Fanboys: Enablers of Game Industry Abuse


(This is another edition of /RANT, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

If you defend a shoddy business practice or a bad game, for no other reason than you count yourself a fan of one gigantic corporation’s cold box of wires and plastic, then guess what — you’re a bad fan. You’re an awful fan. Most so-called “fanboys” could never, in a million years, be considered a fan of the products they mindlessly, pathetically defend. Supporting the entertainment you enjoy and addressing criticism you disagree with is absolutely fine, but unquestioning fealty, pledged to some company that doesn’t know who you are, and shouting down any form of dissent, no matter its validity, is fucking ridiculous.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified recently launched for the PlayStation Vita and it is largely considered a piece of total fucking shit. Rushed to a state that cannot be called “completion” with a straight face, boasting an hour-long campaign and broken multiplayer, Declassified is the kind of title that not only damages the game brand, but actively works to make the system it’s on look awful. The PS Vita, after promises of traditional FPS gameplay and leading graphical capabilities, looks like a sham when running something visually worse than many popular mobile games, and features enemy soldiers that blow themselves up with their own grenades. It’s a joke of a game, and it makes a mockery of the PlayStation Vita.

Lo and behold, however, an army of defenders who are loathe to admit that the PS Vita might house even one bad videogame. If you go to Metacritic, you’ll see in the user reviews that we have the opposite of what people usually do to Call of Duty games. Where console COD offerings are slammed and mocked by user reviews, this PS Vita exclusive has 106 positive reviews, many of which question the reviewers for daring to dislike it. Over on PlayStation fansite TheSixthAxis, we have an editorial calling the reviews “irrelevant,” written by someone who hasn’t played the game yet but still considers himself qualified enough to say the game isn’t as bad as writers are claiming.

I find this behavior, however, illogical. If a game is exclusive to a system you love, meant to showcase its qualities, and it’s fucking terrible, you should be MORE inclined to point that out. Your attitude should be, “How dare these slapdash developers put something out that makes a mockery of this thing I want to succeed?” If you really do — somehow — love Black Ops Declassified, then fine. Go enjoy it. I don’t know how you can, but more power to you. Dismissing any and all dissenting opinion as “ignorance” or “bias” while ignoring any valid points they might make, however, is fucking harmful to the thing you claim to be a fan of. You’re no better than a politically-slanted news channel that convinces its audience a political candidate is so perfect that, when he loses, viewers cannot understand why — and consequently refuse to examine what the political party could have done better as a result (not that there’s anything like that ever happening in real life).

I’ve been called a “hater” of the Vita for criticizing the bad games on it, and admonishing Sony’s poor handling of the device so far. Apparently, I’m “biased” because I dislike how many firmware updates come out for it, how slow and stuttering its game releases have been, and how Sony seems to keep making systems before wandering off to make new ones. People accusing me of hating the PS Vita fail to ever consider the fact that, maybe, I’m just being so harsh because I like it. These people seem to have never heard of “tough love,” or wanting something to improve by pointing out its flaws. This is what really gets me with these people, and why I think their brand of fandom is so detrimental to the things they love — where a true fan wants the things they enjoy to get better, the thoughtless fanboy selfishly works to keep everything static.

When you refuse to accept even a single criticism about your system of choice, all you do is send the message that the platform doesn’t need to improve. Here’s the truth — PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE CAN STAND TO IMPROVE. The PlayStation 3 is not perfect. The Xbox 360 is not perfect. The Wii U is not perfect. The PS Vita, 3DS, and even PC platform could always do with getting better. In my mind, a true supporter of any of these platforms is the one that’s constantly aiming to be critical, to point out flaws, and highlight areas that need fixing. The fake fan plugs his or her ears and screams, “EVERYTHING IS FINE,” branding dissent as hate speech and shrugging off the critics as “haters” who are “biased” against their electronic playthings.

In the world of personal relationships, we call these individuals “enablers.” These are family members, friends, or lovers of people with self-destructive tendencies, who refuse to acknowledge the problem, confront the situation, and help anybody improve. Be it a fear of hurting that person, losing a relationship, or simply having to deal with something that encroaches on their own comfort, enablers invariably end up complicit in the destructive behavior — ignoring it at best, and outright feeding it at worst. This is how I see those fanboys who mill around in online communities, convincing each other that their favorite consoles are perfect and anybody daring to speak up about them has some insidious agenda.

I don’t consider these people fans. They’re enablers, willing accomplices in the problems that plague pretty much every gaming device on the market. Be they people who blame another’s Internet connection for the PS3′s shitty online speeds, or stick up for Xbox Live’s archaic subscription policies, or believe game reviewers have a secret pact to destroy Nintendo’s credibility by pointing out that, hey, not every Zelda game can be a winner, they’re all bad fans. They want their favorite gaming systems to languish, never evolve, never enhance their experiences. At the very least, they do nothing to encourage the companies behind these systems to make the necessary changes, because all they live to do is make such companies believe everything is perfect.

The human race never got better by sitting on a rock, folding its arms, and saying “Everything’s fine.”

