Guide: How to Not Be an Annoying Source Material Fan

(Guy’s preamble: This was originally posted on my ask.fm, where a Fate/Stay Night fan asked what sort of behaviour I’m anticipating from F/SN fans that’d impact the fun out of non-fans’ viewing. I edited some of the specific references out or added others. And sad to say, all these things I predicted did indeed come to pass, and with double the vigor once full series/cour reviews had come out by people who were not True Fans. Of course, this is relevant in any season where a popular franchise is adapted, which is basically every season. I’d like to reiterate that this behaviour is understandable, and even I sometimes engage in it, but as always, we can strive to do better, especially if in our zeal to convince people to love our favourite shows as much as we do, we rob them of the opportunity to engage in it as we had.)

A lot of it is down to the same sort of behaviour that is prevalent when any adaptation comes out, or when people read/view one part of an interconnected universe, or even when people read the first part of a series you’ve read the entirety of. It just happens that the more “hoops” you have to jump through in a specific work (in terms of word-count, how many interconnected series there are, etc.), or rather, how artificially high the barrier of entry to “true fandom” is, the more this behaviour is prevalent.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun anime Episode 6 - Wakamatsu Hirotaka promises to stay out of Hori Masayuki's way

In a nutshell.

So, what to do or not do, right?

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“Git Gud” – You Don’t Want An Objective Review, You Want Your Opinion Parroted

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was released last week. As someone interested in the game and franchise, I did what many others had done, and decided to read some reviews before the game was actually released. I set off to Metacritic’s page for the game, and as I am wont to do, I opened a handful of posts, running the gamut from high scores to lower scores. Well, I found this review by Chapel Collins on Gaming Nexus, a site I haven’t heard of before, and as I read the piece, I knew what the comments would be like. There were only two at the time (there are 151 right now), and they did not disappoint. A classic circling of the wagons by an indignant cult (or fandom), an all-out attack on the outsider.

git gud

The best defense of the fandom – attack the critic.

(While this post is somewhat of a rant on fandoms and the search for “objectivity”, it’s also an editorial on the nature of reviews.)

Before we proceed further, a couple of words on what I look for in a review, specifically of something such as a video game, headphones, or a computer mouse, which is often not what I wish out of a “review” of a narrative, though video games can also incorporate that “other” part (see Austin Walker’s post on Darkest Dungeon as an example). What I look for in a review of this sort is enough information on the product to tell me what it’s like – what qualities it has, what it focuses on, what it actually plays like.

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Controversy Draws Attention, But Don’t be a Jerk

Continuing from my entry a couple of days ago about a list of “controversial anime opinions“, which had been popular on reddit and my blog, it might be useful to talk a bit about controversies, discussion, and the relationships between these things.

Duty Calls - xkcd strip - First, controversy attracts attention, people just love to see what’s controversial. Controversy also sparks discussion, because we love to weigh in on things we believe strongly about. This is somewhat related to when people attack things we love and we interpret it as an attack on ourselves. Furthermore, discussion sparks discussion, and attracts more attention – we see people excited about something, saying things we agree or disagree with, and we pitch in. That’s also why popular posts on reddit tend to only get more popular, and not just because we’re too lazy to keep looking after spending time on them, though that certainly helps.

Someone in the reddit thread which spawned my list said “In this thread –  Reasonably popular opinions being portrayed as unpopular controversial opinions”, and this statement contains so much that needs unpacking, and that is useful to unpack when discussing controversies, and garnering attention, and also when discussing fandoms in general. First, you don’t need controversy to spark discussion, you need the appearance of controversy. People don’t actually need there to be anything controversial as much as they come to be excited, and to have discussion with other people.

More than that, there is the dark side to much of this – controversial opinions are often controversial because they lack nuance – many would rise up against hearing their favourite X is shit, but would agree with an argument which presents some pitfalls it has – the difference is how much weight they ascribe to these things. In this, you might find it to be that it is not controversies themselves which draw attention, but polemics – statements that are presented in a highly divisive manner, which are “calls to action” from supporters and dissenters – who might be agreeing if things had been presented in a more nuanced way. Of course, the more nuanced and lengthy it is, the more you risk losing people’s attention.

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