There’s something I’ve noticed over the years, fans of different genres like to look down on each other. Kevin Smith said words to the effect that a con is someplace to see Star Wars cosplayers look across the floor at Star Trek Cosplayers and call them a bunch of freaks. If you want a good look at the scrapping between these two fandoms, watch Fanboys. Does it in a pretty funny way too. Personally, I haven’t sold my allegiance to any one fan genre so I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes at such shenanigans, but when I watch the infighting between fans of a single genre I really roll my eyes.
Using Star Trek as an example, back in the days of BBS groups, FidoNet and internet news groups you saw the golden age of fan bickering. It still goes on but its where it became a popular way for fans that like the same thing to bitch at each other about it. Sadly, fandom almost reminds one of the history of religion. Yes, you read that right, religion. You get a bunch of people that believe the same thing, but find ways to disagree about the best way to believe it. So, you wind up with squabbling that results in schisms and now a bunch or people that believe in the same thing segregating themselves from each other. Sad to see fans acting like religious extremist fundamentalists, but it happens.
You see a great example of the phenomena in Monty Python’s magnificent, The Life of Brian. The People’s Front of Judea mocking the Judean People’s Front as “splitters.” If you haven’t seen this, I thoroughly recommend watching the movie, but YouTube usually has clips of the scene, until Congress makes that a stoning offense anyway.
When it gets really silly is when I’m at an event of some sort and I see a couple of people show up and I hear somebody say “Oh, if they’re going to be here, I’m leaving.” That saddens me. First of all, it feeds stereotypes about gamers, and nothing is worse to fandom as a whole as when stereotypes come to life. I mean, a lot of fans are unfairly labeled as immature or nerdy or geeky or a multitude of other less than pejorative terms by those outside of fandom for being fans of these things in the first place. Bad enough to listen to a NASCAR fan talk about buying generic beer for a month so he could afford the new Dale Earnhardt commemorative plate badmouth someone that picked up a replica phaser or an anime boxed set without having to listen to fans of the same genre pick away at each other for being fans and not doing it right.
If I need a disclaimer here, yes, I made the NASCAR comment to illustrate a stereotype, not to pick on NASCAR fans. I have nothing against NASCAR fans, and I’m happy that being a fan makes you happy. I will say a few people with NASCAR bumper stickers need to stop driving like the road between their houses and Wal-Mart is the Talledega Superspeedway.
The ability to take things that should unite us and using them as a tool to further divide us really demonstrates that human foibles are alive and well and being used by insecure people to try and ruin not only the ability of others to have fun, but themselves as well. So, here’s a few ideas to combat fan fragmentation, or to coin a new term, FanFrag.
The Alliance and the Horde are tools of a game company to generate rivalry among fans and make money for a game company. Standing around screaming at each other based on which side you follow rather than discussing the game is fine and dandy if you’re roughly 16 or under; otherwise…really? And people wonder why the gamer stereotype is an unemployed guy that lives in his parents’ basement?
Further disclaimer, I don’t know any gamers that live in their parents’ basement. In fact The overwhelming majority of gamers that I know hold regular jobs, games don’t come cheap after all.
Addressing the phenomena I mentioned earlier about leaving a fan event because someone else showed up. Yeah…kind of special. I’ve seen this one, more than once, somebody walks in and instantly I’ve heard “If they’re going to be here, I’m leaving.” It gets even more interesting when the person entering sees the one that says they are leaving and they leave too. I don’t think any of us should have to make nice and talk to people they don’t like; but, what use is there in leaving and surrendering an entire event to them? You can’t have fun and avoid people that piss you off? I mean, I don’t want to sound condescending, but unless somebody is under a court order not to be within a specified distance of each other, there’s some serious maturity factors involved here.
This isn’t limited to WoW players or even gamers, there’s a lit of bickering between fans of one Doctor over another, old series versus next generation, D&D 1E vs 2E vs 3E vs 3.5E vs 4, fast versus slow zombies, and so forth. There’s no genre safe from this fundamentalist mentality, Star Trek, Star Wars, Anime, Furs, Lord of the Rings…what’s that, what do LoTR fans have to argue about? Have you missed the eternal debate between the Winged and unwinged balrog factions?
Fan events are held by people that are trying to get together and share their enjoyment of a genre, so why allow something that gives you pleasure to be turned into something that makes you leave someplace in a snit? Stay, be an adult and share the enjoyment of others that enjoy the same things as you do. Let other people get their unmentionables in a twist; because, when they storm off in a huff they surrender the playing field to you to share your views of your fandom while they slink off to sulk alone.
And if you find yourself suddenly standing in front of somebody whose beliefs run contrary to your own, be civil. You have no idea how much that pisses them off.
© 2012, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.