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Fandom & Entitlement; a Threat to Creativity?
by Tom Battey on 07/20/12 12:39:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

‘Fandom’ is a curious thing. Fans become passionately attached to a game, to a franchise, to a developer, even to a hardware manufacturer, often to the point that they begin to view the object of their fandom as more than just a form of entertainment. It becomes something personal for them, and when something becomes personal, any sense of rationality regarding that thing can become impaired.

In my time, I’ve been a Playstation fan, a Final Fantasy fan, a JRPG fan in a broader sense, a console game fan, and a fan of numerous other things besides. Note that when I use ‘fan’ here, I mean it in the personal, jealous, ‘how dare they release Metal Gear on Xbox’ sense. I still like all of the things I used to be a fan of, to varying degrees, but now I like to think I can judge them by their objective qualities rather than by some blind sense of ownership.

Perhaps it’s just because I got older. Perhaps it’s because I had to watch companies that I used to pledge allegiance to make some unarguably bad decisions, and was unable to rationally square these decisions with my own fandom. Perhaps it’s just because I don’t take videogames so seriously these days. But I stopped being a fan of things. And when you follow videogames and videogame culture, which is steeped in often alarming levels of fandom, you start to realise something. Fandom is pretty childish.

Not only is it childish, but it’s fiercely conservative, and if allowed to affect actual decisions within the industry, it could be actively dangerous to the progression of the medium.

Examples lie strewn across the internet in all sorts of crazy petitions. It has become impossible to mention games like DmC, Silent Hill: Book of Memories or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance without the comments section filling up with the ranting of ‘die hard’ series fans. Sometimes they just want to spit hatred, other times they attempt to rationally explain this hatred, to justify their opinion that these games should not exist because they are not similar enough to previous entries in the series.

It’s an issue of entitlement. When a videogame series stops being just a form of entertainment and becomes something of greater personal meaning, a sense of ownership is kindled. Fans feel that they in some way own a franchise. This sense of ownership will cause them to argue far beyond the point of reason to defend a beloved franchise, but can also reverse into a terrible backlash against the developers, the people who actually own the franchise, should they decide to take the franchise in a direction the fanbase does not approve of.

Much talk is given of a developer ‘betraying’ their fans, of ‘owing’ something to their fanbase, of ‘real’ series (that is, the entries in the series that the fans approve of) and of the ‘true spirit’ of a franchise (which is also often ‘betrayed’ by ‘uncaring’ developers.) These dialogues speak of these fans’ sense of ownership, entitlement, and the betrayal they feel when a series moves in a direction they feel is untrue to the sacred cow of their beloved franchise.

Jim Sterling recently made the argument that the only thing that should matter when a new game in a series is released is whether or not that game is actually good. It’s an argument that is rationally difficult to fault. And still, comments rolled in attempting to justify arguments to the contrary, often quite well thought out arguments, explaining how, while these views may be right in a broad sense, the new DmC/ the Silent Hill spinoff/3D Fallout is still a travesty.

The primary argument seems to be that by changing the direction of a franchise, developers are somehow invalidating or diminishing the games that came before. It’s an argument that claims that the issue is not the quality of the new title, but the fact that it is different at all. These fans are not worried about whether the new DmC will be any good or not; to them, this is unimportant. What matters to them is that the very difference between this game and the old (‘real’) Devil May Cry games means that they will never see another game that is just like their particular favourite, no more games in the ‘true’ Devil May Cry series.

The argument becomes not ‘I don’t believe this game should exist because it doesn’t look as good as previous titles in the series’, but ‘I don’t believe this game should exist because it’s not exactly the same as previous entries in the series.’

Now, I will defend to the death a person’s right to dislike something for any reason they choose, but that doesn’t stop me from believing that disliking a thing on principle because it’s not Just Like The Old Ones is a damn stupid reason to dislike something.

I suppose the question I’d ask at this point is, how many entries in a series are enough? How many games should there be that are Just Like The Old Ones before taking the series in a new direction becomes acceptable? The sentiment is evidently that four Devil May Cry games are not enough, so how many is enough? Five? Ten? Thirty?

