Losing Oneself

When I began typing this article, I intended to title it "Forum Faux Pas". It was to be an examination of the more common errors of logic, argumentation, and good sense that can be found on the GWJ boards and elsewhere. You know, stuff like: arguing in favor of game X due to its creator company's sound fiscal policies; disparaging console Y for its failure to penetrate market Z; and succumbing to the more insidious varieties of the good ole ad hominem. But it occurred to me that most of the people who fall into these traps on a regular basis probably do so on purpose. Why should I draw them a detailed map to the Hellespont, when they'd rather summon up a storm and see everyone -- themselves included -- sink to the bottom of the Aegean? You know what lies at the bottom of the Aegean? Mud. Lots and lots of mud.

But there remained one faux pas that I could not dismiss with such ease. "Perhaps," my imaginary psychoanalyst fairy says, "that's because it hits a bit too close to home, hmmm?" Maybe. For those who would commit this offense, I would prove to be just as suitable a target as anyone else. Most people would describe the offense in question as "making fun of fanboyism." In an effort to get you to take me seriously, I'm going to dress it up a bit and call it "the denigration of reverie."

In a normal context, the word reverie can be taken as a synonym for daydream. For present purposes, I would prefer to redefine reverie and to place it in opposition to fantasy. So, within the constraints of this article and any discussion thereupon, let it be said that:

  • A person fantasizes by inventing a fictional world for their own amusement.
  • A person engages in reverie by adopting, modifying, or enthusing about a previously established fictional world for their own amusement.

Fantasy and reverie may both be said to be subsets of a more general category: escapism. The most important difference between fantasy and reverie is that in order to fantasize, one must also create one's own original imaginary universe; whereas to engage in reverie, one must choose somebody else's imaginary universe. George Lucas engaged in fantasy when he wrote the script to Star Wars. I engage in reverie every time I close my eyes and imagine swarms of Tie Fighters encircling a beleaguered Corellian Corvette in deep space. Fantasy can be described as an act of creating art; reverie, as an act of appreciating art. We tend to value fantasy over reverie, on the grounds that it is a rarer gem to unearth. However, each would be a rather pointless activity without the widespread abundance of the other.

I have noticed a tendency among forumgoers to make fun of people who enjoy losing themselves in the creative works of others. When some people denigrate reverie, they employ the following syllogism:

1. Reverie is a form of escapism.
2. Escapism is a bad thing.
3. Reverie is a bad thing.

What they fail to realize is that there are other forms of escapism than reverie. If we are to accept premise 2 as true, then we must also say that fantasy is a bad thing. But it seems that fantasy (as defined above) is not a bad thing; for where would our society be without its great works of fiction: novels, movies, poems, myths, plays -- and even games? This reductio immediately shows us that premise 2 is problematic. Beyond this, we might simply ask what justifies the deployment of premise 2 at all. Short answer: nothing much.

Consider, then, this further argument, which is directed against the objects of reverie:

1. Only certain works of art are deserving of reverie.
2. Those who engage in reverie with respect to an undeserving work should be chastised.
3. X is an undeserving work.
4. Those who engage in reverie with respect to X should be chastised.

An example might be, "Only uncultured idiots enjoy action movies." This argument does not oppose reverie per se, but rather only certain instances of reverie. Each of the three premises may be challenged, but the greatest fault lies with premise 3. Elysium did a great job of explaining why this is so, and I'd be silly to repeat after him. Wouldn't want him to get the idea that I think he's a swell fellow, and all.

Another common argument seeks to discredit only certain forms of reverie:

1. Certain ways of engaging in reverie are inappropriate.
2. Those who engage in inappropriate forms of reverie should be chastised.
3. X is an inappropriate form of reverie.
4. Those who engage in X should be chastised.

This sort of argument is quite common. An example might take the form, "OMG, you wore a cape to that Renaissance festival? What a pathetic geek!" Or perhaps, "You spent the night in front of the software store to get a copy of Doom3? Loser!" However, premise 3 of this argument is open to much the same objection as premise 3 of the previous argument. Who is to say that delighting in the make-believe world of the Renaissance festival is inappropriate? Why is devotion to the computer game worlds created by id Software so unbecoming a trait to harbor? Can these stances be justified without resorting to logical fallacies, such as appeals to the majority or circular arguments? I think not. So, if no harm is being done to others, why denigrate the reverie? Feel free to disagree all you'd like, but stop short of denigration.

I can feel the slight weight of my imaginary psychoanalyst fairy resting on my shoulder. I ask it, "Why oh why, psychoanalyst fairy, are some people so concerned with belittling others for their harmless exercises in escapism? What good can come of such a practice?"

