Henry Jenkins examined the nature of fans and fandom at the annual Comic-Con convention in his journal article entitled ‘Superpowered Fans’. At this annual event in San Diego; comics, science fiction and what Jenkins calls pop culture fantasies are celebrated, discussed and created. Jenkins quotes German filmmaker Werner Herzog as saying that events such as comic-con give fans an opportunity to act out their “collective dreams”.
These fans go to vast lengths to demonstrate their love and commitment to their favourite character. The most common way to demarcate oneself as a fan of a particular comic or character is to dress up as them. Many of these people create costumes of great extravagance and detail, spending many hours carefully paying homage to their fiction of choice.
Such events highlight a modern communication trend of turning private individual media consumption and enjoyment into a social experience, with users engaging with media content and each other in a myriad of ways. Through such events and the interconnected nature of modern media consumption, fans of fantasy are able to build relationships between one another based upon evident shared commonality. Jenkins refers to the gathering of the masses as a “meeting point between a transmedia commercial culture and a grassroots participatory culture”. He has some reservations on the power struggle between these two notions, suggesting that the focus on the audience as consumers outweighs attempts to engage fans in cultural production and social networking.
While I have never enjoyed reading comics, I do play video games, which have a similarly rabid core fan-base, and would have some interest in attending E3 (an annual gaming convention held in Los Angeles). However, the notion of dressing up as a character has no appeal to me and wouldn’t be a way I’d engage or show my appreciation for a game or character. However, the changing world of video games means that much of my time playing games is quasi-social in nature. Most games released currently have an online component, whereby you are playing with individuals from around the world. Some people form groups in this online gaming domain; communicating and developing friendships with people they have never met. While I do play video games online with others, I have never felt the need to communicate with someone I was playing with. Indeed, normally I’m playing with friends whom are at the same physical location and thus the activity has as inherent social aspect regardless of interaction with others online. Perhaps my views will alter in time but I feel that relationships developed online cannot replace or even replicate face-to-face interaction with someone else.
Jenkins, H 2012, ‘Superpowered fans: The many worlds of San Diego’s Comic-Con’, Boom, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 22-36.