Why Fan Requests Get Ignored (And Usually Should Be)
Are you a fan of stuff? Of course you are. Have you ever had “great” ideas for that stuff? Of course you have. Maybe you had ideas for storylines in some TV series, or ideas for sequels to movies, or remakes of movies. You’ve wanted a favorite company to behave a certain way, or a favorite artist to make something that you thought of, or a favorite writer to do a story that’s your idea, etc. We’ve all had these thoughts and ideas. Maybe you’ve gone as far as writing some dreadful fanfic (fan fiction, in case you weren’t aware) crafting your own colorful stories of a pantsless Captain Kirk on the Star Trek Enterprise, as chronicled by you, in a ringed notebook with “third period Algebra” written on the front.
I know you have because we all have. I have a detailed concept of how Nintendo could salvage the Metroid franchise and even improve it after several poor missteps. My story concept even got a little detailed towards the end simply to show how to incorporate so many plot elements from across the franchise. This is as close to “fanfic” as I’ll ever come—and it was done to illustrate how easily a story could be written to tie in so many now disparate plot elements of an increasingly broken franchise.
But Nintendo is never going to make my idea, and at this point, I’m pretty sure the franchise is just going to continue to decline unless they remove Other M from the continuity or explain it away as some kind of batshit crazy clone story as I illustrated. Let’s explore why Nintendo—and to that extension, no creative force or artist or designer, what have you, will ever utilize your ideas. And also why they shouldn’t.
Then It Isn’t Their Idea
This is the easiest reason imaginable. The creators (and we’ll stick with this term or developers instead of going over artists, writer, cartoonist, developer, programmer, designer, etc. every single time) got into this because they had a creative itch to scratch. They have ideas, concepts, plans, and creativity all their own—and they want to make something of it.
My girlfriend currently faces this constantly. She dyes yarn, and yes, there is actually quite a large scene in indie yarn and fiber dyeing, and it takes a pretty skilled hand to do it well. At any rate, she’s created some fascinating colorways and concepts for her skeins of yarn. Many that she’s very proud of. It’s clearly upsetting when a colorway doesn’t sell or isn’t popular after she put so much work into designing them, planning them, and testing them. She’s had whole sets designed for the band Queen as she is a ridiculously dedicated Queen and Freddie Mercury fan. Her horror (she shies away from actively calling them “Halloween”) themed colors are unique and original, and painstakingly designed to accurately reflect their target—be it Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, or the new one from the film Suspiria.
She gets requests constantly, and they always annoy her. One thing that those requests always do is ensure that she will never do a colorway based on what has been requested. Because then they aren’t hers, and whether you think creative types are selfish or not (we totally are, deal with it), or you think your idea is just super fucking Holy Grail amazing, once you’ve made that idea, it dies when you tell someone else to make it. She’s not going to dye your yarn based on the themes you think will be such a cool idea (it probably isn’t, see point 3). Now it’s not her idea, it means nothing to her, and it doesn’t matter. She’d have to look at your shitty idea for Cthulhu knows how long, making something that isn’t hers, and hating every minute of it because it’s completely meaningless to her. Meanwhile, her David Bowie and Soulless themed colorways mean a lot to her, and both have been quite popular.
(I was going to post a Far Side comic here, but decided I respected Gary Larson too much.)
The Creation is Personal
Gary Larson (creator of The Far Side—and you should know that. Everyone should know that.) famously had an aversion to ever making comics that were ideas from fans. He once noted that he didn’t fully understand his aversion until talking to another cartoonist, Richard Guindon (who is a Minnesota-based cartoonist whose work has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune). Guindon noted that to make a comic based on someone else’s idea is like having someone else write in your diary. Gary Larson referred to the comics as “his children.” Ken Levine, head of the BioShock video games, painfully asked for people to stop making porn of the Elizabeth character from BioShock Infinite.
This is why you routinely see authors pissed off at seeing how their work gets bastardized when a movie is made. The excitement of seeing their personal, often deeply meaningful works turned into B-list Hollywood dreck has got to be fucking heartbreaking. Think of something you did or made that you were really proud of—go ahead, anything you made. Maybe you restored a car, you have a perfectly cared-for 1976 Chevrolet Impala. Now imagine if you lent that out to someone, and they took Sherwin Williams housepaint, and “improved it” by painting vaginas all over the thing, replaced the seats with scratchy wicker, painted the carpet on the floor garish colors, and attached license plates reading POOPCAR. That’s what Hollywood does to great novels.
Maybe you didn’t restore a car. Maybe you, say, created a human being. Maybe you raised a wonderful kid and while your back was turned, someone else ruined that kid by teaching him how to be an asshole drain on society—why, just think of how many parents of teenagers probably identify with this one right fucking now.
