I'm about to get a little personal and possibly make some people slightly uncomfortable in the process so let's get this thing started off right.
It's a phenomena trolling is. Something that those who do it seem to enjoy immensely while those who observe it range from being deeply annoyed to rather disturbed. I've always sat on the rather disturbed side of things personally.
See I experienced my first troll sighting here at these very forums at MMORPG.com. Prior to that moment there were only conversationalists and flamers (yeaaaahhhh dig deep into your urban dictionary for the latter of those two terms), and even then the flamers were just conversationalists who, for whatever reason, had gotten really upset. And I mean REALLY upset.
This is the point when I feel compelled to link up any number of flame wars that I have witnessed both here on this site, and on others. But instead of doing that, because I believe that doing so would simply give the potential trolls who might stumble upon this humble blog, more ideas to use while out there in these internets causing havok, I will not. Instead then, I will simply mention who I believe is one of the grandfathers of all internet flame wars....
...and allow you to google his name and what has been going on with him and....
....for the last 30 years or so. This is so that you can truly understand what happens when a disagreement spins completely out of control into chaos. And equally understand what a real "Flame War" can turn into.
And let's be clear about this, for all you new born's who believe that everything that happened prior to your becoming aware is ancient history, Derek Smart is still alive and well and was having some messed up discussion over on Steam as few as a couple of months ago! So I wouldn't go commenting too much on anything unless you want him up your arse too.
Moving on however. The flame war, although most likely the impetus of the internet troll, did not start out as an intentional attempt to drag someone into a heated discussion but was more so an unintended circumstance of two or more highly strung participants falling into a disagreement regarding a topic that all parties involved felt they knew more about.
Internet trolling is something completely different.
It is the intentional provocation of one or more parties in the name of dragging them into a heated discussion regarding a topic that all parties involved feel they know more about than the original poster.
Can you see the difference?
One might ask then, "Why would someone intentionally try to drag someone into an argument?"
The answers being many and varied but also able to be summed up by a single name. A name, coincidentally, that can be linked, in your google search, directly to the previous name that I gave you. That name being.....
Bill Huffman has been called everything from a celebrity stalker to an all out crazy person, and I'm not even going to lie. Right now, at this very moment, the invocation of these two names in the same forum is something akin to saying Voldemort out loud in a Harry Potter movie.
I shit you not.
I am going to go ahead and keep writing however because, in order to really understand the internet troll, you have to be able to understand what happened, and has been happening for years between these two men and their followers. That's right, I said "followers".
Of course I'm not going to go into the particulars. You can discover all of that stuff on your own. Plus, I don't want either of them coming after me and so, short of mentioning their names, which in and of itself is bad enough, I am not going to take any sides or relay any information pertaining to their long winded, and much applauded feud.
Instead, I'm going to go into the consequences of said feud, intended or otherwise, in order to demonstrate to you the exact nature of this thing that we otherwise attribute to a couple of dumb kids clamoring for attention on the internet.
See, prior to now, unless you are really, really deep into the gamer/internet community, you probably have never even heard of Battle Cruiser 3000ad.
That's because it is a fairly old IP that has been recently revamped and re-released as Universal Combat.
What you may have heard of however is this one game developer (Mr. Smart) who, if you give his game a poor review, may do a variety of things to show you his distaste in your opinion. Or you might hear of a another guy (Mr. Huffman), who might stalk your IP address, send strange kids after your personal information, and possibly follow you around the internet harassing your every statement.
Now I'm not saying that any of this stuff is true (haha). All I am saying is that if you type the title of either one of these games into the internet, or likewise type the names of either of those two gentlemen into the internet, the title will bring you around to the names, and thus the flame war, or the names will bring you around to the title, and thus the flame war, or the flame war will bring you around to the names and/or the title.
An unintended circumstance, possibly, but not one that has gone unnoticed by a few fairly savvy marketers.
