An Open Letter to Fanboys

Dear Fanboy

There’s a giant string of changes coming forth within the heart of the gaming community. For over a few years now, our very establishment as an art form has blossomed into something beautiful. We can change lives. We can move mountains, make people cry and possibly change the world as we know it. We’ve come far, we’ve done so much and yet on the flipside; we have so much more to do. We’ve got an obsession with violence and killing, which is depriving our field of variety; we’ve got the plague of multiplayer popularization (when its importance is outweighing single-player) and a horde of other problems. What I’m going to say today is not giant flame-bait or a call to action for flogging me over the internet.

I’m here to change your life.

One small thing at a time.

Over the decades of gaming, technology has shifted our culture forward faster and faster. We’ve discovered HD gaming, masses of new interfaces and within the next ten years; we will be playing with something completely different. One thing has stayed the same; gamers get angry. I get angry too, but I think it all goes to show how passionate we are about our industry. Whenever a developer steps out of line, we all rage about it on forums, it changes something within the game (possibly) and within the community. We have a relationship with developers such as Valve, wherein they publically announce an email address that anyone can send messages to. ‘What’s your favourite colour’, ‘Why did you give Gordon a crowbar and not a warhammer’, ‘When is Episode 3 coming out’, ‘WHEN IS EPISODE 3 COMING OUT?!’

It’s too bad we don’t have this same kind of relationship with the most important group of people in the industry, the manufacturers; Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and (maybe) Apple. I’m not asking it for change, I’m asking you to just look at your relationship with these groups and consider what you’re doing with it.  For over fifteen years, they have waged console war. It’s been blissful, exciting and scary to see what they do to 1UP each other. Microsoft pioneered the next-generation of consoles with the first announcement of HD gaming, Nintendo invented a whole new market with the DS and Wii. Sony has continued their high quality first-party exclusives and investment into new technologies. Apple is new on the field, possibly just dodging the shots with Nintendo and the new social market.

So why do we have to defend these giants?

I’m not complaining about too much passion, I’m not even complaining about your support of these companies. I’ve seen, in my gaming lifetime, people just swear out with the other that one format is better than the other. Actually, to be totally honest, I’ve done it too. It’s not a nice thing. It has zero benefit except your own little personal victory. Who are you defending? A billion-dollar corporation. Who are you attacking? A billion-dollar corporation. It doesn’t add up. Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Apple don’t seem care about your support; they care about your investment. I will say that the big four probably do care at least a little about the consumer. They do care about investing into new technologies. What they don’t care about is you bickering with the ‘other side’ about which one is better. It’s all ‘My Dad is bigger than your Dad’ and at the end of the day, your Dad really doesn’t give a crap.

I got nowhere with my complaint about all the gaming populace being stupid in their choices and commentary; and it definitely hurt my credibility a bit. So, let’s just generalise here but in a decent manner. Let’s say every single gaming fanboy has the capacity to be literate and intelligent. Maybe they’re already this. Hell, maybe even Stephen Hawking is a Nintendo fanboy (irony), so maybe I can talk to them directly. In fact, you just there, with your 360 branded hat and giant poster of Marcus Fenix above your bed; aside from a possible over-obsession, you don’t have anything wrong with you.

Let’s pull up some chairs. Want some coffee? Oh wait, this is a letter. My bad!

Let’s discuss a few things. You probably have played a console other than the 360, maybe not but the general statistic says you have. You probably didn’t like it. You probably didn’t have fun with it.

That’s all fine.

But, I get this with my friends. I did this; everybody did it as some point in their life. Everybody has busted this cherry many times over, hell maybe even you did it better than me. You might’ve done more formats than me, which is near impossible. Your argument may be longer than mine and may even be louder.

Commentary.

When you blatantly say that one format is inferior to the other; you’re killing a part of yourself. You’re becoming more selfish, more prudent and more self-asserting than anything else. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Apple (MASN) will lead you with supporting propaganda. Buy our products, champion the cause, and support us. I don’t think they outright say “Don’t hurt people’s feelings.”

I’m generalising again. Nathan Hardisty is at it again, trying to convince the gaming populace that they’re in the wrong and he’s always right. I’m not. I know I’m not, I’ll always be wrong to someone, but today I would like to be right. Not every fanboy is out to hurt people’s feelings. Some people just say “Console X is better than Console Y.”, not everybody adds “And you’re a homosexual reptilian.”

I’ve had first-hand experience of arguing for Sony. I was a PS3 fanboy, through and through, and it probably made me a better person. Not through actually arguing, but through finally figuring out what I had done wrong. I hadn’t concentrated on debating real issues; how we can improve our public image, what dictates a good expression of humanity within interactive entertainment. Instead, I was throwing the same few facts around; mudslinging to put it simple. I went on various message boards, threw a few links at people, waited for their response and did it all again to zero result. No gain, nothing. All I did was make people angry, and belittled their own personal opinion.

