Monday, April 23, 2007

The Birth of The Video Game Fanboy

These days it's all Nintendo this and Sony that and XBox Live and World of Warcraft, and a bunch of people on the internet going round and round trying to justify their own personal tastes and interests the only way they know how - by attacking those of other gamers. These are the fanboys, who exist in videogaming just as they have in comic books and other geeky genres.

But where did the videogame fanboy first emerge? Were there Fairchild Channel F owners mocking those who owned RCA Studio 2 consoles? No, it came later, when videogames reached a wider audience and there was more money to be made. Specifically, when Atari was king and Mattel wanted to take them down with some superior hardware and advertising featuring renaissance man George Plimpton.

Plimpton appeared in television and magazine ads showing the much better graphics of the Intellivision side-by-side against Atari. And he was right, the Intellivision version of baseball looked a lot better. However, it was silly - Atari had a lot of clear advantages at the time that Intellivision couldn't touch.

One such ad appeared in the March 1982 issue of Electronic Games magazine, in a two-page center spread. My good friend John Henry took offense and edited the ad a bit:

It says "Intellivision gives head. Get an Atari #1". There is also some visible armpit odor there. This was the first expression of videogame fanboyism I ever witnessed. John was one of three friends who owned Ataris, while I had an Odyssey. I suspect, behind my back, they expressed similar contempt for the Odyssey even though I had to admit Atari was superior and I wished that I had one, too. At least they didn't write it in any of my magazines.

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