The Troll Trap - by Adele Caelia
Aug 09, 2007 17:10:26

Why is the MMO community or in general the gaming community so angry? It seems that on most news and gaming sites there are people who can't help but scan the article looking for something to tear apart, or some way to attack the writer. If they fail to find anything in the article itself they proceed to the comment section and scan the comments for any little tidbit that they can attack. Why?

Why does it seem to be beyond the ability of many gamers to post constructively? Is constructive criticism beyond the scope of most gamers? Do they have some inner turmoil that needs to be let out? Are gaming forums the only way to find that release? If this is the case I would like to suggest to those who can't help going postal on the Internet to find a good shrink. They really can help!

Often times it seems that even what starts out as respectful bantering on differing opinions turns into an attack fest. Why can't gamers get along? Perhaps it is the feeling of protection and anonymity they find behind their monitors that propels them to lash out in situations where they would refrain in face-to-face meetings.

Is it possible that gaming becomes so addictive that it causes one to be possessive of the games that they love? Like a mother protecting her young, gamers who find their favorite game being attacked or what they perceive as an attack causes them to go into a rage that can only be quenched by a good forum flame. What is it about gaming that causes this madness?

Are all gamers this way, or does it seem to be a general group that floats around every gaming forum looking for something to attack? It seems that it is indeed a small group of people that get together and flame everyone that dares tread in their path. In fact, like a moth to a flame this set group lives to cause forum havoc, and relishes in the ban, getting a high from having to reset their IP so that they can create a new forum name only to attack again.

Are these forum trolls the same people who fight in /OOC and cause everyone else to turn off the chat channel? Or are they a different breed completely? Why is it that some gamers want to make everyone else miserable? Do they forget that there are real people behind those screen names?

These flamers cannot be stopped, and will not be stopped, and in the end the best thing one can do is to ignore them. Although as we all know this isn't always as easy as it sounds, and try as we might to avoid it, eventually we all have been sucked into the flame war. Of course we cannot and will not win. They have been at it longer than us, and have perfected the art of the flame.

Even those of us who are not typically flamers have probably at one time or another been an attacker. It seems that even the most level headed gamer can be driven to madness when a game that they hold dear to heart is attacked. What is it about gaming that causes this reaction? What is it that keeps us from hearing any negativity, regardless of how inoffensive it is said about the game that we love?

Is there a solution to this problem? I have yet to come up with any, and as we know the /ignore only goes so far. As a gamer what do you do to counter this problem? How do you keep yourself from falling into a troll trap? Is it possible to rid our world of these pests? Is there a way to find peace on the forums, and regain our rights to /OOC?

Submitted by Brent on Aug 09, 2007 17:10:26 CST (comments: 8)


'btw this article's stupider than ur fav newb game lol imo idk' by eyeslikeours
Submitted on 2007-08-10 18:21:07 CST
"Come on, you seriously think all of this matters? It's a f***** game! You newb".

Can I add something to the list? People who assume that when you mention "MMO" or "RPG" that you're talking about WoW. I wrote an article about money and banking in online games, and reading through the comments was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

In general, though, I feel like this phenomenon isn't local to gaming sites, or even gaming in general. The entire web is like this and no matter how many times I see it, I'll never understand. You're also right about how even the most level-headed people are subject to explosion. I've seen a bunch of good people go down in flaming glory (no pun intended) because some troll hit home.

You're definitely on to something when you say that most flamers use the internet as a shield behind which to mask their identities, emboldening them.

'(lol)' by Brent
Submitted on 2007-08-10 20:14:51 CST
nice troll impression.

and you're right. it isn't localized to games only. it is the entire web.

(except here of course)

/em casts a quick glance at scytale2

'Only if you let it...' by Grimwell
Submitted on 2007-08-11 18:18:51 CST
There is a large bit of truth to this, but it does not have to be that way.

When you have a website, message board, or any other internet space where people are encouraged to participate, you control the tone, and the final decision about what will and will not be allowed. Your feedback, and moderation control what's allowed and what is not; and you will attract people based on what you do and do not allow.

Screamers dominate, only because they are allowed to. They can't win a battle with the person who controls the keys to moderation, so all it takes is setting and holding to a standard. For ever screamer there are 10 normal folks who'd just like to talk about the topic at hand. Eliminate the screamers and people will slowly test the water, discover that they aren't going to be abused, and then participate. Once you have an active audience having sane conversations without screaming it starts to feed upon itself and grow.

In short, you control the feedback loop, and it perpetuates itself once you set it.

You can break a negative environment and turn it into a positive one, but to do so you are going to have to moderate folks who aren't used to it, and be the subject of quite a bit of feedback that isn't so pleasant. If you can stick to it, and encourage the folks who have pure signal instead of noise, you can win out in the long run, but you have to first turn the screamers out, and then convince the rest of the folks that it has changed for the better - so there is a perception adjustment that has to be managed as well.

Hmmm, wordy today aren't I?

Short version: If you don't tolerate the assholes in the places where you control the tone, they will go away. Most people are afraid to draw that hard line though.

'Raises too many issues' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-08-12 07:56:41 CST
Your article is interesting, Adele, but I think you raise too many issues.

Are flamers, trolls, screamers and the "angry" people you talk about all the same? Are people hiding behind the anonymity of the web like white mice when you meet them face to face?

