The term “fanboy” seems to have two broad definitions:
1. Person who likes something to the point where they will not allow anyone else to criticize it. Or even simply not like it.
2. Person who likes something someone else hates.
For the record, I’m a fan of the first definition and I’ll be using it from this point on. (In either case, the term seems to include both boys and girls. I dream of the day when our stupid, infantile insults are gender-neutral so that females don’t feel excluded from the idiocy. It’s only fair.)
Gaming is full of fanboys. Are other hobbies like this? Do skiers and snow boarders hate each other with the same fervor as Xbox and PS3 fans? Do people that fish using waders call the other fishermen “boatfags”? I’m having a hard time picturing it. Perhaps our hobby is just less tolerant of diversity in personal tastes. Maybe it’s just a side effect of the hobby being so entwined with the internet, which seems to cultivate this sort of behavior. In either case, it does the hobby no credit.
Most of these exchanges can be safely ignored as an absurd slap-fight between kids who will hopefully someday know better. Certainly it’s not worth getting involved in an argument over which flavor of ice cream tastes better. And while reasonable people might feel strongly about their favorite restaurant, if I saw two people trading angry insults over restaurant preference I would write them off as nutters. But there is one fanboy phrase that drives me up a wall:
“Go back to WoW.”
This is frequently said in the forums of pretty much every MMO game out there. (Except for World of Warcraft, of course.) Usually someone will complain about the game or make a suggestion about how the game could be improved, at which point the fanboys will show up and tell them to go to WoW. This is usually intended as a two-edged insult against both the critic and against WoW itself. Roughly, “The thing you want is stupid and you are stupid so you will like WoW, because it is also stupid.”
It’s actually an attempt to shut down or outlaw critical discussion. You have a problem with this game? Go play WoW! It’s actually a sad and self-destructive attitude that poisons the discussions that need to take place in an MMO community. These games are huge, complex systems that appeal to a lot of different gamers for a lot of different reasons. And unlike single-player games, their development is ongoing and (hopefully) driven by the desires of the player base. But a fanboy would rather drive everyone else away until the only people left are ones who love the game unconditionally as opposed to just talking about how the game could be improved.
As an experiment, I searched a few such forums to see how often the phrase “go back to WoW” appeared in discussion threads. Note that I used Google searches like this one as opposed to using the various built-in forum search tools. Here is how many times the phrase appeared in the various online communities:
Everquest 1 & 2: 8,970
Lord of the Rings Online: 14,800
Champions Online: 25,400
Star Trek Online: 46,800
Dungeons and Dragons Online: 38,600
Age of Conan: 73,900
Note that different forum systems have different indexing systems that might cause individual posts to show up on more than one page. (Some forums will have a link just for an individual post alone, as well as one that shows that post as a part of the thread. A system like this would cause Google to count them twice.) Note also that these games are different ages.
Having said that, I’ve come to view the “go back to WoW” attitude as a symptom of a dysfunctional and unhealthy game. To me it looks like troubled games accumulate them faster. As the playerbase becomes increasingly dissatisfied, the fancritters have more and more trouble seeing the perfection of their beloved called into question. But if a game is struggling, it’s because people aren’t having fun. Developers need some way to get a sense of what the worst problem areas are, so they can focus their resources on where they are most needed. But this becomes more difficult when suggestions and grievances are shouted down at every turn.
Never be satisfied with the game you’ve got. Always encourage the developers (politely) to improve the experience. And don’t listen to the fanboys.