by Max Barry

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by The Slytherdor Vibes of Cormactopia Prime. . 844 reads.

Dear Gameplay Community: Don't Feed the Trolls

Dear gameplayers,

Hi, it's me, Cormac. But actually that's not my name. I mention this because I think it's important on occasion that we take a step back and remember there are actual players behind these nations, behind these screens. There have been times I've failed to do that, times we all have, but the important thing is that we continue to make an effort toward being mindful of it. I'd like to ask that you make an effort to be mindful of it as you're reading this.

As some of you know, a group of vicious trolls whom I will not name because I don't want to give them the satisfaction of being named has recently targeted me with homophobic remarks and threats of violence on one of their off-site platforms. This isn't the first time this has happened to me on the internet and it won't be the last, but I mention it to establish that I'm not just some random bystander who is merely remarking on what these trolls have done to other people, I am one of the people affected by their behavior. I bring this up because I am asking you to please reconsider the way you have been dealing with these trolls, and others, in recent times.

I think some of you have forgotten the first rule of ensuring your own and others' emotional survival on the internet. Don't feed the trolls. Don't give them attention. That's how you deal with trolls on the internet, but that's not how we've been dealing with our trolls in the gameplay community. Instead, we reply to the threads they start even though it's clear they started them to get a reaction from us. When they invade dead regions with no remaining communities, we overreact to the maximum extent possible, proposing liberation resolutions they laugh off as they move on to their next song and dance designed to attract your anger and indignation. They feed on it, thrive on it, and when you give it to them you're giving them exactly what they want.

You may think sure, but it makes me feel better. If you stop and think through the implications though, I'm not sure it would make you feel any better. Because what these trolls are doing is they're trying to make themselves the center of gameplay, the focal point of your game. They're trying to coerce you into treating them as opponents in a game rather than trolls to be shunned. They're trying to force you to play the game with them on their terms, rather than opting not to play the game with them at all. They are, essentially, trying to take control of the game that belongs to all of us, and trying to insist it belongs to them. When you reply to them, when you give them the reaction they want and turn them into the opponents they want to be, you are just encouraging them, just giving them a little piece of your game and a little piece of further control over the game that belongs to each and every one of us who play by the rules and the standards set by our communities.

You may also think it's all well and good to ignore them when we can, but what about helping others who are being adversely affected by their actions, such as natives residing in the regions they invade? That's a valid point, though in many cases there aren't even natives remaining in these regions, they're dead regions. Nonetheless, we have a choice to make. We can choose to let what's happening in these founderless regions force us to engage with these trolls, or we can choose a different, subtler approach. I don't know exactly what that approach should look like, but maybe it would look like quietly contacting natives and helping them through the process of establishing a new region and abandoning the one targeted by the trolls in question. Maybe it involves other quiet, subtle methods, but there has to be something better than the full scale attention we are giving to these trolls. Let's find better ways.

This won't all be easy at first. If these trolls see this strategy going into effect, they'll escalate to try to keep getting reactions. They'll tell you you're letting them win by ignoring them. But make no mistake, these people only feel like they're winning when they're making you put your time and energy into angry, frustrated words and actions against them, when you're slipping up and getting yourselves red text while they just put a toe over the line here or there but mostly escape consequences for their actions. They feel like irrelevant losers when you ignore them and refuse to play the game with them, refuse to let them be part of your game. No matter what they say, that's the reality of it. It's what drives everything they do in the context of their trolling in this game. It's worth it for yourselves and for your communities to just quietly ban them from your communities, but otherwise give them absolutely none of the attention they're seeking. It's also worth it for the people they have victimized, myself included, who would like to see them ignored until they finally go away. They will, eventually, if we just keep ignoring them, because it's the attention they need.

I hope you'll all please seriously consider what I've had to say and not waste your attention on those who don't deserve it, not let your game be controlled by people who have no right to even participate in it. Take back your game, don't let the trolls have it.