I have been a gamer all my life and ever since I can remember there have always been arguments between users of rival video game systems and computers. Spectrum versus C64, NES versus Master System, SNES versus Megadrive, I could name you every rivalry that has existed in the gaming ecosystem over the past thirty years until I reached the present day.
At no time do I recall the rivalry between users of different systems being as toxic and venomous as it is today.
Back then our battlegrounds were school playgrounds, playing fields, youth clubs and the local arcade. Debates over which system, or version of a game was best were won and lost based on an individual’s knowledge and the ability to state your case to a group of your peers.
The concept of being a fan of a system and belonging to a group is nothing new. The rivalry between these groups is nothing new either. The wheel has not been reinvented with the current generation, but the growth of the internet and the realisation by companies that consumers can be manipulated through clever marketing and brand identity has changed the rules of the game.
The internet has acted as a catalyst to this, providing anonymity and the ability for like minded people to network and seek positive affirmation in their thoughts and beliefs regardless of how skewed they may be. Battle lines have been drawn, but in a completely new way.
Now before I go on, let me specify something explicitly.
At no time during this piece am I going to point the finger at a particular demographic of users and say they are to blame.
In the past 12 months, I have read hundreds of posts and articles stating that toxicity in the gaming community is being generated by fans of one particular brand, Sony PlayStation. The consensus is that this group of fans are bringing the most negativity to forums and comments sections across the internet, They move in groups upvoting each other’s comments and attacking anyone that dares to hold a viewpoint different to their own. I disagree with this, whilst I been witness to some fans that do behave this way, in my experience there are a percentage of bad apples in every basket and this generation it just so happens that the PlayStation basket is the biggest of them all.
If 1 in 10 people are bad apples and you have a group size of 10 then you have one bad apple.
If 1 in 10 people are bad apples and you have a group size of 30 then you have three bad apples.
It’s basic maths.
Now multiply these hypothetical numbers by the 75 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold and you’ll see my point begins to make sense. It may appear as though these fans are the most disruptive, but this is likely due to the higher number of users.
What’s Wrong With Being Passionate?
There is nothing wrong with Passion in the community. In fact, passionate users can be an incredibly positive thing. Passion gives us Cosplay, fan art and user made movies of our favourite franchises. Passion makes streamers celebrities and Youtube personalities famous, it provides more ways to enjoy our favourite hobby. When leveraged in the right ways passion can be an incredibly powerful thing, beautiful even. What’s not so beautiful is when passion manifests itself in a way that is twisted and ugly, disrespectful and insulting. When downvotes are cast, facts are ignored and reason is thrown to the dogs. These are the hallmarks of the fanboy, and it can be sickening to witness.
How have we gone from playful jibes and juvenile arguments in schoolyards around the world to the kind of shameful comments I read on the internet every day, posted by people with an unnatural attachment to boxes of plastic and metal?
The Power of Brand Recognition and Group Identity
Big companies are not stupid.
They spend billions each year on market research to find out exactly what you, the customer wants. Advertising targets you everyday through television, when walking the street, even right now when you’re surfing the net, you don’t really think you’re seeing ads for things that interest you by coincidence do you?
All of this is done in an attempt to make you buy a product and more specifically, buy yourself an identity. That’s right you heard me correctly. These companies are not only trying to sell you their product, they want to sell you their image, They want you to buy into a lifestyle and become part of a group. Everything from the packaging of the product to the advertising used to promote it is carefully selected to appeal to a particular demographic, and in a lot of cases that demographic is you.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take Apple, one of the biggest brands in the world as an example. Apple has been around for years, they charge a premium for their products and they have a very strong brand image. The Apple logo is recognised globally and it’s users are loyal and passionate about the brand.
The company’s premium laptop model, the Macbook Pro is essentially a PC running Apple’s OSX operating system, but if you were to ask an user, more often than not they will identify themselves as Apple, not PC users. Even the ones that are relatively tech savvy will ignore the fact that what they are using IS a pc and they could have bought an equal or more powerful machine for far less money had they not bought Apple. Yet, You can run Windows on a Mac and OSX on a PC the devices are that interchangeable.
People do this because it’s human nature to want to identify themselves as part of a group and group identity will often take precedence over human logic. Positive affirmation of one’s own ideas and beliefs gained from belonging to a group has been proven to override common sense and knowledge under testing.
Here’s an example, A famous study conducted in the 80’s found that in blind tests more people prefer Pepsi versus Coca Cola. The same group of people tested were asked to repeat the test but this time were allowed to see the brand label of what they were drinking. Unsurprisingly when the subjects could see the product, more people said they preferred Coca Cola.
This makes sense as Coca Cola is the world’s most popular brand of soft drink, What’s more interesting is the brain’s response when measured actually indicated these people really did prefer Coca Cola on the second test. Because the test subjects identified themselves as Coca Cola drinkers, Simply considering themselves as part of this group was enough to override the part of the brain that controls taste. A clear case of the human brain interpreting information in a way that supports existing beliefs.
