Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Brian: To be a fan is to have more than the average amount of excitement about a given thing. That’s it in general, I would guess. Or I guess both excitement and I guess knowledge of that thing. So like a sports fan knows about that sport and all the names of the rules and stuff.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
I would say loosely yes, in a couple different fan communities. Probably the most recent one would be Overwatch, as you know a bit. To the extent of… first of all, played the game a bunch, so then that was the interest field of it, and then the above average portion—that, I would say, like, more than the average player base—would be like I’d go online to communities like Reddit and r/overwatch, and then communicate both with other people who share an interest in it, or to learn more about it, or to keep up-to-date with news and updates and things. And then additionally on the side would be like separate communities for memes, and like fan communities where people would just talk about the content in a more casual, fun kind of way.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
Not in the Overwatch fandom anymore, since the whole “Blizzard hates Hong Kong” thing. Since, or more specifically, or I guess less specifically, corporate overlords care more about profits than they do about human rights issues. So that’s… (laughs).
Sounds about right.
Not specifically Hong Kong, it could’ve been anywhere, but yeah they showed— I guess if there were any question about leaving fandoms, that’s what it takes… They were a big community that had a lot of people, but did something that was kind of universally agreed to be pretty bad, and then handled it terribly like over and over again. They kept making new statements, being like, “Yeah, so, we stand by our original decision, because we can’t lose China as a partner,” so then just… kept messing it up. But I was in that community for like 2 to 3 years, pretty regularly.
Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
Surprisingly friendly. For the perspective of video game [fans] being like… really nasty, condescending people, because a lot of the times when you play games, that’s what a lot of people are, but I think there’s a certain threshold where like, if you’re in the fandom, you usually care more about it and the other people that are into it and less about your own selfish experience of it. So say, for example, in a game of Overwatch, people would be jerks, as you do in video games, but when you go on to Overwatch Reddit, it’s people [being] super friendly, [like] “Oh, here’s how you could improve.” People will upload clips of their play style and are like “How can I improve on my techniques?” and they have feedback and criticism for them instead of “lol u suck.” So in fandom communities, my experience is generally more friendly than outside of it.
I know you kind of already went into this but: Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
(laughs) Yeah… I stayed with it for a long time with it because… I don’t know, it was just fun? I guess it could go to [that] I had a group of friends that would also play, so it was a good way to keep in touch with these same friends. And what made me start it was… I guess just… interest in the original core product that was being sold—it was a good game (laughs). So then, because me and a group of people all enjoyed it enough, it pushed us into wanting to follow it more closely into a fandom.
Just curiosity—do you still play?
No, I haven’t played for a couple months. Still get dreams about it, actually, (laughs) I don’t know if that’s important for the interview.
Really? (laughs) Interesting, though!
I think I mentioned it in the group chat, but that I used to regularly get Overwatch dreams about, like, a really good play.
I think I remember these…
And I had a dream a couple days ago where I was playing Overwatch, and I was just like “No! That chapter of my life is gone!” (laughs) But, yeah…
Does anyone in the group chat still play? I forget.
I don’t think so.
Nah, everyone jumped ship… Yikes. I mean, valid. Okay, if you knew then, when you started being a fan, what you know now as a fan, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
In terms of the community, yeah, probably, I would join the community again. But if, when I first started playing Overwatch, if they had done a similar human rights blunder, I probably wouldn’t have joined the fandom because I probably would have put down the game. But the community wasn’t the issue that made me leave the fandom, so yeah, I definitely would. I’d probably be more involved right from the get-go. Probably get on the Reddit super early and associate with other people who are there to try and learn from people who are more skilled than me, try and help people who are a lower level than me, make friends that can also play.
How important is your fandom to you? Why is it important?
I feel like “important” is a weird word to use for it, because I feel like the second saying “Oh, yeah, it’s important” makes it feel like it’s too important (laughs). It’s nice… I wouldn’t say it’s super important to me, though, like… I guess, again, it only takes like one big mess-up and I’m just like “eh,” and I’ll just leave it. There’s communities of nice people all over the place. It doesn’t have to be this one game. It doesn’t have to be a game in general. So, fandoms are nice, but I would say that they’re not so important that they’re not either worth leaving or that they’re worth sticking to at the expense of pretty much anything else. [Fandoms are] interchangeable.
Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
Hmm… Not really. I would say, if anything, I guess a fandom in general of gaming, maybe? Because it got me to appreciate a lot of things I wouldn’t have appreciated otherwise, like different ways of telling stories, nuances of level design, things like that. So, as kind of like a problem-solving-oriented kind of thinking person. Things like that I find really interesting to think about, so like, I wouldn’t have been able to do that with, say, a movie, because it’s more like a set script. But, with things like level design, it’s fluid and you have to account for different things. And that same kind of mindset goes into other kinds of gaming like D&D or board games and meeting up with other people that have a similar in it. So a lot of these facets kind of work together for different… problem-solving skills, I dunno.