So, fanboy, here’s my life. Here’s what I’ve done, here’s what you can be. Right now, our industry is in massive flux over issues I raised in the introduction. More than likely, you have the capacity to just let go of your hard facts and opinion, and come join us critics. Come join us at the round table; all gamers welcome.

I’m more than happy to welcome personal console preference. I’m ecstatic about the opportunity where we can all get along no matter what device we game on. PC gaming with its content delivery and ever-climbing threshold of quality, console gaming with its mass appeal; we can create something utterly beautiful if we only stop bickering among ourselves. We’re all brothers, not blood-related, but we need to stop pushing people’s opinions down and ignoring the full issues that plague our little culture.

Now, there’s always going to be personal preference. As I’ve gone through fanboyism and back, I’ve changed in more than a few ways. If you don’t have a little personal preference or lean to one console, you start to view things different. The social category the Wii falls into is a bridge between social and dedicated gamers; they can so easily be transferred. These changes can be made in just a few years; more than likely we’ll have your grandma going from Wii Sports to Metal Gear Solid in no time. Accessibility is improving, masses are shifting and it’s all rather nice. The disease of fanboyism is something I want to get rid of; and put in place a dictatorship of debate. How can we make these changes? Which games are facilitating social gamer accessibility? What’s after this? These are just a few of the hundreds of questions I’d like us debate instead of ‘Which console is the best?’

It can safely be said that the games industry is similar in its position to a real-world war economy. Third-party exclusives come and go multiplatform like the wind; and they’re not good for consumers. They serve no benefit other than to the manufacturers, and the group I’ve come to persuade. Fanboys use them as mudpies to throw at each other; I’ve already outlined why it’s bad and why we should stop. So, why don’t we send a message? Actually, we’ve already sent a message.

Insomniac recently announced they were going multiplatform. Hundreds of 360 fanboys joyously exclaimed into the sky ‘VICTORY, VICTORY, VICTORY’. Sony fanboys cried into their hands.

What did I do?

I jumped for joy.

No, I’m not a 360 fanboy. I’m not a giant critic of videogame expression; all I am is a little gamer without personal preference. Multiplatform games allow us all to collaborate and discuss our opinions on the game. No matter which platform we come from, we can all talk about it. Third-party exclusive DLC is pretty much a dying form of consumer persuasion, and yet we’re still raging like fanboys. Red Dead PS3 has no HD support, so what? Metal Gear Rising will have PS3 as the lead developer format, so what?

Multiplatform is a good thing.

First-party exclusives, in my opinion, have to be put in place. I would argue they’re not used as fuel for fanboys as much. Developers such as Naughty Dog have a substantial pedigree with Sony, and I think it should stay the same. These developers use the tech to its full potential, and push the boundaries on what can exist within the format. Every single format has something that can be expressed which can’t be expressed on the other. Sometimes, it’s obvious with games such as Mario Galaxy. You can see it playing out on a PS3 but not being as good. As I said with Naughty Dog, it’s not hard to picture Uncharted on the 360 either. Don’t you fanboys rant on to me about it being technically impossible. It just doesn’t fit in my mind. I don’t expect to see Halo making its return on a Sony platform either, it doesn’t fit its image.

Maybe it’s because they’re established brands/characters, but maybe it’s because it just wouldn’t make sense. At the end of the day, you buy a console to play games on it. I bought a PS3 for Uncharted, a Wii for Mario Galaxy and a 360 for the all round multiplayer experience. This is a war economy, a good economy, a very strong one and it should stay like that forever. Instead of screaming ‘VICTORY!’ when a third party developer goes exclusive on a certain console, you should be complaining. You should rage that the only people who are benefitting are the manufacturers. When a first-party developer goes multiplatform or a third-party developer goes multiplatform I say Good-o’. I’m already salivating on what to expect from the likes of Insomniac. It’s good for business, good for gamers; and apparently, bad for fanboys.

So here’s my closing statement. If you have a personal preference for a console, and don’t argue or spoil other people’s fun, stay who you are. I invite you to the round table to discuss new issues surrounding our evolution as an artistic expression. If you’re a fanboy, and you ruin people’s fun and argue and just spread your “facts” around and just generally ignore the bigger picture, come join us anyway. Put down your 360 hat, your PS3 branded soft-drink, your Wii remote and let’s all come together. Let’s make real debate. Let’s make progress.

Special thanks to Juan Houter for making the title card, and Chris Forbis for proofreading this to a fine pulp. The first draft looked like a poet had just been sick all over a N64 cartridge. Post a comment below or mail me at nathan.hardisty@platformnation.com if you want to call me a homosexual quicker.

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