The packaging on an iphone is designed to take precisely seven seconds to open, the reason for this is to build anticipation. This causes the body to release endorphins, the hormone that makes you feel excited. When you finally open the box your brain will associate that feeling of excitement with Apple products and you will develop an enhanced sense of loyalty to the brand. This is one of the reasons that unboxing videos are so popular online, people get to feel that anticipation and excitement before they even purchase a product.
Companies know that loyal, passionate customers can do much for their brands, including advertising by positive word of mouth, defending products online and creating a buzz by queuing for days to buy products on the day of release.
Selling you an identity saves these companies billions of dollars in advertising revenue each year, It Promotes the brand and ensures you buy their products time and again.
Since the beginning of time mankind has formed itself into tribes, it’s a perfectly normal thing to do, being part of a group means you have something and someone to identify with, nobody wants to be on their own. It affords protection and allows people to share opinions, knowledge and advice but can also lead to negativity towards others when their ideas, opinions or beliefs do not align.
A perfect example of this is religion. How many wars have been fought in the name of religion over the years? Hundreds if not thousands. If religion is too controversial, look towards your favourite football team or the freemasons, In fact, look almost anywhere you can find human beings and you will also find groups, such is the human need to belong.
Once you adopt this point of view and realise that games consoles are not only very powerfully marketed by their manufacturers in much the same way as Apple’s products, but additionally, Gamers are affected by endorphins whenever they play games too. It’s easy to see why blinkered, brand loyal fanboys are so prevalent within the community.
Many gamers are adolescents whose brains are still developing, they can be easily influenced by the powerful brand imagery used by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Knowing this, It isn’t hard to understand how fanboys can also become so toxic.
Think about that for a second before we move on.
How is it that fanboys are seemingly able to ignore accurate, real and measurable facts laid out before them, replying with ad hominem responses that fail to answer any questions raised, yet their peers upvote and support their comments even though anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that they are wrong?
The answer lies in the way a fanboy thinks.
There are two types of critical thinkers, weak sense and strong Sense.
Fanboys, by their very nature are weak sense critical thinkers. They are unable or unwilling to entertain the fact that they could be incorrect in any way, particularly when acknowledgement would go against their own personal or group identity. We call this behaviour ‘Sophistic’.
“Critical thinking involves basic intellectual skills, but these skills can be used to serve two incompatible ends : Self centeredness or fair mindedness. As we develop the basic intellectual skills that critical thinking entails, We can begin to use these skills in a selfish or in a fair minded way. In other words, We can develop in such a way that we learn to see mistakes in our own thinking, as well as the thinking of others. or we can merely develop some proficiency in making our opponents thinking look bad.
Typically people see mistakes in other’s thinking without being able to credit the strengths in those opposing views.
We call these thinkers weak sense critical thinkers, we call the thinking “weak” because, though it is working well for the thinker in some respects, it is missing certain important higher-level skills and values of critical thinking. Most significantly, it fails to consider in good faith, viewpoints that contradict its own viewpoint. It lacks fair mindedness”
On the contrary,
“Strong Sense critical thinkers strive to be fair minded. They use thinking in an ethically responsible manner. They work to understand and appreciate the viewpoints of others. They are willing to to listen to arguments they do not necessarily hold. They change their views when faced with better reasoning. Rather than using their thinking to manipulate others and to hide from the truth”
Trolls versus Fanboys
Fanboys and trolls are not the same.
Your average, Everyday internet troll is doing it just to frustrate you for his or her own entertainment. The comments, the Gifs, the quip one liners, they act purely to amuse themselves and annoy others. Trolls thrive on attention and inciting a reaction. They don’t care that you insult a brand, they are only there to entertain themselves at your expense.
Fanboys are unable to help themselves, a hive mind mentality and a deeply rooted attachment to a material product means they are simply acting within their nature. Fanboys will take any slight against their chosen brand as a personal attack and defend against it as such.
So there it is, a brief but insightful look into what creates a fanboy, how you can easily identify a fanboy from their posts in comments sections and forums and the clever marketing that companies employ in order to create an army of loyal servants.
So the next time you come across one a fanboy, spewing out insults, making false claims downvoting your comments and blindly ignoring the truth, remember this, they cannot help it. They are merely weak sense critical thinkers acting within their nature.
Fanboys can’t help themselves, empowered by the power of anonymity and group mentality they will argue a point even when presented with facts proving them incorrect.
Fanboys will take any negative against their chosen brand as a personal slight and react accordingly, this is not opinion and has been proven.
Adolescent fanboys are often the worst, they lack mental maturity and are more likely to be influenced by brand and group mentality.
Weak sense critical thinkers are more likely to become fanboys of a particular brand or product, fanboys are always Weak Sense critical thinkers or ‘Sophists’
Author: @bzzap for Nintendo Fan
Video Credit: Gamespot.com
Quotation Credit: Westside Toastmasters
To read more about critical thinking and how to employ it, click here