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The Console Wars: Why They Are Our "Ism"

We all have are associations with the "Big Three" of the video game industry: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. You may enjoy them all equally for the unique experiences they provide, or find yourself spending time only on one console. Some people may vehemently defend their pick constantly, and perhaps may even attack others who spend time on consoles they don't own. Others try to stop this sort of "console war", and try to point out that each Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have the endearing qualities and experiences. Regardless of what kind of gamer you are, you have most likely experienced the sting of the console wars.

Jack Cayman, the protagonist of MadWorld, a Wii exclusive from Platinum Games.

Now, before we dive into my main discussion of what the console wars really are, it's time for a history lesson. We have all read about and/or even seen certain "isms" occur within human society. These include such atrocities as racism and sexism, as well as alright ones like nationalism, which is the idea that one's nation is great and possibly superior to others. The reason I am bringing these up is the common thread they tie together: creating this form of "otherization".

When some otherizes, they are saying "hey, you are different than me, soooo...I'm better!". This sort of ideology is rooted within the human conscience and is just part of being human, unfortunately. For example, when I started to write this blog, I was typing "Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo" and stopped myself, and then proceeded to put Nintendo first. Why? Because I like them more, and even though it's arbitrary, I couldn't help but be annoyed that I could move the text around so it was a way my brain found satisfying (If you would like to read more about the concept of otherization, I found this great read you can check out here). In any case, otherization has resulted in negative consequences within society, with groups such as Jews, non-whites, homosexuals, and numerous others being persecuted for being not the same as people who view their own beliefs/genetic make-up/orientation are the only acceptable ones. 

Hopefully at this point, you've guessed why I've brought otherization, because of how it relates to our industry's "console wars"; some of the extremists in our industry group others and act as they are less than themselves. Of course, this isn't as bad as saying "I am white, that person isn't, I'm better", but the thought process is similar. Even some of us who are in favor of each console may attack "casual" players who only play Angry Birds*, or the population of young teens and *** who only play Call of Duty, and we then call ourselves better gamers. Again, this is a more justifiable claim than acts of racism or sexism, since we may try to spread out our interests, but some people may automatically write off others.

There are several reasons people write off others in gaming culture, and I'm going to explore a few of the more significant ones. One of the most apparent is the Nintendo vs. Everyone, with "everyone" saying that "oh Nintendo systems are only for children, they're so childish, and also, NO GAMEZ". This is, of course, entirely untrue-in recent years, Nintendo has taken a more family-friendly route, sure, but that doesn't mean they don't put out mature titles, or that their systems don't have these kinds of games. Nintendo systems have had excellent mature titles, such as MadWorld, 999: Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, and the Ace Attorney series, and some games like Fire Emblem: Awakening have been able to present mature titles without needing to have blood and gore. As for "not having games"...there are games of every genre on each Nintendo system. If you don't like the games for it, sure, that is alright, but it isn't alright to say to others "all those games are stupid, you're dumb"; opinions, much? I may not like any 360 exclusives(save for indie titles I'm interested in), but that doesn't mean I can say that system is worthless-some people just like those titles. 

If  you thought Nintendo had no mature games...

Two of the other main conflicts in our culture deal more with forms of control; namely, PC vs. Everyone, and Wii vs. Everyone. With the PC, of course, many console players say "how can you use a mouse and keyboard, they're so uncomfortable!". First, for my personal statement, I find using analog sticks for first-person games to be clunky, and inaccurate. Even for games like Dead Space, I found 3 much harder than the first two in terms of design, but the fact that I had to play it on 360 instead of PC made it much harder for me. Anyway, this argument of connection between the player and the game is just a matter of perspective, of how someone prefers to do something. This can be akin to other things in society-reading on a tablet or kindle, riding a bike or driving a car, or even playing a game on a 3DS versus a Vita. It's all about how you prefer to interact/perform a certain task. This is sort of the same for the Wii argument-the Wii was just trying to cater towards a broader audience while also trying out something new, to offer us gamers new experiences. If you don't want to try something different, that's fine, but you don't need to assume that the experience they are having is less than yours-they just chose that experience because that appealed to them as a person.

Of course, for all of these conflicts, the exact opposites are always true-some Nintendo fans attack other system owners with the idea that the other consoles are all just bloody, mature games that are all the same, which is blatantly untrue. And, there is of course, the PC Master Race. These conflicts, and many more exist in our culture, even transgressing beyond console wars to genre wars, as well as wars like Call of Duty versus Battlefield, or JRPGs versus WRPGs. The simple fact of these conflicts are that they are because of differing opinions and perspectives-if you don't like it, you don't need to hate. Though I guess...

Do I want two screens, or  do I want analog? Decisions, decisions.

So, to bring back the otherization argument, hopefully you understand what I'm getting at here-these ways that we, as gamers, conflict is a form of otherization, where some of us mark others as interacting with video games in a lesser, and thus worse, way. I am, of course, not saying everyone does this, but it really is human conscience in some ways, where the human mind naturally moves to put itself in a superior position to others, and thus make itself more confident and having more of a chance at survival.

How this confidence and superiority comes forward comes a bit into my last point, of a kind of, well, simpler reason to why some people participate in the console wars: we are justifying our purchases. Money is such a huge thing today, and coupled with how important games are to some of us, the way we use the capital we have can be very important to the human psyche, because it wants to be right. So, we end up trying to prove to ourselves that we have done things correctly. This is true with the other isms I mentioned before; those were done because some people, instead of valuing their uniqueness as a way that they were better than everyone else(in a sense, as in, I am unique, not like you, so I'm the best me, and you are the best you. Hopefully that makes sense), they labeled a different group from them as lower, and that made them and others similar to them as better. This satisfies the human tendency to want to be superior, it was just done in the worst way it could have, with atrocities.

To recap, I'm going to just go through what I've stated again: in our gaming culture, some people label others as lesser as gamers, because of the games they play, the way they play games, or something else that's similar. They do this because it's just a natural human thing, and has existed in the minds of our ancestors for a long time. I think that the best way to go away from the console wars is to recognize that they exist because it's just us being human, and to just not fall into slander. However, in all honesty, as long as video games exist, the console wars will-there's always going to be someone who puts out an opinion that doesn't slide with someone else. This is true in every form of media, and isn't exclusive to us-they are just the way they are expressed within our culture. The best we can do is act calmly, just not fight back, or even to assume that some people ARE" otherizers", because that's just the same thing. Even though, it seems, a good majority of people do not like Call of Duty, and see it as only played like 13 year olds, that doesn't mean that everyone who plays it is childish and spews profanity into the mic, and is against every other video game in existence.

Well, there we are...that took awhile to write, and I've been meaning to do it for awhile, too. I hope anyone who took the time to read this enjoyed it, and comments below with your thoughts on what you think about the console wars. One last comment though-I think that they CAN be all fun and good sometimes; my friends and I have joke arguments about things like PC versus consoles all the time. The only real times it gets bad is when people refuse to believe that other people can have their own opinions. If you don't like the game, you don't have to play it. We can have our playful banter about Wii waggle, the PSN outage, and Red Ring of Death, but we can do without the thought that one person's sole opinion is right. Even though it is human nature to do so sometimes, that doesn't justify what some people may do.

Yep, Sega does what Nintendon't, and that's stop manufacturing consoles. 

No offense Sega. ;P

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