My personal view is that people complain about things, when they don't have a channel to make the changes they want themselves. They do it in the hope that someone will listen and take note. I know I would fit into that category.

I can't really comment on much else you've said, because I have never "flamed" anyone and I don't understand the word "troll" well enough to decide whether I would fit into that category, although I'm sure many would say I do.

The anonymity issue is an interesting one. You are quite right that people feel more confident when they have time to compose something in a forum, perhaps something that they would not feel comfortable about saying off the cuff verbally. Surely this is a positive? Are we not getting truer opinions through this route than one might in a normal dialogue? Isn't this what focus groups are about - being honest?

From a personal perspective, I post when I don't see AN opinion (not necessarily my) on a Board about a subject. For instance podcasts on this site often start with people being really encouraging, which is fine. However, if no one ever points out flaws, then the risk is that the author will think it has none.

Lastly, I will say that I deliberately write to be controversial, as many do. It's very interesting to stoke a discussion and rouse people's interests on a particular theme. It's also very interesting to hear people's varying views, which may have fallen silent, without something provocative to call them to action.

There's more, but enough for now...

'Honesty doesn't equal nastiness' by Adele
Submitted on 2007-08-12 13:33:54 CST
@Scytale- I agree with you that people should post their honest opinions, and writers, reviewers, ect will not grow without understanding that there are areas to be worked on, but there is a huge difference between being honest and being mean, hateful, and rude. Being hateful, rude, or attacking someone else is not a positve. Tearing a person apart and complaing are also not the same. The article isn't referencing people who just complain, or give their honest opinion. It is refering to the people that probably don't even read the articles, but browse them for small tidbits and then in the posts they make attack the writer, and generally the attacks have nothing to do with the article at all. They troll the forums looking for their next victim. (I don't think you fall under that category).

Giving honest constructive criticism is something else entirely and is always and should always be welcome as it helps one improve. Those are not the people we are talking about. We are talking about the trolls (people who attack other people). These trolls do not give their honest opinion. They attack people verbally and are very abusive with their flaming ways.

@Grimwell- Very nice comment. This is probably why you are a good community manager, and there are a lot of sites that should take your words to heart and do a complete rehash of their policies, and deciding what type of site they want to be, and what kind of readership they wish to have.

@eyes- I wonder if knitting forums have old ladies flaming each other over the proper technique!

'As it is, as it was, as it ever shall be' by Prezzer
Submitted on 2007-08-13 07:05:34 CST
Knee-jerk bile-spouting and ill-informed reactionary impulses are nothing new of course, but at least the anonymity afforded by teh internets keep things at a distant, non-physical level. Which in itself can be a blessing. Who here can forget the violent scenes witnessed around the various debut performances of several of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies by rabid, some say overly-obsessive Rimsky-Korsakov maniacs at the St Petersburg Conservatory during the 1860s? Internet trolling may be slightly unsettling, but when pop culture fans who can’t let go of their own prejudices and can’t bear to see someone disagree with them come rushing at you with burning pitchforks and murderous intent, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.
For more recent examples, I refer you to British soccer hooliganism of the mid-80s, the east coast/west coast Hip-Hop a-fussin’ and a-feudin’, and the terrible, terrible sitcom wars of 2005 in which thousands of poor Seinfeld fans were slaughtered by angry Everyone Loves Raymond invaders at a fan-meet.
Is it time to ban all forms of popular media to ensure this kind of thing never happens again? This reporter says… yes.

'Hmmm' by Adele
Submitted on 2007-08-13 11:09:58 CST
The Seinfeld thing... did that really happen or did you just make that up?

'A world of small talk' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-08-13 18:42:08 CST
In a world where people don't say what they mean, honesty is often mistaken for nastiness.

Prezzer - again you raise a very big subject, which we can't really very adequately explore. I don't really agree that forums are a better place for people to park their violence than in physical presence. I simply don't think they are related. Ok, some pychotics might be horrid on-line too, but it doesn't follow the other way around.

To post comments, please login.

Reviews, Interviews and Editorials


RSS - Blog/Articles
RSS - News Feed
RSS - The Collective
Add MMO news to your site.

About aims to condense everything about MMORPG / MMOG gaming within a single source via news links, blogging, and podcasting. By extending the link directory to the community, everyone will get the news, credit and exposure that is desired and deserved.


Free 14 Day Eve Online
Trial from Virgin Worlds

VirginWorlds MMORPG News
Shut Up. We're Talking.
Massively Speaking
No Prisoners, No Mercy
Through the Aftermath
Brent's Other Podcast

1UP Yours
20 Minute Surrender
A Casual Stroll to Modor Podcast
A Life Well Wasted
Beneath Your Feet
Channel Massive
Fly Reckless
FYG Podcast
Games for Windows Radio
GWJ Conference Call
In a Perfect World Podcast
Killed in a Smiling Accident
Legendary Thread
Low Elo
Massively Online Gamer
Part Time Gamers
PC Gamer Podcast
SOE Official Podcast
SWG with Yivvits & MrBubble
The Big Freaks
The Instance
VirginWorlds MMO Podcast Collective
World of Warcast
Sites Updated Today
Eve Bloggers
Rock Paper Shotun
Sites Updated this Week
A Green Mushroom
Blue Kae
Sites Updated this Month
The Grouchy Gamer