The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in (Game) Fanfiction Writing

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Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in (Game) Fanfiction Writing
Creator: MP
Date(s): April 16, 2005
Medium: online
External Links: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in (Game) Fanfiction, Archived version
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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in (Game) Fanfiction Writing is a 2005 essay by MP.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

Some Topics Discssed

  • while not unique to fiction based on games, the author discusses short stories, the narratives, prequels, alternate realities, parodies, sequels, crossovers, other forms of fic writing
  • slash should only be written by homosexuals, and the characters should not be made into "pansies" and "drag queens"


Narratives are a straight re-write of the game’s events with minimal changes to the original text and the incidents. At their worst, they add nothing to the game’s text; at their best, they flesh out the hint of characterization and events into something more. They may be very long, as in attempts to “novelize” a game; but they may be shorter, only concentrating on a section of the game. Narratives are particularly desirable for older games (mainly Super Nintendo ones) which leave most people craving for something more, a richer interaction, and so forth. But even more modern and complex games can be successfully turned into narratives.

The good: I only heard ONE objection in my entire fanfiction-reading/writing era to narratives. A reader is likely to enjoy a narrative, unless you are adamant in the belief that a game’s text is a sacred truth which nothing can eclipse and from which no one should deviate— a completely false view in my opinion, and a questionable one given that most old translations take liberty with the “true” original (Japanese) game script anyway. The most glaring example I can think of is insisting on keeping Cyan’s faux-Shakespearean speech although he is not likely to have spoken this way in FFVI-Japanese. Bur readers are likely to like narratives because narratives provide what short stories do, and more: they re-write the game events and flesh out characterization and relationship. Narratives can be a great exercise for writers who wish to concentrate on characterization, dialogue and setting without having to concentrate on plot invention.

The bad: It really depends on what the writers do with the material. Some narratives simply add nothing to the game, and thus have little point, at least from the readers’ point of view.

The ugly: Nothing, really, unless the narrative turns into something else (such as inserting too many alternate reality elements or deviating from the characters and plot without warning the reader). I haven’t seen it happen, however, or if I had, I forgot.

Crossovers are a very popular form of fanfiction, which send characters of two, often incongruent universes, to meet each other and have adventures in the process. They are usually sequels or parodies, but rarely narratives, short stories or prequels.

The good: Cross-overs can be a creative and liberating form of story. Some people simply like to see how people of different universes will react with each other. Cross-overs are a product of people wishing to know how their favorite characters will react when meeting each other. Some cross-overs, at least, can make a little bit of sense, such as making final fantasy characters of the past meet those in the future— if the excuse is plausible enough. And cross-overs for the sake of parody can be fun (though it’s more of the parody than the crossover element that does the trick for me.)

The bad: There are, in my opinion, more than one problem with (non-parodic) crossovers. Sequels (see below) invite abuse of characters and plot, but cross-overs invite it moreso. I am no purist— as you can see above, I said that the game’s text is no sacred truth— but I do like the integrity of the game’s (or anime’s, or whatever form of story) world preserved. Most cross-overs, in short, violate the original world of the game etc. and thus do not appeal to me. I like stories that flesh out the original text of the game/s, that show their characters interacting in a richer way, the setting and world defined in prose. But I have no wish to know whether Ashley of Vagrant Story will fall in love with Marle from Crono Trigger.

The ugly: The last comment above brings me to this point. While cross-overs will not necessarily pervert the characters— this depends on the writer— they do invite abuse of relationships. Sometimes cross-over writers just want to pair up characters of different games. This is really an alternate reality story in an even darker guise; done purely for self-indulgence with less fun— because the characters are not even supposed to dwell in the same universe. And while Edgar + Rydia is actually less repulsive than, say, the more “logical” Yuffie + Reno (because these two dwell in the same place at the same time), it is still somehow even stranger and more unpleasant. Somehow, the believability of the original game’s world as a self-contained integral place had been raped; and this, I think, my biggest problem with the notion of crossovers. (Or why I think that they function best as parodies).

Hentai, sex stories, yaoi, slash and so on

The good: Many people do like to read sexually graphic scenes. And there is nothing wrong with sex in writing. It’s plenty out there on the bookshelves. It can even express a fulfillment of the characters’ love. The problem is that in fanfiction, sex scenes are often an expression of a writer’s fantasy in an extremely graphic and therefore an embarrassing way (we the readers feel embarrassed for the writer, that is). Graphic, detailed sex scenes, especially ones involving game characters, often feel like peepholes. And when you’re afforded with one, the writer better be skilled enough to divert your readers’ attention from the fact that they ARE at a peephole. Otherwise, the result is embarrassment— both for the reader and the writer.

The bad: Graphic sex scenes between characters who are not supposed to have a relationship. And unless you’ve come for the sex scene or for that coupling in particular, you’d probably rather read something else.

The ugly: Yaoi sex stories. (Hides). Sorry: no fangirl in the world can convince me that half of the male population in games, etc. is gay. I understand that they’re not trying to, but the point stands (to each his/her own). Of course, slash is the fangirl’s answer to the decades-old, socially accepted male lesbian fantasies. So as a woman, I can’t see why it should be scorned more than these fantasies, and as such, I will offer it some support. There. I said it.

Last comments about yaoi and slash stories:

A good reason for slash fanfiction stories (i.e. not completely self-indulgent) is that you are homosexual yourself and want to write a story which validates your sexual tastes. However, even so, I think that it’s more valid to take characters that at least provide some justifiable basis for such theories. For example, if you like Ashley + Sidney from Vagrant Story, keep in mind that Ashley was married and had a kid, and at least acknowledge this. Etc. Not that I would like to read such a story, mind you. Do not, and I repeat, do not see this as an encouragement to write one about said pair. Of course, I can see where the difficulty is— most clearly homosexual characters in games are usually depicted as utter pansies (see Millich and co. in the Suikoden series), and are also relatively minor and often unattractive. It’s natural that people would prefer to pair the hot guys/girls, not the drag queens.