#2. The More the Merrier
A network effect is used to describe the phenomenon where a system becomes more valuable as more people use it. The classic example is the telephone, where it might not make sense to buy your own telephone if none of your friends or local businesses have them. It's only when all these people get telephones, and you can talk to your friends or purchase some nice phone sex, that buying your own phone makes sense. And video game systems experience a similar phenomenon.
Although, not, sadly, due to the amount of phone sex we all have.
The more people who own a particular video game system, the more likely it is that developers will make games for it. So all that shrieking about system features and crowing about sales numbers serve a purpose, if it can convince other people to buy the same system. More users = more games.
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
It's the same reason why some people get really agitated if you talk shit about Linux around them.
#1. Fanboys Can (Sometimes) Change the World
There's another benefit to being part of a community. It makes your opinions harder to ignore.
"THESE XBOXS WILL BE OUR DOOM. STORM MICROSOFT CASTLE."
Star Trek was famously saved from cancellation by a letter-writing campaign. Family Guy was canceled, but then restarted years later, almost entirely due to the success of its DVD sales. A community of fans working together is a powerful thing.
There are some limits, of course. Dudes in video game forums are notorious for overestimating their influence over video game publishers. "Enough all-caps forum rants are sure to make the industry change its multimillion-dollar decisions!" is an oft-heard, completely ridiculous refrain. It's implausible because one of the qualifications for becoming a person in charge of making multimillion-dollar decisions is that they never, ever spend any time on video game forums.
Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
"I'm sorry, did you say you spent time talking to our customers? Jenkins, our customers are ridiculous people. Never do that again."
But even considering that, the video game industry has shifted a few times due to fans shrieking on forums. People raged about Mass Effect 3 and its original, terrible ending so much that the developers released a second, differently terrible ending for it a few weeks later. And in many online games, where different characters and abilities are regularly tweaked and adjusted by developers to ensure game balance, it's (in part) the discussion forums where the developers get their ideas for what changes to make.
If you're looking for a rule of thumb to figure out if your hilarious picture of a cat with bold text underneath is going to effect any real change in the industry, ask yourself how much that change is likely to cost. A million dollars? No cat's that funny. A few thousand dollars? That's happened. Saddle up your funniest cat and go for it.
No ... that's ... fine. It's fine. I'm sure he's hilarious.