Monday, January 3, 2011

Fandom Resolutions

Now that we've looked back at 2010 and made our New Year's Resolutions, there's only one thing left to do so that we can kick off this new year properly: We need to make some resolutions for our favorite fandoms.

I can't speak for Alex, but the last two years have been disappointing and/or divisive for literally every single one of my all-time favorite fandoms. If it were a simple matter of a weak sequel here and a poorly executed spinoff there, I might not be so frustrated, but all of the fandoms I've held dear have been rocketing off in unwelcome directions, losing sight of what makes them great, and trying too hard to attract new fans. There has never been a time so many fandoms--nay, so many entertainment industries--have been in such great need of some third-party resolutions.

I've invited Alex to join in the resolutioning; my resolutions will be in blue, while his will be in red [Alex's Edit: Um, yeah. Actually, mine will be in black, since I have no idea how to make them red] [Nathaniel's counter-edit: No, yours will be in red. Poof!], but if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it should be pretty obvious who thought of what.

Resolutions for the comics industry:

- Collect everything in trades. As a guy who refuses to buy single issues (with the exception of the Serenity: Float Out one-shot), I will never never never read your comics unless they're part of a collection. Even a book of mismatched one-shots from different series could be the exposure someone needs to get interested in the five or six other comics that were packaged with the one-shot he's been looking for.

- As an addendum to that, I'd like to see Marvel and DC release both hardcover and softcover trades on the same day. Typically, the more expensive hardcover ships first, with the paperback lagging sometimes 6 months behind. To me, that's just absurd.

I'd love to see the following happen: Allow the direct market (comic book shops) to order either hard- or softcover editions, and ship out hardcovers to retail stores, like Borders and Amazon. Offer both the hard- and softcover in Previews, and let comic book retailers/consumers choose which they prefer. I think the vast majority will trend towards the softcovers, and I also think this will boost trade sales in comic shops.

Comics shops get trades just about 2 weeks before the chain stores do, so sending out softcovers will give comics retailers a fighting chance to compete with the bigger chains.

Ship the hardcovers to the retail giants, mostly because they can offer discounts that comics shops simply cannot compete with. If you really want the hardcover, you can get it online or at a chain store for 25 to 40% off.

Resolutions for the music and radio industries:

- Stop copying each other. All of the radio stations in my county are near-identical anymore; much of the modern music I hear defies genre distinctions because it has too much in common with everything else, and most of the oldies I hear are from the same stable of two dozen artists that everyone is now drawing from. I never thought of getting satellite radio until the 25-minute car trip where I heard the same Elton John song on five different stations.

- Not every song needs to have vocals. Thanks to Pandora, I've been exposed to phenomenal bands from around the world that are strictly instrumental, and neither mainstream radio nor most mainstream artists seem to be interested in or willing to take a risk on a tune that has no words. If popular artists and radio stations start sneaking in an instrumental piece here or there (and not just the novelty ones), that might be enough to expand listeners' musical tastes enough to navigate us out of the homogenous musical mire we seem to be stuck in.

- Please, please cut back on the number of songs that employ excessive repetition to fill time, emphasize a point, or replace lyrical creativity. Repeating the same five words for almost half a minute doesn't count as a chorus, and singing the same line for the entire last third of a song--with no variation whatsoever--should have been outlawed after "We're an American Band" ruined repetition for everyone in 1973.

Resolutions for the television and film industries:

- Stop pandering to people who aren't part of your fanbase, and accept that your show or movie might not be liked by everyone. Tell a good story, period. If you know you've already got a huge fanbase, and you want to take your franchise in a different direction, break it to the dissenters gently. Don't tell them, "Your fandom is dead. We're going this way now." Make it clear where you're headed, but make the transition a smooth one--give your passengers a chance to get off the bus gracefully before you slam on the breaks and veer off the highway.

- Do something original, please. Stop making the same show--or a slight variation of a type of show--over and over again. For example, I like the History Channel show, Pawn Stars. I don't like the half-dozen copycats that have popped up on various other networks.

Resolutions for the video game industry:

- Major companies need to stop rehashing the games of the past. Groundbreakingly creative indie games are on the rise while too many big companies churn out the latest version of Didn't I Just Play This. With so many older games now available for download or as part of a compilation, you can give the remakes a rest. You can also come up with more fascinating locations than "Ice World" and "Lava World"; we're beyond the point where "jungle" qualifies as a complex and interesting place to be. Don't throw out what works, but don't be so attached to what works that you can't evolve.

- Embrace the fans you have, and remember what got them interested in your games. You can be attentive to industry trends and feedback from your fans, but don't let everybody else determine what your game should be like. If you're making a sequel or prequel, look at where your series has been, and make your next game something that makes sense within the context of the series. Don't alienate your longtime fans by giving them something you think they want, based on the current gaming landscape--keep your eye on your series, and see where it takes you.

- Um. What he said. Oh, and more games with Batman. I like Batman.

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