Choosing To Be Positive In Fandom

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens fast approaching and the World of Warcraft announcements regarding both the new expansion, Legion, and the upcoming Warcraft film, I find that a lot of the arguments and negative comments I’ve seen surrounding both of these franchises tend to have similarities.

Warlords of Draenor is widely believed to be the worst expansion of the game’s history, resulting in almost record breaking lows in their subscription numbers. Though the Star Wars prequels have received much more acclaim and a colossal following, they cleaved the fandom in half to an extent that few franchises have ever experienced.

Disclaimer before I continue: while I genuinely dislike the prequels themselves, I hold no animosity or disparaging feelings towards the people who prefer them. I wish it didn’t even need to be said, but in light of Simon Pegg’s comments about prequel fans on top of the general animosity they already often experience, I feel it’s important to make that clear up front. And if you’re a fan of the original trilogy who can’t make a case against a few movies you dislike without directing vitriol at the human beings who enjoy them, I invite you to kindly grow the bleep up. In the words of Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

Both Star Wars and World of Warcraft are in the midst of many expectations surrounding the next installments of their sagas. Fans like myself who were let down by the prequels are hoping for a second chance at building on the original trilogy and finally re-experiencing the excitement we used to associate with the franchise as a whole. Prequel fans are hoping the emphasis on preserving the feel of the original trilogy won’t result in Abrams discarding everything introduced in episodes one through three. In realm of Azeroth, Warcraft fans are desperately hoping that Legion signals a change back to content-rich expansions and lore that has actual relevance to the main story that has been built up for the past 20 years.

I’ve noticed a lot of comments that seem to imply a dichotomy between embracing hope and managing expectations. Many people seem to think the best defense against false hope is a good offense and relish listing in detail everything that could possibly go wrong and how they won’t believe in positive changes until they see them.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” is a common mantra. J.J. Abrams promises and emphasis on real scenery and traditional SFX over pure CGI? “I’ll believe it when I see it!”Warcraft devs promise that dungeons will be more challenging and function as true end game content? “I’ve heard that before! I’ll believe it when I see it!”

I get it, I do. Hell, I’ve even been that person on occasion (*cough* Horde pvp this expansion *cough*). But I still think it’s the wrong attitude to take.

We’ve all heard and perhaps even espoused the concept of going in with low expectations in the hopes of being presently surprised. The problem with that attitude, however, is that the mind is malleable to suggestion, most especially to suggestions that come from inside our own heads. Telling yourself for months on end that you expect to be let down can have a very real effect on how you perceive something.

I’ve been let down by Warlords, to say the least (and being a newish player who only really started playing halfway through Mists of Pandaria, I recently had the depressing realization that by the time Legion comes out Warlords will have made up the majority of time playing Warcraft). But the funny thing is I had very low expectations going in; I was never a big Orc fan and Metzen’s description of the expansion as a “boys’ trip” was a tremendous turnoff. Managing my expectations did nothing to soften the blow of how awful the expansion turned out. I was perhaps a victim of hype as a tween going in to see The Phantom Menace, but I had managed my expectations sufficiently by the time Revenge of the Sith came around and that did nothing to increase my enjoyment of the film.

So I’m going to embrace positive thinking in the lead up to The Force Awakens and Legion. Spending weeks or months griping and wringing my hands and thinking up new and creative ways to be disappointing isn’t going to inoculate me with some mystical protection against disappointment. It will just mean that I have wasted weeks and months out of my life being unhappy about something I have no power to change, and that sounds like an appalling waste. I choose to spend the upcoming time savoring my happy anticipation.

At Blizzcon a few weeks ago, I was struck by how enthusiastic everyone was. All the grim predictions I’d heard about how people would surely boo Metzen off the stage or that there’s be loads of awkward and embarrassing silences whenever the Warcraft devs took the stage never materialized. And I was then equally struck by how the exact same announcements were met with endless pissing and moaning and outrage online once I got back home and started browsing the Warcraft forums.

Humans being social creatures, we take our cues from the people around us, no matter how we’d like to think we’re far too intelligent and individual to ever be susceptible to our peers’ influence. I’m making the conscious effort to spend my time and energy in places that will reinforce the positive attitude I wish to continue fostering. Things like Star Wars and Warcraft bring me joy and feed the majority of my social connections.  I have a choice, as does everyone, to focus on the good and the positive.

And in case it has been unclear, I am in no way suggesting anyone should not bring critical thought to films or games, or that they should try to force themselves to enjoy something. What I’m arguing for is a move away from the mindset of nitpicking and bemoaning the fate of a piece of entertainment we have not seen yet. There’s time enough to criticize something after you’ve at least experienced it.

There’s a lot of great things coming in the following months. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first course of a veritable feast of media juggernauts beloved by Geeks. Avengers: Civil War. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Warcraft. Ghostbusters. Deadpool. Suicide Squad. Grousing about what could go wrong won’t make you like them any more. You’ll like them or you won’t, but the time you spend feeding negativity can never be recovered.

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