Videogames must change, or become stagnant. This is true of the medium as a whole, and of any particular franchise. Hell, it’s true of every damn medium, anywhere. If all developers remained ‘true’ to the ‘real spirit’ of their franchises, then games would not have developed much past Pong.

I always try to make the point that new entries in a series do not suddenly make the beloved old ones obsolete. The fact that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a turd doesn’t make Final Fantasy IX any less of a classic (citation: personal opinion). DMC3 is not going to suddenly disappear, or become rubbish, just because the new DmC is moving in a different direction.

The answer I get from fans is that this isn’t good enough. They are not content to replay the series classics; they want new games, but new games that are exactly like the series classics. Anything else is ‘betraying’ the ‘spirit’ of the franchise.

This is an extraordinarily narrow-minded view of the games medium. It’s entitled and selfish, conservative if not actively regressive. It’s also a very human reaction; at its heart lies good old fear of change.

Fans love the ‘classic’ titles, love them to a point that anything different must be something that they automatically cannot love as much. If the original was so great, then ‘different’ must be ‘worse’. It’s understandable, when you consider how personally connected some people feel to these games, but that doesn’t stop it from being a stupid argument.

‘Different’ is good. We need different, we need change, lots of it, for the industry to grow. And no, new does not always mean better, but that’s beside the point. Fearing and denying change can only lead to stagnation, to an industry in which innovation takes a back seat to yearly franchise iterations and cynical HD re-releases.

Hopefully, that’s something that all of us apart from perhaps the die-hardiest of fans want to avoid. Hopefully, developers will continue to ignore the cries of those that call themselves ‘fans’ in favour of moving the industry forward.


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Comments


Paul Marzagalli
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This is why I am so supportive of initiatives like Ouya and Kickstarter. They provide needed markets for such crowds. It is my hope that if you give these niche fans what they want that they will begin looking at different kinds of games with a curious eye for what it might be instead of a resentful eye for what it is not. The more avenues fans have for getting their fix of a particular style, it ideally means they are less inclined to agitate shoeing in such elements to games not designed properly for them.

Tom Battey
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Movements like the recent Kickstarter successes, particular in regard to revivals of old franchises and ideas, are the positive upshot of a passionate fan culture.

It's positive because these people are not arguing that something shouldn't exist because it doesn't match their worldview - they are actively creating new content that DOES match their worldview. They're putting their money where their mouth is, effectively, and there's a good chance some great new games can come out of initiatives like this.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Tom Battey
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You have a point, but I don't think developers are necessarily 'sneaking' these changes up on fans. The games that generate the most bile are those that openly declare themselves as a 'reboot' or change in direction for the series - I'm thinking DmC, Xcom, Fallout 3, that sort of thing.

It's not like they're selling you a different type of fruit disguised as the old one - it's more like they're saying 'hey, this a new fruit. It's a bit like the old fruit, but it's different. Try it.'

Now I can understand being disappointed if you try the new fruit and don't like it as much as the old fruit, but in the case of games, that old fruit is still available, so go eat that. What I cannot abide is the people who hate the very IDEA of new, different fruit, simply because it's not the same as the old fruit. They declare that new fruit shouldn't be allowed to exist without even trying it.

OK, I think that made some sort of sense? That's enough fruit analogies for tonight, I think...

Michael Joseph
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" What I cannot abide is the people who hate the very IDEA of new, different fruit, simply because it's not the same as the old fruit."

Well that is hardly anybody. You must realize that. This isn't about variety, it's about maintaining the integrity of a work. If they choose to take advantage of branding and release an XCOM game in name only (aka bait) then that is a betrayal not just of the fans (who were party to the success) but of the work itself.

"but in the case of games, that old fruit is still available, so go eat that."

There is a fundamental desire in older generations to have the younger generations share and enjoy in the same types of experiences that have left the older gens with so many fond memories. That gets stomped on when you take a work and fubar it.

