"No Middle Sliders": How Polygon's Monster Factory Models Fan Culture

Curator's Note



"Monster Factory" is a YouTube series which began in 2015 and is produced by Polygon, a gaming website which reviews, discusses, and (most importantly) creates original digital content about games. In the series two brothers, Justin and Griffin McElroy, use video game character creation interfaces to produce 'monsters'.

“We have no idea what we’re doin’. [...] it’s all jazz, baby. It’s all freestyle art, we’re the Jackson Pollock of making horrific user generated content in video games.” - Griffin McElroy

Monster Factory is positioned as fan content, but has garnered a sizable cult following itself. This fanbase has embraced the series’ ‘horrific’ creations. The fandom animates, adapts, and celebrates these characters and in doing so, they support a subversion of the original format.

A recent trend in the study of human computer interaction has been a focus on avatars, one study in particular examined the affordances of character creation interfaces. In this study they explained how the user interface influenced players’ comprehension regarding their abilities/options for creating a character. The average user is typically motivated to make an avatar that they deem appropriate for the platform, especially one that represents an ideal version of themselves. With the influence of Monster Factory, however, users are encouraged to ‘play the interface’ and test the limits of the character creation interface. 

The McElroys take the role of fans-as-creators in many ways, beyond Polygon they host multiple podcasts including their advice podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me and their D&D podcast The Adventure Zone. The Adventure Zone is another example of how their fan created content (based on Dungeons and Dragons) turned into a fandom with its own subreddit and enough engagement to warrant several live shows across America. 

This microcosm of fandom is slowly replacing the standard producer/fandom binary as media literacy and participation becomes a common unifier between creator/fan. As creators like the McElroys, who, like their fans, grew up on Pokemon, the Sims, the Simpsons, etc. step into these roles the content will be self referential and the fans will be more willing to accept fan content as fan creation. 


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