System Lords

System Lords
The Making (and Unmaking) of a Nintendo Fanboy

Kyle Orland | 8 Feb 2011 12:15
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But a change of scenery didn't change the flow of history, and by high school the time came to choose what system would succeed the Super NES on our TVs. Even with years of unflagging Nintendo support under my belt, I had to admit that the store displays for PlayStation games like Destruction Derby were a lot more compelling than Altered Beast ever was. Nintendo's decision to stick with expensive, outdated cartridges for the Nintendo 64 - scaring off crucial SquareSoft support in the process - was worrisome both to me and to the editors of Next Generation magazine, whom I was increasingly coming to trust to inform my important pending console choice.

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But while my friends all moved on to PlayStation purchases, I stubbornly decided to stick with the company that had been synonymous with videogames for my entire young life. Partly I was convinced I was sticking with a proven performer in videogames. Partly I let Nintendo Power convince me that CD loading times would be a much bigger issue than they ended up being. Partly I was clinging to the promise held in a grainy, postage-stamp-sized preview video of Super Mario 64 downloaded from my family's AOL account. It all added up to me clinging to my Bar Mitzvah money through an entire year of Nintendo 64 delays, once again sure that my decision would pay off in the end.

And while I could point to Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye 007 with pride in the years to come, the rest of the paltry, early Nintendo 64 library gave me increasingly little ammunition to convince my friends that sticking with Nintendo had been the right choice. Thus I became the guy at the lunch table laughably arguing that my access to Killer Instinct Gold somehow made up for missing out on the Tekken series, or that Earthworm Jim 3D was worth looking forward to just as much as the next Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, and Resident Evil combined. And this time it wasn't just Tim's grating voice pushing against the wisdom of my arguments, but a whole group of light-hearted, well-meaning, and frustratingly, obviously correct friends.

I'd like to say it was a dawning maturity that made me realize the foolishness of holding blind allegiance to Nintendo's lost cause, but really it was the extra income from my first summer job that gave me the freedom to acknowledge my error and buy a PlayStation. Even then, it was hard to admit that I had been wrong; that the company that had introduced me to videogames had let me down; that I had wasted so much money and gaming time on what was, for the most part, a dead end on the constantly branching path of the system wars.

Today, when my colleagues see console fanboys arguing fruitlessly in comment threads, they see a group of illogically territorial misanthropes more concerned with winning an argument than enjoying games. But that's not what I see. When I see a fanboy, I see someone eager to relive the joy of their first exposure to videogames by sticking with the company that brought it to them. I see someone who's invested an important part of their identity into what a videogame company has come to represent to them. I see someone trying with all their might to convince themselves that they're not missing out on anything over the rich kids whose parents can buy them all three major consoles and dozens of games every year.

When I see a fanboy, I see the person I was - someone trying to recapture a simpler time, when videogames meant only one thing and also meant everything.

Kyle Orland is a freelance journalist with over ten years of experience writing about games and the issues surrounding them. He'll still argue to the death that Super Mario 64 is the greatest game of all time.

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