We’ve all been there; loving a television show, video or role-playing game, book or comic book series so much that we just want to share the joy we’ve found with others. Often, this leaves us standing on the cliffs edge, possibly even putting our relationships with family and friends in jeopardy. How can you avoid the perils and pitfalls of introducing your friends and family to your fandom?
Nobody wants to be that guy or gal who can’t handle his or her own fandom intensity, so it’s important to take the following things into consideration before you simply throw them into the deep end of the fandom pool.
1. Incorrectly Matching Their Interests With One of Your Fandoms:
Sometimes, things just are not destined to go together. Not every accidental collision is as successful a meet-up as the peanut butter and chocolate in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. You’ll probably have a feeling in your gut about whether or not the person you are thinking of introducing your fandom to will be receptive. Follow that feeling, continuously pounding a square peg in a round hole will only bring you and your soon to be ex-friend misery.
Remember, just because your friend likes cars, doesn’t mean they’re going to want to watch four seasons of Knight Rider with you. Now if your friend likes cars, and owns a David Hasselhoff album, you’ve probably discovered a new Knight Rider fandom member.
Timing is another consideration. For those who love cosplaying, Halloween is a great time of the year to be an ambassador of your fandom. What better way to introduce your friend or family member to cosplay than by helping them build a kick ass Halloween costume for that party or day at the office?
2. Too Much at Once:
This usually results in the person you’re introducing your fandom to feeling like a trapped animal, ready to gnaw their own foot off to get out off the bear trap you’ve thrown them in. Consider yourself the doctor of your fandom, you’ve got to be careful in the beginning not to overdose your patient.
Sitting down to watch an entire season in one sitting might just be too much, spread it out, enjoy the periods between so everyone can digest what they’ve seen and learned. Don’t forget that one huge part of fandom is that period between episodes, movies, or books where everyone talks about what they think will happen next. Don’t capriciously remove that part of the experience.
3. Not Preparing Before Hand:
You want their first experiences to be trouble and care free. If you want someone to enjoy grilling steaks, you shouldn’t make them start with the hard and dirty work of butchering the cow.
The best example of this type of problem is in gaming, D&D to be specific. Not having things set up to help keep the game moving, taking too long to help them create a character from scratch instead of giving them a partially completed character, not having the material needed at hand and wasting time digging in your game closet for that one book you MUST have, can easily push the one person you want to enjoy the experience, into a coma like state from which they may never recover.
4. Assuming They Know Things/Treating Them Like They Know Nothing:
Unless their name is Jon Snow, you can’t treat them like they know nothing, even if they don’t know anything, people don’t like that.
There’s a fine line between teaching and condescension, if you’re not careful, you can cross that line. You can never be sure what other knowledge they might bring to the table, sure they may have never seen an episode of Doctor Who, but that doesn’t mean they have no clue about the theoretical perils of time travel. Encourage questions, don’t stifle them by jumping the gun and telling them everything. The thrill of discovery is a powerful motivating force. Don’t be the person that reminds them of that awful nun with a ruler during their elementary school days.
5. Trouncing Them Repeatedly Before They Get a Chance to Learn:
This one is more about gaming than anything else. You’ve finally gotten someone you care about to play that video, board, or collectible card game with you. Then you proceed to beat the crap out of them at each and every opportunity, using all the skills you’ve learned from countless hours of play time.
The same goes for any gaming situation. Loading your Magic the Gathering deck with all the special cards and tricks, while your friend or family member new to the game uses a starter deck that has no chance against yours, will not be fun for them. On the other hand, if you both use starter decks, you can teach not only the mechanics of the game and some of the strategies behind winning moves, but you can both have a good time. Just remember that smile on Master Po’s face when Kwai Chang grasped the pebble from his hand. That was the payoff for his countless hours of teaching, not lording his superior skills over his pupil.
6. Inadvertently Spoiling the Big Events in the Fandom:
This one can be one of the easiest rules to break and the hardest to prevent. Your friend or family member is talking about how bad a character is and you unintentionally tell them not to worry, and proceed to spill the beans on how that bad character gets their just deserts in the end, ruining what could be a defining moment in your friend of family member’s entry into your favorite fandom.
Just be aware of the danger and remind yourself of what possible spoilers are ahead, preparing yourself will help you preserve the surprise. Imagine your ready to let the child of your loins watch Star Wars. You know you’re going to start with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, because that’s what good Star Wars parents do. Now imagine accidentally robbing your child of the experience of seeing that scene in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back when Luke learns who his father is. You’re the one whose going to want to scream right after you ruin it and see that look on your child’s face.
*One quick side note. If you intentionally spoil a big event in the fandom. You’re a Grade-A-Douchebag, and deserve a metaphorical kick in the genitals. Hell, you deserve an actual kick in the genitals. I’m available to deliver said kick at your friend or family member’s convenience.
7. Making Everything About the Relationship About the Fandom:
If the only thing you have to talk about with that friend or family member is something about the fandom, there’s something wrong with that relationship. Fandom should be about sharing, not just the things about that fandom you love, but about yourself and other interests. It’s basic human relations, if you only want to talk about one thing, they’ll quickly grow bored with your company.
8. Making it More About Hating Other Fandoms Than Loving Your Fandom:
If you love this, then you can’t like that. You’d be surprised how often this kind of thinking crops up, or at least those of you who’ve never been on the Internet at any time in the last 20 years will be surprised. Too often these days fandoms devolve into groups bent on destroying or mocking other fandoms, all because they can’t get over the fact that someone can like something different, or in addition, to what they like. It’s one of the generally known dirty little secrets of the Nerd and Geek community.
9. Not Being Open or Receptive to Their Fandom:
Once you’ve gotten them started, they’re going to want to return the favor. It’s a natural human reaction. How many times does someone recommend something to you and your immediate response is to offer your own favorite thing right back at them? Now I’m not saying you have to like whatever fandom they’re pushing at you, just be as open to their fandom as you hope they are to yours.
10. Not Seeing, or Accepting the Signs That They Don’t Like Your Fandom:
This last one dovetails with the first, Incorrectly Matching Their Interests With One of Your Fandoms. You’ve gotten past the first hurdle and introduced your friend or family member to your fandom, but you don’t see the signs right in front of you. You’ve blinded yourself to the possibility that they won’t like it. Now your just pounding that proverbial square peg into a round hole. Sometimes it’s more important to know when to stop, because no fandom is worth the cost of losing a good friendship or family relationship. Fandoms should bring you together, not drive you apart.