Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why is Being a Troll...so Much Fun? by Mike Fatum

Trolls. The scourge of the internet. Every time someone is having a good time, some troll has to come along and ruin it. They're awful. They say and do terrible things just to get a rise out of you. A troll will follow you wherever you go, just to laugh at your misfortune. They'll invade everything you hold dear, just for the purposes of destroying it and giggling. They're awful. Nobody likes them. And yet, there are hundreds of them across the internet. I've never understood it. Until...

My name is Mike Fatum, and last Sunday, I was a troll.

It all began when Stephanie was nice enough to send me a text asking if I wanted to do some streaming for the Ace of Geeks. After some debate between Neverwinter and Minecraft, we decided on playing Minecraft together. We invited Jon, because we like Jon, but also because Jon knows how to host a Minecraft server and we don't. Then, after the lovely live stream of an hour of us figuring out how to get the server up and running and play, we finally got online. (And will probably do so again next week, check out the official Ace of Geeks Twitch Stream right here.)

As soon as we found each other, I started trolling.

No, I didn't make this. That would've taken creativity and effort.

I built a sword as fast as I could, and used it to kill Jon, twice. I filled our shelter with water. I filled our mines with water, while people were still in them. I climbed up to the nice balcony Jim had made for us and pushed him off it with my sword. Only Stephanie escaped my pranking, by virtue of not really being around when I was rampaging.

I really don't know why. Partly because it was my friends, and I knew they wouldn't really get mad. And of course, a huge part of the blame must fall on my loving wife, who was on the couch next to me, giggling right along with me. Really, truly, the part that made it the funniest for me was Jon, who never reacted. He just stoicly walked up with his snorlax-suited Steve and fixed whatever problems I'd started. Watching his little guy swim upwards or impassively burn, or just pull out a sword whenever I walked up, was hilarious.

And eventually, they gave each other OP, and started sending me into the stratosphere whenever I acted up. Once, Jon created a room made of bedrock and trapped me inside, only releasing me when he realized how boring of a stream that would be. And all the time, I was STILL giggline. I was acting like a tiny child, and enjoying the hell out of it.

I admit freely that I never would have done this if I was playing with strangers. I know Jon, and so burning him alive in a river of boiling lava was ok. If I was doing it to someone I'd never met, ruining their progress for my own amusement, that would've made me feel awful. But even so, I feel like I got an insight into one of the most loathed groups of people in the world, and I'm pretty sure I understand them, a little, now.

Not enough to understand this picture, though. What in the hell?
I've always had these tendencies. When I used to work retail, my boss was fastidious to a T. She would be studying with her flashcards up at the front of the store, and have them laid out in a square, each of the four cards a perfect distance from one another. I would casually stroll up and move one. Not much, less than an inch, but just enough to drive her mad. Once, she laughingly yelled, "Why do you hate order?" I think that's the key to this whole puzzle. It's more than just the Greater Internet Dickwad Theory, although that is based in truth.

All of our lives, we spend upholding the order of things. We go into our jobs from clock in to clock out, serving someone else's will. We go home and follow even more duties - paying bills, taking care of family members - none of these things are onerous (especially if you're very lucky, and love your job), but the fact is we very rarely get to decide to do things for ourselves. That's why characters like Tyler Durden and Loki are so popular - they take destiny into their own hands, and flip the table of life while screaming "You can't tell me what to do!"

The anonymity of the internet gives people all over the world the chance to live out a fantasy people have dreamed throughout history. It gives them a chance to look society in the eye and spit in it. Sometimes, it isn't harmless fun like my brief dalliance with trolling. The trolls take it too far, moving from light teasing to full on bullying. It's a very, very thing and dangerous line to walk, and I wouldn't recommend trying. At the end of the night Sunday, I wasn't completely sure if my friends were enjoying my jokes, or just burning me alive to shut me up.

I know why trolling is fun. But I will never know if I've taken it too far. Just like with bullies, the best thing to do is talk to them - explain that they've gone too far. Some of them are just jerks. But sometimes, they just don't know.

To that end, Jon, I'm sorry I killed you with a sword.

And with water.

And with lava.

And giggled while I watched you burn.

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