One of the great things about being a fan is that you can be an obsessive fan. You can memorize trivia, speculate on elaborate theories and have conversations entirely in quotes from your beloved franchise. And the Internet makes it easy to find fellow superfans who won’t judge you for your love.
Unfortunately, small subsections of these dedicated fandoms practice the same exclusionary tactics that once prevented them from finding comrades. Sometimes their actions are intentional and sometimes they’re accidental. Either way, the message is the same: “If you’re not like me, you’re not a true fan.” Fandoms should be inclusive, but these folks are preventing that…
7. Browncoats Who Won’t Let Firefly Go
Firefly is a good series. You could call it a great series and I wouldn’t argue with you. But if you call it the best series ever made I’m going to raise an eyebrow, and if you start to ramble on about how Joss Whedon is a genius and you want to make sweet, sweet love to Nathan Fillion then I’m going to slowly back away and never bring the topic up again.
That attitude is typical for a small but passionate subsection of Firefly fans whose obsession borders on religious. You might know the type – they won’t accept any criticism of the show, they own more official merchandise than a series that only lasted a single season should even have, they constantly post about it on social media and they won’t give up hope that the show will make a comeback even after all these years.
Zealotry is always damaging to fandoms, but it’s especially problematic to both Firefly devotees and initiates. By the time I finally got around to watching Firefly the super-fans had convinced me that it was the second coming of Jesus in television form. Obviously it couldn’t live up to expectations, so even though I enjoyed it I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed.
Expressing my feelings got me criticism with the old “if you didn’t like it you were just too dumb to get it” argument (c.f. Arrested Development super-fans), which soured me on watching it further. But if the super-fans hurt me, imagine how capable they are of hurting themselves.
Imagine the show finally does make a comeback, after over a decade off the air. Is there any conceivable way it could live up to the collective expectations of its most obsessive fans? I’m going to boldly guess “no,” and cite basically any show that’s ever made a comeback as evidence. Arrested Development, Futurama and Veronica Mars are just a few shows that had passable revivals but were criticized by hardcore fans for lacking the heart and soul of the original. And those hardcore fans pale compared to the dedication of Browncoats. Be careful what you wish for.
6. Game of Thrones Book Snobs
April is a month of renewal. Snow melts, grass grows, birds sing, and readers of A Song of Ice and Fire refresh their threats of spoiling Game of Thrones for viewers who haven’t read the novels.
Usually these spoilers are collateral damage in what was thought to be a harmless conversation. We all know that the Internet is rife with spoilers for obscure franchises, never mind one as popular as A Game of Songs and Fire. It’s simply a risk associated with discussion.
But some readers exhibit a lack of care and respect for their fellow fans – if an accidental spoiler is like a hunting accident, they’re the ones drunkenly waving their guns around. You see them casually posting spoilers like Ser Pounce is the Azor Ahai on Twitter or in the comments of articles that are intended to be friendly for all knowledge levels, even though they would flip out if someone spoiled the next book for them.
There’s a certain level of arrogance that suggests they’re “better” fans for having read the books, as if they can’t comprehend the fact that not everyone has the time or inclination to sit down and read five massive fantasy novels. You can see where they’re coming from – they’ve been fans for almost two decades, and now fans who have been watching the show for a mere four years consider themselves to be equally “legitimate.” That doesn’t mean they’re right or not embarrassing to be associated with, just that it’s understandable how people will use any silly benchmark to make themselves “better” fans.
Also of note are the readers who complain about every little change because they don’t understand that television shows have finite budgets, and finite pools of actors to cast from, and finite number of episodes they can film. Characters and plots have to be cut. Actors who don’t perfectly match the written physical descriptions have to be used.
It’s one thing to civilly discuss these changes, to imagine what the show would look like had a certain role or plot been handled as you envisioned it. Objective criticism and speculation is part of what makes talking about a show so much fun. But to rant and rave about ultimately inconsequential changes, to claim that a show’s been ruined because it didn’t cater exclusively to the hardcore fans… that’s when, again, it becomes embarrassing to be associated. They can go ahead and keep complaining about how the show is shit because they cut Ser Whatshisface of House Whateverthehell. The rest of us will keep watching while we look forward to the next book.
