This Blog discusses many talking points in the games industry. In short, the blog provides an overview of my opinions on a number of gaming events and actions within the industry. Each entry is carefully researched and provides an objective opinion on matters that are important to the games industry. Any comments of an intelligent nature will be treated with respect.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Frasier's Guide to the Psychology of Fanboyism

“When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and we knew exactly who the they were. It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.”

George W. Bush

This article will combine two interests of mine; gaming and psychology. I will attempt to analyse why fanboys act in the way they do.

Firstly, a definition would serve a purpose. The word “fanboy” can relate to simply someone who prefers one company over another. This wide definition, however, can be related to anyone; most people have preferences of one form or another. That surely does that mean that we are all fanboys? This is the reason why, when one uses the word fanboy it refers to those people who will defend that company to the death, to an extent where even when reason shows that the company has done wrong, they refuse to accept this, generally avoiding any questions that are impossible to answer without making “their” company look bad in anyway possible.

There are several groups of fanboys inside gaming, and they range from those who are either ten, or act in an immature way that would suggest that they were this age, to those who are fairly “intelligent” people, in the sense that they have a large vocabulary, and often try to hide their traits, while still avoiding the simple facts. All the groups defend their company with zeal, however those who are in the intelligent category are people who generally provoke the most arguments; simply because they can provide half decent points, to the untrained eye at any rate.

It is ironic that these people are often those who give both the company they wish to idolise, and, to an extent, the games industry itself. They show the world the nature of the world; immature beyond the normal human being, and with prejudices that do not occur in modern society. Of course, this untrue; a lot of gamers are civil people, however these people keep quiet, while the fanboys continue to shout about how everyone else is prejudiced, never mind that the irony swells beyond belief in their statements. Fanboys, are, in short, the end of intellectual debate, and the beginning of uninteresting, and petty arguments. There is no rational thought involved; one does not become a fanboy consciously, rather it is a subconscious decision.

I believe that this irrational behaviour stems from two psychological complexes:

Firstly, the need for validation; our ways of making sense of things are tried out by means of our behaving in ways consistent with our interpretations. They believe that the way to be validated, to be proved correct and worthwhile is to constantly attack anyone who challenges their ideas and views, without referring to facts. It is this need for validation that shapes the entire psyche of a fanboy; I believe that it is key to remember this, as this is the reason why they will not accept or validate a valid counter argument. Quests for validation limit produce intellectual inhibitions, they will stop most rational thought from entering the person’s head, and thus any attempt to have a logically driven argument, in all honesty, is a complete waste of energy, on both parts.

There is no point arguing with irrationality, by default it is impossible. Would you attempt to delve deep into a conversation with, to use just two of many literacy examples, Bedlam, from the Roses of Eyam, by Don Taylor, or The Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland? I would say that it is just as difficult to speak to a fanboy as it is to these people; all of them have roots deep set in irrationality, which is, quite simply impossible to fight, even with rationality and logic. In fact, when I say even, I mean especially, it’s that simple.

Fanboyism is, as such, the death of intellectual debate and the start of deluded madness. For every fanboy, there is a fanboy crusader, a person who wishes to eradicate fanboys’ viewpoints, and ultimately change them. These people are admirable in their mission, but must realise that their goals are impossible. Fanboys will change their views only with the gain of maturity, and this takes time, rather than any other factor, including lectures from those who know far better than they do. Of course, fanboys illude themselves with the most delightful avoidance mechanisms. Mostly they try to pretend that they themselves are more knowledgeable than anyone else, and that all those who argue with them are incorrect, and unintelligent. Of course, most of the time it is those who they argue with that are more intelligent than them.

Another technique is the “it’s my opinion” method. This is usually employed when the person they are arguing with raises points that are unavoidable, and show “their” company in a poor light. The person claims that “it’s my opinion, you cannot argue against opinion.” This, on the surface, looks like a method which is reasonable; however, I am of the opinion that, to quote from Voltaire, “Prejudice is opinion without judgement.” Thus, a opinion with no factual basis is basically a prejudice, not an opinion. This is another mechanism that is wholly used to attempt to validate their side of the argument when they know facts and reason stand against them. This is a ridiculous way of thinking, and reminds me of a quote by Niles Crane, “rationalisation; the last refuge of an unsound argument”. The fanboy tries to rationalise their argument in any way possible, despite the simple fact that their argument is not based upon rationality, it is built upon a foundation of bias and prejudice.

