by Joel Fernandez
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But there comes a point where the so called fans can actually ruin the art. To that end, the ensuing “crowd noise” completely disincentivizes the creative process in ways that can bring good work to an unfortunate end. That is not to say that rejection from the fans is not justified at times. But today’s conversation is about how sometimes there are fans that simply cannot take yes for an answer.
Entertainment in general is meant to be a temporary escape from the constraints of the real world. When we watch or play something that keeps us distracted, our suspension of disbelief allows us to perceive the events on the screen as if the world is truly a fantastical place where anything can happen. What’s more, the audience gets a chance to watch the conflict that the characters go through from a safe distance. That is what movies, TV and video games are at their best. The problem is that some fans take their desire to live in that fantasy world just a little too far.
It becomes an even bigger problem when unruly fans morph into trolls and decide to aim all kinds of ungodly attention at the artists and creators of the art that they claim to love. When actors, directors, developers or executives start getting death threats because of a work of obvious fiction; that means that the attention has gone too far. As fans, we have the right to avoid art that we do not like. In some cases we are even entitled to a refund. But no one has the right to harass anyone else.
Take the Star Wars franchise for example. The fan reaction to the prequel trilogy was so brutal that George Lucas(creator of Star Wars) decided to sell it and step away from his life’s work. If Lucas could not withstand the excessive amount of vitriol from the toxic fans, what chance do his successors have? It’s as if there are Star Wars fans who would rather destroy the franchise than let those who actually enjoyed the prequels enjoy the show. It’s understandable for people to want to watch something that encourages a nostalgic stroll down memory lane. But the escape is meant to be temporary.
When the movie, TV show or video game is over, we are supposed to get back to how life really is. Expecting members of the entertainment industry to shoulder the responsibility of recreating a person’s child like sense or wonder on a permanent basis is simply too much to ask. We know that Disney did not spend over $4 billion on the Star Wars franchise just to walk away. So we can expect Star Wars to be a thing for as long as Disney can make make money by selling merchandise as well as movie tickets. Even if it does get harder to attract big name talent to the franchise due to fear of having their careers damaged by troll bias. But the same cannot be said for creators in the video game industry.
There are times when game studios decide to walk away from a particular franchise because the fans become impossible to please at some point. Take last year’s Mass Effect: Andromeda for example. It was arguably the greatest game of the 8th generation of gaming consoles so far. By no means was it perfect at launch, but the patches that were applied after the fact made the game more than enjoyable. Despite this, the fake news “video game media” jumped all over it and created a lot of negative noise for a game that actually sold well. It was enough for the good people at Bioware to put the franchise on hold for the foreseeable future.
That is precisely why some franchises don’t get sequels at all. Developers are generally passionate about their work. We know that the same cannot be said about the corporate side of the video game industry, but try to compartmentalize for at least a minute. Developers sink years of their time into those games. Imagine how you would feel if a game that you put your heart and soul into for years of your life got its character assassinated by an obvious case of troll bias. If a game sells well and half the people loved it, the people who hated it cannot be believed when they say that it was a poor outing by a veteran studio. It is impossible for something to be both awesome and horrible at the same time, unless you’re crazy.
The bottom line is that if you don’t like a product, get a refund if you can and move on. Trying to ruin it for the people who actually loved the game just makes you a jerk. Let’s take a moment to ponder whether or not those kinds of trolls exists in countries that have real issues to contend with. Are fans that way in China or India? We would call it a first world problem, but that would be a gross oversimplification.
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