It seems this generation is becoming increasingly vocal over preferences to certain platforms. Every day, we see scathing comments from "fanboys" proclaiming their platform as being the best, while all the other platforms are no good. While I don't consider myself a "fanboy" – given the fact that I own an Xbox 360, a PS3, a Wii, and a decent PC – I feel the need to look at this whole console war from an outsider's perspective and voice my opinion on this whole debate.
First of all, what is causing this whole debacle? Fanboys have existed since the beginnings of competing consoles. Those of you who grew up in the early 1990's undoubtedly remember the fierce competition between the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Super Nintendo (a.k.a. the "16-bit Wars"), and how great this war was for business in the video game industry. Now that this generation is in full swing, we have a three-way tussle between Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, each company vying for the hearts of console gamers around the world. The Internet has made this competition much more significant, as it is easier than ever for gamers to voice their opinions to the rest of the world. Within this segment, there are certain gamers ("fanboys") who swear their undying loyalty to a particular brand, and curse out those who dare buy a competitor's product. This is hardly new, but the method and intensity of this argument is. You can't go into a news story nowadays without seeing clashing comments from these fanboys, each one proving their own argument with "facts" from their own perspective. Websites that review games (such as this one) very often draw the ire of fanboys if a multiplatform game scores less than its counterpart(s). Believe me, if I was on one side, I'd certainly be upset if the other side scored a victory like that. But it's just a review – you could go to hundreds of other sites and see just how different their own perspectives are.
Now, let me touch on the realm of bias for a moment. Bias exists everywhere – you can't avoid it. Everyone will have their own tastes and preferences, no matter how "unbiased" the site they work for claims to be. I bring up the comparison to national news channels in America. The three major channels – CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News – all have their own pundits for certain political issues. Fox News, in particular, is often decried as overly biased towards conservatives. Some folks want Fox to change, but why should they? If you don't like Fox News, don't watch it – it's that simple. Same goes for gaming review sites – if you don't like their reviews, fine. Rely on someone else's reviews instead. The hard fact is that they're not going to change. They may try to shuffle the review staff around to give different opinions on things such as platform exclusives, but there will always be claims of bias no matter what. Trust them or don't – it's up to you.
As I discuss this issue, let me address the question of why fanboys act the way they do. I recently wrote a research paper on the effects of Web 2.0, the era of user-made content on the Internet. In this paper, I wrote a little bit about the attractions to this revolution, and one of them is the temptation to create an "online persona" of oneself. The personality that one portrays on the Internet is most often radically different from their true personality in real life, and, to an extent, the same can be said for fanboys. The term for a manufactured Internet personality is "sock puppet", and these types of personas exist everywhere on the Internet. While it's true some fanboys are using sock puppet personalities in an attempt to provoke others, most fanboys are indeed true fans of their platforms. The reasons for becoming a console fan range from economic disparity ("I can't afford the competitor's product") to growing up with a particular brand ("I've lived with X brand since I was 4, so I'm sticking with it"). However, in my personal opinion, this does not warrant harsh attacks on the other side. So what if you prefer one brand? Don't be a bully and make fun of others' tastes. Like politics, it's beneficial to provide constructive criticism towards the issues particular brands face, but it's not beneficial to provoke others.
Finally, let me use myself as an example for my argument. I do own all four platforms of this generation, as I mentioned before, but I am by no means balanced over each platform or partial to one over the other. If you look at my game's list, you'll see that I "prefer" the Xbox 360 with 23 games on that platform. However, my Xbox 360 has not been used for weeks. Why, do you ask? Well, my tastes and preferences are constantly changing, so I tend to go between platforms quite often. Those of you who know me well already know that I'm a big fan of Japanese RPG's, so it shouldn't surprise you that I've been playing my PS2 a lot, since it has a wealth of great JRPG's. And while I play JRPG's more than other games, I respect the opinion of others regarding their tastes. For example, I have a lot of friends who only play FPS games. That's fine with me. In fact, I'm a casual FPS gamer myself. I'm perfectly content playing games such as Dead Space or any of Valve's FPS games (Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2, for example). This, of course, is only a small sample of the games I play. I'll play just about anything, so I don't consider myself a fanboy. There was a time where I only owned Nintendo products, but I still remember having a lot of fun with Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Genesis way back when.
Now what should one take from this platform war? In short, respect the opinions of others and back up your own opinions with constructive, fact-backed criticism. Find what you like the most and stick with it. And most important of all, know that fanboys are here to stay, as long as there is an Internet and a multiplatform competition in the marketplace. You may not agree with the opinions of others, but that doesn't mean you should attack those opinions with baseless arguments.