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?