SimCity is SimCity. Baseball is still Baseball. Sherlock Holmes is Sherlock Holmes (not James Bond) Batman is still Batman for a reason. You can tweak things and modernize them to fit the times, but the core concepts cannot be touched. The fans should rightfully revolt when a new work betrays the well loved older work it's based on. When a father takes his son to see Batman, he'd better darn well be THE Batman.

When creators betray a work they are screaming "It's our property, we care about is money and dont give a dar n about anything else." When I hear that I will point it out and encourage others to ignore their product.

Ole Berg Leren
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@Michael Aren't there a ton of different Batmen from different universes? The underlying themes are the same, but the incarnation is different? #SPOILER# The Batman from the Kingdom Come comic, for example, made Gotham into a police-state with him at the helm. Supes does not approve. #SPOILER#

And Dante from DMC1-4 (?), after watching a few (awesome) cinematics on youtube, seems extremely self-assured and comfortable with himself. Is it hard to believe that he might not have been that his entire life? That at one point, he might've been gloomy cause he's by default an outsider? I find it an interesting take, but I'm looking at the issue from the outside, not having played through any of the DMC-games.

I mean, if you look back at yourself 10 years ago, were you exactly the same person with the same values and attitude?

Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes kicks James Bond's ass, tho.

@Tom Fallout 3 seemed like the natural progression for the series to me (edit: hindsight), but I really wish they could've been confident enough to cut the VAT. Either make it all about VAT, or remove it. Or give it a unique function, instead of making it do exactly what I do myself, just more mechanically. *grumble rant grumble*

On-topic, I agree with you. All of this is solved with demos. If you don't like the demo, you have a more solid foundation for criticism, instead of conjecture. You get a slice of fruit, and if you don't like it, you can more properly explain why! Yay, fruit analogies!

Tom Battey
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@ Michael Joseph: I understand the desire in older generations to have the younger generations share and enjoy these 'classic' experience. That doesn't give them the right to claim ownership over these experiences. It doesn't mean developers ought to pander to these people. People can't be 'betrayed' by a developer's decision, and nor can a franchise.

The original XCOM is not going to suddenly become unplayable because the new XCOM is an FPS. If older gamers want to impart their nostalgia in a newer generation, then that's what they should do; guide new players towards these old games. Not attempt to enforce their nostalgia onto new product.

And your examples don't exactly stack up. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle is worlds apart from Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie. And Batman, Batman has gone through countless different interpretations over the years. I know people who love Tim Burton's Batman and hate Chris Nolan's Batman, and many who think the opposite; the point is, the Batman character has been reinvented far more times than any videogame franchise. I'm sure fans of one Batman or another complain bitterly whenever a new version is brought out, but the truth is, it's Batman's constant reinvention that has kept him relevant.

@ Ole Berg Leren: Demos do provide a great way of establishing whether or not a series' new direction works for you. I worry, however, that most enraged fans will be so biased by their displeasure at the very IDEA of a new direction that they won't give a demo a fair run.

Michael Joseph
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"That doesn't give them the right to claim ownership over these experiences."

We can't really have a discussion when you're making these sorts of unreasonable statements. Claiming ownership... really?

My examples stack up fine. The core story and characters are not changed. Style and direction have changed however. Even so, I can't possibly claim every single incarnation of Batman or Sherlock Holmes has stayed faithful to the original work. I'm simply saying those that go beyond artistic license, and which completely rewrite the characters and the stories such that they no longer resemble the originals are not trying to serve anyone or anything except their bank accounts.

Michael Joseph
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If you watch the Granada Television versions of Holmes which are reguarded by many as being the closest to Doyle's stories, then Guy Ritchie's neurotic, lonely, addicted, manic Holmes isn't too far off the mark. The main departure is Ritchie's Holme's is too much of a pugilist and action adventure hero. That's not a good thing either in my view.

The new Star Trek film for example in my view is horrible and goes against a lot of what made Trek Trek. I'm not claiming ownership, I'm expressing my disapproval for whatever it's worth. I don't think that makes me a "threat to creativity."

