Okay so this is maybe my favorite episode of Waypoint Radio ever, and y’all did an episode about wanting to eat alien alloys, so that’s saying something.
This conversation has so many good facets, goddamn. Okay.
ME3: ME3 was the first and last game I ever pre-ordered. My mother, who had been watching my playthroughs of the series, was so invested, she spent her measly vacation time to take two days off of work so we could sit down, and play it, and finish it together.
And now, my mother does not watch me play video games. And it sucks. This talk about how the creator’s relationship with the medium is so fundamentally different from the players is extremely relevant to me. My mother left ME3 feeling like, in a sense, the rest of the series had sold her this narrative bill of goods, and she’d gotten screwed in the end.
I’m more at peace with Mass Effect now than I was at 22 but… I still genuinely feel like something went bad there. There was something rotten about how the ending of ME3 betrayed the core thesis of the rest of the series. To me, and I will argue this to my dying day, Mass Effect is at its core about having a big picture universe that is told to you through small pictures. Ending the game on a tremendously stupid, abstract Big Picture choice is… just not in line with the rest of the series and what it was doing. Even the “”“best”"" ending of Synthesis was fundamentally busted, given how it demands you take these different cultures and species, many of whom have built their identity on their hard-won individuality and how they are completely divergent from other species/cultures… and you hit a button that says We Are All Green now.
It’s like the ending to that game was completely divorced from the entire goddamn point of the Geth and from the Krogans’ struggle. It contradicts the themes in its own installment. And it’s not good. It’s bad writing. And in 2018 I can look back and respect that they largely stood by that ending, but also there’s a reason for that (horrendous, unacceptable) fan backlash, and it’s a betrayal of the core of what Mass Effect was. It does not remotely justified the horseshit that fell on Bioware back at the time, but I can’t help but look back as a budding writer myself and go hey BW, what the hell happened?
I have a feeling that story would be more interesting than what ME3 was.
Fan labor: the amount of people in games media today who like creative fandom and don’t just relegate it to a punchline is incredible. maybe bc i know a lot of these folks miiiight have been LJ-era fandom people? HMMMM.
But yeah, I’m a fan creator. I’m getting to the age where my peers are getting called “old woman who should be knitting” and not writing or having a creative hobby. It’s absolutely terrifying to see people just one generation behind me in fandom spaces, on tumblr, cheerfully repeating the most backwards 60s sexist dreck.
It’s so discouraging to know this hobby that I am (not to brag) really good at after about ten years of practice, is so undervalued. “This feels like fanfiction” should not be an insult, because main thrust of fanwork is filling in the spaces that the canon neglects. For every time you’ve watched a show or movie and wanted to just have the plot stop for thirty minutes so the characters would have an actual conversation, fandom’s got your back. And with the example of Overwatch and similar properties, the way fandom works to uphold engagement and even recruit people into the medium feels almost preplanned, like some aspects of the story were made bespoke to encourage Creative fandom as well as satisfying Curative/“Core” fandom.
All said, I’m not sure what I feel about that. I want fandom to have spaces of massive creativity and enthusiasm like Overwatch. But I also know that labor is being expended by fans to increase player retention for the publisher. There are very few situations like the Valve situation.
And also like… the Valve situation is cool. It really is. But how much of that publisher leniency is extended to the massively female and queer creative fanpeople. My hypothetical fangame that involves a lot more romance and wider demographics for the cast that doesn’t focus on the Original Flavor of the canon probably isn’t getting the Valve thumbs up for monetization. Even within the small spaces where we say that creators are letting fans benefit from the work they put in, the people benefiting from that are not representative of wider fandom, which is more widely representative of the fanbase.
… I’m gonna shut up now because this is long but again: this is all my absolute jam, and I loved the extended discussion. I could add a whole other short essay on MGS but I’ll just say: MGS4 is the worst MG game, yes including MGS5, thank you good night.