Game Buzz is a new weekly opinion column designed to take an irreverent look at one of the biggest news stories to break in the past week. Every Friday evening we'll be bringing you another slice of reaction to topical gaming news, and inviting you to agree, disagree, shout assent, vent rage, scream and complain to you heart's delight. This week we take a look at fanboyism in the light of Destructoid's interview with Jordan Thomas
Earlier this week Destructoid spoke to the guys responsible for bringing the underwater dystopia of rapture to virtual life over at 2K Marin and there was no way that they were going to let them get away without asking them about fanboyism and their thoughts on the matter. Creative director Jordan Thomas’ response was short and sweet, calling the console wars ‘silly’ and suggesting that his studio focuses instead upon important things like ‘consistency’:
There’s a cognitive effect known as 'confirmation bias' which leads people to latch onto conclusions that support their preferences and ignore data which doesn’t," explained Mr. Thomas. "This leads to wild, unreasoning loyalty to a chosen platform, sports team, or brand of soda.
"From a development perspective, the console wars are a bit silly; our target is consistency, and it’s always kind of sad to see people throwing their energy into “platform partisanship”, because it seems to flood the critical channels and drown out other creative discourse."
He’s right of course; fanboys are one of the most irritating blights on the gaming landscape. Many a worthy article’s reception in the subsequent comments section has been sullied by narrow-minded vehement championing of one’s console over another. It’s the debating equivalent of sticking your fingers into your ears and shouting ‘LALALALALALALALA!!!’ until everyone else has stopped talking.
I should know...I spent the best part of a decade staunchly defending Nintendo to the hilt throughout my teens, passionately certain in my belief that the N64 was the greatest console ever made and that the Gamecube (in spite of its many glaring faults) kicked the PS2’s arse, or at least would have done if console had bums. I caved, of course, mainly because Final Fantasy X was £5 and I had some money saved to buy a second-hand PS2 slim for £50 from my local Gamestation. Oh yeah, and then there was the lazy spit in the face that was Wii and I swore to never blindly follow a console manufacturer ever again.
There are SEGA fanboys out there who go to bed every night clutching a Dreamcast and telling themselves that the Second Coming is just around the corner; but this, like cake, is a lie.
The worst culprits today are the Sony and Microsoft fans. Just like the Manchester football derby the other weekend, the violent bickering is everywhere. Any time there’s a new release it is immediately pounced upon. Any time IGN or Gamespot gives a console exclusive 0.1 % less than a perfect score, it’s an outrage. And speaking of console exclusives, nothing is quite as bad as when a ‘loyal’ developer spreads its wings and flies away. The fallout over the Bioshock franchise didn’t ruffle too many feathers thankfully – except from Sony fanboys making a swift U-turn from saying the game was a steaming pile of poo to welcoming it with open arms – but the outcry when Devil May Cry went multi-platform was astonishing. I wouldn’t have believed this could have happened if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes:
We (The people that have signed this petition) feel very left out in your decision to make Devil May Cry 4 a Multi-Platform title, and hereby agree to boycott your sale of Capcom affiliated games. This is due to your decision to turn your back on your most faithful gaming company. For years we have enjoyed games, we have reaped the benefits of your committment to Sony. We find it absolutely demoralizing for not only the gamers, but also Sony itself. We want you to know that will not, and should not stand for your actions, and therefore withold our option of buying your product.
So why do it? What possible reason could there be for being so enormously obnoxious? Well, my simple answer to this is money. In an ideal world there’d be money enough for everybody to buy all of the consoles they could possibly want and therefore have access to all of the games out there. But we live in the real world and not Cuckooland so that’s enough of that.
A little note at this juncture: I’m going to ignore the Wii just for the moment. You see, whilst I might not have especially appreciated Nintendo’s choice of direction, I can’t for a moment argue against their business strategy. Nintendo made a brave decision that aimed to run alongside, not against, the Big Two, and that’s what they’ve done - surpassing all of our expectations, reaping huge rewards for their risk and massively changing the dynamics of the games industry.
But for the two high performance cousins, the games industry is just that: an industry. Business is the order of the day and so long as there are two or more companies willing to push competing hardware onto the market, there’s going to be division. Not everyone can afford both an Xbox 360 and a PS3, making the choice of console and its range of exclusives very important indeed to the discerning buyer.
Here at Dealspwn we’re concerned about money and trying not to spend too much of it, so it makes sense to view a console in this case as an investment, and therefore not without an element of risk. When buying a console you’re putting your money against an expectation that your investment will be justified with continued support for that console through stellar games, nifty exclusives and progressive content to match competitors to justify your choice. It’s this factor that conjures up feelings that the faceless corporations like Sony and Microsoft owe us gamers something.
Thomas’ allusion to a ‘confirmation bias’ is entirely self-perpetuating: because investing in a console and the necessary accessories and the games means spending a fair amount of money, it’s important that a return is seen, even if that means going to extreme lengths to convince oneself of that return. Every time a Halo fanboy rips apart someone who insinuated that Killzone 2 is a good game (which it is), all it really boils down to is territorial pissing.
Ironically, whilst this might not seem beneficial to developers, I bet their publishers don’t have too much of a problem with it. You see here’s the thing: Thomas is exactly right; fanboyism clogs up critical channels and damages the space for cultural debate. Creatively, platform partisanship seems enormously counter-productive, but it might also just seem to be an indication of how healthy a competition the industry is right now, and therefore maybe even a sign of just how good we all have it at the moment.