Tom Battey
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I'm not trying to suggest that people not being happy about a series changing direction is a threat to creativity - you are of course allowed to express whatever opinion you like for whatever reason.

What I'm saying is that these opinions are not - and shouldn't be - important or relevant to the creation of new games, whether they are within a franchise or otherwise. People are entitled to their opinions, but there are a lot of irate fans out there who claim that these games - new XCOM, new DmC, whatever - shouldn't be allowed to exist because THEY don't like the direction the devs have taken the series. If it were up to them, these games wouldn't be released, and THAT is a threat to creativity.

And it is a form of ownership these fans are expressing. That's why they'll use words like "betrayal" to describe how they feel. Look at the whole Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco - you had a group of people claiming the Bioware OWED them a better ending to that game. That's definitely a sense of ownership over a franchise being expressed there.

[User Banned]
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Luis Guimaraes
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"DMC3 is not going to suddenly disappear, or become rubbish, just because the new DmC is moving in a different direction."

Last time I checked DMC5 is was still DMC. Sure all demos were in the easiest difficulty, but I didn't see where it went in a different direction. There was no QTE-heavy gameplay, no spinning chains around in all directions, no boring climb sections, all-awesome combos still there, air-combo still there, all main moves still there.

I may have drawn back a bit of inspiration from Armed With Wings, but nothing that doesn't fit in the game. And yes, that grey awesometer is totally boring.

---

The article doesn't mention Metroid, Burnout, Biohazard, Castlevania, XCom (FPS)...

Tom Battey
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I'm not going to argue that point with you - looks very much like DMC to me, which I approve of on the whole - but you'll find plenty of people online willing to explain (in great detail) why they think they're wrong.

You're right that there are loads of other examples out there, far too many to fit into one article. I chose to focus on DMC because that's a recent example that fans seemingly cannot shut up about. Replace the 'DMC' in the article with Metroid, Burnout, Biohazard, whatever you like, and the argument is still pretty much the same.

Luis Guimaraes
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Makes sense. But each case is a case.

The same could have been done by replacing "Fandom" with "Marketing", and the threat to creativity gets real. Fandom is more a reward for creativity, with an added backlash when the creative characteristics of said work are replaced by marketing decisions and common denominators.

Tom Battey
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Well, the mishandling of game marketing requires an article longer and more informed than I'm willing to take on right now. Marketing, or what in this case I think can more appropriately be called a risk-averse approach to IP development, is a very different issue, and yes, it's probably a much greater threat to creativity than anything I've brought up here.

Adam Bishop
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I was thinking about this very topic the other day, and one thing I decided was that part of the problem is the excessive focus in this industry on franchises. In and industry like film you often have actors or directors whose work you enjoy, but they can be quite different; no one says "Spielberg is diverging from what made his last movie great!" Even with movie studios, you don't hear people say "Wall-E is lousy because there's no fish like Nemo!"

The same is true of music. While some fans get grumpy if a band they listen to puts out a record with a new style, there are plenty of examples of bands like Radiohead or R.E.M. who have put out albums with very differing sounds and/or styles and remained quite popular.

But in the games industry we don't focus on creators and we don't really even focus on studios very much any more (I can't think of any examples of studios thought of the way Squaresoft was in the late 1990s anymore). Instead we focus on brands. It's obvious why publishers like that: because they can own and control brands. But I think it's bad for gamers and its bad for creators because it ties peoples' expectations to the wrong thing - the name of the game rather than the pedigree of the people making it.

Ole Berg Leren
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So much truth in your post.

It's scary when I look back on my formative gaming experiences, and Tim Cain is quite often involved. Arcanum and Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines might've been a bit broken, but the pieces showed such great potential. Of course, I'm equivocating all of the success with Tim Cain and all of the detriment to his less-divine team.

Behold, the face of the Lord:
http://www.nma-fallout.com/images/fo_dev/tim_cain.jpg

And Black Isle Studios. My pink-tinted glasses go full Elton John when I think about that bunch. Just found out the musical score of Icewind Dale was composed by Jeremy Soule. Go figure. Now I wanna lay down and listen to the Kuldahar theme. I feel like an ole man.