My psychoanalyst fairy whispers an apocryphal tale into my ear. "Long ago in the ancient Greek colony of Miletus, there lived a philosopher named Thales. It is said that one clear night Thales was walking through a field, his mind totally absorbed in the canopy of stars that stretched overhead. He failed to take note of where he was walking, and so he tumbled into a ditch. Then, a lovely Thracian serving girl laughed at his misfortune. Do you understand?"

I think for a moment and nod my head. I've heard Thales' story before. It is supposed to be a cautionary tale, meant to encourage us to keep our attention focused on the world around us, and not to lose ourselves in heady matters. (I derive from it a different moral: If you're male, and you find yourself walking in a field at night, under a starlit sky, with a beautiful woman at your side... watch where you step!) Whatever the moral may be, philosophers, astronomers, and intellectuals of all types have been downplaying this story for thousands of years, and with little success.

Another ancient Greek philosopher named Aristotle argued that the thing that makes humans distinct from all the other animals in the world is our capacity for rational thought. If we are to believe Aristotle, and if we can agree that enjoying the creative works of others is an altogether pleasant exercise of our unique capacity for rationality -- and I think that it is -- then engaging in reverie is an essential part of being human. According to this view, it is vitally important that we sometimes depart the real world in order to frolic in the plentiful hills of myth and fiction. Perhaps Thales' "error" was no error at all.

Lately I've been replaying Baldur's Gate. Sometimes, I send my party marching through the wilderness north of Beregost. There is a waterfall there, and butterflies that leap from flower to flower. There is a bear that lives in the stand of cedar up ahead. I can see it digging for roots, and I can hear its giant nose sniffing the ground. HHnnFF HHnnFF HHnnFF!! With each inhalation, I am nearly swept off my feet. If I go too close to the bear, it will attack, so I don't. Instead I look about and ponder the sky, and the air, and all the things that make such clever use of it while we humans are stuck to the ground. There's a great white bird overhead now! The bird lands at my feet, takes my hand with its wing, and together we lift off. The bear stares at us with a puzzled look on its face. Bye, bear! Bye! Now I fly, up so high; up so high, in the sky, la-la, la-la, la-la!



GwJ is a special place. Why? Because despite the fact that nearly every forum thread includes at least one post that makes questionable use of terms like "pooper," you can still find writing like this. Great article, Lobo.

I'm all for fantasy, reverie, and escapism in general, by whatever guise it takes. I'll only disparage those who engage in such activities when they repeatedly fail to bathe or otherwise eschew basic social graces to the point that their presence in public settings makes life unpleasant or uncomfortable for those around them. Hang out at your local retailer of reverie-inducing products for any significant amount of time, and you'll see what I mean.

I think the term "fanboy" often gets applied, sometimes derisively, to those who choose to embrace or devote themselves to the deep appreciation of particular pretend worlds. Which is too bad, because I think it's better used, with its negative connotations intact, to describe a different type of individual.

To me, the term connotes more than an enthusiast of a particular variety of escapist pursuits. The fanboy is obnoxious. The fanboy displays an inflexible, unreasonable, arrogant position of devotion to a particular genre/franchise/activity and uses that position to establish his own superiority to others.

It's not usually the fanboys that get made fun of, unless someone takes time to call them on their crap. Instead, they're the ones dishing out proclamations and pronouncements with religious fervor. Like the guy at the comic book shop who considers it his duty to loudly critique your purchase and correct you for your poor taste. Or the frag-obsessed GameStop employee who can barely suppress a sneer when you ask about a Final Fantasy title. They're everywhere. They even lurk in the GWJ forums, occasionally pouncing on those whose ideas they deem inferior.

Ooh, good post 4tomsm4sher! I think your fanboy distinction is very useful indeed.

4tomsm4sher wrote:


Out of context theater is over

Aye, I think 4tomsm4sher hit the nail on the head. It's not the average fan of fantasy we despise - it's the obnoxious ones who smell funny. Or don't, but the obnoxious term is key. Comic Book Guy is a prime example. The chastising of what he/she deems inferior is another sure thing with the 'fanboy.' Because of the extremely relative nature of aesthetic tastes, we should all be able to appreciate the artistic loves of each other - but unfortunately, there are those who simply cannot live without demeaning the tastes (or non-tastes) of others. Ah well. So, we mock them in response...seems only fair and mature, right?

Great refinement of the term, The Fly. (*nods to Fletch*)

Once again, you've delivered a fine article, Lobo. I've been sort of peripherally aware of that sort of reverie-bashing but never really paid a lot of attention to it. Now that I think of it, though, I'm certainly guilty of a degree of said fanboyism myself.

