Cursed to walk this earthly life as an incurable word nerd, I often find gamer language both facinating and disturbing. Between leet-speak, internet shorthand, and gamer forum terminology, there's no doubt that the English language has taken a pummeling when it comes to discussing video games. Now, some of these developments in creative linguistics can make discussing games easier and more fun. For example, simply add an adjective in front of the noun "sauce", and you now have an elegant way to praise or denigrate games/internet content that makes you seem both hip and in-the-know, even though you are neither. (Full Disclosure : This author is neither hip, nor in-the-know) First rule of the internet : Everything's cooler with a "z" in it.
However, the evolution of language is often like biological evolution -- the process consists of endless numbers of small mutations which, over time, lead to large changes in anatomy or function. When these mutations are positive, the changes will persist and are used as a springboard for further evolution. When they are negative, the changes are wiped out by a harsh and competitve environment. One would be hard-pressed to deny that the gaming community as a whole is anything less than predatory when it comes to expressing one's opinion. Memes that flourish and multiply one day are snuffed out by cruel, Darwinian currents of gamer derision the next.
Please read the following sentence in your mind in a low bass voice like a movie trailer announcer -- "The internet gaming community is a digital Serengeti where your comments are both the hunter. . . and the hunted."
But it's not all cut and dried. Evolution is not a perfect system. Sometimes, a mutation will persist even if it provides no adaptive edge to the organism. At other times, a mutation will persist even if it is a disadvantage to the organism. So we end up with creatures like the platypus -- horrible, mishapen beasts who continue to flourish despite the fact that they obviously deserve to be scoured clean from the face of the earth.
Shifting our focus back to gamer language, we can see parallels in linguistic evolution. There are mutations of verbiage that add absolutely nothing positive to the aggregate discussion of games. Like the platypus, they waddle uselessly and lay their vile eggs in blogs and forums all over the interwebs, spawning generation upon generation of ignorant bile into the comment thread ecosystem.
There is no single word in all the gamer lexicon more maligned and maladapted than the dreaded "F" word -- fanboy. It is hoarsely squawked from deformed, duck-like bills on every gaming site in existence. It is the platypus of the gamer's world.
Image courtesy of National Geographic
It wasn't always like this. In the beginning, the word fanboy was a benign way to proclaim your love for a thing -- comics, books, movies, games, people or characters. It was a way to raise your freak flag in the service of something you loved. (I, for example, am a Tolkien fanboy. I've probably read The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy at least 10-12 times over the last 20 years alone.) It was a way for nerds, geeks, and misfits to bond over shared loves looked down upon by the population as a whole. As such, the word fanboy was a positive adaptaion that allowed communites of nerds to recognize one another, bond together, thrive, and propogate.
At some ill-fated point in gamer history, the word fanboy underwent an unholy alteration. The precise reasons for this mutation are currently unknown. It's possible that it occured due to the intense inbreeding that occurs in a closed-off gene pool of gamers who were unable to bring fresh variation into their vocabulary. An alternate theory is that as IT professionals came to a position of prominence in the workplace and society, and were able to attract mates due to their affluence, that the term was no longer necessary to ensure the survival of the nerd species as a whole. So the term fell into disrepute, shrivelling and falling off -- the prehensile tail of the gamer legacy.
Whatever the exact scientific cause, this mutation has taken a once benign term used to positively define one's self, and warped it into a way to argue with another gamer without having to provide any logical or factual basis for one's position. Where once there were beautiful debates, we now replace the letter S with a $ symbol. When once someone would provide a compelling arguement for why your favorite game or console might not be perfect, it is now acceptable to simply dismiss a fellow gamer with a single clucked word. Just call someone a fanboy, and there's no need to apply reason or eloquence. It is a perversion of all that we once held dear in our hearts and minds. It has become a sword and shield for the hateful, the insecure, and the uninformed.
Fanboys do whatever it takes to win!
Still, in the shadow of this dark facepalm of the soul that we find ourselves cowering weakly beneath, a spark of hope remains. It's not too late to divert the river of gaming language back into its natural channel. There's only one solution : we must exterminate the platypus. We must reclaim our linguistic heritage and return the word fanboy to its rightful place in gamer discourse. We must burn the hate from this word, baptise it, and let it be reborn in the love which is its birthright.
To rescue the word fanboy from the digital hell in which it currently resides will take courage, perseverance, and the wise application of language. But it is possible, my friends and comrades, to accomplish this goal. Together, there is nothing that a well-meaning community of nerds cannot accomplish. So I ask you -- nay, I beg you. Join me now in this holy quest. We must refuse to live in shame any longer -- we must proudly proclaim our identities from the keyboards of the world. . .
My screen-name is walkyourpath. . . and I am a fanboy. DISCLAIMER : walkyourpath does not advocate the genocide of platypuses. No platypuses were harmed in the creation of this opinion/editorial. P.S. -- @ZombiePlatypus : my condemnation of platypuses does not extend to the undead varieties of the species. You're cool in my book.
P.S.S. -- @ Elsa : I consider fanboy similar in usage to mankind, inclusive of both genders. I know you're a fangirl for a few things!