Tom Battey
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You're right; I'd love to see more focus being placed on the people behind the games, rather than the franchise a game inhabits.

We have a few 'auteurs' in the game world - Shigeru Miyomoto, Hideo Kojima and Suda 51 spring immediately to mind - and on the whole these are the guys who 'get away' with innovating in a field without being lambasted by angry fans.

Most studios, however, fall into the trap - a financial trap, certainly - of becoming associated with a franchise or a group of franchises. As such, when they try to deviate from the traditions of these franchises, fans get upset, and the internet kicks off.

Luke Quinn
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Am I still allowed to be pissed off at Bioware for turning the Mass Effect franchise from a brilliant choice driven adventure game into yet another narrative driven shoot'em'up?
Or at SEGA for every 3D Sonic game since Sonic Adventure 1...?
Or at Rare for making crap like Viva Pinata and that Kinect sports game instead of Conker 2?
I would very much like to agree with this article whilst maintaining my own long list on fan-boy gripes, please. :)

Tom Battey
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Yes, yes you are. You are absolutely allowed to be pissed at any developer for any reason you like. So long as you don't claim your arguments are rational and unbiased, of course. ;)

Also, Viva Pinata is great. Sorry.

Michael Josefsen
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I agree that fans should realize companies owe them nothing as such. But in my opinion, it does matter how the core of a franchise is handled. In many of my favorite games, the gameplay is what defines the franchise and I would be disappointed if a new game in a series seemed to misunderstand what was great about the gameplay style of that series. I can still play the old games, and I will, so its not the end of the world if a series takes a percieved "wrong" turn.

I read the fan-blog you linked to and I can only say that I agree with this particular point that he made:

"The choice of developer was next in line for concerning fans of the series. Ninja Theory has been praised for their ability to tell a story using cinematic motion capture. However they also have a reputation of games with poor combat and technical issues. Common complaints on Heavenly Sword and Enslaved were shallow combat systems, input lag, framerate drops and in the case of Enslaved an excess of “hand holding” regarding its single button press platforming sequences.
In contrast Devil May Cry was a series that was consistently responsive, fast and difficult, with every game running at a locked 60 fps"

This is arguably like if the 3rd Lord of the Rings movie was to be directd by Michael Bay. Not necessarily a disaster, but it is understandable why fans would worry, I think.

Tom Battey
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It sounds like a reasonable point - I chose that particular blog because he does raise some good, well-thought out grievances, but it's still laden in fan bias.

It's implying that because the previous Devil May Cry games were locked at 60fps, the next one HAS to be as well. In truth, it doesn't have to be anything of the sort. They could make a Devil May Cry strategy RPG game for iOS, and that's just as much a 'Devil May Cry' game as a fast-paced combat game.

Series are defined by their gameplay and by their stories, but they don't HAVE to be. Creating a game does not also create a strict set of rules for every game that follows. What's important is that the resulting game is still GOOD. And, though fans may hate it, that's ALL that should matter.

In truth, I'd rather have DmC run at 60fps. I'd rather 60fps was the standard for all games. But hey, it's not going to be; that's unfortunate, but if it doesn't impact the overall quality of the finished game, then it's a complete non-issue.

And I think a Lord of the Rings directed by Michael Bay would totally qualify as a disaster. I mean...imagine...

Jeremy Reaban
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Why are they using an existing brand in the first place if they want to be creative?

The only reason to use an existing brand is to try to cash in by getting some of the original audience of the game. And so, they need to keep at least the spirit of the old games. Otherwise you're just swapping the old audience for new.

Companies do this all the time. But I just don't understand it. While you want to grow your audience, chasing after people who didn't like the old game is trading an exiting base for an uncertain one.

And beyond that, games (or things) don't exist in isolation. When you go back and play a game, you can't simply unforget what has happened in later games. At least I can't. Aliens used to be my favorite movie, but after Alien 3 came out I just can't watch Aliens anymore, because I know the sequel completely invalidated the whole movie - the whole thing was futile.