I find it slightly amusing that 'hater syndrome' (if I may coin a term) perpetuates itself. Once you've mindlessly denigrated something, you've got to keep up the charade whether you want to or not, lest you appear hypocritical. Gods forbid you spend half your life tearing down Star Trek: TNG, but discover you really like it after finally watching an episode or two. If I may provide a slightly off-topic example: my gaming group grew up playing AD&D 2nd Edition. When 3rd Edition was released, we read the books once and discarded them as useless, disgusting, unnecessary, an abomination unto Gygax the All-Father, etc. We did, however, borrow little things here and there. Six months of borrowing later, we were playing a fully 3e-compliant game, with nary a complaint. Four years later, we're amazed that we ever played Second Edition at all. Looking back, I can't help but snicker at our own rabid anti-3e zealotry.

That all aside, thanks for giving my brain some exercise at 9:30am. I find that your articles (and posts, for the most part) are sort of like the textual equivalent to the Ironman Triathlon - mildly intimidating (for one as out-of-shape as I am, if I may extend the metaphor), a real workout, and generally pretty rewarding to complete. I mean no reproach by this; just a slightly verbose re-dressing of "Me stupid, you smart."

Aye, I think 4tomsm4sher hit the nail on the head. It's not the average fan of fantasy we despise - it's the obnoxious ones who smell funny. Or don't, but the obnoxious term is key. Comic Book Guy is a prime example. The chastising of what he/she deems inferior is another sure thing with the 'fanboy.'

I don't think you and Lobo are disagreeing. In fact, his article felt like exactly what you were saying to me. Revelry is a good thing, and making fun of someone else for liking something you don't is a futile exercise.

Sadly, those most likely to do this are going to miss the point entirely and instead resolve to make fun of those making fun of others

I wasn't disagreeing with him Pyro - we are working as a group to help better define the sort of revelry we mean...and using these newfound descriptors, we can understand how it relates. At least, that's what I was thinking

I think we should all work to better appreciate the aestetics of others - after all, many of things I like now I came to like because of introductions from others, some of them fanboys. I promise no making fun of others.

Also, I was going off about those who smell funny because, well, it's amusing

Excellent, wonderful, terrific article, Lobo. We've been needing to hear your voice for a long time regarding this matter. It is welcome.

I think that the reason denigration is a common undertaking can be best described by my paraphrase of a Zen Koan. The master draws two lines in the sand, one longer then the other. The longer line represents his wisdom and experience, the shorter, that of his student. He tells the student that there are two ways for him to make the two lines equal. He can choose to lengthen his own line, or he can choose to shorten the master's.

Excellent article Lobo, my obsession with forum philosophies and interactions is near clinical at this point, very interesting piece.

Fantastic article, but I fear I must quibble, just the tiniest bit. I freely admit that I have made fun of fanboys/fanbois/catpiss men for years. I started making fun of them when I was publishing comic books, and did a fair amount of national touring promoting said books.

And I learned a lesson, lo those many years ago, traversing the boyzone that is the comics (and also gaming) field. And that lesson is that there is a large segmentation of the fan market.

There are fans. Fans appreciate the work, they enjoy it, they are happy to have allowed it, and sometimes its creator, a place in their heart/mind/soul/masturbation fantasies. Fans are good. We love fans. Fans have reverie...reverie good at this level.

Uberfans: Know the material better than the creator. Will call the creator on inconsistencies. Often very creative, many uberfans go on to creating fanfic and sometimes...rarely, but sometimes, may even find work in the field based on their creativity with someone else's original work. (Can you say Todd McFarlane? I knew you could!) Uberfans move a little past reverie into a murky sea of "I know what's best for the creator's work...even better than the creator does." Not so much good, but generally harmless...albeit a tad annoying.

Fanbois: A level of creepy beyond uberfan. Lives in a cult of creator. Will defend the creator despite creator failure. Accuses everyone not a fanboy of being too stupid to see the genius of the creator. Masturbates like a monkey at the thought that the creator might acknowledge them in some small way. (For instance, the guy that had one of my icons tattooed on his chest, and thought that should prove "his lurve for me". *shudder*) Those types of fanboys are just spooky. Fanboys go well beyond reverie into a darkened morass of pyschological freakiness. Most of them should be clubbed like baby seals and worn as fashion statements. (Cause, ya know, fur is bad...but fanboy is forever.)

I wouldn't call your post a quibble, Deva, so much as an elaboration. I think that once people begin to aggressively assert their reveries upon the unwilling, there is room for legitimate criticism. Same thing goes for the folks who violate important social norms in service to their reveries. This would include people who engage in stalker-type behavior (the creepy tattoo incident you mentioned), as well as other forms of unacceptable behavior... like, say, people dressed as Pokemons having sex in public, or LARPers consenting to deadly duels.

I think the only thing that could be worse is if someone were to assert their fantasies upon the unwilling! These people generally get locked away.

I promise no making fun of others.

Oh hell no, I sure won't! I merely like to refine and hone my derision to those that better deserve it, for it makes for better comedy

Give me a hug you big drunken steed!

... Wait. Last time I said that it didn't end pretty, so let's just move on.

