The Conversation

Confirmation bias, trivial consumer plaything edition

In response to I Wonder If It Isn't Just Mostly Fashion:

I chanced across a Buzzfeed article this afternoon that mentioned the theme of intellectual fashion and confirmation bias in the context of videogame system loyalty, which has been dormant for a generation, but seems about to return if the E3 crossfire between Xbox One and Playstation 4 enthusiasts is any indication:

The Sony press conference at E3 last night was the strongest public expression of console partisanship I have seen in years. When Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced that the PS4 would support the free sale and trade of used games on the PlayStation 4, the assembled crowd literally started chanting “Sony”. They chanted Sony! Sony is the 13th-largest company in Japan. To grasp just how absolutely strange a cultural phenomenon this was, imagine a crowd of fanatics and writers in Osaka (the second-largest city in Japan) chanting “CVS Caremark” (the 13th-largest corporation in America). If there was an Xbox One fan in the crowd, he sure as hell would have lied about it.

Look: it’s obviously sort of a strange thing to do, to root for a console, to hope one five-hundred dollar consumer device succeeds instead of another one. It’s always struck me as a kind of extreme confirmation bias, the desire to validate and keep validating a difficult choice. Consoles are inert. They aren’t athletes, or politicians, or television characters. They are squat weird computers that will play the same games, for the most part. Doesn’t each company have the same ultimate goal, to maximize profit for its shareholders? Doesn’t each company constantly make microscopically-calculated adjustments to its public image so it can sufficiently pander to some desired demographic with enough “credibility” to obscure that goal?

I wonder if the writer of this article is old enough to remember the old IBM vs. Apple vs. Atari vs. Commodore days, especially when the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were the hot new electronic lifestyle choices that constantly needed validation.  The Console Wars have a long way to go before they get that vicious.  I worked in a computer store back then.  We were beating each other with our own severed limbs. 


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