I pride myself on trying to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to technology. While this is inherently impossible – bias will exist in any personal opinion – I at least acknowledge that there may be reasons to choose products or services that I would not use myself. Of course, 10-year-old-me was not nearly as accepting. In 1991, there was no doubt in my mind: Nintendo was right, and Sega was wrong. Why? Because Nintendo had Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger and Zelda. Duh. I recently discovered, however, that far more of 10-year-old-me’s opinions remained than I ever would’ve expected.
This revelation came to me during my recent rediscovery of the joy of owning a Kindle, specifically about a third of the way into Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. If you aren’t familiar with it, Console Wars uses narrative nonfiction to dramatize the “war” between Nintendo and Sega, starting shortly after the introduction of the Sega Genesis in North America. As I read, I found myself more and more annoyed that so much of the novel took the perspective of Sega. What about the other side of the conflict? You know, the right side? I want to read about how Nintendo crushed Sega because Sega was all style and no substance, and what do you mean Super Mario World wasn’t as good as Sonic, and holy shit I’m still a Nintendo fanboy in a console war that’s been over for over 20 years.
That particular thought hit me about halfway through a run on my treadmill, which I immediately halted so that I could make a note to myself to write about this at a future date. After a brief conversation on Twitter with the the author, I was inspired to finally sit down and do so. While I’ve always acknowledged that reading can be just as much a reflection on the reader as it is on the author, I’d never really been consciously aware of it happening to me until that moment. I was upset at Harris for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with his writing and everything to do with that Nintendo fanboy mentality that hasn’t existed for almost 20 years. It’s fascinating – and disturbing – that these companies are so incredibly talented at dividing consumers into tribal factions that these thoughts are still somewhere in my head long after any conscious loyalty I had to any particular company was supposedly gone.
For as long as I can remember arguing on the internet, I’ve always looked down on fanboys. I’ve never understood the idea of being fanatically loyal to a company. To a particular product, sure, but I’ve never seen any value in defending a multi-national corporation that has no actual interest in my well-being. While I still don’t see the value in that, I feel retroactively guilty for spitting on them from my high horse. After all, I’m no better than they are; I’m a 32-year-old who got mad at someone “badmouthing” Nintendo’s products and behavior during a console war that happened before I reached puberty. I can’t even imagine the level of asshole I’d have been if I had access to the internet during the early 90’s.
Still, I’m glad I was knocked off of that high horse. Even if it was initially painful to realize that I was a hypocrite, at least I had the self-awareness to realize how my own hypocrisy, which is something I think everyone needs from time to time. More importantly, it makes me all the more aware that people – corporations, the media, politicians – will gladly exploit our natural tendency to divide up into “us vs. them” if it serves their own interests, and that it’s everyone’s duty as both a consumer and a citizen to educate themselves as much as possible through expanding our own personal experiences.
If you love the PS4, go over to a friend’s and try a Wii U or an Xbox One. Adore your Android device? Maybe use a friend’s iPhone for a few minutes. Read a book or visit a website you disagree with. Expand your horizons; worst-case scenario, you’re back where you started with a bit more experience than before. And you knows? You might even find something new to love.