Your favorite fucking videogames won’t, either.

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18 Comments on Fanboys: Enablers of Game Industry Abuse

Kakujo

On November 27, 2012 at 11:44 am

Freaking spot-on article, Jim. This generation’s handhelds are in some serious need of “tough love”.

lee

On November 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I think a number of gaming studios need some tough love. I not going to names (fake cough) bioware (fake cough) EA.

Patches

On November 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Makes me remember of the Diablo 3 fanboys at launch, rabid defenders of this mess by generally offering arguments sounding like “It’s a work in progress”…

R.J.

On November 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I completely agree with this sentiment. I look at being a good fan as being something like having a good friend. The good ones will let you know when they think you can do better for yourself, and it is usually pretty clear that it isn’t coming from a bad place. If you’re never criticized, you don’t learn how to improve. Many people threw around the “hater” label at those that were displeased with ME3 under some bizarre impression that a good fan just eats what he is served. Unfortunately, that attitude is extremely dangerous when it comes to businesses, especially with corporations that put profits above all else. That is where the door is left open for a company to keep doing less and charging more. As long as “fans” keep falling for it, why wouldn’t they do that? Were some reactions over zealous? Sure, but it is ludicrous the way that only positive opinions are considered constructive. The reaction would not have been anywhere near as strong if people weren’t genuinely fans of the series. That is something about the concept of “tough love” that seems utterly lost on so many people. Would so many have stuck with it for so long if they weren’t “true fans?”

Roy Batty

On November 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

You almost hit what the problem really is with fanboyism. In essence it is insecurity add to that the me generation and you have spectacular failure just waiting to happen. This is a generation that was not told there need to be limits to the ego, instead they got trophies for 6 th place and a medal for just showing up to practice. What this does is create a lopsided psyche where mistakes severely damage the already hugely built up ego setting up for a potential epic fall. To this end lying to one self is the most effective countermeasure and thus the lie is transferred to you in the form of hate (you are an interloper that threatens the kingdom).

You are right Mr. Sterling, critics are exceedingly important, without them the artist has no idea his art is substandard. Unfortunately as we have seen the artists are not immue to fanboyism. Instead of accepting the criticism magnanimously they spew nonsensical fanboy chaff.

So please keep on ranting!

ZookTheGnome

On November 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Not to sound too enabling (xD), but you couldn’t be more correct. Given all the chaff that is flung about between the various system fan-boys, it’s hard to communicate the fact that criticism can be helpful. Granted, it should be constructive criticism, but critiques none the less. The world of art would be lost if not for the critics.

So please, critique away!

Kevin

On November 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I suggest a twitter bomb retweeting this article a million times to Colin Moriarty.

Fanboism is never healthy for a game, system, platform, or anything in life for that matter.

Kami

On November 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Amen to that Jim!

They also miss a point that even if they genuinely hate an opposing machine as well – their machine benefits from their rivals continued existence, and however indirectly so do they. Without rivals, there’s no sense of getting better. No competition to inspire that push onwards, to make better games or make online services work more for the users. To make upgrades to the firmware happen, or to remodel machines over time to be more efficient, smaller, quieter, more stable.

That’s why I am constantly surprised when people say they love one machine but hate another. If they had no competition, then the company could screw them for every single penny. There’s no-one to push their online prices down, or to push down the machines cost, or inspire others to make better games. The thing they want – a market dominated by THEIR chosen one – is one of wanting to effectively be dominated. In the weird PVC-and-whips kind of way.

I don’t understand it. I genuinely don’t. Sometimes people can be very confusing…

quicktooth

On November 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Well, at last. I was waiting for your latest column :) . Please make these more often :) .

Spinechrist

On November 28, 2012 at 2:27 am

You’re late to the party, Jim. I guess better late than never, but you’re not telling us anything we didn’t already work out for ourselves a long time ago. And yet you still didn’t mention the most insidious fanboys of all (or only barely), that being the industry trolls in the press who continue to feed the fanboys’ delusions that a customer’s only responsibility is to unquestioningly love everything about a product and to stifle any resentment towards it. They enable the enablers by playing on their fear of exclusivity, either by calling them names or by constantly playing on the appeal to the majority by saying if you go against the status quo then you’re automatically wrong. They’ve done this tirelessly this year with regards to Mass Effect 3. In fact, I recently wrote a very detailed article about why I won’t be buying Mass Effect 4 and put the link on N4G. The majority of comments I received were basically along the lines of “butthurt hater” and were clearly from fanboys who hadn’t even clicked on the link, let alone read the column. They still maintain that holding BioWare to account for multiple customer relations failures and betrayals is a matter of personal taste from people too stupid to understand ‘challenging’ material, as opposed to what it really is – the tired, fed-up backlash against a company and philosophy that, only yesterday, released a DLC costing 1200MS points despite containing only three achievements and a mission that frankly should have been on the disk to begin with. They’ll continue to do this as long as their wide-eyed, obedient fans continue to pretend there’s no problem. The most guilty parties on this site are undoubtedly ‘Wesker1984′ and ‘lol’, who fit your definition to an absolute tee.

