(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the SuperNerdLand.com staff and/or any contributors to this site.)
Console fanboys are ubiquitous to the hobby, popping up whenever a chance presents itself to do a little corporate cheerleading. They’re such an inextricable part of gaming that if you’ve been playing video games for any significant length of time you’ve most probably met one or two… hundred of them. Hell, you may even have been one yourself at some point.For those of you who are — rather enviously — not in the know, a console fanboy is someone whom — while everyone else is off playing games — chooses instead to hang out on forums and in the comments sections of gaming enthusiast websites to engage other fanboys in long, drawn‐out arguments about why his system of choice is the technological equivalent of a threesome between himself, Jesus, and a supermodel; while at the same time professing that its competition may as well be terminal ass‐cancer in a box. It doesn’t even matter what the topic at hand may be, if there’s a discussion about video‐games happening anywhere on the internet then you can rest assured that there’s a fanboy somewhere who is all too willing to interrupt it to remind you about all of this even if you’d rather not hear it. Now that we’re all on the same page, I’d like to discuss what I believe motivates console fanboys to behave the way they does. Of course I want to make it clear before I get into this that while the subject fascinates me, I’m no expert. What follows are just my observations into what I think might drive them, coupled with an amateur’s understanding of psychology. These thoughts are formed after years spent being annoyed by their special ability to ruin many decent discussion about video games that I’ve tried to have by turning them into silly little dick‐waving contests.
So without further ado, let’s dive into this shit‐show, shall we?
Psychology has a lot of fascinating things to say about human‐beings and our possessions. For example, it proposes that they’re status symbols of sorts, and that as such we tend to intimately ingrain them into who we are. This is why we tend to take criticism of our possessions as criticism of ourselves. That may seem silly, but if you’ve ever found yourself reacting to criticism of say, your favorite video game with mild annoyance and an urge to defend it, then you’re familiar with the concept.
You’ll notice that this tends to be magnified in console fanboys to the Nth degree. That aforementioned mild annoyance becomes something more akin to apoplectic rage, and that urge to defend against criticism is likewise kicked into overdrive. It’s been my observation that this is most commonly due to console fanboys only ever owning one of the systems available during any given generation.
You see, the more possessions that we own, the less emphasis that we tend to put on individual things. If you’ve ever collected something, you might notice that you tend to think about that collection as a singular possession rather than as a conglomeration of individual things. You may of course value one of its components more you do the rest, but for the most part it’s the collection on the whole that holds the value to you. On the other hand, the fewer possessions that you own the more importance you tend to place in the ones that you do have, and so you integrate them into your sense of self‐worth more intimately than that aforementioned collector might do for the individual components of their collection.
When you apply this to the video game industry, in which competition between console manufacturers is tight and focused, it tends to manifest in the fanboy as a strong desire to ensure the continued viability of his chosen console. After all, nothing reflects more poorly on one’s judgment than having backed the wrong horse, so to speak. The fear of this outcome is why you’ll see fanboys react to criticism of their console with personal attacks on the critic in an attempt to discredit him or her, or by writing long, drawn‐out posts in which they explain in great detail why the critic’s wholly subjective opinions are actually wrong as a matter of fact. Of course none of it actually serves any meaningful purpose since the market will determine a console’s continued viability irrespective of the fanboy’s intervention, but they do it all the same out of fear of the consequences to which they imagine their inaction might lead.
Earlier I talked about how our possessions are status symbols of sorts. This is owed in large part to the envy we tend to feel towards folks who own things that we don’t. One of the ways we cope with this is by minimizing the importance of those things to ourselves. If we can convince ourselves that they’re not worth owning, then we don’t feel as envious of others who do own them. In console fanboys this manifest itself as rants — often ill‐conceived and frequently unhinged — about how much their chosen console’s competitors suck ass. Doing it has much the same effect as console cheerleading does, inasmuch as it also helps to convince them that their judgment remains sound, but in this case it’s primary function is to minimize envy. You don’t often see these behaviors in folks who own more than one console. Having all the available options appears to lead folks to take a more fair and balanced view of them, and even allows them to be more forthright in their criticism of a given system’s faults. I believe that this is owed to how little they have at stake. Any one of the systems available on the market could cease to be viable and they’d still have the others to fall back on, so they don’t feel any particular need to defend themselves from criticism like the fanboy does.It appears that console fanboys are driven by the same subconscious psychological motivators that we all are when it comes to our possessions, only the accompanying behaviors are magnified to an obnoxious degree because they only own the one console. Most importantly, when you look at these motivators it becomes clear that there’s really nothing to be gained from engaging the console fanboy if you’re not one yourself. While they’ll broadcast it to anyone within earshot, everything they say is said for the purpose of comforting themselves, which doesn’t require the participation of a second party. Of course knowing all of that may not make it any less annoying when a fanboy interrupts a discussion that you’re having to wave his metaphorical dick in your face, but perhaps it might save you the time and a headache by making it even just a little easier to ignore.
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