Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unreasonable Expectations

It's easy to forget sometimes that there's a real person behind every original creation. Art museums don't spontaneously spawn paintings. Books don't magically turn into movies of their own accord. Music doesn't come into being of its own volition. Yet we fans are often so fixated on the creative content of our favorite fandoms that we have certain expectations of the creators that would be unreasonable to apply to anyone we know personally.

Example: I make videos for YouTube at a pace that is intolerably slow by Internet standards. While others churn out videos on a weekly or daily basis, I can barely produce ten minutes of footage in a month anymore. My subscribers frequently comment on the high quality of my work, and many say each video is worth the wait, so evidently the wait time between videos is not the most important factor in one's enjoyment of what I do. However, occasional comments lead me to believe that some people view me as a fountain of entertainment, and that there must be something drastically wrong with someone who requires 700+ hours to record ten minutes of video.

Obviously, I'm not spending every hour of every month working on video recording (I also write for this blog, you know). Yet, because many of my viewers know of me only as a guy who makes videos, it might be easy for them to think that my sole purpose in life--at least, as I relate to them--is to make videos. For them.

Equally unreasonable is the expectation that a creator must replicate his or her most successful work with each new offering, as though his or her best work is the only work worth sharing. This is especially true with certain video game sequels, as I wrote about last month in my extensive examination and deconstruction of the idea that Mega Man 2 is the greatest Mega Man game of all time. It's difficult to appreciate a creator's creativity and vision if you are unsatisfied with anything less than that one amazing thing they did, that one time.

I think of how our perceptions of our favorite fandoms might be different if we knew the creators personally, or at least knew enough about them to keep our expectations in check. I imagine we'd be a much happier lot if we as fans could see George Lucas as the person behind one of the most influential fandoms of all time, instead of as "that guy who made Star Wars and then ruined my childhood." People can make all sorts of mistakes and disappoint you in all sorts of ways, but I'd wager that very few of them want to ruin your childhood.

I also think of how our friends and family might respond to us if we openly criticized them the way we criticize the creators whose creative works fail to meet our expectations. If the vitriol that spews from the mouths and keyboards of some comics fans were to be directed at their parents, siblings, spouses, or roommates for last night's dinner, I'd expect to see a lot of comics fans spewing out their teeth after getting punched in the face and tossed out to the curb. We excuse ourselves from behaving like human beings when our fandoms' creators only exist to create what we demand to see.

It's easy to forget sometimes that there's a real person behind every original creation. How much happier we are and how much more rational we appear when our expectations of our fandoms are based on the people who create for them, and not the other way around.

5 comments:

Brandon said...

Nathaniel, I am very sorry that fellow fans seem to have such unreasonable expectations of you. I'm sorry if it ever seemed if I (PolyRuni) had ever made you feel that way.

But if anything, I'd like you to know that you're more than just a guy who makes Mega Man videos. You're a creative, smart, funny dude who not only makes those videos, but co-writes these great blogs, a writer, an actor, a director, a Star Trek fan, a true gamer and my role model.

What people see in your videos is a great man that just shines through them. Your videos aren't special BECAUSE they're Mega Man videos. They're special because of the guy who plays them. You get busy with life, with work, future-wife and all. We, the real fans of Nathaniel Hoover, understand.

So don't worry to much about what the naggers say. Every person who puts up entertaining videos will be nagged constantly to upload and many give in. But, even though it may take you a while to upload, yours will show quality and that's all I care about as far as the videos go. The other thing I care about is not running you into an early grave with stress... yeesh!

So, don’t worry too much and just do those things you need to do for yourself.

Flashman85 said...

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for the kind words--they mean a lot. And not to worry--the people with unreasonable expectations are very, very few in number, and you are most definitely NOT one of them!

Honestly, I couldn't ask for a better group of friends and subscribers on YouTube, which is why it's not a big deal when one or two people start having unreasonable expectations. If it happens often enough, or if there's too many people asking at the same time, that's when it gets a little stressful (mostly because I respond to everything and won't just ignore them)!

Again, such fans are the vast minority, though that doesn't change the fact that such expectations are at least a little unreasonable. Thanks again. :)

Matt Link said...

Excellent article and points, Nathaniel, and I echo all what Brandon said. I totally understand the frustrations of meeting the audience's demands vs. meeting your own needs when it comes to creating entertainment.

Coming from a different medium, I love to write and create music. A lot of times mainly as a personal project, but also so that other people I know can hear what I made. It's incredibly fun to create something and put it out there for others to enjoy. I realize that it won't always be met with praise, but it partly gives me the extra fuel to carry through with seeing the song to the end, knowing there's something really fulfilling about finishing a huge project... Of course all that said, writing a good song/instrumental piece can be seriously tough work that requires lots of time devoted to it. Great songs can be made in the spur of the moment, of course, but at the same time, I've grown to realize that you can't really count on that either when it comes to being consistent in the high quality of your work.

As someone who used to just listen to music and grow impatient waiting for bands/artists to release new albums every other year or so, I finally gained a massive appreciation for them when I started really writing my own stuff. This is because despite the fact that we can easily label someone as an entertainer, let's face it... stuff comes up. Life happens. Sometimes it's something tragic that happens which takes its toll on the entertainer's happiness and they need to recoup. People gotta go eat dinner sometime, celebrate birthdays, spend time with family/spouses, do other hobbies, etc. We live in a "NOW!" society, and I think many forget that "taking time" doesn't necessarily mean "defunct".

Of course, there's also the other extreme of taking too long on creating something, but I think in most cases, fans tend to lean more on the side of expecting too much, too soon when it's one person creating videos.

Often when I make music and then go a little while on break, I'll occasionally hear those I know demanding that I "Make more now!" when it's not always easy to do that. ESPECIALLY in the medium of creating. It's one thing to be a factory spitting out boxes of the same cookies all the time, but when you're one person making something unique from scratch each time, it's a whole different process.

So coming from that angle, I definitely understand where you're coming from when you're making your youtube videos and writing. As a fan, I could easily be all like "when's the next one coming out?", but having been watching them, I just want to say you do an excellent job with them and they truly stand out from the bunch :)

On a silly side note, when you get a ton of heat for taking longer on videos than what fans expect you to churn out, picture this: If you duplicated the same exact video with a different name, you could easily upload one every day. But then there wouldn't be much of a reason for your fans to come back and watch, methinks ;)

Joseph said...

Adding to the above, there is a legitamite reason your videos take so much longer than perhaps others Mega Man playthoughs. They're Let's Plays, or rather a player sitting down and talking while they play the game. Now, to the untrianed eye, that's what your videos look like at first (this includes myself when I first started watching these).But your videos add much more care into the execution and are much more entertaining.

The problem is that people compare the releases of your videos to the releases of Let's Plays, and the simple truth is they aren't the same thing.

I guess what I'm trying to say with my rambling is don't worry about the length of the space between your video releases because your videos are unique. I haven't ever seen anyone make videos like yours, and that gives you the right to have a unique schedual too.

So when's the next vid?

Kidding, kidding, just kidding. ;)

Flashman85 said...

Matt and Joseph: I'm nodding my head in agreement, and I appreciate all you've said, though I don't have anything more specific to say!

Except that the estimated completion time of the next video is NEVER, but only because you asked. ;D