5. Entitled BioWare Fans
I like Mass Effect more than I like most people. I own the collector’s editions of all three games, I’ve beaten them all twice, I’ve read the novels and I’ve made peace with the fact that I have no life. I also laughed my ass off when a fan filed a complaint with the FTC arguing that the developers of the franchise, BioWare, advertised Mass Effect 3 deceptively.
His argument boiled down to “The ending was dumb and I didn’t like it.” Shockingly, this wasn’t considered convincing. It’s not that he’s wrong – I thought the ending was weak, too. But there’s a scale of reactions, and “act like my loved ones were just murdered” is not the appropriate response to a video game story.
Mass Effect 3’s ending highlighted the weakness of BioWare’s storytelling method, but that didn’t change the fact that the preceding 90 hours of the trilogy were, by and large, massively entertaining. That didn’t stop fans from going on and on about how BioWare betrayed their fans and were the worst company ever.
If that sounds inconsequential, consider the case of Jennifer Hepler. Hepler was the senior writer of BioWare’s Dragon Age II, a flawed but fun game. For reasons too stupid to get into, fans ended up blaming Helper for all of the game’s woes, including features a writer would almost certainly not have control over. They expressed their dislike of her writing style by calling her a cancer on the company, encouraging her to commit suicide and threatening to murder her children. You know, all the usual forms of video games criticism.
I’ve written before about how Dragon Age II is underappreciated, but that’s not the point – Hepler could have written the graphic, gritty reboot of Custer’s Revenge and still not deserved the response she got, because unless your job title is “Dictator” or “Child Molester” you shouldn’t get death threats for doing your job.
This is a problem that seems to plague BioWare fans – the belief that each game is handcrafted for their enjoyment only, and the righteous fury that comes when a game fails to match their tastes. Obviously fans should be allowed to criticize developers, and I think we can all name a beloved franchise that got “too mainstream” for our tastes. But when your method for expressing your displeasure is “threatening someone who wasn’t even responsible until they quit their job,” then spoiler alert: you’re a vile human being no matter how many virtual worlds you save.
Video game fans can be entitled at the best of times, but the feeling of unwarranted importance that looms over some BioWare fans is staggering and makes the rest of us uncomfortable. Fans trying to dictate the direction of a franchise is like having too many cooks in the kitchen or, perhaps more accurately, letting the inmates run the asylum.
4. Sonic the Hedgehog Erotica Enthusiasts
When Sega first revealed Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, I doubt they had any idea about what dark forces they were unleashing. They just wanted to dominate the market. Well, dominate a market they did, but thanks to the cursed monkey’s paw that apparently granted Sonic his popularity, there was a twist. Sonic’s success in the video game market came with the stipulation that he would also be popular in the world of furry porn.
Obviously I’m not going to show you hardcore Sonic pornography (I might have an article coming out next week with the eight hottest examples and don’t want to spoil it), but suffice it to say that if you’ve ever imagined a sexual act and Sonic character(s) involved in it, the Internet can produce an artistic interpretation.
Oh, but it’s not just porn – we could dedicate an entire article to genres of Sonic fanart, from obesity fetishists to the Christian fans who apparently feel guilty about their Sonic porn years.
Punching the Clock
He just had to read the strategy guide.
Now, what gamers masturbate and/or proselytize with is none of my business, but I’m at a loss to explain why Sonic, of all franchises, has attracted an inordinate amount of insane fan creations. My best guess is that it draws in teenagers going through a very special time in their lives, and while I wish them all the best it makes it increasingly difficult to enjoy the games as an adult. Observe:
“Sure, I enjoy Sonic games.”
“Isn’t that the franchise about jerking off to cartoon hedgehogs?”
“Yeah. I mean, no, a lot of people do that, but I just like the games.”
“Aren’t all the games terrible, though?”
“Just the ones from the last decade and a half. The old ones are good.”
“So you were jerking it to cartoon hedgehogs before it was cool.”
“Hedgehogs and echidnas. I mean, shut up.”
Maybe I just spend too much time on the Internet, but it seems like Sonic nowadays is known for its erotica first and its video games second. As someone who just wants to enjoy the latter, I beseech fans of the former to reign it in a little. For the sake of all our reputations.
3. *Insert Gaming Console Here* Elitists
I have a confession to make. There’s something from my past I’m not proud of, but I know that this is a judgement free zone and that talking about it will make me a better person in the long run. So here goes.
