Fanboys: Enablers of Game Industry Abuse

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Published by Jim Sterling 6 years ago , last updated 1 month ago

(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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