Over the past few weeks I have had several encounters with fanboys on the twittersphere. I have no idea how I keep finding these people but at times my feed was full of vitriol and, quite frankly, bullshit being presented as fact.
Now I am a rational man, with no allegiance to a company (or companies) who are out to take as much of my money as they possibly can, and when I tried to converse with these people I took an unholy amount of shit from them! I’ve been called everything from “an f*$king idiot” to “a stupid c&$t” and everything in between over the past two weeks. Needless to say I’ve blocked a lot of people from twitter and steam on account of them being a dickhead first and a fanboy second.
What is it about gaming that attracts these people?
More importantly, why do people form these allegiances?
I remember being a young kid playing my SEGA Mega Drive knowing that it would be the only console I would own until a new machine was released. There was no way my Mum and Dad was going to buy me a SNES too! This led me to become a SEGA kid – My SNES owning friends and I would argue over which console was the best and there was never any winner because it was an impossible choice.
As I grew older this idea of owning a single format became redundant, I had more disposable income for more games and also friends and family who owned different systems. I bought many systems from every major console manufacturer over the years and as my exposure to video games grew, any idea of fanboyism died.
Perhaps the adults out there who are still fanboys have grown up playing games on machines from one of the manufacturers. They have never had any investment outside of their very small section of video games and as a result still see other machines and communities as the “enemy”.
And it is that idea, the idea of community that provides a reason that these people exist! Humans are by definition a social species; we actively look out people who we could be friends with, judging them by their personality or interests. Tribalism exists in many walks of life – as a sports fan I belong to the tribe known as Liverpool supporters and I have a hatred for Man UTD, for no reason other than they are an enemy tribe!
The idea of belonging even transcends the games – we all belong to friendship groups (communities) and they are where we feel a part of something greater than ourselves. When our friends buy a certain console then we too want to own it, to be a part of the dialogue and to play together. Fanboys are made by a combination of their circumstance, experiences and community.
What is in for them though, why be a fanboy?
Although the internet really throws fuel into the “console war” fire with sites such as Digital Foundry pointing out minuscule differences in games that no-one will ever see in actual playing. And while this certainly adds to the problem, I think the real reason fanboyism exists in gaming because of the cost of admission. Basically they form such a vehement bond with their company of choice because they have spent a lot of money to support them.
Think about the cost of a console, the subscription to their online, a few games and maybe another controller – you’re probably looking at around £500 a year after launch and much more than that day one. When you spend that amount of money it is only natural that people would want to protect that investment. They want to ensure their choice succeeds – this leads people to singing its praises from the rooftops and putting down any notion of its shortcomings; especially when compared to its rival.
That theory was confirmed recently when it became very apparent to me that Steam (of all things) has a small but vocal population of fanboys. Now this is a strange thing to do, rallying around a digital marketplace that has DRM embedded and parading it as better than other DRM marketplaces is; quite frankly, weird and symptomatic of what’s wrong with modern gaming.
Gamers are so frightened of competition it drives some of us into a default defensive position. We all use Steam because it has the biggest range of games and because of its sales, it often represents the best value! Which don’t get wrong, is bloody great.
However we have all bought far too many games on steam, and because of the sheer number of games we don’t install them on to our computers and as a result they are sitting, precariously, on a server that we have no control over. Should (for examples sake) Windows 10 Game store take off, and somehow put Steam out of business we will lose all of the games we have bought – such is the DRM in place and the very nature of digital goods. And that terrifies some people (and it should to be honest) enough to become fanboys and start campaigns against any competitor to Steam. Calling them out as “full of DRM” (hilarious), “too expensive” (perhaps – but non-sale games aren’t cheap on steam) and “made by a company of bas*&^ds”! If the campaign posts messages like that on enough mainstream sites; like Twitter, then it becomes the narrative and they have succeeded in sinking another marketplace.
Why they would want to remove the very principal of a free-market, I’ll never know. Competition drives down prices and pushes these companies into making good, consumer-focused decisions.
But hey, there’s not enough time for rational decisions when you’ve got a war to win!
Drop me a comment if you can answer the following questions…
…why do videogames have such a high number fanboys?
…are you a fanboy or have you ever had a run-in with one?
…how do you deal with them online?