I’ve learned a lot from online gaming. Really! Okay, stop rolling your eyes. Gaming provides an avenue for learning that gets taken for granted. I think everyone would benefit from giving it a try. It teaches teamwork, leadership skills, how to kill monsters 10 times your size, and how to deal with trolls. They crawl out of the woodwork bolstered by the freedom that comes with anonymity to prey on the weak and the insecure. My first encounter with a troll went something like this:
“Any idiot knows how do do this. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know anything? Why are you even wearing that armor? It’s not for your class. Don’t you have your spells on hot keys? What are you, six years old? You need to get out of here and let the real players get on with it.” He then tried to kick me from the group. Three times. Then he tried to “teabag” me. (If you don’t know what that means, do a search. Don’t do it at work. Or ask your local teenager.) It wasn’t very successful since I was standing up, but the intent was clear.
I cowered in my seat. There, in my own home, as an educated grown woman, I felt my cheeks heat up and a stone form in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know what I was doing. I really was an idiot.
Wait a minute. I’m an idiot? In an online game? Really? I’d been playing if for all of 12 hours. No, I didn’t know all the ins and outs yet. And it’s true I did something wrong. But was there any reason to treat me that way? No.
Luckily, my new virtual friends, otherwise known as guild mates, came to my defense. They told the bully where to stick it (literally, but I won’t quote them because I’m trying to keep this kid friendly), then kicked him from the group. Then they taught me the most valuable piece of gaming advice I’ve ever known.
The ignore button.
It’s a wonderful feature in all online games where you select the person (or type in their name, the mechanics vary) and click “ignore”. What happens then? That person vanishes from your radar. Until you take them off ignore they no longer exist to you. You won’t see anything they say or post. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. They are vapor. Gone. Never to trouble you again.
It’s the most wonderful feeling.
Every online game is full of people still growing into adulthood. They haven’t learned to censor their feelings and in many cases don’t want to. They unleash and vent because they are anonymous. Their names are things like “IHatePaladins” and “UrMother”.
There are more areas with ignore buttons than just games. For example, you have an ignore button for your email. It’s called “block spam”. Block someone, and you will never get another email from that email address. In forums, it’s trickier. Some give you the ability to block and others don’t. That’s when your virtual ignore button comes into play. Learn to recognize the bully for what they truly are. Most likely a 12 year old who hasn’t gone through puberty yet. Or someone who has been miserable most of their life. Or someone with a mental imbalance who truly gets off on making others miserable. Whatever it is, you are better than that and you have the power. Click your mental “ignore” button. They are trolls, they post only to get a rise out of you. When you respond, you feed them. They thrive on it, they need it to survive, and they ache for it.
Don’t feed the trolls!
Learn to recognize a troll. They post things deliberately to get a rise out of you. It might be a controversial opinion, usually combined with a personal insult. Or they might skip the opinion and go straight to calling your mother nasty names. Or they might be more subtle and start with something nice and polite, only to end the statement with a zinger along the lines of “you’re the worst thing that ever happened to the internet.” Their intent is to make your blood boil. They hope that, once they’ve made you angry or hurt or humiliated, that you’ll snipe back. That is when the real fun begins, for a troll. Now they know they’ve hooked you. Now all they have to do is drive that hook in deeper. You can’t win this battle, because the battle itself is the goal. It’s a game for them. As long as you respond, they are happy. So, as frustrating as it is, don’t respond.
Understand I’m not advocating that you ignore a bully that is threatening your life. Call the police, report them, delete their comments off your blog/page/email. Nor am I saying you should suppress your legitimate opinion. A normal troll doesn’t care about your opinion and they aren’t listening. It’s like beating your head against a wall. If that’s what you’re into, so be it. But if it’s not, you’ll have less angst in the long run if you simply walk away. Press that ignore button. It’s fun!
Unless, of course, you enjoy playing games with trolls.