The next psychological trait that governs fanboy behaviour is, in my opinion, an “us and them” complex. This complex is most of time related to a country’s need for an enemy, as well as friends, but it can equally relate to a single group of people, or a even a single person. “Us and them” psychology is basically the principle that every person, every nation, needs an enemy, needs something to fight against, as well as something to embrace. “There is no “us” without there being a corresponding “them” to oppose,” said Professor Howard Stein, editor of the Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology. “We need the bad guys, the people who embody the stuff we want to get rid of.” And this is very similar to fanboy behaviour. Most fanboys, especially those, who are at the stage of ultimate immaturity, as well as loving one company, hate all, or at least most, of its competitors. As well as this, most of them hate those who try to defend the truth, logic and reason, as they constantly prove to them that the foundations of their ideals are incorrect. Basically, fanboys’ psyches are based upon the need for an enemy, as much as they need a company to support.

This is key to determining why they behave in the way that they do. They constantly defend “their” company, not only because they think it to be the only good one, due to reasons best described as petty, or to do with validation of their lives, as mentioned above. The “enemy” can vary, but, obviously, will be a competitor of “their” company, and therefore the average fanboy presents an even more biased opinion than he/she would. It is for this reason that fanboys defend their company so vigorously; not just to exonerate their company as the best, but also to insult the enemy, which they feel they need to do.

This complex is used predominately as a mechanism to make sure they feel safe and secure, despite the fact of a reason or factor of insecurity. This insecurity could derive from a number of factors:

1) The inability to articulate viewpoints as well as others in an environment, in short, an inability to come up with viewpoints which are comprehensive and valid. The subconscious therefore rethinks of ways to calculate an opinion which will be noticed and unavoidably their own.

2) A natural desire to be noticed in an environment – the subconscious creates strong and illogical viewpoints just because the person feels that he/she is not being noticed at all, or in a way that they deem acceptable.

3) A fear of being not accepted unless they produce a different viewpoint.

These insecurities generally affect children more than adults, and this is why more children are fanboys than adults, as well as the obvious maturity and intelligence factors.

It is, as I said before, impossible to argue with fanboys. Therefore the best thing to do is to either ignore them, or simply force them to leave the discussion by overriding their stubbornness with irrefutable facts, and lots of them.

Most fanboys will eventually become enlightened, and will shed the hallmarks of immaturity and unintelligent by slowly becoming more impartial, unbiased and gaining more objectivity. There are a few people who will not learn the errors of their ways, and continue to be a fanboy, but for these people no one can do anything.



Sources:

http://www.pcp-net.org/encyclopaedia/validation.html

http://en.wikipedia.org

http://www.google.com

“How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World” - Francis Wheen

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Reflection

And so another year passes like water passes through a river. This day will have a flood of posts on various blogs and forums reflecting on the year that has been. And, as I am a great lover of cliches and traditions, this blog will be no exception.

For gaming, this year will probably be thought of as the year of the next generation; of the end of the old, and the beggining of the new. Both the handheld and home console markets have, or are soon to be, changed for the better, as it were, or, at least, changed in a way.

But first I will reflect upon the games of the year, for what is the industry without games? My favourite game was, a little unoriginally, Resident Evil 4. It is a great game overall, and confirms that Capcom still make brilliant games, and have definately been one of the top companies of the year, with other games including Killer 7, which I enjoyed, but was never going to sell a great deal, and did very well to live up to that expectation. A brief word must go to my second favourite game; "God of War", which narrowly missed out on the top spot due to the fact that I have not played it as much as Resident Evil 4. My favourite handheld game was a much easier decision, as it there was only one game that could win it; Mario Kart DS. This game is brilliant offline, but absolutely amazing online, and I have played this game more than practically any other over the Christmas period. I'm still not great though; as all the TGN players love to remind me.

And that brings me onto the handheld markert rather nicely. At the start of the year, it looked certain that Nintendo's hold on the market would soon be destroyed, as their DS did not look to be anywhere near as easy to sell as the PSP, which is much the sleeker console. I was skeptical of the DS, as its touch screen looked as if it were a gimmick, and other than that it had very little to recommend it. However, much too my, and many other people's suprise, the DS has outsold the PSP in practically every region except Britain, especially Japan. As I have said in this blog, the DS is the suprise of the year for me, and not just because it has sold well; its games, at the moment, are far better than those on the PSP, and the future looks bright for the machine.

