I've always been fascinated with human behavior and psychology. Why do people do the things they do? Usually I've applied my untrained yet keen eye on matters of politics, economics, and characters in fiction. One thing I've never really thought to do was take a look at the gaming community...which I really should have given their very strange behaviors about certain things.
The absolute peak of strange behavior in the gaming community is easily "The Console War." What is a console war? It's when two or more companies release a game console and fans of both yell at each other online explaining why they chose the right console to have fun with. To such an extent, they will even attack you personally as a human being for choosing x console over y console. It gets pretty intense, and has so ever since Nintendo fought Sega.
Baffling isn't it? Why would gamers do this? Why would they put themselves under such emotional duress over which game machine someone ELSE purchases? Don't we all just want to have fun and play games? Well, it's not so simple it seems and I want to delve into why.
Prior to the age of the internet, console wars were really simple and made a little more sense. You'd convince your friend to want a Nintendo system so he'd tell his parents to get him one. The reason being is you already had a Nintendo, and you wanted to play together, or share the same gaming experiences. Unconsciously, you were taking sides so you could essentially remain friends. You'd worry that you may no longer have anything in common anymore if you couldn't play the same games together. This is psychologically what was happening but on the surface you were just openly bad mouthing the system you didn't have, because there was no way your parents would buy you both of them and you knew it. Plus, everyone hated "that kid" that did have both...rich snobs... ;)
It's way different now though. Now us gamers are a "community." Well...we're several communities split by what console we own and further split by certain games that more or less consume all your time. As a community though, we're mostly strangers. You're no longer trying to keep a friend, but you're trying to ensure that there are people to play with online. With the massive number of gamers now in these communities though, I think what is driving gamers to take part in these console wars though is less about having people to play with, and more about something I'm calling Reverse Buyer's Remorse.
As you know, buyer's remorse is when you buy something and wish you had your money instead or something else, but now you're stuck with the thing you got. What I am dubbing reverse buyer's remorse is when someone makes someone else feel buyer's remorse so that they can feel better about what they bought. For instance, a PS3 owner can make fun of an Xbox owner so they can feel better about having a PS3 and not having an Xbox. Usually they can't afford both, so they create a reason for not wanting both to substitute the bad feeling of wanting to own both systems. Because, in the end, we're all gamers and if we could have it all, we certainly would. But relieving that yearning for both consoles, while improving your feelings for only having one of them, is a powerful relief for those that take part in these console wars.
It's further driven by others in the community agreeing with them and having it take on a sort of mob mentality. Being in a room of others that think like you do is very mentally rewarding. Nothing makes someone in a console war feel better than when someone from the other side says they wish they got your console instead. There is a moment of success there. A victory even. You've done it, you have now proven that your gaming machine is superior, you've chosen the right gaming console to play on. It feels great, but there are still dissenters out there, so you continue and maybe even continue just to have another moment like that one where you 'convert' a gamer if you will, to your side.
This kind of behavior isn't limited to gaming though, and isn't even something that only kids do. Adults do it all the time with just about everything. "Oh, you got the 2012 Dodge Avenger," they'll say sarcastically, "We got the 2013 Malibu, it's a much smoother ride." Or they'll say things like "We've had terrible experiences using AT&T, I'm sorry you have to deal with them now, we've switched to Verizon." These statements aren't helpful to the person you are saying them to, it's not "advice" like you think it might be. You're just making yourself feel better for whatever purchase you chose and they didn't.
I think the theory of reverse buyer's remorse is the biggest motivating factor for these types of behaviors. Of course, I have no studies to prove it, I'm not a psychologist, I'm just one gamer with an opinion and I could easily be wrong. There are also plenty of other factors involved as to why console wars start or persist, I just personally believe this to be the biggest reason. If you commentors are out there please feel free to discuss this topic and add your two cents.
*"My mom bought me Sonic!" "Don't you own a Super Nintendo?" "Yes..." "Oh...that sucks..."*