They're right, you're wrong. Their opinion is obviously the best opinion on the planet, even if it consists of "this gaem is teh rox, ur dumb and obviuosly a gey retard." (It always fascinates me how they can screw up a word like gay, but can somehow gain the coherence to spell retard correctly.) They clog up the message boards by defending everything the developer does, right down to eating an egg sandwich during their hour long lunch breaks.
They probably mean well and want their game of choice to succeed, but they end up doing more damage to the community at large than good. So let's dedicate this column to the fanboi and how much they screw things up for everyone. The first step in this whole process of covering the fanboi is to differentiate from the fanboy and the fanboi. They sound like the same breed of monster and do share much in common when it comes to slathering their opinions all over their topic of interest, but there are two very distinct difference between the two entities. One is the fanboy knows that his opinion is just his own, and others may very well disagree with him. The other? Well, I'll get to that later.
Let's pause for breather and take, for example, me and The Matrix Online. I loved The Matrix Online. I thought it was one of the best MMOs I had ever played in my life. However, I'm not so stuck in my opinion that I wouldn't say that the game was just a complete and utter mess of programming. The game was bad, sure, but I'm still going to fanboy all over it because I like The Matrix, and I liked the things I got to do in the game. However, I realize it's not something everyone would enjoy and I'm not going to force my opinion down your throat with the tie of Morpheus.
The fanboi, on the other hand, isn't going to listen to rhyme, reason, or delicious chocolate fudge brownies being placed in front of them (nom nom nom). They're going to stick to their opinions and scream them out loud for all the world to hear. Even worse, those opinions are usually full of incoherence, non-sequiturs, and Cthuhlu Mythos. I swear to any higher power that I can hear "Shigeth R'yleh niah Cthuhlu!" in some of their comments when you play them backwards.
These people, these fanbois, are the ones who look at Warhammer Online's screenshots and World of Warcraft's screenshots and say, "Wow, Mythic is ripping off of my game. I must kill them by showering their office with bloody maternal goat heads." They don't look at the different levels of detail and color palettes that are going into each game (Warhammer's grittier feel vs. Warcraft's more light-hearted fantasy atmosphere) and they certainly forget that their beloved Warcraft was inspired by a certain fantasy tabletop game.
Fanbois aren't even limited to being forum trolls anymore. Sometimes, they have a tendency to find their way into the media as well.
Take, for example, the recent "Age of Conan Post-Mortem" (an article that's certainly not a post-mortem, but more like 8 paragraphs of good analysis mixed heartily with copius amounts of distilled nerdrage -- a strange fluid that must be collected off of the backs of LARPers stuffed into a hot convention panel room) which recently graced the pages of a few MMO sites.
The article really does get straight of the heart of the matter, but the heart of the matter is so covered up by the presence of fanboi (NSFW) that it's almost unreadable. Personal attacks, insulting monikers, and an introduction so caught up in its own hostility that those paragraphs forget they introduce the article to the reader make what could have been a well written analysis into something people, including the target audience of Funcom, not want to bother with it.
Granted, the author does explain himself by the end of the piece, but it's too late. The damage was done in the opening paragraphs where the fanboi god was summoned and the piece became cursed ground. That leads me to why fanbois ruin our games.
No one wants to put up with it. Not even the developers.
I can't say it any clearer. The loud ravings of these people can run off current customers, keep away future customers, and force community managers to whip out lock bats on threads. No player in the community of a game really wants to be around a loud-mouthed jerk who lords his opinion over others.
Plus, all the developers out there won't listen to any opinions, good as they might be, that you might present. Understand that good games aren't produced and then argued as good by the community. Good games are those that have their flaws found and dealt with in the developer's choosing, not defended by someone who thinks caps lock is cruise control for cool.
As a developer myself, I'd rather have people be honest with me and tell me what's wrong with the game. We're being paid to sit here and make our products better for your benefit. Having you tell us there's faulty level design in Zone X won't hurt our feelings and make us want to cry in the corner.
On the other side of things, developers don't like having things screamed at us either. Someone so fervent in their rantings about how bad the game sucks sounds like someone who just won't like whatever changes you make. Developers may also assume that your jarring opinion (NSFW) might not be representative of the non-vocal community -- there's a known difference between those people who speak on forums and lines of communications willingly and those who stay silent and just play your game.
Take, for example, the legions of people who scream about how much Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition needs to be killed. First thing you're going to notice about many of them is how much they tout version 3.5 as a superior system. Step into the developer's shoes for a moment and it's pretty easy to see that perhaps these people hate any type of change and would rather have just another version of the things they know and love. Especially when many of these so called "experts" never even read the 4th Edition rules!
Yet, no matter how hard we try, there's not much we can do about this strange phenomenon. This post will go live, and less than a second later a fanboi will make some insane statement on a message board. So here's my final advice on the matter, courtesy Cypher from the Matrix.
"If you see a fanboi, you do what we do. Run. Run your rear off."
Colin Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who forces his opinions about cats being better than dogs on everyone he meets. When he's not writing here for Massively, he's over running Epic Loot For All! with his insane roommates. If you want to message him, you can do so in Second Life (SL: Seraphina Reymont), or send him an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com.