A researcher was interested in the existing relationships between fans and major video game studios.
Online fan communities don’t always get good press. We know in particular that some gamers can behave in a toxic way and there is no shortage of examples on this subject. Death threats are unfortunately regularly made against developers or their family members on social networks.
Fan fiction, mod, drawing, and video game fans are creative
However, these groups are also often generators of social ties and allow many to give free rein to their imagination. Argyrios Emmanouloudis, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam, has just published a fascinating thesis on the existing relationship between fan communities and the video game industry.
The author first returns to the creativity of these groups of gamers. They have existed for a long time, but their number has exploded in recent years, particularly due to the health crisis.
He explains: “People come together on the internet in their common enthusiasm for a particular game. It’s a beautiful thing because it gives people the opportunity to express themselves and a sense of belonging”.
Within these groups, individuals are very creative in producing alternative stories, or fan fiction, around the universes of their favorite games. Some also create drawings, or mods to enrich the experience.
Far from being offended by this appropriation, the studios tend to let things go. And for good reason, they very largely find their account there. “The companies that manufacture the games are generally very happy with them because for them it is free promotion of their product“, specifies the scientist.
Gamers instrumentalized by video game studios?
The video game industry can also collect important information on the opinion of the fans towards the characters, as a kind of large-scale market research, with the opportunity to rectify the situation via updates, or in future games.
It also sometimes happens that some players produce content so creative that they are then bought by the studios. In other cases, a particularly talented member of the community may be recruited.
In the end, Argyrios Emmanouloudis explains that he started his research thinking that the fans had a lot of power over the studios. Gradually, he arrived at the opposite idea: these communities are above all a way for video game companies to earn more money.
He concludes: “The industry is mainly interested in profiting from the efforts of fans: thanks to the content created by them, companies know better what fans want and can therefore sell more games. In other words, the market decides. I think it’s important for fans to be aware of that and think critically about how it works.”