked before about Casual Gaming and this whole hierarchical view that seems to manifest in a significant portion of the gaming community. Where the core gamers view themselves as somehow superior to other, less experienced players.
What I have recently discovered from these articles is just how frustrated I am with fan culture. So I have decided to use myself as the example and explore how and why I react in particular ways to fan culture and if I myself hold some sort of bias/grudge in a similar way.
My Observations and Interpretations
My first such experience was over the recent holiday break where I visited a sale for a particular video game store. This isn’t just you standard game store though, this place sells anime/manga/games and is exceptional when it comes to video game collectables, rarities and hard to find game titles. So this place is obviously a breeding ground for fan culture. *rubs hands together with glee*
As expected, some of the customers and their gaming friends did get on my nerves while I was in the store. So I paused and observed their behaviour a little and plundered the depths of my mind to find what it was exactly that hit an uncomfortable nerve.
My conclusion was in their conversation. My interpretation of their utterances was that it seemed as though many of the fans lacked a certain context about various games lined up on the shelves. Even though they would rampantly talk about certain games, it appeared as though they had only a loose interpretation of the historical relevance and impact of the game as well as other bits of relevant, factual information. Despite their lack of knowledgable context they seemed particularly willing to take the approach of “resident expert” on the subject.
My next observation was that many of the players seemed only interested in certain titles because of the attributes that ownership of this game would exempt about their significance as a player. For example: the idea that hardcore/more skilled players play FPS games or that to be seen as a niche gamer you have to own all of the Harvest Moon games. There seemed to be a certain “The Internet says this game is cool” like idea accompanying what was said. To put simply, they were swayed by the online gaming culture as to what is acceptable or not.
My last observation is a pretty understandable one and that is fanatical behavior, essentially any behaviour that disregards social decency and is just blatantly rude. This is simply annoying behaviour no matter what field of interest.
When reading over my observations I guess (read: hope) that my frustrations have become clear and seem justified. I feel as though what I have noticed and what I continue to notice are the negative effects of not only fan culture as there is more to it than that, but also social culture. The difficulty (and perhaps why I am having such a hard time concentrating my thoughts on these issues) is because culture is not a very clearly defined issue and I am having difficulty on deciding on where to lay the blame.
Although I have answered the core question as to why I am frustrated with fan culture, I would still like to attempt to define what is behind the observed behavour as I am having a tough time in classifying what if I am actually frustrated with fan culture or if it is something else entirely.
Running down the list of observations, I really don’t know what to define as the problem source of this “resident expert” / “I’m right and you are wrong” idea. I can’t entirely chalk to down fan culture although in some instances this may be the case. I guess this is a case of social development instead.
The second observation (“the internet says this game is cool”) is again something that is perhaps fan culture and then again it could just be a social factor. Peer pressure from wider players, perhaps? Lastly the third observation is a bit of both social and fan culture.
A Call For Respect
In anycase, it does not matter what words I use to brand this type of behaviour, which drives me so insane. What I have realized is that it all comes down to something that I have talked about before; respect.
As I was returning home from this store I was discussing my thoughts on both my observations and casual gaming with resident voice man Matty Jay. He suggested an interesting take, in reference to new players he said that it is all about respect. Even though he probably doesn’t realize it, I think that this applies across the board.
He basically said that as long as casual gamers respect people like us (that is to essentially not negatively portray us) then he doesn’t mind the casual gaming scene (and vica versa). He proves a good point and I’d like to use this topic of respect to wrap up the article.
It really is about time this idea of “resident know it all” needs to die in favour of a more inclusive approach. As authority figures of our medium, like any sort of leader, we should express leadership qualities and in turn be accepting of different opinions.
In continual reference to the first observation, talking about games we haven’t played can be quite a sensitive topic and as a blogger I am careful with how I approach this. I do my best to not make any ill judgements on games in which I haven’t personally experienced. I do this as a sign of respect, not only for the reputation of my character but also so that I can fairly represent the game.
With this, I myself, do a lot of research both as a blogger and as an enthusiast and I think that in doing so it has allowed me to not only obtain a more accurate representation of games but also it has ensured that I do not fall victim to hype or this “the Internet said it was cool” mindset.
Tieing back into ‘respect’, I feel that by gaining a solid understanding of games and not making invalid claims we are in turn showing our respect. So overall this issue of respect applies to all of my noted observations of negative “fan” behaviour.
Maybe I have stepped out of the grounds of video games and into my personal thoughts on behaviour and society this time. Which is probably what I have done before and didn’t want to do again. Looking at the original question though I guess my anger with fan culture was a little unjust and this article has allowed me to turn the focus onto the real problem source (which I can best describe as “respect destroying behaviour”).
It is important that we show our respect to this medium and industry by removing these negative aspects of social, fan and gaming culture and try to focus on well informed, logical, level heading thinking and actions. As such we can then move this industry forward as a single unit and not the current shatter of fragments.