In the last few months, Microsoft and Sony have both announced the imminent release of the next generation of their respective gaming consoles, and in doing so have reignited an ancient, stupid war. It's called a system war, a conflict between advocates of specific video game systems, and right now the battle lines between the forces of Xbox-Losers and Playstation-Turds are quickly being re-formed.
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Also, I guess, Wii-Grandparents.
Video game forums are already filling with bold claims of which system will be more powerful, which system will have more games, and which system will break down and catch fire faster.
But why does any of this matter? Why would anyone go to so much trouble to yell at other people about how popular their toys are? Isn't this just stupidly childish? Or would even stupid children be embarrassed by this?
"Come on, guys."
Well, hang on to your butts, stupid children, because you're in for a surprise: There are actual, rational reasons people engage in this kind of system advocacy. Here's four of them.
#4. It's Fun Being on a Team
I know a bit about what I speak of here. When the Earth was still young, I myself took part in a system war, filling Usenet with all sorts of hateful slander about the mental defects that people who owned a Sega Genesis must have.
"Brain Ebola" I think was one of my more common refrains.
Looking back on it now, it really isn't surprising that I got drawn into the great unwashed Super Nintendo Army, because at the time there simply weren't that many other armies willing to admit me. Certainly not the Good at Sports Army, nor the Smoking Army, nor even the Weed Smoking Army. And definitely not the Talking to Girls Army, who'd turned up their noses at my resume several times.
"I'm sorry, we really don't have any openings right now for sunken-chested wierdos. We'll keep your resume on file in case anything comes up. What? No, that never happens."
Which is why I gravitated toward message boards, where I could chat with people with similar interests. It's fun being on a "team," even if none of them know how to talk to girls either. And once you're on that team, you'll take part in its customs and rituals, which invariably involve attacking other teams. If all your new buddies are talking shit about Sega, well, so be it. Eat shit, Genesis fans.
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No. Not the band. I ... You know something? Fuck it. Fuck those Genesis fans, too.
#3. Purchase Justification
Let me ask you something. How many times have you looked for movie reviews after seeing a movie, just to see what other people thought of it? And when you're doing this, do you find yourself gravitating toward the reviews that agree with you? I'll bet you do; I certainly do.
"Yes! It did need more male nudity, didn't it?"
It's nice knowing that other people agree with you. While wealthy people who make Ashton Kutcher money might be able to afford multiple video game systems, many people will stick to buying a single one each generation. And for people who can't lay $300 down on a toy that casually, they will naturally want to feel that they've made the right decision, even if some of the facts on the surface -- like the fact that they're spending $300 on a toy -- are screaming that this is exactly the wrong decision.
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"Why can't you afford it? Because your job is 'collecting birthday checks from Grandma.' And, you know ... that's not a long term industry. No, that wasn't a threat."
This makes someone who looked at the same video game systems you did but chose the other one your greatest enemy. Their actions imply that you made the wrong decision, and all of your mental energies must be diverted to proving that that person is wrong and an idiot and that their chosen video game system is likely to explode and wipe out their entire family.