The Ideas are Actually Terrible
Get over yourself. Your ideas are probably not that good, because if they were, you’d have the confidence to make them your damn self. Let’s return to Ken Levine and Elizabeth with this one, because it’s a pretty extreme example, but it also blatantly illustrates how terrible the “creative” ideas of regular people frequently can be.
What’s that, you say? Everything gets turned into porn on the internet, that’s what Rule 34 is for? Look, there may be a few people out there who do these works as parts of requests because they lack the talent to draw a really fetching tentacle violating Elizabeth’s nethers, but for the most part, this stuff is a form of fanfic. Slashfic, if you will. These are images, sometimes full comics, of the kinds of stories people want from franchises and products and media that they love. Fascinating though it may be, it’s also a disturbing insight into the kind of absurd stories some people want to tell with their favorite franchises.
Granted, there are people who have non-pornographic, non-tentacled, non-soiled-underwear, non-transsexual ideas for Mass Effect or Star Trek or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that still doesn’t mean the ideas are any damn good. Creativity is not something that can just be taught, unfortunately. It takes years of the right kind of influence (for instance, buying kids Legos instead of Barbies), and it must be cultivated—sometimes even then it’s not likely to happen. A non-creative brain cannot be made creative.
I learned this first-hand during development of my team’s first game. We had a guy who was the definition of uncreative. Literally almost every idea out of his mouth was terrible. Things that would ruin the game we were making, things that would make for boring or unoriginal games. He had some programming skill, and he’d paid some attention during our schooling on the mechanics of game design, but he completely lacked creativity. He even lacked a basic understanding of what makes for fun gameplay, which was a constant pain in the ass.
On the yarn dyeing side again, my girlfriend receives endless requests for obvious shit like Harry Potter and Doctor Who. My girlfriend loves Harry Potter and generally likes Doctor Who, but both of these things have been done to death in that world, largely helped by the knit clothing appearing in Harry Potter, and one of the Doctors famously wearing a gigantic knit scarf.
What if it’s Successful?
Yeah, then what? Are you going to puff your chest and claim that you should be recognized for that? What of rights issues? Do you think anyone wants to have to share rights issues with a complete stranger, a potential nobody, an untrusted and unproven source? Fuck no.
Gary Larson didn’t want to go into interviews talking about his comics and risk some jackass yodeling from the audience that he was the one that gave him that one idea—or worse—claiming he was responsible for the success of the creator/developer.
My girlfriend also got to deal with this bullshit. Podcasts are big in the indie yarn dyeing, knitting, and crocheting world. Podcasters yield some power, they can help a dyer get noticed, or spread the word, the same as any industry magazine for Hollywood or a news site for video games, like Hardcore Casual Gamer or IGN. She designed a unique colorway for a charity event run by a podcaster she had befriended at the time. Then that podcaster got seriously under her skin by constantly trying to goad “thank yous” out of my girlfriend and claiming that the success of her shop was entirely, or largely dependent on her fucking podcast and nothing else. This girl had some other personality flaws as well, but this claiming responsibility for the success of my girlfriend’s Etsy shop was the start of ending their friendship.
No creator of any product wants to have to put up with this kind of bullshit, regardless of how good your terrible idea might be.
You Might be Asking for Something Pointless
There’s a lot of hubbub these days in the Nintendo side of the gaming world where a vocal minority of idiot fans want The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask remade. Yes, I said idiots. This is an utterly pointless thing to for the fans to be begging for. Constantly berating Nintendo for this thing to happen just because some fan out there is making his own remake that, if he tries to sell it, will be quickly demolished by Nintendo’s lawyers.
Here’s why this is pointless and idiotic: This very game has been released or is playable on the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, the Wii, and the Wii U. Every single person who owns a Nintendo console after the SNES can play this game right now. Majora’s Mask is also one of the harder and more complicated Zelda titles, and the way it breaks the formulaic typical Zelda fare was not well-received by many people. Essentially, they want an unpopular Zelda game remade, even though they can play it right now if they actually want to on one of four consoles.
Nintendo is in a place right now where they need to be churning out hits and new games to move their hardware and maintain a steady sales pace. Wasting resources on a remake of an easily playable, and readily available game may not be foreign to Nintendo (as they remade StarFox64 and updated Ocarina of Time, slightly—and put Super Mario Bros 1 on seemingly every piece of hardware available), but it would not be wise. Majora’s Mask is probably going to be remade one day because porting and remaking games is the number one way Nintendo makes games these days, but for now, this would be a waste of resources better used to make new games or port more important titles such as the recently released, originally Japan-exclusive, NES title The Mysterious Murasame Castle.
