Possessive fans

I’m sure everyone of you have had this experience yourself, or act it out yourself sometimes; someone really likes a something, be it a comic, movie, a restaurant or even just a candy bar, and this person really doesn’t want others to get into it. He wants to keep to himself and keep the masses or normies, whatever the buzzword is today, out. This is petty at best and does not serve whatever it is being liked. The creator sees less success and has to consider whether or not it is worth to continue on this lane of production/existence, if it would be more worth to take things to a different direction that might change things around enough to turn the thing into something completely different. Every fan knows that to ensure their loved thing will see further success means money and exposure. That means each fan has to become a sort of piggybank, a paywhale for this little thing in order to keep it afloat and make sure the provider knows this, that he will continue to cater to him and his closest circle. The other option is to allow everyone else to throw money at this thing and have it exposed to the wider world world.

There are arguments made every which way regarding this sort of thing. Some argue that the fandom changes for the worse when more people get into this thing, that there’s a cycle that not only degrades the fandom, but also the product itself when it has to cater to more people. Warhammer 40 000 is probably a decent example of this. The perception in the mid-1990’s was that only fat, smelly nerds who have an awkward social life at best who never left their parent’s basement painted these itty bitty figures and then went to dedicated store basements that smelled like rotten cheese and boiling sweat for hours long sessions to play with their toys. Nowadays WH40k has become entertainment for the masses via Black Library books that tell the canonical story set in the game’s universe with the tabletop game itself enjoying more newcomers as well.

Comics of course are another example, which some would argue showcases how a great product can change and turn to absolute mess. While I would fully agree that both Marvel and Dc have gotten rotten at their core, I don’t agree that it is because of expanded audience. Just the opposite; Marvel and DC comics used to be mass entertainment in the US when they were sold in your normal groceries stores alongside Archie and such. The quality downfall of the Big Two was effectively when they begun to cater to a smaller audience that kept getting smaller with time. The sales the Big Two make now would get their books axed and the modern sales can only envy the numbers of past. It is not an exaggeration to say that when comics where entertainment for everyone, they were at their best. When they begun to cater to a smaller audience, and now even to smaller audience that doesn’t even really buy the books. Just look at the female Thor storyline Marvel put out in 2016. Its sales dropped more than 50 percent after the first issue. Even the long-time core customers didn’t want to buy that trash, and the people it catered to don’t buy comics. It is a common secret that comic book movies were the best thing currently since the first Iron Man movie. Were is the keyword, as it would seem that Disney is taking the same direction as with the comics.

There is also an argument for intrinsic value. The less people know and consume a product, the more intrinsic value it is perceived to have. The value is high when the audience is niche. The product’s perceived value drops the more people get into it and the more exposure there is. You’d think this some sort of stupid illogical reason, and you’d be partially right. It is an emotional reaction of course. Some people hoard stuff to keep it to themselves as that supposedly increases the value. To some degree this does apply to single items, but this feeling of value is very easily extended to emotional connections and how exposed something is. This is somewhat a basis for the stereotypical hipster culture culture, where you have people acting strange for the sake of being different, getting into obscure stuff that nobody else knows for the sake of standing out and at least claiming to value the piece.. The don’t really want their strange and unique things go mainstream, because then they’d be mainstream and not strange and unique. Funnily enough, while yours truly has been claimed to act like a hipster, I do pretty much the exact opposite; here’s this strange and obscure shit, like it so it might get more exposure and maybe more fans. I just don’t like being in a community of something myself.

What is interesting about this whole thing is that this ties to the argument Popularity is not the measure of quality. I bet most of you have been a fan of something small that blew up, with the object of fandom staying the same, but the old fans nevertheless left. This ties to the above, but also to the perception that anything that is largely popular could never be of high quality. Of course this can, and often should, be turned around that success is a measure of quality. Ultimately, it is rather absurd to argue that the masses know nothing of high quality or that only a smaller group would know about a greater value something holds. Entertainment has skewed itself to cater in certain way, always has really, and people often forget that even original ideas, small providers and something that are made with a passion, in the end aim to make some money. Nobody makes a production in hopes of losing money for the sake of making the product, unless they already have shitloads of money in the bank to burn. That’s why most trophy projects end up in the trashbin of quality, because they’re made only to attract the preferences of one.

