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In defense of trolling

I like a good troll. I know that makes me sound like some kind of antisocial basement-dwelling hate-monger, but stick with me. You see I like a good troll. I have no time for basic flame wars or tedious comment thread mud-slinging. That stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the triumphant, barnstorming art-form of the real thing. In fact the real stuff is the exact opposite of that whining crap. It’s the nemesis of ill-natured internet rage, and it diffuses and punishes it beautifully. 

Trouble is, the idea of what trolling is (and can be) has been diluted and disrespected over recent years. Ever since the mainstream media got hold of the term and started applying it to any and all unpleasantness ever inflicted by one human being upon another, there’s been a decrease in the amount of respect trolling gets. And that’s just not right. 

You see trolling in its true form is an entertainment medium. And a bloody creative one at that. It’s the art of modifying the world to make it more interesting. Whether it happens on the internet or in the real world, trolling is a kind of interactive theatre. It’s living, total immersion improv, and it’s bloody brilliant. 

We’ve had a fair few trolls on GamesRadar over the years, and by and large I’ve loved the lot of them. Nothing livens up a comments thread like the discovery of a reader writing under an assumed persona, be it by steadfast adherence to a resolutely ridiculous viewpoint, a smartly caricatured voice, or penchant for responding to articles by way of bad poetry. As stupid as the outer persona might appear, that stuff takes serious thought and dedication to maintain and keep coherent, and as a creative writer I love seeing it pulled off well. 

And it can be a serious force for good. The purpose of real trolling is not to abuse, but to play with people. It’s about creating a character so ridiculous yet believable that certain people just can’t help but be drawn into its delicious web of madness. And when a good troll gets a bite and starts messing with their indignant quarry until the prey gets tied up in knots of their own misplaced annoyance, I can’t help but love the display of self-defeating rage. 

The internet is full of angry, ill-informed, mean spirited snarkers, and by drawing them out in a localised spot and keeping them busy in a safe environment for a while, a good troll is a bit like an internet quarantine officer. Provoking and engaging internet rage the way they do is the equivalent of dealing with it via controlled explosion. It keeps the internet-angry busy and it’s mighty cathartic to watch for the rest of us. 

People might think a troll is stupid, aggressive and antagonistic, but all they’re really doing is exposing those qualities in other people. If you react negatively to a troll and get involved in messy cluster of flame and rage, you’re only ever really wallowing in crap you brought to the table yourself. 

Similarly, when trolling makes its way directly into gaming and evolves into griefing, it can be hilarious. Again, it all comes down to the quality of the trolling. Melee bullying a player in a team FPS is crap, but when a griefer or group of griefers really start playing around with the deeper mechanics and exploits of a game while applying a genuine sense of creative wit, it’s a glorious thing to behold. 

Check out Team Roomba’s Team Fortress 2 videos for evidence of that. Rather than mere belligerent trouble-making, it’s smart, insightful play that pushes the boundaries of the game’s design and manages to expose its flaws, all while being really damn funny. Kind of brutal to be on the receiving end of, but if you don’t see the funny side escape is only a server switch away. 

And that’s trolling all over, really. Good trolls don’t cause the problems. They highlight the problems, be they a result of sloppy, exploitable game design or the reactionary, blind anger of other people. And while their prey might not be in on the joke, the rest of us are usually in on a brilliant one. Trolls of the world, I salute you. You keep the internet on its toes, and the idiots out of the way of the rest of us. Until the day the internet becomes rational enough to stop feeding you, don’t you dare come out from under those bridges. 

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

30 comments

  • Nikku7 - May 16, 2013 4:39 p.m.

    I don't really think that MetroidPrimeRib or Db1331 were really trolls, just that they opinions that they stated in a strong manner that would cause an uproar of some kind. Speaking of KinkiKong/Trip-Toe-Fan/Whatever else he used, I think I remember one of the first ones I remembered seeing that guy as was BigKingBud but I'm not for sure. Anyone else remember?
  • barrage7667 - May 12, 2013 11:03 p.m.

    Fact: Getting trolled is never fun. Fact: Trolling and watching other people get trolled is almost always fun, especially if the said troll is good a trolling. Fact: Trolling by insulting peoples political stance or religious beliefs should never be okay.
  • Rub3z - May 12, 2013 1:43 a.m.

    David Houghton, I hate you so much that my hate for you has inexplicably congealed into this pulsating and critically lethal mass of gelatinous glop that oozes a ridiculously powerful substance, the nature of which I can't describe in any other terms than this archaic term used by proto-humans to encourage reproductive relations. It was like a four-character scrawling that stated with an "L." Trying to say that I opposite-of-hate you by saying I hate you without saying the L-word when I really don't despise you at all. In honor of the Week of Hate. So yes David. I hate you in this paradoxical manner. Passionately and ceaselessly.
  • gadjo - May 11, 2013 3:01 a.m.

    I hate trolling as a rule, but I GUESS I can let it slide if it's at least clever. sticky trapping the spawn in TF2 isn't clever, it's just annoying.
  • avantguardian - May 10, 2013 8:25 p.m.

    wow dave, if you are, fact, trolling the trolls, readers, and week of hate loyalists, as i suspect...that's actually pretty clever. GR doesn't even really have trolls. it has plenty of whiners, fanboys, and man-children, though. tehtimeisnow only got points from me for continuing to reel people in with his obvious nonsense, but he would never respond to them. that's the only real troll i can think of, and honestly, he was pretty bad at it (tough i admire his sticktoitiveness).
  • avantguardian - May 10, 2013 8:26 p.m.

