The Problem With Trolls

The Problem With Trolls

Griefing has become a phenomenon and you need look no further than YouTube to find out why. Hundreds of videos are dedicated to this digital art of torment, with the celebrities of this fad attracting millions of viewers to their videos as they ritually humiliate and antagonise victims online. And it all starts with one person. Willfully sabotaging play to incense teammates and determine it impossible to secure a victory. It doesn’t sound much like fun and – judging by the vitriol spouted by the enraged players in any of the said videos – the sport isn’t looked on too kindly by all, but this juvenile tomfoolery has amassed a following, one that is increasingly extending beyond just a spectator sport.

 

“If you’d asked me before I’d started what I think the figure might be, I thought it would have been significantly lower,” says Professor Mark Griffiths, the director of Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, who has spearheaded a recent study into online videogame trolling. His research details that 59.5 per cent of gamers have intentionally trolled and almost half of participants had witnessed trolling in the last year, and those that actively antagonised players tended to be young males who play for extended periods of time. “What was quite clear in our study was the main reason that players had trolled was they were saying they did it for amusement. The phrase they kept using was they were ‘doing it for the lulz’. In fact, that was the initial title of the paper, Doing It For The Lulz. This kind of laugh-out-loud amusement factor.”

The Problem With Trolls

YouTube griefer GeneralMinus (real name withheld to protect his identity) is all too familiar with the lulz. His YouTube videos boast a staggering 70,000 subscribers and over 13.5 million combined views across nearly three hundred videos, and yet the exaggerated reactions of his prey continues to provide endless entertainment. “I personally enjoy trolling other players because of the way something so little can lead into such an over-the-top angry response,” he tells games™. “I’ve received threats of violence, people who claim they’ll hack my Xbox account, mum jokes… I find it funny! It never gets old to me.”

 

There’s little doubt that pranksters such as GeneralMinus speak to their audience, in much the same way as infamous icons of anarchy Johnny Knoxville and Dom Joly have done to previous generations. But there’s the question as to whether their approach promotes an irresponsible behaviour online. “I know for a fact that my children have been told how they should or shouldn’t behave in online environments,” Professor Griffiths states. “Obviously, there was a small number of people who do it for revenge and because they’re bored. But I think this idea that people do it because they found it personally amusing – I don’t think people really understand until it’s happened to them what the effect on the other person might be. So yeah, there’s an onus on the players themselves to think about how they might feel if they were the recipients of this experience.”

 

But given the environment that trolling takes place in, and features that enable players to easily disregard such anarchic behaviour, GeneralMinus dismisses accusations of bullying and offensiveness. “There’s a difference between what I do and, for example, someone who is being cruel or perhaps malicious to someone else online,” he says. “I feel we need to draw a distinction between the two. It may not seem responsible to team-kill other players in a game or generally annoy players, but it is just a game at the end the day and I feel some people need to lighten up.”

However, interrupting someone’s gaming experience is not a matter that Professor Griffiths believes should be taken unconscientiously. His hopes for the study is that it will educate, raise awareness and encourage publishers to implement measures to curb the behaviour.

“People who operate the games should have a responsibility to have a zero tolerance policy on people who troll,” Griffith states. “Now there may be some people who are just ignorant and don’t know that they’re doing it – maybe they should get warnings before being taken out of those gaming environments. But certainly moderators and people who run the games should take trolling seriously, because the psychological effects on those people that experience it can be devastating in a small number of circumstances.”

The Problem With Trolls

However, GeneralMinus is already aware of anti-trolling measures that have put in place in recent years that have yet to deter his anti-social online activity. “Publishers have already started clamping down on griefing,” he explains. “For example, most games now punish team killers, usually by kicking them out of the game. They’ll continue to introduce new measures to help limit girefing abilities, but there will always be ways for griefers to annoy others in games.”

 

GeneralMinus’s final point is one that Professor Griffith agrees on, doubting that trolls and griefers will be eradicated in the near future, if at all. “Some people who experience trolling may not have any effects whatsoever, but there are always going to be people out there who feel psychologically violated by what somebody says, and in terms of how that makes them feel that can be devastating to those individuals,” says Griffith. “I don’t think we’re ever going to stop it. We’ll never stop people flaming on email, or people being cyber-harassed or cyberstalked or trolled. But I think the more people are educated about it… the general prevalence level will come down the more people know about it.”



