Opinion: Console Fanboyism Is Petty – And Pathetic
Last week, I posted an article in which I argued that the PlayStation 3 has a stronger array of exclusives lined-up for 2012 than the Xbox360, and suggested this may have something to do with Microsoft’s over-reliance on Kinect.
The reaction to this opinion piece was predictable – and depressing. Xbox360 fanboys labeled me biased and deluded; Sony fanboys gloated about the superiority of their system. Both sets of enthusiasts took to the comments section to argue and duke it out with each other, and the whole fall-out left me feeling both frustrated and enraged. Welcome to the world of ‘The Fandom Menace’.
Console fanboyism is, in my opinion, one of the most utterly stupid forms of behaviour that gamers can indulge in. It is petty, unnecessary and, due to the superficial, biased arguments it throws up around important issues, detrimental to gaming as a whole.
Somewhat ironically given the number of people who lined up to accuse me of Sony bias, I happen to be an Xbox360 owner. But the fact that I own Microsoft’s console does not mean that I consequently despise the PS3 and feel the need to belittle its achievements, while championing the 360′s own. The truth is that they both have their own respective strengths, and weaknesses, and neither can be held to be truly superior to the other.
Personally, I prefer Xbox Live to the PlayStation Network, think that the Xbox’s control pad is far more satisfying and user-friendly than the PlayStation’s, believe the Achievements system is a cut above that of Trophies and – until recently – was generally happier with the exclusives available on the 360. However, having had plenty of hands-on experience with the PS3, I can also say that I reckon it has greater technical potential and capability – with many cross-platform titles boasting more impressive graphics on Sony’s console – and its own range of exclusives has now become more enticing, in my opinion, than Xbox’s own.
It angers me that serious comparisons between consoles, their output, or the companies behind them cannot be made without flaming weird tribal loyalties and reducing the discussion to a slanging match based on little more than ego and bravado. It’s a genuine problem, as it undermines the ability to raise important questions or understand the differences between the various platforms – without having to couch the argument in such blunt, unsophisticated terms as which is ‘better’. For example, my aforementioned article was largely concerned with exploring the impact of Kinect on Microsoft’s prioroties – but this was largely forgotten in the deluge of ensuing name-calling and nose-thumbing.
Fanboyism has its roots within two main forms of behaviour, neither of which are particularly desirable or noble. The first is petty tribalism, stemming from the desire many people have to split themselves off into distinct clans of like-minded souls, where those who differ or diagree are viewed as the enemy. When taken in good humour, such rivalry can be simply tongue-in-cheek or fun, but I find the genuine ferocity of many console fanboys nothing short of jaw-dropping. After all, this isn’t even a local sports team you’re supporting, with all the civic pride, history and weekly drama such an investment of pride involves. No – here we’re talking about loyalty to a goddamn piece of hardware.
Secondly, fanboyism is really just an extreme version of ‘brand loyalty’, which is, in and of itself, a somewhat depressing phenomenon. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking a particular company’s products, and sticking with something you enjoy and are familiar with, but the superficial need some people feel to attach themselves to a commercial brand – and defend the decision to do so at all costs – is genuinely irrational and creepy.
Yes, it is understandable that fans of the Fable series, and Gears Of War, may develop affection for the Xbox because of its exclusives, just as Uncharted and God Of War fans may do the same for Sony’s hardware. And it’s fine for an Xbox360 owner to rub their hands together with glee when they get to look forward to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, just as a PS3 owner should be delighted that The Last Of Us is coming to that particular console.
But to identify so strongly with a gigantic, commercial company’s brand that you take to the forums and comment sections to abuse rival console owners, and wax lyrical about the superiority of your own, is truly bizarre. It’s like enjoying the taste of Coca-Cola over Pepsi – and then actively berating people for choosing to drink the latter. No wonder those who own multiple consoles find the whole affair baffling and hilarious in equal measure.
Ultimately, one of the great things about gaming is the diversity of experiences on offer, and this is something we should celebrate rather than squabble over. I enjoy playing a really great game regardless of the platform I’m playing it on, and my only bugbear is that lack of cash prevents me from enjoying titles on the PS3, Wii and PC more frequently, with my cross-platform endeavours generally dependent on visits to friends, relatives, or my housemate’s laptop (when he isn’t otherwise engrossed in Shogun II himself).
Console fanboyism does us all a disservice. And we’d be a great deal better off if people stopped blindly championing their chosen piece of hardware – and actually made an attempt to seriously engage with the issues facing our beloved artform.