Devotion To A Product Is A Terrible Thing
I have a bone to pick with gamers today. An Xbone. Alright, I couldn’t resist that one. I might add that it’s not all gamers of course. Just a select few who have been grinding my gears quite a bit lately. But before I go on I’d like to make something clear. Understand that going forward I am not talking about being loyal to a product or brand – but actually being devoted to it and being a “fanboy”.
I started dwelling on this recently for two reasons. The first was after a massive war ensued yesterday when my colleague, an Xbox fan, complained about Games with Gold. The second was seeing some responses to my Thief review, where I was accused of ‘not understanding Thief’ and being ‘wrong’ because there were other reviews on the internet that scored the game in the eighties.
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I wish I was kidding.
So, with that in mind, I want to come right out and say it. And here it is.
Devotion to a product is a terrible thing – and you are only harming yourself by having it.
Is there anything wrong with loving your product or brand and being a fan? Not at all. I’m a Sony fan, a Metal Gear Solid fan, a Batman fan, a Spider-Man fan, a Liverpool fan and plenty of other things. I love them all. I love my PS4. I love my PC. I don’t mind my colleague loving his Xbox One. I hate the world.
I’m kidding. But.
Am I devoted to those lovely things? No. And I never will be. If Sony stopped treating me the way they do with games and PS+, if Metal Gear Solid betrayed its roots and gave up its identity while alienating all its fans with little care, if Batman became like that Batman and Robin movie again or if Liverpool compromised on all the things which make it a great club and became driven by money and lost all ambition and class, I would abandon these joys in my life.
Or at least, I would be upset enough to want to do something about it and try to change it. And that brings me to my fundamental problem with some gamers today.
There’s something about a group of gamers that makes them always forget that with any product or company, the relationship between creator and consumer is a two way street, not a one way. You, as a gamer or consumer, should be looking for the best service and the best products. Your developers are looking for loyal consumers and constructive feedback, among other things. Doesn’t that sound like a mutually beneficial, healthy relationship? Ideally it should be.
Yet it doesn’t quite work out that way. Gamers often seem to think it’s their duty to take the developers’ or brands’ sides no matter the cost, and protect it from all manners of criticism even if that means becoming ugly or abusive. I see gamers fighting tooth and nail to protect a product or brand even when it’s in the wrong, and this disturbs me greatly. I see gamers going to extremely harsh lengths to insult reviewers for their scores, just because it differs to the one in their minds and hurts their love of a particular game. It’s not just about getting defensive, but abusive too.
And I have one simple question for you about that – one I don’t know the answer to.
What possible incentive is there for you? What do you gain?
Is it just about validation for your purchase or ownership? Is it insecurity? Is it pure love of what you’ve bought? Is it disdain for those who have opinions you deem ‘silly’? I’m not quite sure.
Using the example at the beginning, why on earth would you protect Games with Gold from criticism to a violent degree? You’re not wrong for liking it at all, if you do, but if you consider Games with Gold on equal footing to PS Plus and you’re willing to fight this aggressively, I worry about your sanity.
Why does my review of Thief, or other reviews scored similarly, bug you? I could fully understand if I was factually incorrect, biased, made no effort with the game, malicious and abusive towards it or gave it a bad score yet made a half-assed effort to explain why with a badly written review. Then it’s fair play to criticise the usefulness or fairness of my opinion. But I don’t believe my review does or is any of these things. I’m honestly just curious. I’m one opinion, among many, on the internet. I hold no authority or command at all with my review. And what incentive would I have to lie? I’m not raking in dough, or part of some massive corporate website. I also happened to spend close to fifteen hours of my life with Thief, excluding the time spent on the review itself. It makes no sense to lie. And it makes no sense how my opinion is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. But I guess if I gave the game 95, I’d be accused of being bought over too.
I want to bring these thoughts around now to a conclusion.
If you disagree with something, like a review or a comment, that’s all fine. You should be encouraged to speak your mind and be honest. But if you attack someone for an opposing opinion or refuse to allow any criticism directed at your flavour of choice, even if warranted, then you’re taking a bad approach. You especially aren’t helping yourself if you adhere to a confirmation bias and only ever want to read positive things about what you love, or refuse to take in information to the contrary or negative feedback. Provided its constructive of course. Nothing was ever improved by blind love.
The bottom line is that devotion to a product doesn’t benefit you. At all. It’s a barrier to getting the most benefit to yourself. Loyalty and some love is awesome when it’s deserved – but if the product or brand is in the wrong or stops holding up its end of the deal, or if someone has an opposing opinion to yours about it that is fair, it is both illogical and frustrating to get abusively defensive about it.
By all means. Defend what you love if you feel it’s necessary. But there’s a right way and a wrong way.
At the end of the day Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and companies of all kind will act in their own best interests before yours. None of them are perfect white knights or infallible. Similarly, you should act in your best interests before theirs. It’s not “entitled” to look out for yourself and want good service and quality products. That’s the bare minimum of what you should expect from a brand or product you’re forking out tons of cash for. It doesn’t make you Satan to criticise or accept criticism of something you love or bought. It also shouldn’t take a lot out of you to accept anyone’s opinion provided they gave it constructively and without malicious intent or ridicule.
Sadly that’s often part of the package on the internet. You can’t change the world or save everyone – but you can do something about your own approach.
Being devoted to a product or brand is basically just being closed-minded willingly. It’s a form of extremism. Like being a hardcore atheist or religious extremist. It’s just not healthy.
And honestly I can’t understand how it benefits you, or why you’d do it.