When do the fans not "get it"?
Here are some spoilers: There isn't really any time when you can say a fan doesn't "get it".
With the recent release of DmC, there has been a huge split between the fans, one part hating the game and the other part liking it. Now I'm not going into who's wrong or who's right. What I am going to talk about is whether, or rather, when a fan is right or wrong. Or, perhaps even a better question, when a fan doesn't "get it".
Now, before I start, I do have to say that this is all based on opinion. It's not to be taken as a fact of any kind, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Do keep it civilized when commenting though, especially when it's a comment you don't necessarily agree with. I know it's a hard thing to ask from a gaming community, but I trust that you actually can keep it civilized.
Anyway, I'll also assume the following things here:
- Gamers want to see gaming as a form of art;
- The vision of the artist and the interpretation of the consumer does not necessarily match;
- No interpretation is factually wrong, even if it doesn't match the artist's original interpretation;
- Artists can push their audience a certain way using art;
- Fans have built a certain knowledge of that which they are fans of, in a way that they might know more about it than its original creators.
Points two and three are important with art. There is a rather famous image macro floating around the internet, which shows a Venn Diagram, one circle representing what the author meant, the other what your English teacher would think the author meant. The interpretation of the English teacher would be that "the curtains represent his immense depression and his lack of will to carry on," while the author meant "the curtains were fucking blue". It's a joke image, but an image that does hold truth. What we perceive as truth isn't necessarily the truth, and, whatever the artist intended does not necessarily match up with our interpretation. Art isn't a solid state, it isn't factuous. In the end, art is there to provoke us.
So, when does art stop being art? Well, art doesn't actually stop being art, but you can take it away by pushing your crowd in a certain direction, which is where point four comes into play. In essence, artists have a certain agenda, and they are always trying to push their message. However, they rarely do it explicitly. You see, in the end, the goal of art is to provoke your thoughts, and as an artist, you want the audience to come to the same conclusion as yours themselves, not by having to tell them what it means. Basically, by telling people what your art exactly represents, and by extension, by telling people they're wrong, you're basically killing your own art.
Those three principles are important if we want to take point one as a truth, that gaming is a form of art. The main reason that DmC got a lot of criticism isn't just because of his white hair. In fact, that was the least of its concerns. A bigger concern was the writing, the story, and also its voice acting. Perhaps equally as important was the "dumbed down" gameplay in comparison to the previous Devil May Cry games, but, for the sake of this subject, we'll just forget about it. But the biggest thing that caused the mass uproar was because Tameem, creator of DmC, basically told the fans that they don't get it.
If we take gaming as a form of art, you cannot claim that the fans are wrong, that they don't get it. They have a certain image of what they preceive as Devil May Cry, just like we have a certain vision of what Superman is, or what Spider-Man is. In fact, let's talk about Spider-Man here, although I'll be going through some major spoilers.
So yeah, spoiler warning for the Amazing Spider-Man.
For those who have read the 700th issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, you'll know that Peter Parker is now officially dead, died while in Otto Octavius' body. Meanwhile, Otto Octavius now has obtained Peter Parker's memories, and promised Peter that he would now use his powers for good before Peter kicked the bucket or something. Now a lot of Spider-Man fans have been upset by this entire ordeal, and not without reason. Peter Parker always represented as an everyday guy, someone who could have been you or me. Sure he's got spider powers, but in his average life he's the most down-to-earth superhero, having pretty much the same problems as we. Having him killed off and be replaced by someone else felt like an insult to a lot of fans.
The main difference here however is that Dan Slott, who penned this issue, handled this situation rather well. He never addressed the fans directly, except those who posted death threats to him. I don't think he once said that "the fans don't get it", only that the fans would have to wait how this goes, perhaps they'll change their minds along the way.
Which brings me to another point. Dan Slott himself is a Spidey fan, he knows the lore and what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man. Now I haven't actually read any of the Spider-Man issues, mainly because the Netherlands don't sell them that much anymore, but from what I've gathered from the Superior Spider-Man on many discussion boards is that the new Peter Parker actually follows the same path as the old Peter Parker, going through various hardships. It might be a different Peter Parker, thematically it's still the same.
In case you didn't read through the spoilers, I've now gone on the issue of the fifth point, and have discussed how thematically the Superior Spider-Man is basically the same as the Amazing Spider-Man, even though they have some big differences. This is because the Superior Spider-Man is penned by a fan of the series. Now I'm not claiming Tameem isn't a fan, but there is one reason why the vision of Tameem and the DmC fans don't match here.
What is important with a reboot of any sort of medium is that thematically, it has to match. Spider-Man has always been about the underdog overcoming any challenge, both as a superhero as well as a regular human being. This has been true for any and all incarnations. The Legend of Zelda series has been rebooted almost half as many times as there have been games in the series, but they still all share the same theme: Courage can overcome any challenge, and Ganon is a prick. At least I think that's the theme.
I've never played any Devil May Cry games, but I did talk to many fans of the series, and what I know is that the original Devil May Cry games have all been about demons having human traits, and what makes one human, what separates humans from demons. This all was brought in a very subtle way, and despite its rather serious theme, it didn't really take itself too seriously.
And that's where the fan outrage is really all about. Thematically, DmC wasn't a Devil May Cry. Yes, it had every character, but it never had the same heart as the originals, nor had it the same message. Sure, in a reboot, the message may differ, but the essence, the theme, still has to be there, otherwise, what's the point in using the franchise?
So here's the gist of it: It was never about the hair of Dante. That was never the point, and to be honest, using that as an excuse to diss the fans is rather disrespectful, both towards the fans and gamers in general. It just means that gamers are superficial, which, unfortunately, the press has proved more than the fans of DMC who dislike DmC. It's because they perceive DmC not as a Devil May Cry game, because of the thematic differences. Add on top of that the fact that Tameem didn't really show some respect towards the old fans, and you've got their reasons.
But the main point is this. If we were to ever take gaming seriously as a form of art, one has to realize that whatever the audience perceives does not have to match whatever the creator has intended. Once you release the game out in the open, it stops being your game, it starts becoming part of the collective conciousness. And sometimes they know more about your game than you. And that's the beauty of art. It evolves as the public evolves. The death of a work of art is when you write against the expectations of your audience just because you don't agree with them.