Monday, 27 February 2017
Why Console Loyalty Just Isn't Important
Originally written for Forces Of Geek week commencing 13th Feb 2017.
My husband and I were fortunate enough to be gifted a PS4 recently. This very unexpected addition to our living room is rather exciting as it means I am able to play all those PlayStation exclusives I’ve missed out on over the past few years. I began making a mental list of all the games I’ll be adding to my wish list over the next few months and it led me to consider other exclusives and how they can sometimes have the ability to create loyalty to a particular console.
I’ve touched on this subject before while writing about the days of the Sega v Nintendo console wars. A time when I witnessed actual fights on the school playground over whether Sonic our Mario was better (it's clearly Sonic btw).
Perhaps console loyalty has been ingrained into the gaming industry ever since as the console debate has never really dissipated and there are countless online forums that obsess and systematically argue each consoles case seemingly without end.
At first, it appears that loyalty to a particular company has nothing to do with making a direct choice. For most of us, our first console was chosen and bought for us by our parents. I lived in a house with a Commodore 64 and an Atari 2600 but the very first games console I was bought was a Sega Master System. I had no choice but to be one the Sega side of the 1990s console wars.
I saw friends and cousins with Nintendo consoles and it always seemed like the grass was greener yet I discovered they had the same feelings toward my console. As it turned out, the whole console loyalty thing was a bit of a farce.
After that revelation, I began playing on Nintendo consoles and found them equally as enjoyable. Right up until the Wii U, I had owned or played on almost all of the Nintendo consoles and that was in part due to my love of Hyrule.
Being an avid devotee of The Legend of Zelda games I felt bound to Nintendo in a way that I wasn’t to other gaming companies.
Sure, back then I still loved Sega and there’s no denying Sega will always be close to my heart but Nintendo had created my all-time favourite game series (I have the Tri-Force on my wedding ring)!
My console loyalty back then was down to a singular game, not a particular console, though given the consoles I’ve owned or had access to I don’t appear to have a singular loyalty throughout my entire life.
My sister and I were far more spoilt than I realised at the time because we also owned an original PlayStation and later, PS2 complete with broken dance mat but I rarely played on it, probably because it lived in my sister’s bedroom and the only time I ever played it was when I would sneak home early from school, draw the curtains and try to scare myself in the dark while playing survival horrors like Resident Evil or Silent Hill.
I worked part-time in a souvenir shop near the Tower of London soon after finishing high school. The pay wasn’t great but I was only 17 and I wasn’t particularly fazed by it, I was just happy to be utilising my linguistic skills and helping out tourists.
One of the first things I bought for with my hard earned wages was a second hand original Xbox, a friend of mine worked at a games store and was upgrading to a snazzy green see-through customised Xbox and wanted to sell his old one (which was hardly ‘old’ given that it was still 2002 - the year of its release). Naturally I jumped at the chance and spent a whole £60 of my new wages on it (I think we can all agree that mates rates are the best)!
It was then I became engrossed in Xbox exclusive and flagship title, Halo: Combat Evolved and regularly attended LAN parties with my friends. These formative years not only shaped me as a person but as a gamer too and I attach an incredible amount of fondness to the Halo series because of it.
I hadn’t completely neglected Nintendo though, I was still playing on my Gamecube regularly and investing countless hours of my life to it.
When the time came to go to university, I had a dilemma. I debated taking both my Xbox and my GameCube. I couldn’t take the PS2 of course as that belonged mostly to my sister and wouldn’t be fair (apparently). The room I was moving into was small and so began my first attempt at being an adult… I made a choice.
It was not an easy decision to make but I hypothesised that I wouldn’t have a great deal of time to play single player campaign games and couldn’t rely on my new friends to also own an Xbox for LAN parties or online multiplayer gaming. University is a social place and so I deduced that multiplayer games would be important, that’s what drove my decision in bringing my GameCube with me.
Perhaps it was also in part down to that Nintendo loyalty that existed deep within me because of the Zelda franchise.
I think that’s why console loyalty is sometimes so fervent, it’s feeling part of something in the same way people rally around a certain sports team and declare themselves such passionate die hard fans. By spending time with other like-minded fans and engrossing yourself with a particular brand, you’re reinforcing your decision and psychologically boosting your ego. It’s no wonder forums full of angsty people declaring their console to be the best exist in such excess.
The same could be said of your preferred political party, your favourite colour, what side of the bed you sleep on or any number of choices you make. Humans naturally want acceptance and inclusion but we’re all cursed with fragility. It doesn’t take very much to send us hurtling over the edge, only to experience an existential crisis.
We make decisions and when we surround ourselves with people who have made the same choice we feel vindicated and secure even if our decision turns out to be the wrong one.
Nostalgia is also a huge factor, the past is a tempting place and we often yearn to back in those “good old days” when games were simpler and fun, when in reality the more we hold onto the past, the further away we are from the exciting future ahead of us.
It’d be hypocritical of me to bash fans who indulge in nostalgia - I do it all the time and I’m doing it right now in talking about my gaming past! Instead, think about this; if games companies stopped pandering to fans who dislike change and demand more of the same, we might see less sequels and more original titles.
The privileged part of my brain is reminding me to check myself because of course, console loyalty can have very little whatsoever to do with particular games, nostalgia or our fragile human nature and can be more accurately determined by social and financial status.
And indeed, those of us who own just one console should consider ourselves fortunate because it is a luxury item and those of us who have the resources to decide which one they chose to own are pretty damn lucky. Of course there are those of you reading this who think console loyalty is absolute rubbish because you can afford to own all of them…just know, you’re terrible people.
But you don’t need to justify your console loyalty or lack thereof to anyone because in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t important. I don’t believe that one forum user I saw declaring that they would genuinely fight someone to the death to make their point.
As gamers we’re all just over-privileged, fragile humans who would likely change their minds if they actually did have to fight to the death over something so trivial.
Though, if that were the case I’d definitely opt for a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome system complete with a screeching Tina Turner.
But before you rally with me, chanting “Two men enter! One man leaves!” in unison, let’s take a moment to remember that no one actually cares about console loyalty…well, unless you’re one of those superior, snobby, hardware obsessed, PC building gamers.