You see, just the mention of Mr. Smart or Mr. Huffman is, because of the nature of their relationship, worth a certain amount of hits. Likewise certain statements, because of their inflammatory nature, have equal value in their number of hits as well. This is because this is the nature of the troll. To intentionally drag one into a conversation. The consequences of which, be they intended or otherwise, to draw attention to a thing that might have otherwise not drawn attention to itself. Advanced trolls can even elicit certain responses if they want to. So if a troll wants you to like a thing they will hate on it. Or if they want you to hate on a thing they might fanboy it. Heck, the term "fanboy" is an internet troll term!
And so now the light bulb switches on inside your head.
"Jesad! Do you mean to tell me that hidden within all of those idiots. Within all of those asshat's that I hear and see every day, within all of these bigots and homophobe's, all these Obama haters, and deviants, that there might be some hidden marketing genius who is intentionally saying bad things about his very employer in the name of provoking me into saying positive things that I might not have otherwise said without provocation?"
Well, in the name of not being completely paranoid and schizophrenic I am just going to respond this way.
"You don't hear a lot of trolls talking about how great a game is do you? That is, unless it is to compare said game to a game that you KNOW is much more beloved than the game in question. Such as the term "WOW Killer"."
Likewise, an easy way to spot a trolls agenda is to simply think about what response it invoked out of you. Did you feel like you wanted to log out of that game and go away forever? Did you feel like you just had to open your wallet and spend more money in the cash shop or risk falling dreadfully behind? Did you feel like you wanted to prove to that idiot who said that the game was dying that it really wasn't? Or did you feel like telling your kids that this particular game was not the one for you and your family and log off never to return? See, the marketing troll always has an agenda whereas the asshat troll generally does not.
Sure, the asshat's are still there. The asshat's are definitely out there. I just had a personal friend do it the other day and then, and get this, say to me with a chuckle "Did you see what I did there?" And yes, I did chuckle back, all the while envisioning this kid (pictured below) but saying nothing. Because I know that the asshat's are still out there.
This is what makes the marketing troll all that more devious though. Because what they do is such a thing that, to an asshat, it is contagious. It becomes hard to know which thing you are looking at then when you see it. But when you see the weird stuff. The stuff that you just know is over the top. The troll that navigates their way all the way to a page that most fan's don't get to, just to say how little interest the game has or how the game is dying; when you see that same guy or girl on the game every day linking up items that make you feel as though you have to spend more money, or that guy or girl who seems to come into the game EVERY DAY to shout the same obscenity, or racial or homophobic or otherwise totally inappropriate comment, there is a good chance that what you are actually witnessing is an attempt to attract or repel players to or from that game.
You will know this because of the response that the person is trying to elicit from you.
You will know this because of the frequency in which the person attempts to elicit this response. (Sometimes seeming as though the only reason that they came to that place or logged into that game on that day was to elicit responses.)
You will know because of the outcome of their actions. (Either generating positive or negative effects for the string/game, whatever)
And most importantly you will know because you will know that NORMAL PEOPLE DON'T ACT LIKE THAT!
With this knowledge in hand then, you can now enjoy, like I do, trying to figure out which thing they are up to instead of feeding into, i.e. "feeding" their behavior.
Hence the term...
(Special thanks to Derek Smart, Bill Huffman, Tim Thomas (who provided the troll link) and Zach Cumer for their existence as it related to this blog entry.)
And now, as is my customary fashion to do after I have written something that I really don't know if I want to post or not. I am going to let this puppy fly and hope that you understand.
Because, in my understanding, there are some really smart people out there doing some really devious stuff. And so there has to be some similarly smart people out there counteracting some of that if for no other reason than to make sure that everyone doesn't all go to one side of things.
In Geek Speak that's called being Chaotic Neutral.
And no, the fact that the very subject matter of this topic is, in its own way, a troll does not escape me.
It's a crazy world out there. That's why I will...
See you in the games!