Last week, Rob Lashley wrote a terrific column called “Connecting Players to Virtual Worlds” that laid out some of the ways that players stay involved with the games they love when they’re not actually in the game. It’s a terrific read and one you should check out when finished here.
The column got me thinking, though, about all the other ways that players stay connected to their favorite games. Often, these very connections go much farther beyond the developers and, in a way, become entities unto themselves. Players create opportunities to show off their devotion in many different and divergent ways.
This column over time will take a single title per week and spotlight some of the amazing ways that players and fans turn their love for it into something unique and special. For this week, however, we’ll take a general look at the idea of The Game Beyond the Game.
So how do fans keep going when outside the confines of the pixel-jungle of choice? Let’s take a look at a few ways.
Probably one of the single-most popular and well-known ways that fans show off their love of a game is through cosplay, literally “costume play”. The notion of dressing up as one’s favorite game character has become quite an industry in today’s world with entire companies devoted to the creation of some of the most amazing costumes ever seen. In fact, the whole notion of cosplay has evolved well beyond the somewhat snarky idea of “Halloween costumes for adults” and has become wildly popular even outside of the general gaming population. All one has to do is take a look at convention coverage for events like the San Diego Comic Con or PAX Prime or even E3 to see how much notice is given in the so-called mainstream media.
There are whole organizations devoted to professional cosplay, those who travel from convention to convention in order to make an appearance for their favorite games or who have been hired by a publisher or developer to represent its title.
But cosplay goes well-beyond the realm of the professional and into the halls of fandom as players create amazing costumes from everyday materials to showcase their devotion. These intrepid fans also show up at conventions to show off their creations and with good result. We’ve probably all seen a gallery of screenshots at one time or another devoted to cosplayers, usually a huge hit on any site.
Machinima & Other Film Projects
Film projects have gone well beyond capturing a streaming event on camera and posting to YouTube without any other fluff attached. These days, whole cottage industries have sprung up around immortalizing games, game characters, game events and more. Take a look, for the best example, at Machinima, a site that exists purely to host fan-made videos created by manipulating in-game models to create animation.
From the Machinima (literally machine + cinema) wiki:
Machinima, Inc. is a gaming and media streaming website, and a multi-channel network. Machinima.com aims to be a hub for machinima, the art of creating animated videos in real-time virtual game environments.
Machinima does not stand alone either. Fans around the world have put their creative minds to the test and made videos to explore game lore (see The Story of Warcraft in 41 Minutes), videos that try to explain story elements that either make no sense or do not seem to fit game lore (see Mass Effect 3: The Indoctrination Theory – A Documentary) or videos to show off a player’s favorite game moments or to sum up a story arc (see Guild Wars 2: The Angry Briar Season 1). All of these videos, and thousands of others just like them are breathtaking at times and downright jaw-droppingly amazing at others.
‘Fanart’ and ‘Fanfic’
It takes only a brief and cursory look at DeviantArt.com to see the huge, and I do mean huge, number of pieces devoted to games. The front page that contains the latest uploads reveals that fan artists are hard at work immortalizing their favorite games. It’s not to say that drawings and digital media devoted to games is all that one will find on a clearinghouse site like DA, but it is a huge proportion of what can be found there.
Lest forgotten, games-related memes are quite popular too. Most with a Facebook or any other social media site as part of their daily routine will find their favorite games lampooned by other players and fans. You don’t have to search long or hard to find WoW’s “Leeeeeerrrooooyyyyyy Jenkins” immortalized in hundreds of different ways, for example.
Lastly, there are also entire sites devoted to fanfic, literally fan fiction, where players create stories based on characters from their favorite titles. Writers use names and settings to create whole new scenarios and story arcs, often times in an “alternative universe” or “AU”.
The bottom line is that players find lots of fun and interesting ways to stay connected with and even expand on the worlds they love, whether through a great costume, a fantastic video, a well-drawn piece of art, a get together or convention devoted to a specific game or even a detailed new story for a favorite character.
What about you? Do you participate in The Game Beyond the Game? Do you have favorite games and fan projects that you follow? Is there a game you’d like us to write about? Let us know in the comments!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager for MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.