Friday, January 7, 2011

The Console Wars - Why Fanboys Never Win...

The word "fanboy" gets tossed around a lot these days and the application of this term is sometimes fair, sometimes not, but the fact remains that obsessive fanfare and gamer in-fighting is the most annoying aspect of gamer culture. To be fair, it didn't begin with this generation, as I remember fans of Sega and Nintendo butting heads back in the day, and the addition of Sony to the mix only fueled the fire in the mid 1990's and it's reached a boiling point today. In thousands of forums, message boards and chat rooms, people debate endlessly on which is the better console, which games are the best, and which system will ultimately win the console war. Random pockets of intelligent discussion can be found, but the majority of discussion is meaningless flaming done by functionally illiterate fanboys who run on the mistaken belief that their opinion is fact. This article covers my views on the topic, and to the easily offended and verbally incontinent fanboys, you have been warned.

So what is a console war exactly? It's a competition that's waged on two different frontiers; on the corporate level with companies competing for your money, and between consumers who passionately believe in the product and will defend it to the death. Today, the trifecta of gaming companies (Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) have high-selling consoles on the market and the industry is more lucrative than ever. Each console on offer has a selection of high quality exclusive titles, plenty of cross-platform games and admittedly some shovelware. Which system(s) the consumer decides to invest in depends on a number of factors, including the games being offered, the cross-media features outside of gaming (eg. Blu-Ray Players, PC integration) and the console's reputation in the marketplace. That last factor makes it especially hard to decide because reputations are based on subjective and highly biased opinions of not only professional review sites like Gamespot and IGN, but gamers themselves who are not shy to express their feelings on which console should get your hard-earned dollars.

Out of this market comes the fanboys, the cockroaches of the gaming marketplace and a demographic that infests all corners of the internet. How I define a console fanboy is as follows: an insecure fan who has limited options when it comes to gaming and develops a Napoleon complex about it. They feel small and insignificant because they can't have all of the consoles on the market, so they talk big online and evangelize their console in order to convince others (mainly themselves) that they made the right choice. Part of this is understandable since it's human nature to embellish or dismiss facts in order to avoid buyer's remorse, and there is a certain risk associated with choosing between different options. I imagine people who invested in HD DVD players, the Nokia N-Gage or any other failed products felt the burn and I'm equally sure that some people still passionately defend these products now.

Fanboys don't want to admit or even entertain the thought that they made the wrong choice, so they exaggerate the positive qualities of their console and dismiss the negative aspects. If you go into any chat room, forum or even look in the comments on Youtube, you can see them in action and it's rather sad. Approaching them with logic and reason is pointless, since any opposition is met with a flurry of attacks and four-letter words because, frankly, you've hurt their feelings by disagreeing. Others are more subtle, simply saying things like "PS3 FTW!" or "Xbox 360 is the best, end of story!", the concept of respectful opinions and polite debate seemingly a foreign concept to them.

In my time spent online, I get asked from time to time what my console of choice is, and my response is always the same: I own all three, so I don't need to choose. I own the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 3, whichs puts me in a good position to assess both fairly because I have nothing to gain or lose by favoring one over the other. Each system has it's strengths and weaknesses, and I freely admit that I live in fear of getting the "Red Ring of Death" on my Xbox 360, that the Playstation 3's online interface is buggy and unreliable and the Wii's motion control is often gimmicky and games made just for this feature are usually lackluster. Having said that, I will also say that all three systems have some excellent exclusive titles, that the Xbox 360 has a fantastic online service and the Wii and PS3 have had very strong offerings over the past two years. Disagree with me? That's perfectly fine, because my opinion is just that - my opinion. It's doesn't represent fact, it's not the final word and I don't expect others to abide by it.

In closing, to the fanboys, you need not be so defensive about which system is best. If you own one of the consoles, you have access to plenty of great games on offer and more to come. Limiting yourself means that you are missing out on plenty of great titles, and if you insist on being petulant about it and flaming others, don't be surprised if the "fanboy" tag gets placed on you. Let me pose a question to you: Let's say you're an Xbox 360 fan and you receive a PS3 as a gift from someone, will you a) throw it back in their face, tell them that it sucks and to return it, or b) be very thankful and dive right into playing it? Yeah, try telling me you'd choose option A. In short, a fanboy is only as faithful as his options. Be happy you have a console, enjoy your games and don't get hung up in the opinions of others. All three systems are great, so let's all get along and focus on what matters most - The Games!

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