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
I didn’t… Unless you would describe text posts [as] content. Like, I didn’t create anything artistically. There was one point where I tried to help out on a subreddit for Overwatch that was about update news, to get that posted regularly because it was like a game mode cycle and you weren’t able to check from [outside] the game. So it would be like you’d have to log on to check. So somebody made a subreddit post that was just the new game modes that were in every day so you could just check it on your phone instead of having to go home to check [in-game]. There. So like, little things for update news and trying to… I think I posted a couple memes… (laughs) maybe a couple bits of visual content, but yeah, sparsely.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your fandom experiences?
I wouldn’t say so, but it was interesting that for a time—it wasn’t like a career path, but it was a short running job at Wild Pig [Comics], I don’t know if you knew that I ran D&D games. So like, through gaming fandoms, I did have a weekly part time game-running session until the store closed… which has, genuinely—and again this is like, personal news with me and [S/O]—has factored into future plans where we’re both super psyched, like… It would be so cool to own a comic book store, or a gaming store, and do that regularly. But not real plans, but they have factored into considerations for future careers and stuff, I guess. I would love to have a Wild Pig comic book store, that place was amazing.
Specifically Wild Pig, or…?
I mean it’s not a branch so I guess we could (laughs) literally just steal the name and call it Wild Pig III.
See if it’s copyrighted or anything (laughs).
Yeah, but just to have a gaming store/comic book store would be so cool.
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences? You did kind of touch on that earlier but if you wanted to expand on it.
I guess not really, not that I hadn’t mentioned already, not that I can think of [worth expanding on].
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Oh yeah, yeah, I talk about Overwatch all the time. I can’t shut up about it. Well, when I was playing Overwatch I couldn’t shut up about it, but also like games in general—I bond with people over games pretty frequently. One of the students where I student teach was telling me about how he loves Fallout, and we talked about Fallout: New Vegas, and he was like “Dude,” and he went up to shake my hand, because he was like “Ah, you’re Cool Adult, because you play video games.” So yeah, it’s cool when you can reach out to some people that enjoy games, or maybe enjoy specific kinds of games, and connect to people like that.
I know I’ve experienced that kind of thing in theatre camp with all my kids. God, I think the biggest was Steven Universe. Everyone loved Steven Universe.
Yeah, you just talk about it, and usually—I guess this goes back to experiences in fandoms, I guess this is the experience outside of them—most people are pretty fair in the mindset of “let people enjoy the thing that they enjoy” (laughs). If someone doesn’t like Steven Universe, and you tell them about Steven Universe, they’re not gonna be like “Ugh, that show sucks,” they’ll be like “Eh, alright,” and then either they’re like “Oh, I’m really excited about it!” and then you bond over that, or they’re just like “Okay, cool,” and listen to you talk about it.
That’s been your experiences?
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not? ... You look confused (laughs).
So like (laughs), in this case… telling people while I’m playing Overwatch that I’m excited about playing Overwatch? (laughs)
Maybe more like in online spaces, I suppose. Or if you randomly meet someone and they’re like “Oh, yeah, I play Overwatch,” would you engage?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. So if it’s the reciprocal of the last question, absolutely, if someone were talking about it, I would try to talk to them about it, as well, because I know from the positive experiences that I’ve had reaching out to people, that it’s nice when somebody’s also interested in the same thing.
Okay! So that’s all the questions that I have. Do you have anything that you want to circle back to or rant about?
I was surprised that there weren’t any questions about negative perceptions of fandom, though. Questions about, like, “Are there any things that you would be in a fandom of, save the fandom?” So like, “Are there any things that you’re interested in but refuse to join the fandom of, because [of] the fandom?”
Oh, wow. I didn't think of that.
So like, Rick & Morty.
(laughs) Alright, yeah. Please, feel free to go off.
I love the show, the show is fine, I follow… Like, there’s all the requirements for being a fan, because I liked the show itself, which led me to dig deeper and look at Dan Harmon, the guy who made it, and try to look at some of his other stuff… Searched for the pilot, like I did all the extra following things to stop someone from being just a passive viewer of to a fan of something… But… (laughs) the fandom has such a negative perception [for] itself, like people who don’t get the point of the whole show in the first place, or have a perception as just people who are really obnoxious… So that, it stops me from wanting to identify in some fandoms. So say… Rick & Morty… Fight Club is another one. The book’s fine. Movie’s fine. Don’t tell people I like that movie, though (laughs), because…
So would that be one case where, if you found someone who also loved Fight Club, would you not tell them that you loved it?
I would be skeptical. I would have to listen to them talk about it first.
See, that’s the thing! That’s why I asked earlier (laughs).
Yeah, so just like— Okay. Yeah, but that’s because I’m not in that fandom, though. I wouldn’t tell them that I’m in the fandom because I’m not in the fandom (laughs).
And then there are certain things like Steven Universe that like, I think that the show is fine, but I’ve seen a lot of things about the fandom that’s like… kinda toxic. And I’m just like, “Well, I’ll just watch the show” (laughs). I won’t really try and engage because I don’t want the negative associations that come with it, which I guess circles back to the question of “How important are the fandoms?” They’re important enough to not want to engage with some of them, but not so important that engaging with others is completely necessary. Like, it factors into your decision of talking about a certain thing, but it’s not integral. I think that’s about it, that I got.
Well, thank you.
You’re very welcome, Christina.