Ebalosus

On November 28, 2012 at 4:22 am

What Spinechrist said ^

Well said, my friend
:)

Joseph

On November 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

Well said Jim. Amen. Thanks for saying what I’ve been feeling for awhile.

Alterego 9

On November 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I agree with the general idea of attacking the kind of behaviors that you describe here, but in my experience, whenever we try to attach specific names to it, such as “fanboys”, it just becomes another insult that everyone uses on everyone else on the internet who ever disagreed with them.

Jessica Lumo is a Thick, Spastic Bint

On November 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Alterego 9 – this is Jim Sterling you’re talking about, here. He’s made a career out of fanning the flames in the gaming community. If anyone could give less of a toss about labelling people they disagree with, I doubt I’ve met them.

For every utterance of “fanboy” there’s about twenty other instances of “haters gotta hate,” “butthurt,” “baww,” or “troll.” It’s not helpful, but that’s what happens when you combine a tiny undercurrent of entitlement with a much larger culture of blindly accepting whatever rubbish you’re offered and think people should be ‘grateful’ for being given the privilege of paying large amounts of money for unfinished products then being told it’s their fault for expecting too much. It won’t change any time soon, sadly, and the industry will suffer for it.

Jacques

On November 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

So when should we listen to reviewers, and when SHOULDN’T we?

Reviewers have cracked down on Declassified quite heavily; people who are more to me than just screennames have expressed a liking for the game. INCLUDING people who are not fans of CoD, in general.

Who should I believe?

And it’s not just a question of reviews, either. Will you deny the fact that the Vita has been subjected to “X is doomed” articles since its launch? Have you never noticed any articles written for the sole purpose of painting a negative and wholly unwarranted picture of a company, game, or system?

Let’s not make this about any one device, game, or company(though you certainly did here, by not even bothering to mention any of the other situations in which fanboys didn’t make things better- Mass Effect, for example). You are right that fanboyism is a problem. A problem that stems from that is determining who’s blatant with it, and who’s subtle. Not every person out there is all-out with their hatred, and that makes it that much harder to trust people.

You, for example. How trustworthy are you? You say you catch flak for being a Vita “hater;” could it be because you come off that way? And if you come off that way, could it be because you ARE?

Jonas

On November 29, 2012 at 2:56 am

Comments on the N4G page for this article completely back the point up. So many of them totally ignore what Jim said and instead take the tone of “he clearly doesn’t like PSvita, why doesn’t he just sell it?” Burying their heads in the sand like that simply means that this will happen again and again, and companies will get away with it again and again. It’s a sad time to be a videogamer.

lilyWhite

On December 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm

While some of what the article says makes sense, I do have an issue with one part of it:

“where a true fan wants the things they enjoy to get better, the thoughtless fanboy selfishly works to keep everything static.”

The problem I have with this is that everyone has their own opinions, and one opinion is not automatically more important or worthy than another. Some people do not want things to change because they think that the status quo is excellent, or satisfactory at the very least. Could they end up liking things more if a major change was made? Perhaps, but the new style could also turn them off.

Regardless, the people who dislike something often villify fans for being fans, for having different opinions—disregarding them as “fanboys”, insisting that people who hate everything about something are better fans than people who love the product. And delegating everyone who supports something as a “fanboy” only gives further cause for the company to make their products for the people who enjoy their products, not for the people who have a problem with others liking their products.

Also, as a response to Spinecrest, specifically this quote:

“the tired, fed-up backlash against a company and philosophy that, only yesterday, released a DLC costing 1200MS points despite containing only three achievements and a mission that frankly should have been on the disk to begin with. They’ll continue to do this as long as their wide-eyed, obedient fans continue to pretend there’s no problem.”

I know when I buy DLC, the only thing I concern myself with is not the content, not the loot, not the characters and story, but achievements and achievements alone. XD

In all seriousness, this is exactly the viewpoint which I have a problem with. Did I enjoy the Omega DLC? Yes, I did indeed. Do I think it should have been in the game proper? No, it was not vital to the main storyline or major plot arcs. Do I want to see more stuff like Omega, Leviathan, From Ashes, and Mass Effect 3 from BioWare? Yes, because I enjoyed all of those.

And because I have an opinion that’s not dislike of what BioWare does, as far as some people are concerned I’m just a “wide-eyed, obedient fan”.

Tweress

On January 2, 2013 at 6:03 am

@LilyWhite

No, you’re not a bat crazy fanboy because of your opinions, because of what you like. No one cares. You like it, some people don’t, no big deal, live and let live. But I happen to know that you’re actually an individual attacking people who disagree with you. The very definition of a fanboy, attacking anyone who dislikes what you like. Your trolling of i.e. Marauder Shields is pretty well known in its readers circle and around here. You pretend to be attacked as a “fanboy” but the truth is you are the one attacking others. And because of that you are an enabler of industry abuse. Which will end up hurting BioWare. Hard.