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There is an unfortunate stereotype that exists about fanboy/girl gamers. It's as though these diehards will blindly follow a product that toes the corporate line. Worse, their feelings toward a certain gaming system can be accused of being entirely irrational. These are the player who become hostile whenever their machine is attacked on the random message board or opinion article. This article is not about the stereotypes, however. It's equally important, if not more to look at some of the fundamental motivations behind many gamers' brand name identities, whether they be the so-called "X-Bots," "Sony Ponies," or Nintendrones."
If one was to apply the same stigmas fanboys/girls have to sports, it'd be silly. Players often have charts and graphics galore saved up like battleplans to whip out during heated arguments over which system has better games. I've grown up a Star Wars fan since the age of 6. I can remember being introduced to the prequel films in theaters and I loved them, or at least at the time, of course. Even though Star Wars has arguably never been as good as its original trilogy story, I still follow and adore its Expanded Universe material. If this were like the gaming world, however, we'd have fans of the Patriots going on about New England obviously being the better team, so stop watching Detroit and start watching the Patriots. Or you'd have people ranting about only watching their winning teams or we'd have neutrals, that just watch the games and fail to see a real difference. People forget that some players have a connection with consoles and not always because of a bloodfeud with rival companies.
An unmistakable bond exists between some console owners and their consoles, akin to the connection some drivers have with their cars. I myself began with my older sisters' NES and while I did not participate in the SNES or N64 era, I've been enthusiastic for every system I've had myself, whether it was my old Gamecube, Gameboys, DS, Wii, and now Wii U and 3DS. I've never had a bad memory of any and hold a good deal of both nostalgia and interest in the company's brand name. There's a certain tradition and happiness that I receive from the Nintendo brand, and I will certainly never forget about it. I, of course, love many other systems as well. I have a PS3 and have an almost equal passion for Uncharted, Infamous, and great 3rd party brands like Assassin's Creed, MGS, and Final Fantasy. I like to think I'm open-minded enough to appreciate my core love and not exclude potential others, yet fellow players often don't share that principle.
Traditionally, video game fanboyism has had its roots in economics. The average kid doesn't have a big enough allowance to purchase all video game consoles and when parents, hoping to delight their children while not spoiling them, offer to buy them a console, it's usually one console.
The nature of console wars and other fanisms involve the company as much as they do the player. Due to money, players are placed in a position of choice way back to childhood. The PS2 or Gamecube sweetey? Generations of gamers see their favorite consoles lose out on the best exclusives or 3rd party support and their consoles act as some figurative casualties of war in the media, and those who owned them are seen as the figurative losers. Whenever bad headlines surface for a game company, the memories of those fallen consoles or of its games of the past haunt the console war. There has been more at stake than simply processing power. The console's honor is at stake!
There must be something even more profound that drives a Sony fan or any other gaming console to defend it so fervently. There's an emotional attachment between the user and the end product. It's not just the actual console itself, but the entire experience--from the box (that's so popularly the subject of unboxing videos) to the font (which is why logo changes are big deals).
Brand expert Alina Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity adds that "Great brands demonstrate their values; they don't just declare them." "Strong brands make you feel as if you are a part of a very special tribe of people who are like-minded in their passion and experience." Branding isn't just creating an image or conveying a concept, but giving consumers the feeling of belonging to a larger group. "While brands connect to the mind and heart, brand identity is tangible. You can see it, hear it, and feel it."
In other words, seemingly meaningless fanboy arguments are struggles over very real things, or at least in people's minds. For the consumer and the gamer alike, money and games are as important as the experience. Their are some journeys you can't get anywhere else and being granted a great brand makes customers feel like the company understands who they are and what they like; and that delights them.
Average gamers are now well into their thirties. However, it's our childhood memories that form us. Brand identity can change over time, just like politics or beliefs. By contrast, gaming is slightly different than, say, mobile phones or computers. There's something deeper and more emotionally engaging about video games. While typical electronics might be viewed as tools that enable us to do things better, faster, and more efficiently, video games don't necessarily do any of those. Rather, they can take us into other worlds, present problems, and give us that blood-pumping fun.
Consoles connect us like never before--not just to our memories, but to each other. Online console gaming has created new social networks. While many players may boast about a bazillion kills in Halo 4's multiplayer, it's about the intoxicating power granted by a familiar audience to share it with. We make a lot of friends (and enemies) on a single console and just don't want to leave our achievements or friends on X-Box Live or PSN.
It can be said that competition remains the healthiest component of an industry, for without game companies to follow, we'd just end up with one console that we'd be forced to play whatever it gave us or give up video-games. With that said, competition, if drawn to its extremes, breeds contempt just as easily. How can we play our games without the futile bickering that too frequently comes with it? It's often a matter of empathy. We're all of inherently different tastes, and aside from technology, and that's the only real factor that goes into our console choices. An honest admittance of that and recognizing its value in other players' preferences. I will never become a Battlefield or GTA fan, but I wish I could derive passion from them and feel fine about its follower's pleasure in it. I'll undoubtedly disagree with many an opinion article ignoring the Wii U or PS4's performances, but I won't let it crush my own joy from either. It's the way life works I suppose. Live and let live.
It's in these last days I thank all you readers for sticking with the Inquisitive Blogger this long. I have just a few more surprises for ya in these last few days and I can hope you'll enjoy 'em. What console do you stand by in these coming days of next-gen and past consoles do you still appreciate after all these years? Any last-minute blogging suggestions or comments you might have? I look forward to crafting the grand finale. . . I hope it'll be a memorable one. See ya next time GIO!
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