The launch of the PSP, in September, ushered in a new handheld market; one where there are two machines that can actually compete, which has not occured since the launch of the original Gameboy. Its lovely to see, as now Nintendo's hold on the market is ended, forcing them to keep prices low, which is good news to gamers all round.

And finally, I will talk of the next generation consoles. I will not go into great depth upon each one, and I will not predict sales. However, what I will say is that the hype surrounding each console has been massive, especially around the Revolution. This hype has greatly helped Nintendo make itself out to be the "alternative", which can "save" the games industry, which they say is falling. I say this is a load of PR inspired spin, but there you go.

I have played on an Xbox 360, and enjoyed the experience, however I will say that the console, at the moment, offers little in terms of upgrades in the games we play, but it is early days yet, and I will buy one some time next year.

The PS3 is actually looking pretty unattractive to me at the moment; it sounds as if it will be too expensive, but I will wait until I see something that I can judge before disregarding the console.

It's been a great year for me, and all that is left to say is; happy New Year to all, and to all a goodnight.

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Revolution or Revolt?

I apologise for not posting on here in a while, but I have been preoccupied with various escapades.

I have been thinking a lot about the Nintendo Revolution recently, and have made some conclusions. The console is one that has more smoke surrounding it than a smokers convention. The console is one that so many have judged, for good, or for bad, despite the fact that few outside Nintendo have any knowledge of its abilities. I am one who will not judge until I see something that can be judged. Therefore any comment I make on it will be of a factual basis; rather than anything speculatory. However, this does not encompass comments made on its ability to sell; rather that I will not speculating on if the controller is a worthwhile change to gaming, for that I will wait and see.

The Revolution is the console that many feel will "re-invent" the games industry as we know it, and this is what Nintendo itself have said. Nintendo, in their wisedom, having decided that customers are "bored" of gaming, and that unless the games industry does something it will be gone for good. I believe that this is one of two things; the first, egotism in its highest form; Nintendo are telling us that we are bored, no one has told them that, the second; spin. Nintendo are pretending that the console will re invent the games industry, so it will get more publicity, and this has clearly worked. Look at any game related blog or forum and you will see a mention to the Revolution's controller, and this publicity is exactly what Nintendo aim to achieve, it is, in a way, advertising their console for free, which is always the best sort of advertising. The point is that while Nintendo have shown us a controller that is different to most other before it, it has shown us nothing that suggests the games market will be re invented at all.

Nintendo often say, "It's all about the games", so why is it not showing us the games? Surely they cannot re invent the games industry without changing the games first? Of course, it could be claimed that changing the controller method will change how we play games, but this is hardly reinventing an entire industry is it? To change the games industry in a lasting manner Nintendo need to change more than just the control method; they need to change how the public perceives games, and the games we play. Therefore, I will not be convinced that the Revolution will change gaming until I see fresh gaming ideas. Only then will I believe that the Revolution will change the industry for good, rather than having a control concept that could be an alternative to normal controller methods, or could not be.

This point is highlighted in that most people, upom seeing the controller, commented upon how "this game would be amazing using that controller". This kind of thinking shows two keys facts; firstly, that most gamers, and most people in general, have little imagination, thus, the controller alone will not change the games industry; game producers will have to do that, and that the public do not want a revolution; they are not worried if the console they are playing on changes gaming, they just want to have fun on a games console. Customer satifaction is always more important than innovation.

Another point I wish to address is the graphical power of the console. I am going to wait before I judge the console on this point. While specifications have been released concerning the Revolution, they mean little to me. I am waiting to see what the graphics look like, rather than what a sheet of paper says. I hold this opinion on every games console, so I can judge what is actually happening on screen, rather than looking at a collection of numbers and ridiculously and, I suspect, purposely, confusing words. As I have already stated in this very blog, there are more important selling points than just graphics.

The last point I wish to address is the sales of the console. Of course, I do not know the full facts about the Revolution, so therefore any sales predictions from me will be purely of a speculative nature. The Revolution is said to be aimed at those who do not play videogames yet, or those who have decided to drop the pad in favour of another acitivity. I will say that this could work, in that there are a large number of people who have not played a game before, and may have the means to do so. However, getting the message of gaming across to these people may be difficult. I will illustrate how; many games site that people who may benefit from the control method are their parents, who find normal controllers difficult. This may well be the case, but if you think about it; would most mothers or fathers buy a games console at all, except as a gift to a child? I suspect the answer is no, and therefore why should this change, just because a different control method is introduced? I doubt it.

