There's a fascinating post over at Wired's Game|Life blog. The post itself is informative, but not anything particularly remarkable in and of itself. In it, Chris Kohler gives his impressions of Metal Gear Solid 4, based on a version he got to play at the Tokyo Game Show.

What's interesting is that this fairly innocuous article has led to a 41-comment thread that has almost nothing to do with the contents of the post. Instead, the Game|Life commenters are fighting a life-or-death battle in the Console Wars.

Kohler made the mistake of concluding his preview by saying that he thought Metal Gear Solid 4 seemed to justify the purchase of Playstation 3 all by itself. This, of course, was an unforgivable insult to all the partisans of the XBox 360, for whom nothing on earth could ever justify the purchase of a Playstation 3. Playstation 3 fans escalated the tension by asserting that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be the killing stroke that at last sealed the doom of the hated usurper console from Redmond.

There then followed about 35 comments of semi-literate hatred and vitriol.

I find this fascinating. What causes people to become so heavily invested in the fortunes of large corporations? You don't see, for example, CBS fans going on message boards to berate NBC viewers (actually, maybe you do and I just don't hang out on the right message boards for that sort of thing).

What's more, it seems less that these fans care about their console of choice than that they really, truly hate the disfavored console. Thus, for example, you're far more likely to see a PS3 fan expressing contempt for the Wii and the XBox 360 than you are to see him or her praising the Playstation.

And the differences between the consoles are so trivial! If you compare the 360 to the PS3, you'll find they share most of the same games, that those games play nearly identically on the two consoles, and that, when matched feature-for-feature, the two consoles cost roughly the same price.

I would imagine the similarity between the consoles partially explains the vitriol. As has been said about disputes within academia, it is because the stakes are so low that the arguments are so vicious. But that just begs the question; it doesn't explain why trivial stakes should lead to such vicious arguments.

I imagine there's at least some financial element. When you buy a product, particularly an expensive one, you want to convince yourself that you made the right choice. It's a sort of corrolary to buyer's remorse. Therefore, if you own a 360 and someone else suggests that the PS3 would be a worthwhile purchase, they undermine your confidence that the 360 was the right purchase to make.

This makes some sense, but I'm not sure what causes a person to tip over from reasonable mental defense mechanisms into irrational emotional investment in the infallibility of their favorite console.

Which, again, takes us back to the initial question: What causes people to become raving idiots when it comes to video game consoles?

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on September 23, 2007 10:47 PM.

Next Gen Consoles Do Not Want Me To Buy Them was the previous entry in this blog.

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