The term “fanboy” (or “fangirl,” as the case may be) applies to a lot of different areas of the videogame community: Xbox fanboys, Sonic fanboys, Dark Souls fanboys, shmup fanboys, PC master race, etc. But perhaps the most infamous and stereotyped fanboys of them all are the legendary Nintendo fanboys.
As a pejorative, “Nintendo fanboy” connotes blind fanaticism based on the assumption that the company is inherently superior. (Something I’ve ashamedly skirted myself in years past.) In a more casual, non-inflammatory sense, the term is simply used to describe someone who is just a really big Nintendo fan. But the existence of the term demonstrates just how large and passionate the Nintendo fan community can be.
The quality and style of Nintendo’s games are certainly capable of garnering a core fan base, whether it be in the late ’80s when they were revolutionizing the home console market, or today when they offer a distinctly different experience from more “mainstream” games seen on other platforms. But aside from the games, themselves, Nintendo does a remarkable job of creating a sense of community that has nurtured that fan base into something a little more.
It started in the late ’80s with the original Nintendo Fun Club newsletter that quickly evolved into the long-running Nintendo Power magazine. The “Player’s Pulse” section highlighted how Nintendo manifested itself into fans’ everyday lives, from the envelope artwork to pets being named after Nintendo characters. It created a sense of community in an era long before the internet became a household thing.
And when the internet did become a thing in the later ’90s, Nintendo was actually there pretty early on, beginning with the Nintendo Power Source on AOL. An official website soon followed with chat rooms and message boards dubbed with silly names based on whatever current marketing slogan they were using, like The Loudhouse (for “Play It Loud”) and Nsider (“Get N or Get Out”). It even had its own online summer camp known as Camp Hyrule.
Of course, the rise of the internet also allowed more fans to connect beyond Nintendo’s own official channels, with countless fan sites and fan forums coming and going over the years. Perhaps that’s why Nintendo ended up shutting down their own forums (aside from the tech support forum) in the mid 2000s, deciding that the fan community was sustaining itself.
The launch of their social network Miiverse, however, in late 2012 (alongside the release of the Wii U and the end of Nintendo Power) marked a new era for the official Nintendo community. More than just a message board, Miiverse plugs directly into the games, themselves, allowing users to post screenshots or use other integrated functionality that, at times, is actually quite clever. (Like the “message in a bottle” in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, or the graffiti in Splatoon.)
Nintendo has also experimented with video content over the years. In the ’90s, they mailed out VHS tapes promoting games like Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox 64. During the Wii generation, users could download the Nintendo Channel, which featured a weekly show called (appropriately) Nintendo Week. More recently, Nintendo has embraced standard streaming services like YouTube and Twitch, and along with them, presents new shows like Nintendo Direct, Nintendo Minute and Treehouse Live.
A sense of shared interests is the glue that holds together any fan community, and Nintendo has been providing this to its fans for nearly 30 years now. However, as a longtime fan myself, I admit I have mixed feeling about it. At times, being part of the Nintendo fan community is enjoyable and valuable, but as with any fan community, it has its darker side and stigmas that I’d prefer not to be associated with.
As a kid, I wasn’t always around other kids who were into Nintendo like I was. Reading about other fans in Nintendo Power was always one of my favorite parts of the magazine. By the time we got home internet access, I jumped right into the online community, and it was great to nerd out with other fans, but as mentioned previously, it didn’t necessarily have a positive effect. By the early 2000s, this actually led me to avoid the Nintendo fan community for a few years. In fact, I stayed off of nearly all internet forums for a time as I tried to get back to basics as a gamer.
When I did feel I was ready to chat with other gamers online again, I looked for general videogame forums. After all, I figured Nintendo was just another platform, and there was no reason I couldn’t chat about the games I loved in a place with other people who loved games that happened to be on other platforms. I really wasn’t interested in returning to the “fanboy’s” perspective. The perspective I wanted was Nintendo in the context of the greater gaming community.
And that’s what I got. Unfortunately, something really annoying came with it: other fanboys. It wasn’t always the kind that fawned over PlayStation or Xbox in the way that Nintendo fanboys were usually known for, but it was often a general anti-Nintendo sentiment. It was difficult to start a discussion about anything Nintendo-related without some random person jumping in to take a cheap dig at Nintendo and make sure I knew how much they sucked.
I was able to put up with it for a while, because certainly there were plenty of other “normal” gamers, but it kind of wore me down after a while. As reluctant as I was to rejoin the Nintendo fan community, it was really the best option for chatting with other people who shared the same appreciation for Nintendo that I did. The trick was in finding the right community. I wanted something that was neither full of blind fanboys, nor anti-Nintendo sentiment. I avoided the official forums, which were still up at that time, and looked into fan forums. Fortunately, I was able to find one that fit me.
I suppose that’s the value that the Nintendo fan community holds for me today. It’s more fun to connect with other fans when you don’t have to worry about anti-Nintendo fanboys trying to gang up you. And to be clear, it’s absolutely not about trying to avoid criticism of Nintendo. They certainly bring it upon themselves from time to time, and fans can be their harshest critics. But for me, it’s about sharing common interests while avoiding the fanboyism.
I guess what I’m really trying to say here is (once again), fanboys suck.