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  • b0b

    Is this a joke? While it’s sadly believable enough that a UK ‘university’ would have an “International Gaming Research Unit”, it’s beyond the pale that a publication worth its salt would actually give such an outfit a platform to discuss this utterly meaningless topic. games tm – don’t you have bigger fish to fry? Why not talk to Nottingham Trent about the enormous skills deficit that’s threatening this country’s burgeoning digital arts sector? Why not talk to Michael Gove about it? Why waste several hundred words getting an ‘academic’ viewpoint on teenagers who like being silly in videogames?

    What a waste of time.

  • games™

    We cover a wide range of topics here at games™ and just because we have discussed a lighthearted topic on this occasion, it doesn’t discount our interest in wider industry issues. Keep ‘em peeled.

  • DetectiveInspectorKS

    Trolling and griefing are only done towards gamers who really take the game too seriously. I play normally and sometimes just doing that provokes gamers into racist or hateful comments (example using a noob tube or curtain gun). I have had hack threats because I try to play a game normally. Taking the game too serious is a bad rep option on Xbox Live and these are the people who need to be banned. With this gamers gone trolling and griefing would decline.

  • wailer

    Also important to make the distinction that ‘general minus’ is NOT the one swearing, threatening and hurling obscene abuse…. he is simply inducing this from others and exposing a very ugly side of certain adolescents who must feel invulnerable due to their online anonymity… The reality is that it’s these abusive adolescents who we should be talking of banning as their behaviour is a much bigger concern! (especially when they come across ‘posh minus’)

  • wailer

    Also important to make the distinction that ‘general minus’ is NOT the one swearing, threatening and hurling obscene abuse…. he is inducing this from his ‘victims’ while exposing a very ugly side of these adolescents who must feel invulnerable due to their online anonymity… The reality is that it’s these abusive adolescents who we should be talking of banning as their behaviour is a much bigger concern! (especially when they come across ‘posh minus’)

  • GR13F

    I too have felt the psychological violation of video game trolling and i can tell you this is no joke. a few months ago some random player told me to “please stop talking” and then threw a flashbang at me… even now there are some days where i cant sleep at night. i just keep hearing those three dirty evil words echo in my head.

  • xXcOdRoXlOl69Xx

    This one time, some guy on my team shot his bullet load all over my face and now I feel psychologically violated.

  • SammyWhammy

    I love you General Minus xoxoxoxox

  • sandwich

    You should’ve interviewed charliezzz. Esteban Winsmore’s trolling is far more intriguing.

  • Chuck Finley

    Calling Nottingham Trent a “university” is a joke, yes. It’s like a clown college.

  • Jordan Green

    LOL with GeneralMinus, anyone watched that cauliflower video, thats really funny.

  • PJ

    The person who wrote this article probably got trolled so hard that he wrote this article. I cant take this seriously knowing this.

  • Jack50m

    When you do something to antagonize someone into a reaction, is it really the fault of the person who flares up? Thats how society is today. People can go around doing things to antagonize others for a cheap laugh with no repercussions on them. So long as its “funny” and someone is laughing it ok.

    So long as it is not them who are being antagonized to get some sort of reaction out of them, its ok. But when someone gets hurt, or someone kills them selfs in real life, then its, “oh l didn’t mean for that to happen”, “l didn’t know they would react like that”,” it was just a joke”,” l was just having some fun”

    “Trolls/Griefers” have been around for far long than the internet has been.

    They never realize that every human being, including themselves have the ability to react in extreme ways to stress. They don’t realize that humans are ruled by their emotions and each human being’s limit on how much stress they can take before they crack is different. They have no idea what kind of personal issues a person has had that week, that month, that year.

    They think that when they troll, the victims will just forget it and continue on with the lives. Since it means nothing to the trolls, it should mean nothing to the victims.

    People play games for many reasons, one is to get away from the stress of their everyday lives. Not to go online to be used as amusement for someone else enjoyment?

    how would you feel if you went online, set up a team event to achieve an online goal and after lots of effort, had it all screwed over because someone thought it was funny to see your reaction? Would you so calmly say,”oh its ok he was just joking ha ha” and if happened again and again, how would you feel?

    Just because it is online and there are no physical consequences to your actions does not mean there are mental consequences. Who cares how the right foot is so long as the left foot is ok.