Of course, some people just want to enjoy their preferred thing alone without much others getting in. The question really ends up being with this; why concern yourself with others? Do we really as a species need to dick measure everything and call out others on stuff they find value in? It would seem so, as opinions are really the only things we can argue over, and people will always argue, bitch and moan what people do or what they like, even when there’s zero impact on themselves. Alternatively, we could try see all sides and consider why the things we like are absolute garbage, while the things we dislike and others prefer are worth the time and effort.

To be a fan

Fallout 76 has split opinions, some really wanting to defend the game while others trash it to hell and back. Then you have the whole bag controversy, with Bethesda throwing a sixty five cent nylon bag instead of proper canvas bag as advertised, but to be fair, they did drop canvas versions to people with influence. That in itself should really tell a lot about the company, their priorities and how little they ultimately care about the common end-user, or about the core fans who aren’t million sub Youtubers or writers. In relation to this, I glimpsed a Youtube comment I can’t find anymore, telling a true fan wouldn’t leave a corporation or a series just because there are bad times, that being a fan means you’re there through the good days and bad days. Effectively describing a one-sided marriage where the other partner can abuse the other whatever way they want.

In a way, this comment is correct, as fanatical behaviour rarely follows common sense. There is some form of obsession in there, that keeps the fan tied to the product, person or corporation. In case of computer and video games, it’s a combination of all three. Companies want their consumers to be emotionally attached to them in order to secure stable profits. The product itself serves as the end-goal for the provider, which makes them money. In modern gaming, it helps if the consumer is attached enough to the franchise and characters to drop few hundred bucks to buy some DLC left and right, or microtransaction. That Fate smartphone game is making insane bank just by being a Fate product and having stupidloads of characters that serve as great wank material. The gameplay’s supposedly pretty good too, taking cues from Super Robot Wars if a developer interview I read long time ago when the game was released is to be believed. Similarly, you can accuse me of being âge’s fanboy for supporting shows relating to Muv-Luv and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, but even then I recognize how the quality has dropped alongise the sales with the franchise, and have argued that Muv-Luv is in need of franchise relaunch, especially now that we’ve got aNCHOR and Avex holding the reins in the end. We all are emotionally connected to something we for whatever reason, be it the people around it or just because you’ve grown up with it.

The emotional attachment the consumer makes and has with the product is of course enforced by the corporation’s own PR department. More often than not, you’re going to have someone to function as the face the consumer can relate to. Keiji Inafune, Shigeru Miyamoto, Todd Howard, Masahiro Sakurai and Satoru Iwata are all faces that people are or were connected with. Inafune might have fallen out of favour after Mighty No.9, but people where throwing boatloads of cash at his Kickstarter just because he had a face associated with Mega Man. Iwata might be dead, but his mannerism and enthusiasm sold Nintendo products to fans even outside fan circles. However, they’re all corporate men. The face is quite literally a mask that’s put on sell you the product you have an attachment for, and by that extension, an attachment to the corporation. Coca-Cola’s Santa ads have a strong nostalgia for some, and that’s a powerful emotional connection in itself. Hell, nostalgia has always been used as a strong tool to make profit. Just look at the 80’s nostalgia with colours and design we went through, and slowly moving towards 90’s. In twenty years, we’re going to have 00’as nostalgia and return of Apple’s terrible and plain black/white designs.

I’ve prattled enough on the side. Should a fan really stick to a company or product through everything? Well, that’s up to the individual, isn’t it? If they feel like they’re doing right by pitching money for everything a company puts out, good for them. You’re keeping that company afloat, but not giving any real feedback with your purchasing habits outside that you’re willing to buy anything they make. That’s how you get shit in a can, but I guess fanatics don’t really care about what they ultimately get, as longs as their emotional attachment is fulfilled. Some goes for politics in here, simply wanting to purchase products in order to showcase support towards a company, which again is like buying a pig in a sack. I’m looking at myself with this, being guilty of this kind of bad consumerism.

