Straight up self-insert fanfiction
August 7, 2019 7:20 AM   Subscribe

A visual novel-esque smartphone game conducted via text chats, phone calls, and social media feeds, BTS World sees you manage the South Korean boy band BTS in its early days. "After winning a ticket to see the band in concert, you find yourself whisked back from 2019 to 2012, the year before the group’s debut ... What struck me the most while playing, however, was how much the game itself reads like straight fanfiction."(Polygon)
posted by adrianhon (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh god save me from this game. Even when my kids aren't playing it, I can hear the little sounds in my skull. The notifications late at night that if you get on right now you can earn bonus wings. The giggles that proceed someone running in to show me what one of the boys just said. Although I guess it beats watching hour after hour of Jikook fan theory videos?
posted by mittens at 7:30 AM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


While the game is clearly targeted to young women, the unique use of she/her pronouns alienates a significant subset of potential players who use other pronouns and do not identify as female.

Well, this is a nice change from the usual practice, which is to only allow people to play as men and assume they won't be alienated by that.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:34 AM on August 7, 2019 [11 favorites]


Even while I’m in the process of buying a goddamn house, I don’t think anything has ever made me feel as old as the part of this article where the author mentions that this band I’ve barely heard of is so popular with The Youth that she was able to write an undergrad thesis "on character archetypes in BTS fanfiction specifically.”
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


I don't like RPF, and I've said so, but I don't like this for a different reason. Are those guys okay? Can we know?

This is not to blame the young girls who just enjoy playing the game. In my day, it would have been a New Kids on the Block NES game (which apparently died in development hell), and it would have been just as popular. But now I'm old and everything makes me nervous.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:20 AM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


Additionally, the English version of the game defaults uses only she/her pronouns for the player character; BTS World does not allow players to change their gender. While the game is clearly targeted to young women, the unique use of she/her pronouns alienates a significant subset of potential players who use other pronouns and do not identify as female. [..] There are, of course, in-app purchases to get these cards, but for those who want to play for free, the process is tedious, at best, and significantly hinders story progress.

I'm not sure about Korea, but thanks to anime fandom friends I am intensely aware that there is an entire enormous genre of Japanese games involving managing idol groups, and it seems like this is clearly built to model exactly that.

This is a thing about mobile games, really, but this type in particular: Their whales are not people who are concerned with diversity and characterization as a condition for playing, and the only reason this game exists is to wring money out of the whales. The story only exists to try to get the right subset of people to the point where they're desperate to get the pull they want and will start pulling out the credit card instead.

The Japanese versions of these games are seriously one of the only times in fandom that I've genuinely worried about friends getting into something that could actually be dangerous. People spending $20, $50 a month on mobile gacha games explaining to me that no, they're fine, I should see the people who have problems, they know people who spend hundreds, who overdraw their bank accounts, who steal money from parents or partners. This might be one of the few places where I'd rather that the representation didn't improve.
posted by Sequence at 8:47 AM on August 7, 2019 [8 favorites]


This is terrible bc fans should be writing and reading their own (free) fanfiction, not paying for fanfic.

...mostly joking but I think companies producing this kind of content for their idol groups actually takes pressure *off* the groups, since they are probably (hopefully) not involved and fans interacting with the virtual version takes pressure off the real version to produce more more more content.

Like those bunny things TS ENT made for BAP, or the EXO lore, it's a way to keep the fans entertained while the actual group takes a break.
posted by subdee at 9:10 AM on August 7, 2019


Aside from being a casual fanfiction reader, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on character archetypes in BTS fanfiction specifically, and BTS World’s characterizations deeply resonate with the simplified archetypes which populate BTS fanfiction.

Right. A casual fanfiction reader.

Anyway, the writer seems completely unfamiliar with otome games--a female self-insert character doing things (cute daily life to R-rated, depending on the game) with a bunch of boys is basically what the genre is, only in this case, it's a mobile game designed to shake money out of its players.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


> ...mostly joking but I think companies producing this kind of content for their idol groups actually takes pressure *off* the groups, since they are probably (hopefully) not involved and fans interacting with the virtual version takes pressure off the real version to produce more more more content.

I've been to Seoul and seen the things that idols' fan clubs do in Korea. Taking out a row of billboards at the subway stop closest to their management's office is one of the more innocuous activities.

I'm entirely comfortable with the idea that these fans can multitask, and that they've been willing spend what it takes to demonstrate true devotion since long before gacha games were a thing.
posted by ardgedee at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ahahahaha I feel called out because I love this stupid little game (I've cleared all the chapters! I somehow debuted this group despite not being qualified for anything! And now I'm grinding for flowers and gems and leveling up while I wait for a new update with more chapters!).

Full disclosure: I like BTS -- I remember when they debuted! Like, legit debuted, not just in the game debuted -- but I don't consider myself an ARMY aka a "serious" fan, because I don't have time for that. I just want to listen to the music, okay?

I see the article was written when the game first released in June. Since then, Netmarble's (KEKE!!! Net!MAAAAARBLE! aka the loudest loading icon evar) first major update about a week after the game was released was to change the English pronouns to be gender neutral (as well as a few other suspect wordings where the meaning got lost in translation, including a potentially triggering eating disorder) -- they can't change the filmed parts that are obviously a female's hands and it's clear the game was intended for their female fans (which are the predominate fandom gender for any boy band), but it's nice that they actually listened to the backlash and adjusted the game.

