I am a reformed Internet troll. I won’t even lie. My history of trollery is relatively short and I’m glad that time was brief.
This comes to mind because of the Gamergate controversy that is currently spreading havoc all over the intertubes. I don’t have much to say about Gamergate itself, I’d rather stay out of that for reasons of my own though I will touch upon being a female gamer. I’ve been one for years.
This will not be a fun post for me. I deeply regret some of my behavior back in the day but I will say this: I never harmed someone’s computer or them personally. I never told anyone I would kill, rape or physically harm them. So there’s that.
We signed our lives away to AOL back when they still gave discs away with every computer purchase. Point of fact, I have relatives who still pay for and use the AOL software. Personally I am stunned they still upgrade that software but that’s a post for another time.
I wasn’t into it, at first, and treated it the way I do everything that is new to me. I entered a chat room, sat back and watched. Eventually I figured out the lingo and other petty stuff that makes Internet communication possible. Things like wtf wtf means, or lol or brb or my least favorite A/S/L (that one will come back up in a minute).
I studied and realized there were, essentially, roaming gangs who only roamed to the fridge for another soda before they started talking trash once more in a fake place.
It looked like fun!
I chose who to speak to and the trash talk started before my name was ever given. Free speech is a beautiful thing. I used a gender neutral name for quite a while, all the better to maintain what anonymity I had. I talked my trash right back but I had an upper hand. I am an extremely fast typist with a very fluid mind. A dirty, creative and ruthless mind.
I found a home with the other trolls very quickly.
We would attack anyone verbally (well, through typed words but, you know, ease of understanding and brevity) for just about any reason. If someone said the sky was blue I could whip out 500 lines about why they were wrong and have the majority of a chat room agreeing with me. And I could make it rhyme.
Not long after that these crazy programs started popping up. They were called Punters. The programs would send about 50 instant messages in an extremely fast manner. AOL wasn’t set up for that and the person receiving the messages would get kicked offline and would have to restart AOL. This was in the days of dial-up so many, many of my victims probably still hear that annoying sound in their dreams. I know I do.
Many of us figured out the ins and outs of protecting ourselves. When I would sign on I would have to “ghost” which made it so no one could see I was online. I had about .5 of a second to initiate that when I logged on. There were also blocker programs but those would fall out of date as fast as anti-viral software.
There was always a better or faster programmer, typist or troll. I was never chased offline but it happened to others and yes, I was behind some of that.
We would call people horrific names, accuse them of ridiculous things and generally made people’s online lives a living hell.
Yes, I was an Internet bully.
Eventually things got out of control. Some people were meeting in real life and fighting. Some people were meeting in real life and starting relationships. When I realized, really really realized how many people I “knew” took their life online seriously I stopped. No weaning off and no apologies. I was just done.
I apologize now. I am so sorry for any and all pain or strife I caused in my impetuous youth.
That A/S/L thing was always a trigger for me, by the way. Even now when I see someone post it in a game room or whatever I want to load my C**t Punter and have at it. I don’t know why.
That method of online “gaming” eventually turned me to other games. RPGs (role playing games) and FPS (first person shooter), specifically.
We had always had gaming systems in my house growing up. Starting with Colleco-vision (if I spelled that wrong you can blame my Companion) and moving on to Atari and Nintendo. I eventually moved on to the PlayStation and really enjoyed the Final Fantasy series. Like my AOL days, if I am going to play a game I am going to study and play until I am damn good at it.
Ask anyone who grew up playing video games with me. I learn my moves and then kick some ass. And I’m a girl.
One of my favorite compliments came while playing Gears of War with a friend of my brother’s. On the headphones with about 20 dudes (and lil ole me) I hear, “Ang is a gamer.” You wouldn’t think that’s a compliment but it’s one of the highest. Apparently I can make characters do things in games people hadn’t seen before, like make a guy ride a car like a surfboard in Gears of War or essentially curve bullets in Call of Duty (okay, the COD thing happened once and many beers were involved…).
Part of being a gamer is the ability to talk smack. It’s not that much different than a sport. Players get flagged all the time for excessive celebration (in Halo you have to teabag to do that, hilarious) and talking a little too much, be it basketball, soccer, football, whatever. There’s a reason brawls break out on fields of play.
The anonymity of the intertubes makes the smack talk more impersonal and yet so much more personal. Read any story of cyber-bullying and you’ll know what I mean.
I still enjoy reading the comment boards at CNN or NPR. Internet trolls are funny when they aren’t turning into total douche canoes and going after someone personally. I’ll admit my opinion on certain stories has been swayed by trolls purely because of their habit of philosophical differences. I’ve also wanted to register a screen name and go troll with the best of them but…
And that’s the thing, the but. There are real people on the other sides of those monitors. Hands that are sick or old or destitute are touching the keys, not some mortal enemy who must be decimated (way overused word but I’ll take it today) at any and all cost. For all these trolls know they are threatening their own sisters and mothers with physical harm, their own brothers or sons.
So, I am a reformed Internet troll who still games. The trollery taught me to consider who is on the other side of the words I type. It’s hard sometimes, especially when politics pop up but the point is to remember we’re all in this together. And I don’t want to find out that I called my aunt or brother or something an ignorant kool-aid drinking troglodyte. Do you?