However, I would argue that a fan should also be critical of goods their favourite company pushes out into their favourite line. What use it is to buy sub-par products only to gain sub-par or worse on the long-term? I’d imagine a fan would care about the quality of the product as well, and would vote with their wallets or make their voice heard in a strong, clear way of their dissatisfaction, but seeing how Battlefield V‘s dev didn’t respond kindly to criticism and told people not to buy if they don’t like it, this doesn’t seem viable in all cases. It’s like some corporations, despite growing off from cult following, don’t exactly want to listen to their core audience. A million dollar corporation ultimately cares more about the profits than the fan feedback, mostly because they do have fans out there who keep them afloat. Imagine that.

I’m throwing this as a guess based on stuff I’ve read decade ago, but nobody becomes a fan through logic. It’s always a positive emotional connection consumers make with a product that drives them. The personality of the brand, the faces that sells you the product, the personal emotions towards the product, all these make a fan. Emotions, more often than not, tend to blind us.

Mega Man fandom or a cult of worshippers?

The Mega Man fan community, on its surface, has been slowly transformed to something else. When you go the more known news site on the franchise, you’ll notice that there’ a lack of actual information worth reporting. These sites have, to a large extent, become a sort of unwilling marketers for CAPCOM’s Mega Man products that are not games. Statues with horrible sculpts, modelled helmets for outrageous prices and music CDs the hardcore fans have already owned at least once already.

And then there’s the Gunvolt and Mighty No.9. It looks like in desperation the sites are now throwing out news on games that resemble Mega Man rather than on Mega Man itself. No, the front of the fandom has become more like a fan community of games like Mega Man, except it’s not even that. It’s become a cult of Keiji Inafune and that’s something it should have avoided like a plague.

Mighty No.9 is a Mega Man game but in name only, that much is true. However, with every progressive report from users and videos put out, it’s clear that Mighty No.9 is nothing special. Some have said that it doesn’t play like a Mega Man game, and while that’s not a negative point in itself, it’s a point that hits negatively with the intended core audience. The core gameplay is already set in, and it doesn’t look all too attractive. Music is still bland based on the tracks heard thus far. Mighty No.9 is becoming a very mediocre title.

The same with Gunvolt. Inti-Creates has no strong franchise of their own. They got a lot of lift with the Mega Man Zero series and despite the games’ shortcomings and certain bad design decisions that never were corrected, they made a big name out of themselves. Looking at their game library, we see that their list of games is less than stellar. Inti-Creates has always been a company that puts out budget grade titles. There are few high budget games sprinkled here and there, but the overall sum quality of their products is seriously lacking. Gunvolt follows this suit and after spending some time with the game, it’s like Mega Man but cheaper. The game feels cheap and doesn’t elevate the status the company has one bit. The fans and core followers will argue otherwise, but that’s expected.

As the community has become more like a cult following Inafune, there’s a serious lack of reporting on the negative sides. Mighty No.9 has seen some negative points that have gone largely unreported, mainly the issues concerning with the community manager Dina Abou Karam and whether or not she will have an impact on the end product. I agree that she’s not doing her appointed job well and bringing her own bias into something that doesn’t need them, nor has the backers paid for, she needs to go. However, that’s not going to happen because Comcept doesn’t really care. This has gone far enough with Karam banning GamerGate supporters. Well, noting that she got her position via nepotism it’s not surprise she would feel threatened as GamerGate as a movement is against such corrupt events taking place. This is horrible customer service and breaks pretty much every basic rule in the book. If I had supported Mighty No.9, I would do everything to get my money back, as I would not be getting the product and service I paid for.

In perfect world Inafune would manage the community himself, but we all know that he doesn’t care. Inafune has always been a man of his own wants and interests, disregarding the consumer and other outside views. Despite CAPCOM’s inner workings being horrible with their multi-tier development approach (a game can be half-developed before it’s actually greenlit,) Inafune has always gone with his own things to the extent he has wanted. However, he is willing to put out products simply for the sake of job and because they’d sell, which is a good thing as that meets demands of the consumer. Yet, with the whole Mighty N.9 backing community basically hating the guts of their manager, Inafune doesn’t care. He has his money for a game that would have been produced despite the results of the campaign and that’s what really matters for him.

