ME: I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.

My goal has been to blog once a week about Mass Effect, and I nearly missed this week. I considered giving it up as lost, because everyone knows the internet is dead after Friday at 3pm. But better late than never, and better dead than smeg. So today, in the internet ghosttown that is a Saturday, I’m going to talk about my first real case of the fandoms.

It was almost exactly a month ago that I first signed up on Bioware’s forums. I’ve never really participated in the forums for a game company before, unless I was working for them (or researching them, with intent to work). This is partially because I am normally quickly offput by the state of dialogue on the “regular internet¹” and partially because most of the games I’ve liked in the past have been either MMOs (whose forums are notoriously a wretched hive of scum and villainy), or JRPGs (where there isn’t really a community, per se), or old by the time I played them (I’m looking at you, original Fallout).

But I was desperate. I needed to talk about this game to someone. It had set up a place in my thoughts², and it wasn’t going anywhere. Some of my less obsessive friends had played it, but I didn’t need any less-obsessive friends. I needed maniacs.  I needed someone to listen to my rants, challenge me intellectually, and talk about fictional boys. I needed fans.  So the forums it had to be. And I was surprised. Even the trolls tended to use punctuation and grammar, at least to some extent. I got into some spirited discussions, held forth on game design, wrote essays on science fiction and ethics, and got my fan on in a way I’ve never really done before. Over these past few weeks I’ve produced a truly impressive amount of text related to Mass Effect: character studies, game structural analysis, plot predictions. This is something I’ve never done before. I wonder if I’ll ever do it again.

A month has passed now, and there wasn’t a day in that month that I didn’t check those forums at least once, though I’m running out of steam now. I feel like most of the new threads are ones I’ve seen and done, and most of the old faces are people whose responses and viewpoints I know are unchanging; it’s tougher for me to start a discussion when I know there is only one way for it to end. It’s probably good that it’s letting up – other than actual work-related stuff, I’ve been eat-sleep-breathing Mass Effect fandom too deeply, for too long. Time to come up for air. I only realized last week that I have essentially quit WoW, and replaced that 2-3 hours a day with… talking with strangers about a video game on an internet forum.

I’ve gained some insight into both the gamer and the human condition, at least. It’s funny to see the demarcations of the different groups of people – some post mainly in the argument-centric Quests and Storylines forum. Others haunt the character fan threads, posting praise and pictures. Very few move between them, and I think that’s one of the strengths of this particular community – if you want some happy fansquee, you can get that. If you want an argument, hoboy can you get that, as long as you’re not actually concerned with changing anyone’s minds. There are also probably some interesting political points to be taken from how adamantly people defend their opinions about make-believe decisions as inherently more logical than anyone else’s opinions, but I don’t want to even try to go there right now. It’s Saturday.

It’ll be interesting to see how long I can sustain true involvement in a fandom. I’ve loved things before, but not acted as a fan of them. I haven’t written scholarly analysis of Pratchett, or argued for pages about the logic of the Horde vs. Alliance war. I haven’t scoured Deviantart for Chrono trigger pictures, and I haven’t ever considered making an in-character twitter for one of my tabletop characters. Yet these are all things I find myself doing, or at least considering, now. I haven’t been able to do fanfiction yet, though. I haven’t been able to bring myself to try to read the novels, either. We’ll see how far this goes.

Next week I have to start work on a huge project that I can’t tell you guys about, so I’ll be missing for a while. If it goes well, I’ll have something else to distract me, and my fandom can settle into a tranquil undercurrent. If it doesn’t… I may crack out my oils and do a portrait of Shepard. Then I’ll know I’m truly lost, in the best possible way.

 

 

¹By regular internet, I mean the portions that aren’t walled gardens, tended by the extremely literate and the unfailingly polite.  See: Making Light

²To quote an Indigo girls song I haven’t heard in ten years. Where did that come from?

2 Responses to “ME: I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.”

  • Jellobell:

    D’awww, I’m glad you had a good run, and I’d be sad to see you go. 🙂

    Bioware games are the only ones I get this passionate over (well, maybe Persona too) and I think this has to do with how personal they are. In most games there’s exactly one way you can play, one way the main character decides to deal with his problems, one love interest who will eventually throw herself into his arms. In Bioware games, however, it’s very much *your* story, which is fodder for all kinds of discussion. Since the decisions are yours to make, you can go on the internet and defend your choices, and argue endlessly about the thought processes that brought them about. And I like it that way. It leaves a much more powerful impression on the player. I’m also endlessly fascinated by hearing what other people did differently than me, or how their thinking differs from mine. I can guarantee that I’m going to be thinking about Mass Effect and Commander Shepard for years after the trilogy is concluded, because I’ve invested a little bit of myself in everything I’ve done in those three games.

    It also helps that Bioware has a really great community of fans. The site has its share of trolls like any other large forum, but I don’t think I’ve ever had any real problems. There’s a sense of comradery that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

  • GuardianAngel470:

    Well CGG, this is why I haven’t seen you around lately. There’s no telling if you’ll read this post after all this time but hey, I’m an optimist.

    Discussing things with you was fun. Not because the topics covered were unique or because the conclusions were somehow superior but because the discourse was intellectually stimulating. You brought a level of analysis to long since tread to death topics that revived them to a degree.

    But you are right; being an active member of a forum like that is an exercise in futility… if your objective is to change people’s minds. That very, very rarely happens. When it does, or on those rare occasions someone acknowledges that they were wrong, its a great feeling.

    But you can’t visit a forum for that feeling. There has to be something else that you are getting out of it. For me that’s a better understanding of humanity and of the people there. I’ve built up quite the profile list of various forumites and how their minds work and who they are based on that one forum. I’ve gained a fairly deep understanding of the types of people that love certain characters and the types of people that make certain choices.

    I’m a fan of people really and the Bioware forums have provided me with ample opportunity to learn about them. I also get to talk about a great series of games.

    In regards to your comment about fan fiction; I started writing it because I used to have major problems with insomnia and one of the things keeping me awake were scenarios in the Mass Effect universe. I just needed them out of my head so I could sleep as I had a morning class that I had to attend.

    That first story was pretty short and not very good. But now I’ve found something of a love of writing. I usually write in my spare time before classes or at the doctor’s office. Now your blog has inspired me to utilize the blogging feature of the IGN gaming website.

    I just want you to know that you may have simply exorcised your Mass Effect fan demons by visiting the Bioware site but other people’s experience of that site were enriched by your presence.

    See you around Cowgirl…

    *cowboy bebop reference*

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