I used to be a console fanboy.
Oh yes. I spent hours arguing with strangers on the Internet about how the GameCube was going to wipe the floor with M$’ Xbox, because what games did it have besides Gaylo? Kabuki Warriors? Don’t make me laugh, I’m sure people are going to love to play that with your terrible controllers that are even bigger than my massive dick. Nintendo 4 life, losers!
Thankfully, this phase didn’t last long. I learned that there were better things for me to do with my teenage years, like literally anything else. I can look back on that brief, ignorant period and laugh more than I cringe. It also makes me wonder why some people never grow out of it.
Oh, sure, no adult is going to result to petty insults to pimp their preferred platform. But they haven’t changed their views, just their strategy. Maybe you know the guy who can’t fathom why if you’re a so-called “hardcore” gamer you haven’t built an expensive gaming PC from scratch with custom-ordered parts so your cellphone screen in Watch_Dogs will have a slightly more realistic glow. Or the guy who nods politely when you say you bought an Xbox One, then patiently explains why the PlayStation 4 is better in every way. Or maybe the guy who wonders why you bought a Wii U when you have no kids or friends and are clearly going to die alone.
I, and imagine most of you, barely have time to play games, let alone argue about them. Unless someone is clinging to their Magnavox Odyssey and insisting that Fun Zoo is the greatest game ever made, why does it matter how people enjoy their downtime? The “I have to be right about everything” attitude is annoying at the best of times, let alone when it’s about something as trivial as gaming. Thankfully, most of us manage to grow out of it. If everyone could, gaming culture would be just that little bit nicer.
2. Anime Fans That Conform to Every Awkward Stereotype
Anime is the final frontier of nerd acceptance. Long gone are the days when admitting to liking video games or comic books would get you weird looks, but saying that you like anime is still akin to saying that you like sexual deviancy and irregular sponge baths. That’s because, when I say I like anime, I’m probably thinking of something like this:
Whereas someone who’s unfamiliar with anime will hear me say that and probably think of something like this:
Or, God help us, this:
I’m not here to judge. What you watch, sleep with and jerk off to is entirely your own business. But, with the greatest respect, I don’t particularly want to be associated with it. And yet, for many people, the second set of images is still what “anime” brings to mind – breasts, body pillows and crippling, depressing loneliness.
I don’t know why that’s the case, although it does seem like we’re not exactly fighting these stereotypes. Find a local anime club and odds are it will be full of the sort of people who have cuddled with at least one fictional character. I don’t mean to pick on awkward people, both because I don’t want to be an asshole and because the last thing my glass house needs is more holes in it. But it would be nice to be able to have a conversation about anime without feeling like I’m being judged for simply uttering the word.
1. Gamers Who Still Want Gaming to Be a Boy’s Club
The recent “Quinngate” scandal (also known as “GamerGate” or “Are we seriously talking about this? God, why?” depending on who you ask) prompted countless Internet debates, too many of which fit somewhere on a scale between embarrassing and extremely embarrassing. All of these discussions, a term I use very loosely, made one thing clear: a significant subsection of male gamers are still uncomfortable with the thought of women sharing their hobby.
This probably isn’t a revelation, nor is gaming the only nerdy hobby that struggles with being inclusive. But gaming’s problem is unique in terms of the sheer vitriol – female gamers aren’t just unwelcome, they’re the subject of slurs, insults and rape and death threats.
The majority of gamers, of course, find such comments disgusting, but they’re outmatched by the sheer volume of one loud and very sad minority. The irony is that the people sending virtual rape threats are probably shy and harmless in real life, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that that offers little comfort to women who are on the receiving end of a constant stream of bile for having the audacity to want to shoot aliens or raid dungeons in their spare time.
Not only are these mouth-breathers making gaming less inclusive for women, they’re making the entire hobby look embarrassing. I’ll give this to Sonic the Hedgehog smut peddlers – they welcome all fans with open arms and erect body parts, and that’s a damn fine attitude to have. I don’t know what motivates people to troll women gamers. Maybe they’re bitter, maybe they’re angry, or maybe they just have a parasite in the part of the brain the rest of us use to process basic human emotion. But when gamers who self-pleasure to underage cartoon hedgehogs are making you look bad it’s time to re-examine large swaths of your life.
Previously by Mark Hill: