Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Line Is Not Thin

(Category A)
Here are some things that are important:

-Imprisonment of the innocent
-Fair wages and living conditions
-How you treat people you talk to
-How you treat customers who give you money
-Doing what you said you'd do

(Category B)
Here are somethings that aren't important:

-The state of the D&D game played by someone you'll never meet
-Whether something written for free and given to you free on the internet is written the way you want it to be
-Whether some picture drawn for free and given to you free on the internet is drawn the way you want it to be
-Whether 4000 people you'll never meet write, draw, or play in a way that is or isn't up to your standards

I draw this distinction because I would like to make what I think should be, but apparently isn't, a very obvious point:

If you make a personal remark ("fuckhead", "dipshit", "immature", "ignorant" et fucking cetera) about someone because of their attitude about something in Category A, you may well be justified. Antonin Scalia is a fuckhead and also a dipshit and very possibly very ignorant. Or, at the very least, the issues over which he presides are important enough to life on earth that my rage and--more importantly--my time may be worth spending to point it out.

If, on the other hand, you make a personal remark about someone because of something in category B, then you are this man:You are this man:You are these men:That is: you are That Guy. You are The Pathetic Mother's-Basement Masturbator With The Tiny Penis that people who do not play pen-and-paper assume are the only people who play RPGs. You are all the bad things about the stereotype. You are the fearful and unfortunate genetic accident. You are the only thing truly bad about this hobby.You are the reason there are no girls at the convention. Do not mock the lonely Star Trek fanfic writer in a post as long as the fanfic. He will not stop, and if you write that post, he is you.

And why is that?

Not because, at your top-dollar-best and most effective the best you could even potentially do by bitching at people who already play RPGs about a given person who already plays RPGs is exacerbate the only thing RPGs have which even begins to approach a real and important Category A problem and the only one we can't just rules-hack our way around (that is: not enough players).

Not because at least the Star Trek fanfic guy was trying to make himself (and probably someone else's) life better whereas you were just hoping to...nothing. Your complaining about him had no purpose. You just couldn't contain your special little emotions.

Not because really mostly what happens when you rag on someone is you bring attention to them and they inevitably get more blog followers or whatever and so your whole project is just automatically self-defeating.

Not because this here blog (for reasons even I know are totally unfair) will always be more popular than yours and so you can merely stand helpless before my vast powers. If you draw my attention to a blog you don't like, I can magically give it more followers with a wave of my hand, thus pushing you beyond irrelevant and into anti-relevance. You become less than zero. Your attempt to hurt them makes them stronger. Watch as I link to a hardworking blogger who got trolled by some dick and watch him get more followers.

Not because, if you are doing this because you are trying to be funny, you will never be funnier than Joesky, or if you could only manage to turn that humor toward something other than a harmless, defenseless nanotarget you might actually be able to use that humor to your advantage in the real world rather than in impotent (in every sense of the word) nerdrage.

Not because the only difference between you and the worst kind of people is just one of scale (unlike you, they are not so timid as to pick only on select targets who can't fight back) and the fact that they actually manage to get shit done about the things they're disproportionately panty-bunched about.

No, the reason you are a magnificently pathetic example of a human is because while all the rest of us were spending our limited lives eating Italian food or watching movies or writing movies or playing minigolf or sailing or talking to drunks or fingerfucking sluts or reading books or learning new things about math or having fun, or at least trying, or doing things we needed to do like fixing wiring, or even, perhaps--on some days--addressing ourselves to truly important Category A stuff, you were going out of your way to read irrelevant things you did not like and then type about them.

This is your hobby. This is how you chose to fill the hollow hours. You couldn't think of anything better to do than to complain about someone whose downfall--even if it were possible that you could cause it--will achieve nothing. Each word you type about some poor sap who happened to catch your attention is, in actuality, one more brick in the temple you're building to your own lack of creativity. Whatever it is that makes your life dull, it is not the fault of someone somewhere on Blogger or Wordpress--it may not even be your fault--but you could be doing something better to dig yourself out of it than whaling on them. You may have someone else to blame than yourself for having empty hours full of nothing, but you will never be able to say you tried your best to do better.

When you are typing, remember this, small troll: This is your basement. You are building it. Letter by letter. tap tap -click-


Joesky's Rule:

Trolls: What actually sets trolls apart from ogres and the like is not just regeneration but the fact that, due to their part-goblin nature, they are always bound by transactional magics. If this then that, etc. It's one reason they're so often found under bridges. Each troll's contract or curse is unique to that troll.

Some examples in the form of a d4 table:

1-For each hit point regenerated the troll must take one from a living creature.
2-The bridge they guard crosses an ancient fey-boundary. For each creature who passes the troll is responsible to the Fairy Queen for his or her safety in the Midsummer Land. So it's easier just to kill them before they get there
3-This troll's enemy is of humor. Making a joke about a troll which everyone at the table thinks is funny destroys its ability to regenerate.
4-This small bridge troll can only attack those taller than it (thus the bridge). Crawling past (or being a halfling) makes a foe immune to attack.


Chris Kutalik said...

As someone who spent a decade and a half in journalism (and union organizing) working on at least one line item in Category A, I just have to say a-fucking-men.

What's strange, sad, and paradoxical about the Category B compulsion is that it's about a GAME--and an escapist one at that. That's the point.That's why I play--and blog about said playing--to escape for a blessed few hours at a time from a heartbreak of a world.

