The man with the PlayStation tattoo I met recently who has spent thousands of pounds on Sony games and consoles might know a lot about gaming, but I'd be a bit silly to rely exclusively on his advice as to which console to buy. The greater the investment – financial, temporal and emotional – the greater the blind devotion.
Because the fanboy is defined by his obsession, the darker side of abuse in all its forms will sadly always be a dimension and cause a great deal of hurt. But fanboyism is also human nature and so one must take the good with the "WTF UR A IGNERENT C*** HOPE U GETT AID'S N DIE LOL".
As the popularity and demographic of gaming expands, so the vitriol will become more intense and poisonous. But the rise of the casual gamer is not the death knell for the hardcore. The industry loves to celebrate how the image of gaming as the preserve of the lonely teenager in his bedroom has changed – and rightfully so.
But the teenager is still hidden away in his bedroom, curtains drawn, stale pizza on the floor, playing games and masturbating furiously. He is a teenager after all. But he's now no longer part of the typical majority, rather part of a niche amongst an increasing and increasingly varied global audience. That's what happens in a healthy, maturing entertainment market.
But that also means there will be growing pains. The fanboy will thrash around like Harry Enfield's Kevin at the profound unfairness of the hobby he considers to be "his" being stolen away from him by ignorant interlopers like the Redknapps. People who aren't worthy enough because they don't care enough. To Nintendo loyalists, the company's apparent lust for the casual coin of housewives is nothing short of betrayal. "How could they do this to me?"
Whether a heartfelt expression or barefaced lie, there's a good reason why publishers and developers nowadays always champion the gaming "community" and insist they're always "listening" to fans. Hell hath no fury like a fanboy scorned - and the internet provides effective means to organise and attack enemies of any size.
But it is precisely because of this change that we need fanboys now more than ever. Simply put, fanboyism is gaming culture. It's what, beyond the games, makes our entertainment industry entertaining and keeps its pulse racing.
What an astonishingly tedious world it would be if every conversation about videogames were based entirely on cold logic, sterile fact and tepid reasonableness.
Passionate partisanship is gaming's lifeblood. In an event-driven industry it's what gets people out in the streets at midnight in the middle of winter to be among the first to buy a new console. You won't see Louise Redknapp dressed as an orc outside HMV, waiting to buy the new World of Warcraft expansion.
The fanboy is gaming's unsung hero, spreading the industry's word and defending its faith – but also vitally scrutinising its every move, ready to apply pressure when the Goliaths err, and to provide a loud chorus in championing the deserving Davids. We do it because we care. And so I implore you to take out your jotters, grab a pen, and proudly pledge your allegiance once more to our great cause: "FANBOYS RULE OK".
The Case Against... By Rob Fahey
Yes, this the miseryguts side of the argument. The shut-up-and-get-off-my-lawn-you-damned-kids argument. A thousand words on why youthful enthusiasm is annoying and passionate arguments on the internet herald mankind's downfall.
Except that when people complain about Bloody Fanboys, that's not what they're actually complaining about at all. It's not a criticism of enthusiasm or exuberance. It's not even, in all honesty, a newspaper-rustling, harrumphing moan about comments threads that descend into sprawling, messy arguments between rival factions.
No, you know what it is? It's disappointment. It comes from a bleak, depressing sense that talking about videogames should be better, more interesting, more insightful. Yet somehow, we always end up dragged into pathetic discussions about capitalist economics and quirks of technology, instead of ever getting to say anything truly meaningful about this medium.
Oh, hark at him. Truly meaningful! Next he'll be telling us Games Are Art, with capitals and all. But there's the thing: sidestep the Art debate if you want, but I'd like to think there are meaningful things to say about a hobby I choose to devote so much of my time and money to.
There are meaningful things to say about films, about music, about sport, about literature of all kinds, about architecture and food and sex and home decorating and just about everything else we humans choose to devote our free time to.
I know for a fact that there are equally meaningful, insightful conversations to be had about games - and I know for a fact that no poorly structured forum post on why "Xbox is the best!!!" or "Nintendo just wants to make money!!!!" is contributing anything to those conversations.