Your Stupid Demands do not Translate Into Sales
Nintendo fans have a history of begging for certain games, and when the company actually listens and decides to give it a shot, they have been met with lackluster, if not insultingly low sales. The (Western) Nintendo fans begged for Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower on the Wii—and then when they got those games, they ignored them or bought them used. This tells Nintendo not to listen to fan requests and that fan requests do not equal sales. Essentially, 100,000 signatures doesn’t mean 100,000 sales.
Look at Majora’s Mask again. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time sold less than half the numbers of the N64 original on the 3DS—that means it sold less than half as many copies on hardware that will be closing in on twice the sales on the hardware side. Where’s the benefit to Nintendo in remaking Majora’s Mask in order to get half the sales of a long-unpopular Zelda title?
If They Actually Want Your Input, They’ll Ask
During development of our first game, my team and I went to the local IGDA meeting to show it off. That’s International Game Developer’s Association. We asked for feedback, and we got a lot of feedback that was very helpful. We incorporated almost every great idea and suggestion we received. Nobody came up to us asking to be recognized and this was a safe place for us—because we asked for feedback. These were people who just wanted to share their two cents or ask us why we chose to do something a certain way. It was extremely helpful for us.
The thing is, we asked for this feedback. Anyone who wants feedback from you will ask for it. Outside of that, general critiques or congratulations—or even just recognition for the work—is about all many creators ask for, especially on the indie side. These things are our personal works, they mean something to us, as creators. We want your input at times, but we’ll make it clear when that time has come, and what we’re looking for. We do not want your unsolicited galaxy-spanning tentacle rape Harry Potter themed nonsense. Please keep that in that battered old Algebra notebook.
The Unpleasable Fanbase
Notice this crap formatting? Ahhh, a sure sign of an edit! That’s because I forgot something very important. Should the creator of your targeted fandom actually change their story to appease you loud, angry fans, said creator then risks pissing off the rest of the fanbase. And given that most of the bitching from fans comes from a loud, crybaby minority, the developer then risks pissing off more people just to please a small minority.
Fans are, ultimately, unpleasable. No one can please everyone all the time, so some people will just need to learn to shut the hell up. Taking the Metroid example again, sales have clearly indicated that the Prime trilogy is what sells these days, and if Nintendo wants higher sales for the franchise, they’ll design the future games around similar aesthetics. But you have the screaming minority that want the franchise to cling painfully to the past to feature nothing more than endless repetitive derivatives of Super Metroid, even though when Nintendo did exactly that, the end result was the much-reviled Metroid: Other M. A title that stuck hard to the 2-D aesthetics of older Metroid games, very much to the detriment of sales, review scores, and fan acceptance. The most hated game in the franchise is the one the loud minority screamed for.
Do it Your Damn Self
This is the final and most obvious note here—if your idea is really so damn good, you’ll do it yourself. You’ll write your own, well-thought-out fanfiction. You’ll craft your own art. You’ll learn how to make what you envision. It’s that simple.
What? You can’t write for The Outer Limits because both versions have been off the air for ages? So fucking what? You can still write the story in the same vein and release it yourself! What’s stopping you? Or is too much of your time taken up telling other people how to craft their own products? Telling other people what to do with their visions and their lives? Maybe you’re just an asshole, then, and need to shut the fuck up. But if you really are creative, then maybe you should do it yourself. You want to write Star Trek episodes? Guess what? Actual Star Trek writers didn’t get those jobs by sitting at home using the internet to bombard showrunners with stupid ideas. They worked on their writing skills.
A lot of this fan-driven bullshit is chasing nostalgia because pathetic people lack the ability to move on or live in the now and are desperate to live in the past. Some of it is angry fans who don’t like the direction a franchise or artist has taken, a la the ending of Mass Effect 3. You don’t have the right to not be offended—we all get annoyed at times. I’m annoyed with the terrible direction the Metroid franchise is headed—awash with sexism and brain-dead two-dimensional gameplay and storytelling. I wrote an example of how it could be fixed without ever expecting Nintendo to see it, listen, or follow suit. It’s not my franchise, after all, it’s theirs. Nintendo can do what they want, and I’ll either support the outcome, or I’ll keep my wallet closed.
But no company, developer, artist, or creator should ever listen to the fans for their ideas or use any unsolicited nonsense from those masses. Some input, some critiques, occasionally, are helpful—especially when it is requested. But most of it is pointless, and even annoying. Sometimes, as is the case with Bayonetta 2’s Wii U exclusivity, this stuff can be very annoying. Imagine that stress. Instead of having your boss at work constantly berate you for the way you do something, imagine dozens, hundreds, or even tens of thousands of people be constantly berating you for your choices on your product.
Let’s all keep this in mind instead of being a bunch of fucking idiot fanboys and internet assholes. No one should ever do the bidding of assholes.