RM Milner posted his Master's thesis on The Nature of Fallout Fans, so I figured I'd give him another chance to speak out about Fallout and us, the Fans.
From the OnlineFandom blog:
Ryan M. Milner’s post a couple of weeks ago highlighting some of his findings in the analysis of Bethesda’s Fallout Forum he did for his MA thesis at the University of Kansas generated a lot of interest on the blog and in the many Fallout forums out there.
Here are a couple excerpts from the article, which can be read in it's entirety here:
For a specialized community, Fallout fans are surprisingly international. The game series has struck a cord with fans across continents. This gives their interaction a diverse flair that would be impossible without the aid of mediated communication. From all over the world, Fallout fans gather to debate, discuss, and extend the mythos of the series.
An understanding of the Fallout universe was a paramount value on the forum. An understanding of digital-game culture in general wasn’t too far behind. And no matter how one felt about Fallout 3, being able to articulately and rationally discuss nuanced points was the only way to seriously enter into the conversation.
Now this last claim might be surprising to anyone who has visited the Bethesda Fallout 3 forum. At first glance, the site seems to be nothing but a flame war. Who would expect less from a space that sees interaction between Fallout fans, The Elder Scrolls fans, and Bethesda employees?
Here's where I love this guy:
I think there’s something Bethesda, and producers of media texts in general, can learn from these observations. The Fallout fanbase (at least the majority of the vocal fanbase) has been wary of Bethesda’s handling of Fallout 3 for a while now. And time and exposure has only resulted in a stalemate, if not worsened relations. Part of me thinks that so many fans made up their mind so long ago that the only thing that would satisfy them was a Fallout 3 that looked just like Fallout 1 & 2, with no updates or changes. But another part of me wonders if the problem isn’t one of information and interpretation. Bethesda to date has released only a small number screenshots and one teaser trailer for a game that comes out in a few months. No beta test. No demo. No real glimpse into the process of creating the game. No invitations for input other than forum space and a character attribute contest where Bethesda picked the winner. All other information has been disseminated through third-party sources such as industry magazines. I think maybe Bethesda is ignoring the cardinal values of the Fallout community.
If fans thrive on knowledge, why not open up a bit?
They’ve had to be on the defensive with the Fallout fan community since they got the rights to the game. But it seems like this wrong-foot start has been made worse by their guarded tone. When fans interpret this guardedness as disrespect, a vicious cycle ensues. Given how entrenched this pattern is between the two parties, I don’t see how a shift to an open exchange of knowledge could make the situation any worse.
I think it’s telling that the Fallout 3 forum has contained forty-some full threads called “Meet the Devs” where fans can ask producers about anything not related to Fallout 3. Compare that with the precious few controlled situations where fans have been allowed to directly interact with developers about the game on their terms.
If you do decide to read the full article, give it a chance - it starts out pretty slow and seemingly meandering rather than getting to the point, but he's just setting up for the knockouts.