NMA forums: heralds of the future of the industry

Industry groks geeks? Producers, fans, and an era of sudden interactivity

I occasionally read new media blogs. Although I largely loathe Media 2.0 remix/mashup culture and find people who want the abolishment of copyright technological utopians, I like to read people I disagree with.

So, I came across this article, about the relationship between fans and Fallout 3.

A few things impressed me. One of the first things I noticed was that even in a marketplace where geek is in, the producers still seemed to hold all the cards. It was Bethesda’s game. It was Bethesda’s site. It was their vision of Fallout that, whether valid or invalid, would hit the shelves. Fans, recognizing a lack of official ownership or control, acted as lobbyists and watchdogs, attempting to indirectly influence the integrity of Fallout 3 through pleas and petitions spread across thousands of forum posts. Bethesda employees, fittingly, treated fans like outsiders in their responses. Whether cordial or hostile (and different producers interacted in different ways at different times), the undertone was clear: we are the organization, you are the public. We’ll let you suggest, but we will decide. The text is ours.

Even more impressive, fans seemed to happily accept their role in the process. Despite many scholarly concerns over the exploitative side of fan labor, when fans on the official Fallout 3 forum lobbied, suggested, and expanded they did so recognizing that this was their most effective way to influence the integrity of Fallout 3. Exploitation was trivial in the face of such purpose. One poster summed up the general fan perspective on their role in the game development process:

Fallout 3 MUST be like Fallout…the best answer for every question on this forum besides “I have the holy sacred duty to watch over my beloved game”

So the idea that geek is in may not be as empowering to the geeks as I had originally believed. Sure, the internet has afforded fans voice and reach in the development process of the texts they esteem. Sure, many producers are actually listening to the suggestions of fans, and others (especially in the digital-games industry) are incorporating fan feedback and production into the official text. But the tone on the Fallout 3 forum seems to mirror the tone of many media producers. Fans are a great niche market to sell things to, and a ready-made audience to focus-group and beta test. But they are not productive partners in the development of media texts. They are still a rung down on the production ladder. I have to wonder what the media market would look like if producers forgot the words “audience” and “consumer” and began to think of fans as co-laborers in a community of enthusiasts.

I’m not sure that the presence of fans, and the biases that the self selection of fandom brings, will always be such a net gain, at least in terms of greater success, although that isn’t the only criteria for success. I just get the feeling most of these new media people see the future as people playing Wagner’s Ring Cycle on kazoo to kazoo enthusiasts, and nothing else.

Caving to fan demands would clearly result in better games.

Wait, what?

You are a stronger man than I for being able to read the blog you link to. First, the background wallpaper is so busy it makes the text all but illegible. Second, it’s very poorly written.

Is this some wry meta commentary on the part of the blogger about the quality of products we can expect from new media?

I like that explanation better.

The fact that you can get a a masters degree having written a thesis about Fallout 3 fans shocks me, and I work in academia (the text the OP quotes is a masters student’s summary of their thesis, which is entirely about Fallout 3 fans).

Except NMA aren’t fans. They are a vocal hate filled cult of outcasts that virtually all fallout fans and gamers in general shun.

Actually, the fact that they are such a bitter and insular group might make them interesting enough to study.

This is a popular misconception.

Gamers don’t know what they want, they think they know what they want. There’s a pretty big difference between the two. If you give gamers exactly what they want, chances are they’ll actually bore quickly with your game when they get it.

Further, the entire article is based on the supposition that the people making Fallout 3 at Bethesda are not Fallout fans, which is frankly ridiculous.

A joke about committees, camels and horses comes to mind.

To put it another way: a fan-designed razor would have six blades and perform no better than the one with just two.

Pretty much.

edit: They are the Hillaryis44 of gaming.

A fan-designed razor would have blades going in every direction, ensuring you tear yourself to shreds.

That’d be a fan-based (or fan-shaped!) razor design, you syntax nitwit.


I think that’s what he meant with the “Wait, what?” part ;)

Yeah, I know, I was just elaborating on it. I hear the statement a lot.

That’d be exactly the sort of self-fellating inside-joke that fans would love to produce - never mind the resulting bleed-out.

Point : Conceded!

That razor would be so meta.

The fan-razor could work if the blades were positioned in the right way, not like propeller blades. Also, the rotation speed would need to be pretty slow.

Using a lot of energy to create ever more elaborate ideas in support of doomed, impractical concepts; also a staple of fans.

So the only people who know how to make a game are those who don’t play any games?

Sure, if you want to pretend that’s what I was saying.