I think the only thing that could be worse is if someone were to assert their fantasies upon the unwilling! These people generally get locked away.

Unless you work for Marketing!

I think that the people who are irritating fanboys are the ones that DuckiDeva has described, the ones who seem to lose their sense of identity and self and somehow defend a company/game irrationally as if they are actually responsible for the product and work for the company. I've always found that somewhat strange.

I actually see a general manifestation of this from the people who want to pay more for a product because it will "help the game company." I understand the reasoning, I'm not bashing it outright, but it's still a little weird. I haven't seen too many other industries where people say, "Let me pay you more for your product, because I'm worried you won't stay afloat," like they do in the game industry (both boardgames and computer games).

On the flip side are those who develop a strange hatred for an entity, and thereby bash everything they do (e.g. Bill Gates's charity is just a scheme to build public trust so more people will be suckered into buying Microsoft products).

Strangely enough, I believe that both types often come from those who secretly (or not so secretly) wish that they were living the lifestyle of the developer/creator/whatever that is their target or industry of choice to obsess over. I think lots of game players who frequent boards and are deeper into the games than the average person wish they were insiders.

Then, much like a school kid's crush, the result is that the crushee is either constantly picked on and attacked, or vigorously praised at every opportunity.

I think you're touching on the major component of that kind of behavior, Sly. That is, the emotional immaturity of those who perpetuate it.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:

Give me a hug you big drunken steed!

Ok, I think that's sig worthy, and has quite a bit of potential for some out of context references

DuckiDeva raises some excellent points - and I know a number of folks who fit in her third catagory. Allow me to cite the bulk of the local Anime club (which is the largest club on my college campus). I think I agree with what Lobo said in his follow-up, it's not the actual reveries that's a problem, but rather the lack of social graces and common sense which can go along with it.

Out of curiosity, which facet of the comic industry were you involved in Ducki? The evolution of comics is a topic of great interest to me - unfortunately, the only 'insider' info I tend to get is from the guy at the local comic/used book shop who used to work for New England Comics.

I wrote a couple of books, started my own imprint, edited at one point 6+ comics a month, ran a stable of artists and writers, most of whom now work for Marvel, DC, Darkhorse, etc. Got drawn into a couple of comics by people who you'd recognize if I named them, and have my very own portraits by R. Crumb and Sergio Argones. (which granted, has nothing to do with what *i* did...but ya know, just to prove I too have some fanboi tendencies about some artists.)

One of my comics got a clerk at a store arrested when the morality police were trying to sue comics back into the superhero era. I joined forces with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and we fought the case up to the State Supremes, who refused to hear the case. Thereafter, I volunteered work and publications for the CBLDF for years and years, and will still periodically come out of hiding to go sit on panels about censorship with Neil Gaiman and the like.

The lawsuit killed our most successful title, my divorce killed the rest of the imprint. For a couple of years after that, I helped coordinate comic trade shows and auctions around the world, but eventually, I met the Duck, and believe it or not, he's more fun than a comic show in Amsterdam...and I tell ya, that's a fun show.

My house is one of those places that would cause fanbois to fall over in orgasmic shock before they got very far in. Pretty much I have sketches/originals/cocktail napkin universes from almost every major artist in the business...well, that was in the business in the early 90's.

Although, by and far, my favorite is a pen and ink by Chuck Jones who sent me a sketch when he heard we'd lost the case and were shutting down. He drew Bugs Bunny, with vampire teeth, coming out of a big spooky Goth castle that is crumbling into ruins and had my magazine logo emblazoned above it, and Bugs has a word bubble that says "Fangs for the Mammories!". (Because comic guys can't resist a tit joke...they just can't.

edit for egregious spelling error.

Wow Deva. You're like the Forrest Gump of Cool.

Ok, Deva, that post just cemented your position in the GWJ forums as a FREAKING GODDESS.

We are not worthy.


You seem to have made a few more fans here, Deva

It sounds like you're certainly had your share of comic goodness - I'll be sure to never set foot near your house for fear of shock

Lobo, sorry about the derail. My bad, I apologize. I suppose it's time for the spankings. (Chorus of young virgins aged 19-22: "A spanking, a spanking!") You must spank all of us. And then....

Damn egomaniac writers. It's always about you isn't it?

Chorus of young virgins aged 19-22

On most gaming forums, this would describe the majority of the posters. Thankfully, this is Gamers With Jobs.

I would submit that geeks (myself included) strive to attain a level of conciousness (leetness) by belittling others. Seems simple if you think of it as lowering others to raise oneself. And tis a definite sign of immaturity, emotional or otherwise. And why would geeks unabashedly long to reach this suppossed pinnacle of fantaticism? Only for a chance, however brief or slim, to bathe in the shadow that is DuckiDeva!!! **In-my-most-geekiest-Napoleon-Dynamite-voice** By all that's holy is that woman cool or what?!?