Tom Battey
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It is more often than not a money issue - publishers simply won't greenlight a game unless there's a familiar brand attached. It's seedy, it's not to be encouraged, but in an industry of AAA budgets that's just how things are going to go.

Often, though, it can be about reviving a franchise that otherwise would likely be left to die. The new DmC is again a good example - it's unlikely that Ninja Theory would be making this game if it WEREN'T a Devil May Cry title. The reason the game exists is that Capcom wanted to reboot that particular series. It's not as if Ninja Theory would be releasing an identical action game with a different name if Capcom hadn't approached them with DmC; this reboot exists because it's a DMC game.

Now it might turn out to be rubbish. It might turn out to be great. But the fact that a new game, one that stands even the slightest chance of being a great game, can come out of a franchise that may well have otherwise been put to bed goes a long way to justifying this strategy.

Toby Grierson
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I can empathize with this view but I agree with Michael Joseph.

You seem to be asking for boundless creative freedom while simultaneously retaining brand power.

But what -is- the brand power? Sim City is a game - like soccer - and if the next Sim City is a first person shooter, than "Sim City" no longer has any meaning.

Mario is a mascot and isn't too strictly tied to a particular gameplay, and that is a thing that happens. But if a brand means a certain set of rules - or if it means a canon - than yes you're doing something wrong if you flip it over.

Remember the Final Fantasy: Spirits Within movie, which was probably hurt more by being called Final Fantasy than any aspect of the film itself. One group of people instantly thought "video game movies are terrible so I'll skip it", while another hoping for something that actually had something to do with any Final Fantasy game were lied to for their money.

If I pay for a ticket to "Final Fantasy", I -am- entitled to a Final Fantasy movie.

And I'm not convinced of the intrinsic power of the brand independent of product. At all.

Unless you're selling toilet paper (and maybe not even then), a brand has power as a symbol for something. And if that something isn't there, you have a serious problem. There's a stack of dead brands taller than the pile of dead ninjas in Chuck Norris's front yard.

Brand flexibility varies and a given brand might well permit you to make nearly anything you want, but if it just can't cover a given idea, than the brand cannot help it and you'll have to either not make the idea, or be a -little- ballsy and make a new franchise.

Tom Battey
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'What is brand power' is a great question indeed, and something that any one of us is unlikely to find a satisfactory answer to.

It's interesting that in this case it seems fine that Mario does not have a canon, but that something like Devil May Cry ought to adhere to one. Where do we draw the line here? When does a series transcend genre permeability and become a fixed 'canon'? Genuine question, as I wouldn't know where to draw the line, although I'd argue that the line shouldn't be drawn at all, and canon is not something that should be made sacred at all.

You mention Final Fantasy, which is one of the most divisive and divided gaming franchises of all time. If you pay for a ticket to Final Fantasy, you ARE entitled to a Final Fantasy movie, but what qualifies as a Final Fantasy movie? Your idea of a Final Fantasy movie may be very different from someone else's; after all, while their are a few continuous themes and tropes that run through the series, every game is distinct from the others.

In the end, I'd argue that the only thing that can objectively define it as a Final Fantasy movie is the fact that it's called 'Final Fantasy' and is made by Square, who own the IP. This may not go down well with fans, but then their only legitimate power over the franchise is to vote with their wallets. In the case of The Spirits Within, I gather they did. And we didn't get The Spirits Within 2.

Toby Grierson
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FWIW I think if they picked a Final Fantasy and rolled with it I think that'd work. They did make an anime from FF4 and a movie from FF7.

I suspect the line is something that's cultivated for every brand. Final Fantasy, right off the bat, is a whole new canon every round, and that went well to characterize it as a game first with a story riding along. One would expect certain menus and gameplay patterns built around said menus.

It's like a pop song where they often play four measures before the vocals and one gets a sense of the time structure whether they're consciously aware of it or not. Or a novel that switches perspective immediately after the first scene to let you know that it's going to be switching perspectives.