A lot of it is written like terrible fanfaction, though. There's no denying it. Everyone knows it. When the teaser first released back in... May? Early June, maybe? ... there were a slew of jokes and memes about Y/N's finally becoming legitimate and Big Hit interns reading everyone's terrible fanfic to create the story.

The writing is... hilariously awkward, but most of the fans I know don't take it seriously. Then again, I know mostly older fans -- all adults, except for the five-year-old who can recognize the members better than I ever will. We instead laugh because a lot of the stories (omg the Another Stories, don't get me started on those*) and some of the "social" stuff are cringe, but almost lampshade cringe.

For example, if you choose the "oppar I love you! squee!" responses, you get fewer affinity points, and a lot of the times the highest affinity points are choosing nice-but-not-stalkery response (you're the manager, not their friend!) or the ones that straight-up roast the guys (mock Jin for his handsomeness and win all the hearts!). As someone who doesn't know the members' personalities and therefore couldn't guess what exaggerated quirk the game is emphasizing, it took me a while to figure out which response would work best, but now I've pretty much hacked which will give me the greatest affinity boost.

*Okay, so the Another Story is basically a side-quest, where each member lives in an AU world where they never became a pop sensation idol group, and instead became, like, a farmer or a hotelier or veterinarian or a writer-detective (I know). But you, the player, know who they "really" are and are determined to meet the idol anyway, which means you're basically a stalker and have to come up with lame excuses as to why you're in their vicinity. The plots are hella ridiculous and most fans I know are like "why are we suddenly creepy stalkers????". But gdi these stories provide the best way to get treats to refresh the boys after the agency tasks (plus precious, precious gems, which you hoard in hopes that you'll get some of those exclusive 5-star cards).

I created a new account on my ipad (don'tjudgeme) last week after I cleared the final chapter on my main account, which is linked to my phone, and realized that all I could do now was check-in at least once a day to get the daily prizes and grind for stuff. I did spend maybe $15 to get the monthly gem pack and a few wings for my main account, but I wanted to see how far you could get without spending anything at all, especially now that we know the best strategies and how to effectively use cards/level up in the agency tasks. I'm now halfway through chapter 5 (out of 6 chapters) in my free account and am patiently continuing to grind since I know this last section is all about leveling up cards and the agency bonus, but I was still surprised at how quickly you could get there.

Sure, I might have wasted $15 on a dumb game that's given me a lot of entertainment this summer, but that's like the cost of going to a movie which gives me maybe two hours of enjoyment. I don't plan on spending any more on this game now that I've reached the level I'm at, but I don't regret it.

That being said, there's no denying this is all about a money grab, like most of these games are, especially because it's featuring a huge pop sensation. But the game has been in production since 2015, I believe -- at least that's when fans first heard about it, and was probably when they filmed most of the scenes. The work put into it is actually pretty impressive -- particularly if you're a fan. Yes, you know logically that video call is a fake, pre-recorded, staged event, but I've seen a lot of fans laugh at their knee-jerk reaction to throw their phones in surprise because suddenly they're face-to-face with Jimin.

I'm not denying there's a dark and greedy side to kpop, but this is no worse than side-eyeing fans who spend a stupid amount on anything that has their [insert favorite pop culture icon] on it.

On the plus side, it's been fun watching fans work together to figure out how to achieve various goals in the game without spending money, such as creating free spreadsheets for the cards so you could decide which ones were better to level up first to get through a specific mission. Just a labor of nerdy statistical love so that everyone can achieve the goal of debuting the boys!
posted by paisley sheep at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2019 [10 favorites]


Wow, thanks for the update on the game and your experiences with it, paisley sheep!
posted by adrianhon at 2:11 PM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Anyway, the writer seems completely unfamiliar with otome games--a female self-insert character doing things (cute daily life to R-rated, depending on the game) with a bunch of boys is basically what the genre is, only in this case, it's a mobile game designed to shake money out of its players.

That comment just made me realize: It's not about whether it's "like fanfic". It's about the fact that it's written directly for young women by people who've done a lot of work to figure out what young women like, and when they went through round after round of marketing otome and gacha games to young women, what they came up with as a winning combination was... basically the same sort of dynamics the same young women go for in fanfic. If they were going for quality, they could do better in general, but if they aren't going for quality, that's the problem, not the fanservice nature of it.
posted by Sequence at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wow, thanks for the update on the game and your experiences with it, paisley sheep!

Aw, thanks! It's not the best game ever, but a lot of care has been put into it to make it as enjoyable to fans as they can, so it's fun to appreciate it like that, especially if you know other fans and can spam each other with griping about not passing a mission by only a hundred points or boasting about a good card you just pulled.

Plus Netmarble recently posted a maintenance notification that they'll be updating it in a few hours, so everyone's now hyped about the Chapter 7 release! What will happen post-debut?!?!?!?

Which is good timing, tbh, because even the f2p gamers who started in June have mostly reached Chapter 6 by now.
posted by paisley sheep at 7:27 PM on August 7, 2019


I have feelings about Big Hit's announcement that BTS is going on vacation.
posted by mittens at 5:45 AM on August 12, 2019


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