The Revolution may sell well, as it seems to be heading in a similar direction to the DS, which is, in my eyes, the suprise of the year.

My main thought on the Revolution is to wait until I see the full facts. Only then will I judge the console.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Generating a buzz

And so another new wave of next generation consoles is almost upon us. With the Xbox 360 lauching at the beginning of the last month of the year, and Nintendo and Sony following (fairly) swiftly afterwards, gamers can now look into the future of games. And the future seems pretty much the same as the present; however with one important difference, this time there is actually a battle between the three new consoles on release. In previous generation not much has, in terms of gameplay, seperated the two or three competing consoles, they have always encircled one another, claiming to have changed how we play games. However, the thing was that the consoles were pretty much the same; similar graphics and power, similar joypads, similar gameplay expriences to be had. Really, your choice of console was little more than a choice decided upon by a few largely irrelevant factors, which include the image the console projects and because a certain game/series is exclusive to that console. Often, therefore, choosing a games console was a lot like choosing a suit; it really depended solely on a few image factors, and little else. The "war" that was supposedly occuring was little more than an invention of over excited, time rich gamers, who wish to "prove" that their console of choice is better than another. The reality is that the "war" was nothing to do with the defining features of the console, as each console had no real defining feature that would attract the buyer away from it, the sales of the console had nothing to do with its quality and features, but to do with its marketability, and this means that the "war" never really took place, or at least in the sense that most gamers meant it, as the only "war" was the war that took place to gain respectability. In other words, consoles sold not because they were better than the competition, or even that they had better games or features, but because of the console's image.

The next generation does seem to be different, however. Each console now has several large differences from the competition, and it is in this way that the fight is now just that, that the war has now shifted into deeper realms than the superficial ones of old. The fact is that each console has got at least one feature that is vastly different to the competitions' features. The PS3 is the most powerful console and has the biggest fan base, the Xbox 360 has the best online network, and will be released a long way before the competition, and the Revolution has the controller of both famous and infamous proportions, and the ability to play many old Nintendo games. Each console also has its own set of weaknesses as well, and these will obviously play a factor in the race too.

However, will these new defining features sell the new consoles? Or will it be all about the image of the console? I would say a cross between the two. I feel that there is more to seperate each console than ever before, however, at the same time, there will always be a console that, in the mass market's preception is the "best", and therefore it will sell more consoles because of this. However, the image of each console could be governed more closely by its defining features, rather than just approval from a group of people. In this way, the next generation race is very difficult to predict; more so than the last one, where it was fairly clear from the start that the PS2 would sell more consoles than the other two put together.

I will continue to keep an open mind on the next generation issue until such a time as I can predict how it will end. As T. S . Elliot once wrote, "It is a fool who judges too early and gets it wrong, it is a genius who judges whenever and gets it right."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Graphical illusions

It has often been argued that the games industry is on the decline in terms of gameplay, and that games were not what they used to be. Most of the people who believe in the statement above believe that the only reason most people buy a games console is the graphics, which have been the obvious change to games in the last twenty odd years, and that the games on that console have become irrelvant. But is this really the case? Do graphics actually sell game consoles?

Well let's first of all look at the facts:

The general public have bought the PS2 over the Xbox and the Gamecube, which are more powerful than it. This, of course is hardly conclusive end of the arguement, as a counter arguement could just as easily generated: you could point out the Dreamcast did not sell as well as the PS2, and that was the weaker console. But was this the major reason for the failure of Sega's last console? I do n0t think so. Sega, as we all well know, did far more wrong than just make a slightly weaker console. There console did not sell because of its abilities, or, in this case lack of them, it did not sell because it was unpopular, and the reasons for this lack of popularity were, in my, and I believe most other opinions, mostly unrelated to the consoles graphically capibilities. In fact I have discovered something for myself: graphics are not the way to sell a console, they are a way of selling games. I have only just realised this fact, but I do believe in it. People always state that the masses love graphics, that they would buy a console because of these graphics. But I do not think this is true. It is the games that people buy because of the graphics, not the consoles ability at producing them. Most gamers of a "casual nature" will buy the games console of the moment, and the games on it that appeal to them and have good graphics. The console of the moment is not in the postion it is in because of graphical abilities or otherwise. What sells a games console is not the graphics at all. It is a complex mix of marketing, looks, market potential, and the games it has. This mix is far too complex is far too uninteresting to bother to descrive to you, and, most likely, you already know what it is, as most of the general rules are known, even though hardly anyone bothers to discuss them. Common sense is a good thing. But here is a formula that is in relation to what sells a console on the games front:

The console must have:

Games that appeal to the mass market AND are exclusive to that console AND are in number on that console.

