Gameplay Re-Write: Defending the Art of Fanfiction

WoW, World of WarcraftI love reading about as much as I do gaming, perhaps even more. I mean, for the longest time books were my only friends, and sad as that is, I was okay with that. Stories fill a vital part of the human soul as evidenced by how big the storytelling business is, with movies, books, and games—just to name a few. One of the things I have found interesting about this interest in narrative is the fact that some games have started to publish books based on them. To my knowledge, there are four Mass Effect books and there are World of Warcraft novels. I am sure there are more out there. Games that involve a degree of storytelling and narrative structure make it easy to create stories off them because everything you need is right there. However, one of the more fun ways stories come out of games is through fanfiction.

Fanfiction, which is unauthorized fiction based on something, is a way for fans to further engage with the stories or games they love. It enables them to expand the universe, continue to interact with the characters, and perhaps to fix whatever issues people have with the plot or other aspects. It creates a nice blank canvas where you can write in alternate universes, or stay canon and see where you can take things. That is one of the reasons I write fanfiction—so I can let my imagination take off with characters I am familiar with because, in a lot of ways, I am not done with these characters. I want more, but the games just don’t give it.

There are a number of sites on the ‘net that have fiction. There are LiveJournal communities dedicated to certain games or pairings, Archive of Our Own is growing in popularity as of late, and if you head on over to Fanfiction.net you can see just how many stories there are in the games section. It’s pretty mind-boggling. There are hundreds of different games represented on the site. It tracks any game that has at least one story uploaded. To give you an idea of what is popular, the top five games in terms of numbers of stories are: Pokémon, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy VII, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Legend of Zelda. Mass Effect is sixth and Dragon Age seventh, and there are many more.

There are 76.9K stories for Pokémon alone. Dragon Age has 14.1K stories uploaded. That is a lot of stories. And the range of games involved is just amazing, as it is almost to the point that if there is a game out there, there is a fic about it. Case in point: there are Minesweeper stories out there and that is a complete Idle Game if there ever was one.

[alsiony @ deviantart]
[alsiony @ deviantart]

One of the things I like is the fact that you can explore different relationships between the characters than the game itself provided. As I wrote before, romance options have been a part of gaming for a while, but there is also the fact that the romantic options are rather constrained due to programming limitations. But with fanfiction, all the rules are gone. If you want to write a crossover fic where Spyro and Kirby hook up and have kids, feel free to do so. Someone will probably read it. There are no limitations except where your creativity will take you, which is exciting. There are moments where you want to know more about the relationships that the game doesn’t give you. I mean the whole “little blue babies” bit in Mass Effect is ripe for fic.

You can also delve into worlds that have been created in order to expand them however you want. A lot of game worlds are really interesting. They would have to be in order to hold our attention for hours and hours at a time. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t Angry Birds fics, there are, but there are fewer things you can do with that world than you can with, say, Resident Evil. There is enough there in that game world to warrant official books and movies that made good money.

Now, fanfiction writers are going to take things in different directions than official writers would—and that’s okay. By expanding the universes, writers can explore ideas the game puts forth but never fully explores because it might get in the way of game-flow. There are often a lot of codex entries in games that fill in these holes, but because they are not in gameplay itself, few players learn those things.

Super Smash Bros., Mario

What is also interesting is the fact that the longest story in the English language is a Super Smash Bros. fic. “The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest” sits at 219 chapters and 3,982,295 words long. Even if you take some of those away for author’s notes and such, that is insane. It first came out in May 2008 and continues to this day. It is amazingly epic as you might imagine. The author AuraChannelerChris has done an impressive thing with that fic. I haven’t asked, but clearly they’re having fun with the story, or else they would have already stopped. To give you an idea what kind of accomplishment this is, the longest published novel in the English language is Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson, which is 984,870 words long. The fic is four times longer.

The thing is, you don’t have to create an amazing ultranovel to write fanfiction. You have drabbles in the 100-word range all the way to that ridiculously huge fic. The quality of the writing varies as well, from people for whom English is not their first language to people who end up becoming published authors. Ultimately, all you need to do is have fun and write about whatever game excites you. I mean, seriously, there are fics about Tetris. On Fanfiction.net there are 110 stories about freaking Tetris, including the most traumatizing one titled “Fifty Shades of Tetris.” Hey, if I had to see it, then you have to share it with me.

Anyone can write and you never know what sort of things will inspire you. Because a lot of us are gamers, it stands to reason that the games we love to play inspire us to create stories of our own. So if you have something niggling in the back of your mind, write it. If you write it, readers will come. And if you don’t want to create, there are enough stories out there to sate any appetite.

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7 Comments on “Gameplay Re-Write: Defending the Art of Fanfiction

  1. Very curious how Minecraft qualifies as an idle game. It’s an open world game with no clear set objective and does not progress when you’re not playing. Idle games have a very linear way of playing, usually with some sort of goal, or at least the goal of progressing, and most importantly, progress when you’re idle. Unless if you were to install a mod that does all the digging for you, I don’t really see how Minecraft is an idle game.

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    • I didn’t say Minecraft. I said Minesweeper. Minecraft is a rather active game where you can do all sorts of things. Minesweeper you just try not to blow up. Very different games.

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  2. Ah sorry I totally misread! (Though also not really an idle game since again, no progress when you’re idle ;p)

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  3. I do very much get your point though, Minesweeper gives absolutely no material to write fanfiction about (or even a logical reason to do so lol). Guess that didn’t stop people, I’m not feeling adventurous enough to find out what Minesweeper fanfiction is like XD
    And again I’m sorry for my dumb mistake, it’s just that Minecraft already gets a lot of shit for not being a “real game” (whatever on earth that may mean), so I felt the need to stand up for it, even though that was absolutely not necessary here. (I even remember looking at the tags and being surprised it wasn’t tagged because every game that is mentioned is normally tagged here, dumb dumb dumb)
    But yeah, I totally agree that fanfiction should not be considered less than “real” published books (to actually mention something related to the article lol). Though I am personally more of a visual person and prefer fanart/comics, I have mad respect for all those who put all the time and effort into creating fan content for the things we love, and I fear their terrifying power to make ANYTHING happen XD

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    • Yeah… the oddness of Minesweeper fics scare me too. And even though Minecraft isn’t a game I have played, my daughter has and enjoyed it. She isn’t a fan of video games so that is clearly in the games favor. 🙂

      Hey, fan art and comics are awesome and I love them as well. I hunt down Mass Effect art and such because I enjoy it. And as a writer… I do try to contain that terrifying power lest I do irreparable harm to my readers. 😉

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  4. Pingback: Bioware Makes Strange Bedfellows: Sex & Consent in RPGs | FemHype

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