Fanboys: These Days' Mods and Rockers

When I was writing about the iPad and technicity, I noticed that the notion of technicity can also be applied to the scourge of the game world: Fanboys, and their hatred of other people's choices. To recapitulate what technicity means: it is an “aspect of identity expressed through the subject’s relationship with technology. Particular tastes and their associated cultural networks have always been marked by particular technologies, e.g., rockers with motorbikes and mods with scooters” (Dovey & Kennedy, 2006).

Technicity comes to stand for identities that are formed around and through technological differentiation. This is even more true for the confusing 21st century where these new allegiances—based on attitudes towards or adoption of technology—seem to offer more critical purchase in representations of technoculture than the old more fixed sureties of class, ethnic or gender identities (ibid.).

Gamers in different countries might have more in common with each other than with other groups in their own country. This is because being a gamer is associated with certain skills and styles:

"The significant aspect of the term of ‘technicity’ is to encapsulate, in conceptual terms, the connections between an identity based on certain types of attitude, practices, preferences and so on and the importance of technology as a critical aspect of the construction of that identity. To be subjects within the privileged twenty-first-century first world is to be increasingly caught up in a network of technically and mechanically mediated relationships with others who share, to varying degrees, the same attitudes/ tastes, pleasures and preferences" (ibid.).

To make this notion a bit more palpable, the aforementioned mods and rockers make a very good example. Mods rode scooters; rockers motorbikes; and they were dead serious about it. To the outsider, both seem like a mode of transportation that will get you from A to B; just like to the outsider there is not much of a difference between an Xbox and a PlayStation. However, as everyone who has seen Quadrophenia can testify to, scooters and motorbikes were serious business. They were an extension of one's personality.

Within a dominant frame—e.g., youth culture, digital culture—different forms of technicity clash. This clash is not about which mode of transportation is better or which graphics are prettier. It's something personal, it's about one's identity expressed by one's gadget choices.

Additionally, and this is something that makes the arguments surrounding game platforms even more intense, games force you to invest much more of your personality. You need skills, you need to decode a game's structure or system—of levels, architectural organization, scoring systems, timing of events, non-player characters’ actions and interactions, etc. Without you, there is no game.

Accordingly, by questioning the purchase of a console you question someone's self in two ways: not only is the person's choice an expression of a "wrong" technicity, and therefore a "wrong" personality, but also the person's investment his or her self in the games is a waste of time. Their practices, their preferences, their skills, their decoding abilities, they themselves are doubted. And they don't take too kindly to it.

This also explains the clashes over platform exclusivity, and the accompanying notions of superiority and disappointment when a title is made available on other platforms. It also accounts for the tendency to compare titles which have been released on several platforms to the very last details. "Yes, it may be the same game, but my technicity is still superior to yours!"—Uh, I mean, "Yo gaylord this game iz much better on PS3, faggotbox cant do shit cuz its de gheyz!"

Kinda makes you long for some good old bank holiday clashes, doesn't it?