This simple rule is easy to state but hard to obtain, evidently. But the point is a games console does not sell because of graphics.

Come to think of it, even games do not often, or at all, for that matter, sell, just on graphics. For example if a game that looked beautiful but had content that did not appeal to the mass market, the game would not sell. This is rather simple, if you ask me, but many insist that this is not the case.

Graphics do not sell games or games consoles. As Nintendo say; "it's all about the games", but I do not mean this in the sense that Nintendo does. Games do not always sell because of the quality of play they produce. A game has to appeal to the mass market to sell. To do this it could be a great game, or it could have a competely different selling point entirely. But a rarely sells on graphics alone. They help, but they are not the be all and end all.

I do believe that graphics are not the selling points of games to the mass market, unlike, it seems, many people. The title of the article refers to these people, who often act as if they are superior to "casual gamers" who, they feel, do not care about games at all. They are under the illusion that there is an existance of people that solely buy games that do not appeal to them, just on their graphical merits. But the fact is, these people do not make up more than a very small percentage of the market. The mass market does not buy games because of graphics, rather it buys games that appeal to it. These illusions are often held by the dreaded Nintendo fanboy, who feels this is why their favourite compeny is now not at the top of the sales heap. My words to them are simple; it is always the company's fault, never the market's. Nintendo need to realise that they need to appeal to the mass market, and not to just a niche market. Nintendo need to wake up and smell the coffee, as do those who feel that graphics alone sell games.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Games, sex and drugs, in that order

It was Oscar Wilde who once said; "There are two tragedies in life; one is not getting what you want, the other is getting it." I feel that this is the feeling that a certain Mr. Jack Thompson has. I would explain who he is, but the exercise would be a pointless and fruitless, simply because this is a games blog, and it is very unlikely that anyone in the videogame community has not heard of this particular man.

Mr. Jack Thompson knows that videogames are his way to fame and fortune. He knows that he may be able to influence the American public's opinion enough so that he may launch himself on to bigger issues, or even so that he may be able to become a politician. He knows that his goals of banning many videogames of a violent nature, or otherwise, is an impossible task. He knows this, and uses this knowledge to his advantage. Without videogames, Jack was and still probably would be little known, but now, ironically, the items that he wishes to ban are making him famous. You may argue for the wrong reasons. But I do not think that many of the American people see it this way, and it does not matter. He is still well known, and he is gaining fame by the day. Not that much fame, you understand, however, but enough that he now might be able to speak out against other items of agenda he feels strongly about and be listened to. He now has power. And what has got him there? The very items he wishes to ban. The world is quite strange sometimes.

I do believe that Jack Thompson has a hatred of violent videogames, and he does feel strongly about them. However, I believe it is quite obvious that he has exploited these views to his massive advantage. He has made his attacks on everything to do with the industry, including many of its leading figures, so over the top, so bold, so extreme, that the press cannot help but pick upon him. If he expressed his views in a civilised manner, then no-one would take notice of him. But he has drawn attention to himself simply because he is over aggressive, dodges people's points and mis states facts. He is notice for these points because they irate many people, and therefore he gets more and more of the press talking to him, so he can spread more of his sensationalist views around the world.

And this is why he is now such an infamous character within the gaming community; he has irritated many people with his radical views and lack of proffessionalism, and these people have done what they could to humiliate and irate him. He then has retaliated with more radical views, and he has gained more and more fame, and this means that he is interviewed more and more, and this in turn means more and more people get irate about his views. This is a vicious circle, and Jack, I think, knows this. He is feeding the circle its fuel, in the hope he can move on to bigger things, as now he can project any message he wants to a much larger audience than before, or, at the very least achieve fame, and inflate his already massive ego into a size that is normally associated with mountain ranges. Either way Jack wins.