This is never a super strict thing but I submit to the crowd that expectations are something cultivated -after- two or three iterations.

Maybe the second has quite a bit of freedom as long as it's clear enough what you're up to.

Granted there'll be unfortunate disagreements where (for example) a creator or brand owner thinks it's really about X while the fans think it's about Y, and the creator doesn't realize people are going to be shocked.

But I think generally the answer to "how can I make something totally different?" is to not pretend it's some other thing people liked before.

Tom Battey
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It does seem like the biggest outcry occurs when a series changes direction after two or three outings in the same vein. So if a series went 'action game - platform game - strategy game - RPG' then people would probably be confused, but anger would be minimal because the series hasn't established a set formula. When a series goes 'strategy game - strategy game - strategy game - ACTION game', then people kick off.

I guess it's understandable, and in these cases it probably really would be better to start a new IP. Then again, setting an action game in the same world as a strategy game and calling it by the same name is totally valid; it's just another angle on the same fiction. Also, look at World of Warcraft. Three strategy games turn into an MMO, which turns into being one of (if not the?) biggest and best-loved games of all time.

On the whole, I think the videogame industry and videogame culture are far too precious about franchises and canon. We seem to have inhereted this obsession with canon from the comic book industry, of all things; I can't think of another industry so precious about continuity.

I mean, the film industry - in many ways considered the games industry's big brother, for better or worse - regularly dumps canon and reboots franchises. Not everyone's happy about it, sure, but sometimes great films come out of reviving old franchises, and if this is the case, it should be embraced. I feel the same thing ought to go for games as well.

Toby Grierson
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Fair enough. Yeah that can work sometimes.

I would mention though that World of Warcraft does seem to have its own identity in branding (as opposed to calling it Warcraft IV or whichever it'd be) and the Final Fantasies, when they began exploring into particular cannons, would use names like Final Fantasy X-2.

We could call this a forked brand.

Laura Stewart
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I suppose there's never going to be a way to qualify whether a fan is being reactionary, or if truly after whatever elements they enjoyed were stripped from a game the designer simply failed in replacing them with something better. It may be easier to express a complaint about a known element being missing than detailing what you would have expected as a replacement.

For instance, I stopped watching Stargate Atlantis when Dr. Weir was replaced not because I minded that they were trying to keep the franchise "fresh" but that they were jettisoning the military/civilian balance for a sheer "military solves your problems" tone. But "they killed my favorite character" is a lot faster to type and as a matter of opinion, needs no defense.

Designers have the right to do whatever whatever with a franchise, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you release a game players hate, they get to try and kill your franchise. You can't use the positive reception rewarded to you by fans to promote and sell a game that's very different so you can make money, and then complain about your hurt feelings because they no longer love you.

Case in point may be what happens to the Fable franchise after Journey gets released. I recall an interview with Lionshead that said they did plan to strip away core elements that Fable added over its last two games. Are fans expected to mindlessly buy a product by their beancounters just because they slapped Fable on it?

Tom Battey
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I don't think fans ARE expected to mindlessly buy a product just because of its label. They may be expected (or at least encouraged) to judge it on its own merit, but, whether fairly or not, using an established franchise title is bound to colour people's opinions of the game.

I think what fans often fail to realise is that developers do not make games to appeal specifically to their fans. Developers make games to appeal to as large an audience as possible. Fans HATE this. They like to feel they are entitled to special treatment because they love a game, but in truth, the customer who buys a game because the drawing on the front looked cool in Sainsburys is worth the same amount to a publisher as the customer who buys the game on day one, keeps a dedicated blog about the game and has written 15 fan fiction stories about the game.

I'm still not sure whether this is a good thing or not. It would be nice if people who really love a game could keep getting more of what they love, but when their conservative attitudes could hamper the progression of the industry, perhaps it's better to simply view them as one more sale.

I think the recent boom in crowdsourcing is a positive use of fan devotion, channeling all that passion people have for games, franchises and eras to create new games, and even new platforms for games. It's a positive force, whereas 'backlash' is a negative one.


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