Fan-powered content creation – Navigating legitimacy in a new media world

Gamer fans were glued to social and livestream feeds this weekend, following both The Game Awards and The PlayStation Experience, in Los Angeles and Anaheim. The former was a celebration of the past year’s games people loved and their makers; the second the chance to look forward and see the new technology and new titles PlayStation would be bringing to the gaming community globally in 2017.

For Australian fans, this means either waking up at stupid o’clock to watch the livestream (hello E3 week), or tuning into your social feed first thing to see what’s trending and what’s new. Most of us do the latter and are jumping on trailers, mid-afternoon livestreams (LA time) and commentary by fans and journos watching it (or living it!) live.

One of the most significant titles announced at #PSX16 was the successor to Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed Last of Us. The first chapter of The Last of Us in 2013 was a critical and fan break-through – True, heart-wrenching interactive entertainment that took us into the lives of Joel and Ellie in a post-apocalyptic world; taken over by clickers….zombie like creatures that bite and kill the uninfected. This isn’t a Left for Dead or Dead Rising style title though…The Last of Us is at it’s core a truly emotional, human story about the vulnerability and survival of Joel and Ellie, who Joel sees as a daughter-like figure following the loss of his real daughter Sarah in the opening scenes of the first game. Amidst this emotional journey, it just so happens that as a player, you also fight, battle, kill Clickers and defend your characters and their friends. Both the battle adrenaline and storytelling emotions are real here!

Players of the game got emotionally involved, and with three years between the title’s debut and its newly announced successor, the game’s fan community is incredibly excited to see how the post-Clicker world and the game’s character’s lives have changed over this time.

The livestream reveal of the game was the first video to come up on my feed this morning:

Super exciting right? Ripped from the livestream, you can hear and literally feel the excitement and anticipation from the PlayStation fan community. At every character reveal, as we see each small detail of an unknown conflict gone bloody, we hear the cheers of a fan community as they begin to see a dark and complex next chapter of the beloved game is coming soon. Even the inclusion of main character Ellie playing her guitar and serenading the recently departed was a hat-tip to the wild online rumours of the game’s next chapter, (images of an older Ellie and a guitar were leaked from developer Naughty Dog in 2014). This subtext was playing right into the excitement, online narrative and expectations of fans. (Social and community led by design!)

The tingles, the butterflies all happened for me as a fan, at the same time the crowd cheered and acknowledged Ellie, Joel and the dark hint of the battle to come. Bring it on! Excitement sparked!

But, not to all fans. My feed also featured commentary from an industry peer commenting, “Great however the PR team should be given a kicking for releasing a video designed to emit emotion while including the whooping and chatter in the background from the crowd.

For real? Evidently a fan rip from the livestream, the video plays right into the social conversation and demonstrates the ability for fans to capture, comment and amplify the news from these types of events. Emotional response was exactly what happened when that video and its cheers were shared with likeminded players….just not in real time. Social GOLD.

As a digital communications pro, the comment also intrigued me as the video share (from another media professional) appeared to legitimise it as “official” resource material. A quick check of the YouTube channel (MathChief) showed fairly clearly that this was a livestream rip and share from a fan, but this didn’t seem to be checked when judgement was passed. The messenger gave the medium legitimacy; similar to what we’ve seen in recent months with the rise of clickbait and political fake news driving clicks and revenue for creators, and misinforming mainstream audiences. The political example is extreme, but the principal is the same – Audiences see or read something that resonates, and quickly act to comment, like and share.

This also leads to the question…do fan audiences and media consumers more broadly have an understanding or criteria for what constitutes “legitimate” news or content sources? Do they care, or are we just looking to be the first to view, click, comment and judge? A quick check of authorship, domain names, quality of language should provide a fair guide as to the legitimacy of an article, but has social become a space where being first is more important than being fair?

A quick check of PlayStation’s official YouTube channel showed that the video had been posted publicly hours before; as a media pro would expect from such a mammoth tech and entertainment brand. It’s certainly nowhere near as impactful in the real world as the pro-Trump spam we saw amidst the election, but it does raise some questions about us as media consumers and how we view and understand sources. Definitely something to think about.

Personally, I prefer the shared excitement in the fan-powered version (create these on your #PSX16 playlist PlayStation!)

What about you…what do you think? Does it matter where or who your media comes from? Do you put more faith in the source of the share than the source of the story?

Are you really, really excited about The Last of Us 2 too? 😉 Share your thoughts in the comments below…


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