    'in' fact (fuckshit)
  • BladedFalcon - May 11, 2013 10:28 a.m.

    " it has plenty of whiners, fanboys, and man-children" ...What gaming site doesn't? :P
  • SDHoneymonster - May 10, 2013 3:34 p.m.

    Demon's Souls and Dark Souls offer so many trolling opportunities it's almost unfair, and it's utterly hilarious unless you're on the receiving end of it. Plenty of good stuff to look up on Youtube, so get searching!
  • PatHan-bHai - May 10, 2013 12:55 p.m.

    Arvyday we are tro-lo-ling........ PEOWN PEOWN PEOWN PEOWN PEOWN PEOW!!!
  • BladedFalcon - May 10, 2013 11:31 a.m.

    I'll agree that there's an art to trolling. But like all arts, it needs skill and understanding of what you're doing, otherwise, it's very easy to get trolls that are more annoying than amusing even when you're in on the joke. So far, the best examples of defined trolls I can think of in these parts would be "tehtimeisnow" which, although amusing at first, his trolling is kinda TOO evident and too easy to see trough... And yet he seems to be getting bites now and then. MetroidPrimeRib, Who oftentimes isn't really trolling as he's just stating his extrapolated opinion. And F*CK/KinkiKong/whatever-username-he-has-now-that-I-don't-remember-guy, who is probably the most dedicated one, but also can be too obvious.
  • shawksta - May 10, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    There was one time Tehtimeisnow got thrown off by Kinkykong/Gamesradarscameltoe that the guy decided to break out of character, and type perfect writing, what a moment that was, the superior troll has been proven
  • PatHan-bHai - May 10, 2013 12:53 p.m.

    yep.............Tehtimeisnow replied to a comment about some feeling he got while playing FF7 :/ ....... The cameltoe troll is just lame :S .......... MetroidPrimeRibs was awesome tho :P
  • mafyooz - May 10, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    I could be wrong (I usually am) but I've thought for a while that "tehtimeisnow" and "KinkiKong" are the same person, and they're just playing with different styles. This is based purely on the way that when one is active the other isn't and is probably a product of having too much time on my hands at the minute, but you never know....
  • BladedFalcon - May 10, 2013 3:35 p.m.

    Nope, They actually have very different MOs and ways to act. KinkiKong has been here for years, although he changes his accounts periodically, his style is always noticeable, and he tends to be more articulate than, "tehtimeisnow" that, and he usually does use more brain on what he says, but once you try to reason with him you can tell it's either useless, or that he's messing with you. "tehtimeisnow" on the other hand is always very obvious with his stream of consciousness posts which are purposely badly written and ALWAYS in direct opposition to what the article is about. AND he has been known to break out of character very occasionally, and speak rational thoughts like a human being, something KinkiKong, never, for any circumstance ever does, he always stays in character. Also, he's been spotted in several other sites such as IGN or Kotaku. So again, pretty sure they are different individuals.
  • Hobogonigal - May 11, 2013 7:50 a.m.

    Its great when we've been here so long that we can spot the MOs of the trolls and can trace them all the way back through the lineage of their account changes. Ahh, good old GR.
  • JMarsella09 - May 10, 2013 9:08 a.m.

    I do enjoy messing with people on Dark Souls.
  • gamer123gamer - May 10, 2013 9:08 a.m.

    I see that this is a variation of the "Why you shouldn't hate X" title we've been seeing lately on the week of hate.
  • Forsakenday - May 10, 2013 9:01 a.m.

    Thank you guys, I hadn't seen that Team Roomba video in years.
  • taokaka - May 10, 2013 8:57 a.m.

    All trolls are bloody insidious creatures, they enjoy causing pain which makes them worse than 99% of Nazis. If an average Nazi were to ruin your day they wouldn't be so proud of their accomplishments as to upload a video of them gassing you to youtube like a typical troll would. Seriously trolls are just one notch beneath shit in their social standing and just slightly higher than the lowest of lows, the staff at Gamesradar. If I were locked in a room with a troll, David Houghton or a pile of horse manure I'd sooner start rambling about the weather with the pile of crap before I'd talk to the others (the inanimate object would probably have more interesting things to say than Dave). It seems that any intelligence that the writers at GR had at the start of the week has fallen out of the inept chunk of flesh on the end of their necks, do you even understand the meaning of the word hate or did you all skip first grade the day they discussed that word? The dictionary defines hate as "the act of shoving ones own fist up their ass while simultaneously performing any of Shakespeare's plays to an audience of 50 or more people." You guys better get learning the definition of hate, and may I suggest filming the learning process and uploading it to youtube to immediately jump up one social rank from GR staff to troll. #weekofhate
  • Hobogonigal - May 11, 2013 7:52 a.m.

    If you're trying to be hateful towards GR staff members for week of hate, then I dare you to say a bad word about Cundy. I dare ya. And before you try, you just remember that Bloody Handsome Tractors skit and the GTA V countdown video. Not so tough now are ya? #weekofhate

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