Fanboys – what makes them tick

Rick at Netjak has a good piece about Fanboys and what makes them tick. He says

… what makes the fanboy tick? Itís quite simple, really. Fanboys are the result of people who felt like outsiders for so long finally getting a modicum of acceptance.

I’d have to partially disagree with Rick on this point. Perhaps some of the younger “fanboys” fall into this grouping, but I’d say us older “fanboys” (and Rick says he’s a Nintendo fanboy at heart, as am I) are fanboys for sentimental reasons.

He correctly points out that the fanboy phenomenon isn’t confined to video game enthusiasts. He points out that sports fans and car snobs also exhibit the same type of irrational behavior. I would agree but, again, I’d say there are deeper, sentimental reasons. I’m a huge sports fan. I love most Ohio sports teams (Indians, Browns, Cavs) but I don’t have any emotional attachment to any of these teams. I don’t fly into a crazy rage when someone says the Cleveland Browns stink. But disparage my Ohio State Buckeyes and I’m liable to come out swinging. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I do have an emotional attachment to my Buckeyes. Why? First, I grew up watching OSU football with my dad. He’s a die-hard fan and he instilled a little of that Buckeye love in me. When it came to picking a college, OSU was an easy choice. I spent 5+ years at OSU and, in the process, became emotionally attached. It’s not just The Ohio State University it’s My Ohio State University. I have love for my school. It was (and still is) a big part of my life. It’s a connection that I’m sure others can attest to.

I am an OSU fanboy.

And it’s not just me. My wife, also an OSU alumna, gets teary-eyed when the OSU band comes out on the field. When we sing OSU’s alma mater Carmen Ohio, I get the chills and have to fight back the tears. People look at me funny when I tell them this, but it’s a spiritual experience. It might sound odd, but I have that kind of connection with Ohio State. Like I said, I’m a fanboy. I have an irrational love for OSU.

That’s why I partially disagree with Rick’s assessment of what makes a fanboy tick. I am also an admitted Nintendo fanboy. What does my love of all things Nintendo stem from? A sentimental attachment built on fond memories of my gaming childhood. The first game I remember beating was Kid Icarus. I loved that game. I still remember the satisfaction and pride I felt when I finished it. Another great memory I have is opening the box of my Super Nintendo. I saved up enough money to be able to afford it on the day it was released and I still remember grinning ear to ear when I popped Super Mario World in for the first time. Those are fanboy “character building experiences.”

Unfortunately, I also think Rick is partially right about the inner workings of the fanboy pysche. He speaks of gamers feeling alienated from other people because of their love of games (or perhaps because of their nerdiness). Finding a group of like minded people with similar devotions is reassuring. But, as Rick says, because there’s always the, “fear that said alienation will again begin one day, fanboys are almost violent in their devotion to a company.” So true.

So in the end, there are two classes of fanboys (and girls). Those that cherish their memories and may take it a little personal when someone attacks their company of devotion but they can shrug it off. Unfortunately there is another type of fanboy who takes it as a personal affront to his manhood when their system/company/game of choice is vilified.

The real trick is to be able to tell the difference. I contend it’s not hard at all.

Comments

  1. I am also an admitted Nintendo fanboy. What does my love of all things Nintendo stem from? A sentimental attachment built on fond memories of my gaming childhood. The first game I remember beating was Kid Icarus. I loved that game.

    Holy cow. I admit this for the exact same reason….and the same game! I’m an 8-bit fanboy. It’s what I fell in love with first. Nintendo earned my love by fondness of memory. I only had a 16-bit for about a year or so, and then I didn’t have any other system (save for GBs) until the ‘cube.

    I don’t know what it is, but I just have more fun with Nintendo games. I also have an Xbox with some more “adult” games, but I still catch myself popping in that wonderful mini-disc and having a blast…no matter how corny the game is.

    Crazy thing: I’ve never played the 8-bit Metroid and that’s probably the one game that won people over to the big blue N.

  2. I think the main reason for fanboyism is caused by buyer’s remorse. If you drop some coin on a game system and games, you want validation that you purchased the right one. You read message boards and get excited when you see posts that pump up your system of choice and you feel the need to defend your system when other posts disparage it.
    It’s all about acceptance. Humans are social creatures and they feel the need to be accepted into a social group. Some more than others. Those are your fanboys, and your extreme sports defenders, and your chevy truck afficianados, and your conservative republicans and liberal democrats.

  3. Buyer’s remorse isn’t something I’d thought before. I know what you mean by trying to justify a purchase by reading other people extolling the virtues of the product you just bought. I’ve done it countless times before.

    But yes, I do believe acceptance is a big part of it.

  4. First things first – I’d probably think of these things if I didn’t decide to start my column at 11:30 PM the night before it’s published.

    As for the other reasons to become a fanboy (which I’m using purely to mean a virulent supporter, as opposed to the much more benign entheusiast), those can be factors, true. However, there is a chicken/egg quandry there. Do the fond memories and the like come first, or does the sense of community?

    I prefer to think of myself as a Nintendo entheusiast (mostly because of their portables at this point). And I think that is a result, partly, of fond past memories. But I think it’s a mistake to totally dismiss the fact that community drives the more rabid fanboy base. I might just be an armchair psychiatrist/sociologist (whichever discipline you prefer to invoke), but never underestimate the power of the group dynamic.

  5. However, there is a chicken/egg quandry there. Do the fond memories and the like come first, or does the sense of community?

    Good point. Something I hadn’t really thought about. The funny thing I see about this is that while I share a common belief with many Nintendo fanboys, I certainy don’t have any fond memories from this “sense of community”.

    On the other hand, I do have fond memories upsetting fanboys. That’s pretty fun.

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