If you don’t have anything nice to say…come over and sit next to me.
The internet, as you may know, is a pretty big place. The vast ocean that is the World Wide Web is such that a person can find no shortage of hiding places (making it very easy to disappear from view). Gone are the days where a person is accountable for his words and criticisms, as the anonymity that our mouse and keyboards afford in 2014 is unlike anything seen in the past.
And as privacy has become an endangered species, social media has now turned this one-sided blade into a double-edged sword.
Thus was born the internet troll. Someone who can sit in the comfort of their Mom’s basement (yes I know that’s an unfair stereotype) and reign fire down upon the helpless gaming forums and blogs alike. At first their voice was nothing more than a low murmur. However, as new resources were made available, this rumbling quickly grew into a voice so loud, it often shouts down the opinions of their cooler-headed peers. Add in the advent of things like YouTube (which allow users to onslaught your visual and auditory senses by way of venom-dripping tirades) and you’ve got a problem which is slowly creeping towards critical mass. In fact, the epidemic of hate-speech in video gaming has gotten so bad in the eyes of some industry insiders, they’ve actually called for an intervention. A recent open letter (which has been retweeted in support by many developers and game studios) states, “… everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”
Although I agree with the sentiment, here is where I differ slightly on the delivery.
I’d like to preface what I’m about to say by fully supporting the “rights” ideal of the above letter 110%. Discrimination in any form or fashion is unacceptable, and we must fight against such a despicable practice tooth and nail (frankly I’m shocked this is still even in our periphery in 2014). Having said that, I will also fight for the rights of the internet troll just as vehemently. While calling someone names or threatening them is never cool, everything else is fair game in this journalist’s book. If a video game developer (or even one of my fellow gaming brethren) does something unimaginably stupid, I reserve the right to call them on it. I don’t want anyone dictating to me what verbage is or is not over the line (as that is only for me to decide). Consequently, I extend those same rights to all of you. As a result of my hard-edged opinions, I’ve been called every name in the book by some. Even if I could wave a magic “ban” wand that would instantly silence all these unsavory types, I have absolutely no desire to do so.
So when I see these kinds of calls to action, I get a bit nervous. You’ll never stamp out the internet troll, because he’s not a little creature that lives under your bed or in your closet. The internet troll is you. It’s me. It’s all of us. The internet is much like alcohol in that it lowers our inhibitions and allows us to truly speak what’s on our minds unfiltered (which at times might come across a tad harsher than how we’d behave in our day-to-day lives). So I would suggest those in the industry focus less on telling gamers how to speak, and instead target the practice of gamers making uniformed arguments (fueled by fanboy ideology rather than cold, hard facts).
I don’t know about you, but if a troll’s flaming ends on a decent point, I’m much more likely to consider their opinions in the future (even if I still find myself wanting to strangle them).