Then again, that’s exactly what the community’s front seems to promote. The Mega Man Network had an interview with Inafune, and the interview is actually worthless to read. It’s nothing but pandering and addresses no questions of importance. Questions like What is your favourite Mighty Number is kiddy tier interview crap and rest of the questions are no better. These people had the best possible situation addressing questions of the community and bringing Inafune closer to his backers by voicing their concerns, but no. Idol worship prevents this and encourages bias.

Of course, you can’t ask hard questions; you may drive the person away and never get another interview from him again, but what would that tell about the person then?

A product and service will, can’t ever, become as demanded or intended if critical feedback is not given. It doesn’t take any courage from the fan community to start addressing the issues, but they don’t care because of all the bias they have towards Inafune. Traditionally, this sort of idols are seen infallible, unable to make any mistakes and deliverers of all great. It is clear that Inafune built a team of original Mega Man developers. That would be a nice thing, if Mega Man wasn’t such a mediocre game. Mega Man 2 and 3 are completely different beasts, and then we start seeing The Pattern forming, which is only broken when Inafune is no directly involved with the games. Minakuchi Engineering made most of the GameBoy Mega Man games, and once they understood how Mega Man is wanted by the audience as opposed how developers saw it, we got Mega Man (World) IV and V, games that can be argued to be in the top 5 of the Classic series. Hell, I’ll out myself and argue that Mega Man (World) V is the best in the Classic series if nothing else but the sheer amount of work Minakuchi Engineering had to do in order to make the game stand on its own and be measured as equal to its NES brethren. However, as a side game, it’s place will always be in the second class.

Then you have the X series, which was undermined by Inafune’s favouritism towards Zero, which also reflects in the rest of the series, where his own creations (Mega Man wasn’t Inafune’s brainchild, which is a common misconception) have always seen more push.

Perhaps the worship has gone to Inafune’s head. Perhaps he has always been like that, but has managed to handle his public relations extremely well. Then again, perhaps no interviewer has ever challenged him with a tough and critical inquiry. It is a fact that Inafune has been an important part of Mega Man franchise. That can’t be denied, but it also can’t be denied that the series might’ve seen the same popularity with someone else in lead. But these are ifs, and ifs are rather pointless at this point in time. Whatever the case is, I would be glad to see the fandom, especially their fronts, addressing the pressing issues openly. There are criticism that needs to be given.

Let’s finish this with somewhat relevant mix.

Self-made burden

I have a horrible memory, this is no surprise. I’m also a fan of certain series that I might have written about.

As such, I do have an excuse not to remember Hayase’s birthday on the 27th of last month. To be honest, I don’t really remember or know these, but seeing how much the series means to me kinda makes me want to step up with the nerd factor. I was reading the Visual Novel, so…

As such, happy (late) birthday Mitsuki Hayase.

I’m going to talk about being a fan from a personal point of view as talking about fans takes a lot more.

I do not personally see my status as a fan obligating me to do anything. I might be a fan of certain TV-shows, but I very rarely feel any obligation of purchasing anything related to the show, including the home releases. One example would be the Simpsons,of which I’ve seen pretty much every episode on TV. I never feltany obligations to buy the comics, figures, games or anything. Eventually I did purchase the first three season DVD sets, but mostly because those seasons won’t ever come out of TV again. Similar situation with Star Trek, but I don’t have any seasons, just the movies.

As such anything I feel I “must” do comes from completely from inside. Thus, whatever burden I have towards any franchise comes from my own wants. Needs as such have nothing to do with it.

Still, who whendo fans say that they need something? On logical level I know that all the merch I have isn’t as important as my love towards the series. Personally I can say that it’s about showing support. I may not be able to tell scriptwriters that I love their work or shake their hands and thank them, so the next best option is to buy some of their products. It’s a political reason, kind of.

But why do I feel a need to wish a fictional character happy birthday? Isn’t that crossing the line a bit? To be completely honest, it is. However, it’s also an excellent excuse to post pretty pictures for me and have some fun with the blog.

I’d like to ask my readers to ponder for a minute why are they fans of certain franchises, and why do they feel to follow those franchises to the extent you do?

Next time will be a meta-post where we’ll discuss about little things that’ll change. Perhaps.