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Play Well ... And Play Nice.

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One time, some while ago, there was a project in the works at one of my jobs that I was unhappy about. I just knew that creatively it was all wrong, it was going to miss our audience, and it was just in general a bad idea. And I made that pretty clear to the people around me (as I am wont to do). Then one day I got some very good advice from someone I respected -- she said, "If you're worried that it is going to be all wrong, volunteer to work on it ... and make it right." (I did, by the way, and it turned out pretty well.)


Why am I sharing this story? Well, there are three fan initiatives floating around online right now -- New World, BIONICLE: Next Generation, and the BIONICLE Story Squad. My awareness of them ranges from the very familiar to the passing acquaintance, and I cannot predict success or failure for any of them. The people working on them certainly seem dedictated and willing to put the time in on these projects. All of these projects are in their infancy and still have lots of questions attached to them.


What's interesting, though, is that they seem to be provoking a lot of hostility in some quarters here. If I offer to help out on one or the other, I get a hornet's nest of angry PMs. I see people being downright abusive in forums (people who should know better than to behave that way). I don't know if it's legitimate disapproval, jealousy, bitterness, or what -- one thing I have identified is that some people seem to feel strongly that fans should not be allowed to suggest things for canonization in story.


Let me address the last first. LEGO has the LEGO Ambassadors program, the Kids' Inner Circle, and even fans helping to design some of the models we put out. The first letter of my dept. name -- C -- stands for "community." BIONICLE has a passionate fanbase and a history of letting them contribute in small to medium ways to the storyline -- and with the demise of the sets, the company wants to broaden the involvement of fans in the creation of story. In some cases, as with BSS, it means creating something new -- in others, it means letting people have some leeway to try something new and see if it works. Just as I get to play in the BIONICLE universe, they get to do some of that too now, with the same restrictions that I have always operated under. And as always, nothing will become part of official story unless I okay it. You have a right to disagree with LEGO's thinking, but that is the policy I have been asked to implement.


Now, some people may think that if they kick up enough of a ruckus, these projects will fail/get cancelled and official story will be safe from dreaded fan input. Sorry, not so. See, my mandate is to get fans involved with story -- it says nothing about BZPers or BS01 folks or Kanohi Journal or any of that. So if were to turn out that working with this community just isn't going to happen, I can always turn to KIC or to younger fans who I have met at events or in focus groups and let them contribute their ideas. So the only thing that would be achieved would be putting this very creative, very passionate community of fans on the outside looking in, and I don't think anyone wants that to happen.


Do I KNOW BSS, NG, and NW will be stellar successes? Nope. Do I think there will be bumps in the road, creative dead ends, and who knows what else in the process of finding out how they will work out? Yes. But people have stepped forward, said they were willing to work, and I hope that their endeavors WILL be successful.


So my advice to the community is to play nice. Show some respect. If you are certain that one of these project is going down the complete wrong road, don't gripe about it in forums -- volunteer to help and steer it back onto the right road. If you see problems that maybe the people working on it don't see, bring them up in a helpful, constructive way. (If the project team refuses to listen to you, and the problems eat them alive, at least you tried.) If all you have to contribute is bile and hostility, I'd suggest you zip it, because the only thing you may achieve is the marginalizing of your community.


BIONICLE post-sets is a huge opportunity both for you and for me as far as new story goes. If you want to be a part of that, great. If you have a constructive suggestion to make things better, I would hope the people behind these projects would have the sense to be all ears. And if you don't want to be involved at all, don't knock the people who do. It only makes you look small.


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Bones hits it on the head -- until you see how New World shapes up to be, you don't know what connection it will have to this universe. What if Mata Nui learned something from observing it that may later influence in some way the society that does or does not get created on Spherus Magna? Or what if it in some way influenced his behavior during the 2009 story? Who knows what direction the creators may someday take it?


Just as an example -- let's say New World had very sophisticated astronomers and they saw the Shattering happen (obviously some time after it really did, due to the time it takes light to travel, etc.) They don't know what caused it -- maybe it was an attack from some alien race? Maybe that race is going to target them next? They go into a panic, build shelters, starting warring with each other over who gets to be in them, etc. By the time Mata Nui gets there, most of the population is hiding underground and the ones on the surface are sure they're doomed. Quite a lesson to be learned from observing this civilization, and it is directly tied in to events in the main story of BIONICLE. And that's just one direction ... not the best, no, but I whipped it up in a minute. Imagine what a whole team who spends weeks or months could come up with?


What NW is trying to do is to give writers and artists a new place to play, where they don't have to constantly worry about stepping on toes of the official story. They won't do all this work and then have something contradict them next year or something. Makes perfect sense to me.


And if it doesn't to you, well, don't read it. Simple as that. Some of you guys act like you are required by law to read anything that has BIONICLE in the name -- you're not. If the project doesn't appeal to you, and you don't want to give it a chance to catch your interest, then ignore it. What's so hard about that?

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