Every two years, I travel to the arse-end of The Netherlands, where I spend three nights in a Dutch Centre Parcs listening to Marillion, with people from some 40-odd countries. There are three gigs in a massive tent, the entire camp is taken over by 3,000 fans, and everywhere you go Marillion is blaring out of a speaker.
For three whole days.
Learning that such a thing even exists has potentially brought you out in weeping sores, but you no doubt know already that I wear my Marillion fandom on my sleeve. The mockery this usually invites rarely gets under my skin these days. I mean, you probably have a completely wrong idea of what Marillion are like... while also being exactly right at the same time. What can I say? I think they're great, and you think they're an easy target. In a way... we're both right.
Astonishingly, over the years we've somehow convinced a number of non-fans to come along to the Marillion Weekend. All have had a brilliant time and returned for more. There's an atmosphere that is difficult to describe, but must be what it feels like to support a football team and stand in the terraces. The atmosphere, the camaraderie... it's infectious, even to non-supporters.
Without being able to experience it first-hand, this probably sounds like a real big nightmare to you, but to a Marillion fan it's something approaching Nirvana (not the socially acceptable grunge band fronted by a dirty drug boy - the place). After all, it's an entire weekend where we can feel normal for once in our blighted lives.
And being Marillion fans, my friends and I spend a lot of our Marillion Weekends complaining about the band Marillion, sharing our wildly different opinions on certain songs or albums, and moaning about setlists.
You know: like how all video game fans ever seem to do is moan about video games and attack one another.
It seems that being fans of a thing means that you spend at least half your time bitching about that thing. Oh, they didn't play such-and-such a song... or they've played a certain song too much... or Footballer A has failed to kick the round thing in a certain way... or that new Mass Effect has characters with Pingu-mouths.
Many, many years ago, a friend of mine invited me over to the flat he shared with his brother for an afternoon of watching old Doctor Who. This was during the Wilderness Years, before the series was revived, and before my Doctor Who fan gene was properly re-activated.
My friend's brother and his mates were all movers and shakers in Doctor Who fandom circles, so I remember being quietly stunned as they spent the entire afternoon picking holes in the episodes, and complaining about the performances, special effects, and scripts. Which, to be fair, was quite easy to do with most of classic era Doctor Who.
Thing is... Doctor Who fans... Marillion fans... Mass Effect fans... it's like family; we bitch and we moan, but that shared passion unites us, and we never lose the love. If anybody who is a not-we dared to criticise our passions, we'd be on them like jackals.
Is there a single Mass Effect fan who hasn't bought Andromeda because of the mouths? Is there a single Nintendo junkie who complained about the Switch launch line-up who hasn't wanted to share their Breath of the Wild adventures with friends? Is there a Dark Souls fan left alive who hasn't tried to change my opinion on those games? Apparently not.
Once true love is in our veins, it's virtually impossible to shift, even when it gets tested.
Something I've come to realise in the last few years of writing Digitiser2000 is that while we're all gamers, we're not necessarily one community. The hippy in me would love for us all to come together, but there's about as much chance of that happening as there is of, I dunno... a crow turning into a bit of string.
Gaming is so diverse these days, broken down into an enormous Venn diagram where the points of commonality only cross over definitively at the point where it's agreed that we all enjoy playing video games of one sort or another.
This was pretty apparent last week when I made the mistake of belittling online gaming - which went down like a concrete tarp, with a few people. Thing is, I get it. I've been there. Take it from a Marillion fan, who has had 30 years of liking a band that most of the country dismisses as a joke. Until I realised what was happening with that, it was hard.
One of the toughest things for our psyches to handle is being told that the way we see the world - such as, say, a world where Marillion are the best band ever, or online gaming is brilliant - is wrong.
That jars, and can feel like a personal attack. Yet we can't afford to take it personally, because there's little point trying to convince others that their worldview is wrong and ours is right. Those frames of reference have been built over the course of our lives, and it's almost impossible to challenge that successfully. They're ingrained.
We like different things either because we simply do like different things due to our wiring, or we're too ignorant to know better. It'd be great if we could all just accept that, but it's hard... because some of us live in a world where online gaming is tragic and sad, and some of us live in a world where online gaming has made our life better. Hearing a contrary opinion or belief threatens our world.
Be proud of liking what you like. Don't hide it, apologise for it, or attack somebody for not sharing your frame of reference. If somebody criticises that thing you like, accept that they're the ones missing out. Save your energy for enjoying the thing you enjoy, and if people don't like it... fuck 'em. Their loss. You don't need them to share your likes and dislikes to make your personal experience right.
The only thing that's definitive in this world is the truth, and that's about the most subjective thing there is.