Quest Updated: The End is Ever Nigh
As a generation, it seems we’re relatively apocalypse resistant. I’ve been through Y2K, Mayans, multiple Biblical end-of-the-world predictions. And I’ve even managed to survive two next-gens AND two Doctor regenerations since getting into the show, which were infintely more terrifying for those concerned.
This is just something that has been increasingly grating on my nerves, and it is just as bad, perhaps even more so, in geek culture than it is normally. We seem to really like getting our sandwich boards and painting “THE END IS NIGH” on them. From regenerating Doctors to pony princesses to reboots of Star Wars and Star Trek, to Xbox One and DRM policies, we do spend a lot of time worrying about things that are going to stop being what we’ve grown so comfortable with. Maybe its because we spend so much time saving virtual worlds, we worry that we don’t have some supersoldier-hero-robot-assassin-ninja to save us for the calamity of choosing the next Doctor or which console will be best for leet gaming.
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I think these various freak-outs speak volumes about the relationships gamers and fans of shows/movies/books/etc have with the publishers or producers of these things. And specifically, I think it should be a massive red alert warning siren, complete with red flashy lights and Mr Sulu’s voice counting down to impact. The impact is simply that we obviously have little to no trust in the producers of things. I mean, Steven Moffat left Twitter because of all the Doctor Who related hatered he got. The show-runner was driven away not by trolls, but by fans who did not believe he knew what he was doing. And that’s with the creative team. When the ultimate decisions are left in the hands of publishers and corporations *cough E3 fallout cough*, the levels of paranoia in whatever fanboydom is affected tend to rise even more rapidly. Ever since E3, we’ve been trying to reason out exactly what Microsoft were driving at with their constant changes of direction when it comes to the XBox One.
Now part of the fears about long-running franchises being ruined are driven by the way we collectively conceive of the roles fans play. When it comes to picking a new Doctor, rebooting Devil May Cry, resolving the Mass Effect saga, and rebooting Star Wars, fans see themselves as custodians of the lore, and this sentiment concentrates more over time. Hence, I saw a rage-post about the design of the Klingons in Star Trek: Into Darkness not looking ‘Klingon enough’ – because the classic rubber forehead didn’t date at all. Similarly, the chaos after ME3 showed that the fans wanted, nay – demanded, a certain level of narrative quality above what was presented. We see ourselves as the little guy, Davids slinging often-virtual rocks at the Goliath corporation that sees lore as more of an expense or at best an optional extra to top the cash-grab cake (it is a lie, by the way).
I think fans can and do take this role too far. The uproars over changes when translating book to film, or film to game, or increasingly game to film, and over any changes from the norm in long-running franchises, both gaming and otherwise, can actually be a liability. Frank Levine recently commented on the negative impacts fans can have on the creative process. And I think this is where gamers can often feel more entitled to it than other consumers of films, tv series or books, because gaming is so inherently interactive. I doubt masses of people would pressurize Disney enough to alter the ending of Star Wars Episode VII in the event that it is a terrible bastardization of the films we all know and love (except Episodes I-III). However, it was treated as somewhat understandable in the case of Mass Effect 3. I think that fans are going to have to make compromises with creators of media. However, that doesn’t mean that the producers and distributors can get away with butchering lore for profit.
In fact, I think this is how the ME3 ending conflicts, alongside numerous other complaints, fears and apocalypse predictions in numerous franchises and media should show producers: your fans don’t trust you. They don’t trust that you have their interest at heart. They don’t trust that you will deliver quality if you can get away with mass appeal and a smile. They want more, and they’re not going to sit back and accept it – they’ll cause a riot (on Twitter).