The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
So You Want To Make A Fansite

Kyle Orland | 14 Nov 2006 07:04
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Which brings up another challenge of the fansite creator: posting regular updates. Unless you simply want your page to sit around as a static online reference, you need something new to put up week after week to keep people coming back. This can be tough if your game doesn't have much back story or ephemera associated with it, but there's always something more for the creative fansite creator to do. Write an editorial about some obscure element of the gameplay. Create a trivia quiz for other obsessed fans. Make up original stories starring your game's characters. Regular updates are what separate the determined fansite creator from the bored weekend tinkerer

Keep up the regular updates long enough and you'll likely attract the attention of a small-to-middling chunk of internet traffic. You may also attract the attention of the company that created your game, which may lead you to wonder whether they will appreciate all the potentially copyrighted information and images used on your pages. Not to worry, though, most companies turn a blind eye on these matters when it comes to sites that are actively promoting their products. Some even encourage these sites to flourish, creating elaborate fansite kits to get you started (though by now you must realize a true fansite comes not from a kit, but from the heart!).

Attracting fans also means attracting sometimes obsessive attention from them, which is something you'll have to get used to as the webmaster of a thriving fansite. Some fans will e-mail you thinking you're the creator of the game, begging you for a sequel or an update to their favorite franchise. Others will ask you nonsensical questions about a character's back story ("Who is Mario's favorite Spice Girl?"), and they'll expect you to have an answer! By maintaining a site, you become a resource for the community at large - a locater of both in-game secrets and real-world Halloween costumes.

While fellow fans can be annoying, they can also be your site's greatest resource. As the amount of reference information to post starts to dwindle and your zest for covering one game or series exclusively inevitably begins to fade, your fans can be your lifeline, providing content so you don't have to. If your site is well established and popular enough, you won't even have to work at it - the fans will come crawling out of the woodwork asking if there's any way they can help with the site. You can actively encourage this community by creating whole fan-created sections devoted to art, fiction, even things like gameplay memories and cosplay. The really devoted fans might be motivated enough to spin off a whole subsection of the site, leaving you with more content and more time to actually play the games you enjoy instead of writing about them.

And this massive fan involvement often leads directly to the last leg of a fansite's existence - the time where the original creator realizes he's devoted years of his life to his obsession and decides to move on. Sometimes, this will happen quickly with a curt message on the front page announcing the site's death to the world. Sometimes, the torch will be passed to a new generation of fans who will continue the spate of updates. Sometimes, it doesn't happen at all, and the site's original creator maintains his public service fandom for years. Whichever fate befalls your site, though, you'll be able to look back and know that you've made your mark on the ephemera of the internet and that, because of you, someone can now google "Mario Trivia" and find something to occupy their time.

Kyle Orland is a video game freelancer. He writes about the world of video game journalism on his weblog, Video Game Media Watch.

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