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Shaping Your Community: What Films Did, Games Must Do
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Shaping Your Community: What Films Did, Games Must Do


October 23, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

The game industry has always been supported by enthusiastic communities of gamers. However, the relationship between development teams and the gaming public is often typified by either reticence or tension. For years, the communities and groups springing up around game releases have been left to their own devices. With the rise of the casual game market and wider acceptance of games, we take a look at what can be learnt from how films have capitalized on their enthusiasts and wider public following.

What Films Have Done

The success of The Lord of the Rings, and films like it, represents an against-the-odds production that drew heavily on support from an enthusiast community. Traditionally the film industry would keep its production process close to its chest, only making announcements when the majority of the work was in the can. Much like a magician's dark art, it was thought that to give too much away would diminish the audience's final experience.

However, this trilogy employed a strategy that involved fans in the project each step of the way. Peter Jackson and his team shared their progress in a frank and open manner with a wide audience through official and fan-run websites. Let's look at how Jackson publicly surveyed the task of starting filming:

"My team and I have poured our hearts into this project for the past three years, so it's a great thrill to begin actual photography. Filming three films at once has never been done before, in addition to which the project features state-of-the-art special effects, so it was essential to plan everything down to the last detail. We owe Professor Tolkien and his legion of fans worldwide our very best efforts to make these films with the integrity they deserve."

Jackson and his staff delivered blog-style entries dating back to the beginnings of their project that shared every aspect of the process from casting and location hunting to script writing and editing. Jackson himself took time during the busy filming schedule to record audio entries that answered questions from a variety of fan sites. One such site, TheOneRing.net, was particularly positive about the process: "Evidence suggests that the three films are being done slowly and with great care." Other sites such as RingBearer.com instantly took to Jackson's accessible and open approach, with an AintItCoolNews.com poster remarking, "I really have enjoyed this little experiment of Peter's, and I'm sure that most of you out there would agree we should do it again".

This transparency soon garnered respect and interest from both fans of the books and the wider public. Although it is hard to quantify, it is likely that this approach was at least partially responsible for the widespread success and fan-adoption of their film trilogy.

This is all very well for grand projects, but what about those with more modest budgets? Fledgling productions such as Joss Whedon's Firefly have also succeeded through fan support -- even with their studios cutting funding. A strong relationship between the Whedon and his audience was engendered by his willingness to listen to fan feedback and appear personally at events.

Websites, podcasts and interviews were all used to ensure they communicated openly and consistently with their fan following. Such was the support in the face of the series being cut, that Joss went on to produce a full feature length movie, Serenity. "This movie should not exist," commented Whedon, to his fans. "Failed TV shows don't get made into major motion pictures -- unless the creator, the cast, and the fans believe beyond reason. It is, in an unprecedented sense, your movie."

Whether through the big budgets and impressive plans of The Lord of the Rings, or through the fan love of Firefly, the film industry is now painfully aware of the need to enable audiences to have a sense of ownership of the entertainment they buy. There is no better way to establish buyer loyalty, or in fact to deliver a compelling experience, than to share the film's development and production process with the consumer.


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