Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Understand the concept of Love

"Fanboy" is widely regarded as a negative term, but being a fanboy was actually one of the best experiences of my gaming life. I'm not anymore though. There just comes a time when you sort of see things too clearly, and now I can enjoy gaming on a different level. It's not a better or worse level, it's just different.

Not being a fanboy means that you can enjoy games across all formats, regardless of who made them. It also means you need to have a lot more money to spend and you just might feel cursed from time to time when you're basically buying a new system just to play that one game you can't miss. (PSP/Lumines, I admit.)

However, this article isn't about not being a fanboy, on the contrary.

Some feelings transcend common sense and conceptions like quality. When the love for a brand is strong enough you feel like you can identify with it. You actually identify with this huge company and its logos and characters to the point where it almost gets personal and intimate. You feel like their success is tied to your personal happiness, and it is in a lot of ways. For me and a lot of people this usually happens with underdogs. The company that's clearly losing the battle - the misunderstood genious if you will. It's tied to a bigger conception about how little quality matters in this industry, and the fact that good ideas don't sell. But here you are, clearly distinguishing their brilliance, righteously standing up for them. For some people, none of that matters at all, but the love for a particular platform comes from simply being familiar with its characters and franchises. People are conservative, and when obstacles like money/expenses stand in the way of enjoying all platforms, they're simply content with shutting everything else out and enjoying what they have. There's no shame in that.

People like identity. In these times one of the most important aspects of simply living is to build a unique personality and find a bunch of things about yourself that make you special. Of course some people drink Coca Cola and believe that being a Coca Cola nut makes them utterly unique, and the same illusion is true of gaming. "I'm a PS2 nut!" somebody exclaims enthusiastically as if that means something. Well it does mean something - to him.

The real boon of being a fanboy is that highs and lows are so much higher and lower, respectively. If you anticipate something and it finally comes out, that experience will be so much more powerful than if you don't much care either way. For example, the Dreamcast launch was probably my most exciting hour as a gamer so far, and just unpacking it was so great. The dreamcast logo on everything made my heart absolutely scream of joy, and getting a new Sonic game at launch was incredible. Seeing those characters I loved move around in 3D meant a lot more to me than seeing just any bunch of characters do the same thing. Mario had already done it to much less fanfare in my heart. Of course I acknowledged his entry into 3D as one of the bigger events in gaming, but I just wouldn't be honest if I said it was as significant to me, personally, as Sonic's 3D foray.

Today I clearly recognize Mario 64 as the better game, but that doesn't change the fact that back then, I just wouldn't have had a better time with Mario.

It's easy to write people's opinions off as fanboyisms, and truth is in a lot of cases they are. Thing is though, fanboyism doesn't equal stupidity. There's something unquestionably real about the perception of what's good and what isn't when you're a fanboy. Of course this pisses people off that try to keep some kind of objective sense of quality, and the fact is that more often than not, a fanboy defies logic when stating their opinion, but that doesn't make that opinion any less real to the one who expresses it.

As a result it's difficult to attach any meaning to the opinions and statements of someone who's clearly affected by his love for a particular brand or franchise, but that's just the price you pay for being a fanboy and experiencing those highs and lows. Of course, whether you're a fanboy or not, credibility as an objective gamer is something you just gotta earn.