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Console war (Huh!) What is it good for?

Opinion: Absolutely everything, says Tom Pakinkis

"Stop saying 'we'!" my friend finally snapped mid-way through my in no way exaggerated play-by-play account of Bolton Wanderers' 5-1 drubbing against Newcastle United.

"You weren't actually playing were you?" she demanded. I had to concede, I hadn't been selected for first-team duties on that particular Saturday.

I could have tried to argue the case for the passionate football fan, explaining to her that as a paying and vocal attendee in the stands I was contributing (if only a little) to both the Bolton Wanderers balance and morale bank.

I could have suggested that my constructive criticism of Kevin Davies' mis-placed pass, although probably lost in the sea of twenty thousand plus faces, had at least a chance of reaching his ears and improving his next attempt.

In all honesty though, I had little basis to complain. She was right; it is an odd thing to follow something you actually have no hand in to the point of considering yourself associated with every one of its successes and failures, to feel pride in the praise it receives and to take criticism to heart.

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Truth is I'd noticed this odd social phenomenon myself. You only need to sit somewhere near the divide between home and away supporters to see it at its purest.

Sure, a portion of the fans are watching the match but most of them are simply sneering into the adjacent stand. Would they even notice if the players suddenly decided to pick up the ball and leave?

How can you take exception to someone for supporting the opposite team? Did you really expect the away stand to remain empty out of respect?

If you think about it, at times the internet bears parallels to the terraces when it comes to video games. Like the football pitch, the actual content - the reveals, the rumours, the reviews - should be the focus of everyone's attention but often forums and comments sections deteriorate into passionate arguments about how the latest scores, screenshots or exclusives prove that the PS3 is superior to the Xbox 360 or vice versa.

The most passionate followers - the ones who paint a green X across their face or sing their support shirtless in the winter, waving Wii remotes in the air - are labelled fanboys and slammed for their one-sided, blinkered analysis - usually by fanboys from the other side who have some carefully picked counter stats of their own.

Most of us protest at the presence of fanboyism but, really, it's what being a fanatic is all about.

I know that Bolton Wanderers is nowhere near the greatest team the world has ever seen but I don't sing it because I feel it to be objectively true, I sing it because it's true for me and because it feels good to get behind something.

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It's true for games fans too. Whether you're a fan of Forza or Gran Turismo, FIFA or PES, Black Ops or Battlefield, Xbox or PlayStation it's often not because you believe you're right and everyone else is wrong, it's just a feeling we get from one that the other fails to muster in us.

We talk about a console war as if Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have posters of the opposition pinned to darts boards, as if they each sit at a table in some war room slamming their fists and shouting, "Damn that insufferable platform holder to hell!"

The only 'war' that's going on between the trio is the everyday business of fiscal competition. It's the fans that light the fire, that create the mere turning of corporate cogs into some clash of the titans.

If you ask me it's the fans that make the core of gaming just that little bit more exciting. We could sit on our sofas and enjoy our games in isolation, just like we could watch the match from our armchair rather than the stands.

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