Can't We All Just Get Along: The Psychology of Fanboyism
Eugene Kim discusses whether fanboys are born that way, or make a concious choice. Is fanboyism curable?
Look at any blog entry or message board post nowadays about, say, a new Microsoft product, and the responses always follow a fairly predictable pattern:
Sephiroth14829: this is pretty cool now it will be harder to write windows viruses
BloJobs99: maybe now winblows will be as secure as MAC HAS ALWAYS BEEN lol
Sephiroth14829: my friend once bought a mac and he had to return it b/c wouldnt boot one day so all macs suck i would never buy a mac and there so bad their all just looks
BloJobs99: what kind of dum name is internet explorer????? i use safari
ILoveTheSmellofMyOwnFarts85: use linux...oh wait your all corperete sellouts LOL
In place of Windows, MacOS, and Linux, you can of course substitute Wii, PS3, Xbox360; Bush, Clinton, Perot; or PSP, DS, and...N-Gage; and the result would be the same: rampant drooling fanboyism. I used to be perplexed at how angry people would get about something as trivial as a game system; it's not like your DS ever saved your life, or your PSP ever baked you cookies. You had to pay money for the "privilege" of buying them. What is there to get so worked up about?
Back in 1968, two researchers (Knox & Inkster) surveyed bettors at a horse race. All bettors either had already put down a $2.00 bet, or were about to put down a $2.00 bet. On a 7-point scale, both groups of bettors were asked to rate their confidence of their chosen horses' chances of winning. The average estimate of those who hadn't yet bet their money was 3.48. And the average estimate of those who already had bet? 4.81. Many subsequent studies have confirmed this phenomenon (I won't go into them, for the sake of brevity), and the results are startling, if you understand the implications. Something happens in people's minds that makes them more confident about their choices AFTER those choices are made.
People always want lots of options, but choices are a double-edged sword. You may have a lot of alternatives, but everyone knows that even after making a particularly difficult decision, the agony is far from over. What if I chose that other college? What if I bought that other car? These unpleasant "what-ifs" are called post-decisional dissonance, and the way your brain deals with this angst is to change the way you feel about the choice that you DID make. In other words, you start to like your own choice more.
You're standing at Best Buy and you can buy a DS or a PSP. You don't have enough money for both. Let's say you choose the DS. You eagerly take it on the train and see someone watching a movie on a PSP. Your DS can't play Lords of Dogtown. Uh oh, post-decisional dissonance. But instead of thinking "Crap, I'm such a retard and bad decisionmaker, I should just sterilize myself with a fork," you're going to deal with it by thinking "Look at this asshole who paid thirty bucks for a UMD." And then you're probably going to post it on the Internet. It's important, though, to remember that nobody consciously decides to inflate the merits of their own choices; it's your brain that makes you "feel" more strongly about them. The more difficult the choice, the more this is necessary - that's why you'll never see a PSP vs. Gizmondo flame war.
Let's face it, even the staunchest advocates among us can grudgingly agree that all the major game systems are great consoles. It's a wonderful time for the industry, and the stiff competition is driving some pretty innovative and compelling stuff. But as long as there are choices, the 90% of us living from paycheck to paycheck will always be faced with a difficult purchasing decision, and fanboys will converge on the Internet like ants to a gumdrop. Regardless, perhaps someday, we will stop talking of our game systems like Vietnam War platoon mates and start treating them like the mass-produced chunks of plastic and silicon that they are.
Well, a guy can dream.