Glad to see Il Male get some ups--leaving aside his documented love for pink-coated donuts--he runs a great blog.

christian said...

Well said, man. I have spent a lot of time away from game blogs recently. The absence has really put things in perspective for me. I've realized that it's all good. Any gaming is good gaming, so I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch about "Why aren't people exploring more complex social themes in their games? WHY!!!! WAAAAAH!!!"

Keep on keepin' on.

David Larkins said...

A-fucking-men, indeed. I really wish this post could be the final word on comment trolls. ::sigh::

Because I post about Pendragon so much, I occasionally get a medieval history troll who's run across my blog via a Google search, in addition to RPG trolls. Two for the price of one!

Thanks for the link to Yaggothl. Anyone who puts Kyuss up as background music to a post is alright in my book.

Tim Snider said...

Dammit Zak. You're once again using up all of the awesomeness. Save some for the rest of us.

/gettin' stigmata from the massive amounts of golf clappin'

Chris said...

Well put.

Nothing substantiative to add, so I shall merely link to the immortal words of St Bill: it's just a ride.

Roger G-S said...

If anger is a drug, then nerdrage is something like huffing Carbona. An instant high that is unlikely to get you in serious trouble, but over time deteriorates the brain and makes sure your social network stays pea-sized.

Jamie said...

Well fucking said. I just can't fathom folks who not only have the mental mindset to endlessly read things they don't like and then complain about them, but the time to do it. I barely have enough spare time to update my blog and comment on cool stuff.

Aos said...

An admirable post. Good job, sir

James Maliszewski said...

I just can't fathom folks who not only have the mental mindset to endlessly read things they don't like and then complain about them, but the time to do it.

Yeah, that boggles me as well but then many things about the behavior of Internet trolls does.

Zak Sabbath said...

@james mal

I've always found your blog to be perfect trollbait. You show up and are nothing if not humble, wary of controversy, conscientious and polite and you attract nerdrage as if you personally added the voiceovers to Blade Runner, crippled Stephen Hawking and wrote Tom Bombadil out of LOTR.

Fucking with Grognardia is like signing a legal writ officially certifying yourself as a premortem brain donor.

DaveL said...

Egad, Zak! Glad you're not mad at me. I will re-lurk and slink away now....


Trey said...

Well said, though it makes me curious as to what went down.

Trey said...

Ah, I found it. It was a few posts back. Yeah, the internet convinces some people that the ability to offer their opinion means they should.

Pulp Herb said...

Fandom is like academic politics: the irrelevance is what makes them so vicious.

Feystar said...

Most people that know me will most likely atest to the fact that I'm quite a polite guy, maybe a bit of a cheeky sod occasionally, but a fair minded kind of chap who minds his P's and Q's. Unless you're whining constantly on comms or chat in MW2 in which case you will be the target of some imaginative ridicule on my part.

The thing is, when it comes to forum and blog posts, the vast majority of people will not know me, nor I them so I don't feel either of us has the right to be nasty to the other. It constantly astounds and depresses me that there are so many idiots out there that feel the anonymity of the internet gives them permission to be unpleasant to other people who have a differing opinion or even just insulting them for no good reason. Disagreeing and discussing issues with each other is fine, healthy even and if that's all they were doing then that'd be ok. But no, not only do they seem to automatically oppose what people say but they then seem to want to verbally attack the other person which is just not on.

As we all know, the medium of the internet has a tendency to allow intent to be miss-interpreted which can cause conflict. So with the knowledge that what you read on screen isn't necessarily what was meant and that the person on the other end of the wires doesn't know me, I try particularly hard to conduct myself like a true English gentleman, ask for clarification if I'm dubious and never (well rarely) belittle people on forums. All I ask is that they extend me the same courtesy.

Mind you, I also lurk on a number of forums that declare they take a dim view of such things and yet seem to completely ignore it, even when blatant trolling is occuring, it does make it rather hard not to follow suit and flame the trolls because it can be damn good fun.

We're all only human, but frankly that's just an excuse. Yes we're only human, but we should be trying to be more than we are, raise the bar and both be and demand better!

CoffeeFiend said...

Elegantly put, but I think the issue goes even deeper.

Folks who already consider their virtual existence more gratifying and self-defining than their real life and who consequently suffer from delusions of grandeur will automatically consider any topic that they deign to get involved with as being category A stuff.

An they multiply at an alarming rate.

Il Male™ said...

I'm astonished. Buddy, you TRULY have the power of rising followers!!

BTW, thank you very much ^^

Wymarc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wymarc said...

I found that you have written what I had recently been thinking. Reading your post I find myself thinking back to an old Onion article. I am linking it here but am not sure it will make it through:,1442/

Simon Forster said...

Well said, Zak. Here's to keeping the trolls at bay.

Tabris said...

Maybe i would not have the power to put it in the same aggressive terms as you. I'm in no way saying you are wrong, actually i think that much of what you say is VERY TRUE. I also find it ironic that a lot of these people will be the first to say they are suffering prejudice for their hobbies or for being a geek. They are not seeing that they are to blame for closing themselves to the outside world with their own prejudice, impoliteness and narrow-mindedness and blame the world for their own vices.

But in some ways i sort of accept those haters, not that i accept their arguments, i just acknowledge their existance but ignore them, if you are doing ANYTHING in the internet haters are going to appear, just pretend they don't exist. As the meme says: "Haters gonna hate"

Zak Sabbath said...


When I see a roach I step on it.