The Anti-Troll Love Connection

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This is how it happened

First, I saw a tweet from @popurls about a cockatiel singing the chocobo song, so of course I clicked on it. What I found was not only an adorable video of a cockatiel singing the chocobo song, but an entire website that seemed as if it were made just for me: Limit Break.

chocobo

(Little did I know, the link in that tweet from was a redirect from Reddit to Limit Break; the whole thing orchestrated by Sol Invictus, who is a master at manipulating SEO and Reddit popularity. He was also a member of GameRiot and moderator of one of its other portals.)

Limit Break was a video game community website — a portal of the larger hub, GameRiot — that focused on RPGs. MY FAVORITE! I quickly felt at home on Limit Break, made friends with the community moderator, and starting blogging there. I met a number of great people on that site, many of whom I’ve continue friendships with even after the site went defunct, only a couple of months later.

(I won’t go into the specifics, but if you are familiar with the site, then you probably know what went down. It was messy and disheartening and ugly. (Hint: Sol Invictus was involved.))

Saddened by the lack of activity on Limit Break, I decided to try my luck at one of the sister sites on GameRiot called WoWRiot. I knew this site existed because I followed a few posts over there that ARCTURAS cross-posted to Limit Break, and I liked what I saw from him. Since I played WoW for many years, I figured I would feel somewhat comfortable in that community, even though the atmosphere was much less friendly and much more toxic than Limit Break.

The air, it was thick with the scent of trolls.

I won’t bore you with all the details, so let me lay down a few of my initial observations about WoWRiot. There were a few different types of member in this community:

  • People who were posting seriously about WoW (mostly involving PvP). This included the likes of Ming (World of Ming), Yiska (Hydramist), and Hafu.
  • People who were there to read about WoW. (Some who wished they were as popular as the big names listed above. Some who were just spectators.)
  • Trolls. That is, people who had nothing better to do than spit vitriol at everyone, indiscriminately, no matter the content or context.
  • Anti-trolls. This is my term I just made up to describe this group of people, but basically, whether they realized it or not, these people were cleverly trolling the entire community in a way that actually contributed positively.

gamernerdage

After watching mostly silently for a few days, and leaving some commentary here and there, I felt comfortable enough to attempt a blog post. And yes, I was somewhere in that anti-troll category.

I had a strategy.

  1. Copy the format of Vir’s posts. (Vir was a very outspoken and well-known member who straddled the troll/anti-troll line.)
  2. Fill my post with content that is actually interesting, funny, weird, and basically all manner of things I like. (My first post included links to things like goats, a service that turns one’s cremated ashes into pencils, and who knows what else.)
  3. Alter my format enough to be slightly mocking Vir (who was basically mocking the “serious” bloggers with his nonsense content).

I have to tell you, I was nervous when I published that first post. There was a high chance of me being trolled and abused — not only because I was one of very few female members swimming in a sea of misogyny, but also because my content was non-game-related, and I was trolling the trolls.

Thank the goat gods, it was a success.

From then on, I was someone to watch. People enjoyed my posts and I actually began to make friends with many of the non-toxic members of the community. I had the eye of the two people I was hoping to catch: Vir and ARCTURAS.

I began interacting regularly on the blogs and in the forums on WoWRiot, and got to know several of the members quite well. It was my favorite place on the internet, because there was interesting conversation if you knew where to look. I enjoyed trolling the trolls of WoWRiot, and eventually my content became well-liked enough to garner some invitations.

inthekitchen_banner
My WoW Baking posts earned me an invite from Yiska to join the Hydramist blog — I was in with, and respected by, the Serious Bloggers. Vir and ARCTURAS decided to invite me to join their blog Serious Business, which meant I was also in with the trolls/anti-trolls. DOUBLE SUCCESS! And even more so because I — a woman — had risen to the top of the troll ranks, and I was turning them inside out without them realizing it.

(I hope it is clear that I was not a troll. I mocked the trolls. I cleverly disguised *actual content* so as to catch the attention of trolls and make them like something they would probably otherwise spew venom at. I was tricking misogynists into respecting a woman!)

And yes, this is where the love connection happens.

goatcookies

Goat cookies I made for Valentine’s Day!

ARCTURAS and I began exchanging private messages about some topics we had discussed briefly in blog comments and on the forums (you know, things like really obscure visual novels). Within days, we were talking as much as we could, and within a couple of months, we had met in person.

Basically, he came to visit me and never left.

We both continued to blog on WoWRiot, now reveling in our clever creativity even more because we could collaborate more thoroughly in person. But then things started to go south on WoWRiot, and we knew the end was near. (Sadly, the site seemed to have lost its funding/sponsors and just died.)

We gathered some like-minded gamers and started a new blog.

But things went awry almost immediately. In short: I wrote a post that, thanks to my naïveté, brought much ire down on our site. Harsh commentary was made, and vitriol began to spew, not only from visitors, but from some of our members. The situation was eventually smoothed over, but not before some damage was done. To my reputation, to our blog, and to a fellow gaming site.

And here is where Sol Invictus showed up again, this time trolling our site AND another. By the end of it, Sol had become our “enemy,” and relationships were muddied all around. It has taken me years to repair some of the relationships (some that were over before they started) — but only part of that is his fault (the rest is mine, for writing about something I didn’t know well enough). Again, I’m not going into details, but ask if you’re interested.

Our new blog flourished for a while before we all became too busy to contribute regularly, which is a shame, but seems to be the way many things go in life.

The important thing is that four years later, ARCTURAS and I are still together.

Today is our 2-year wedding anniversary, and I’m ecstatic!

Yes, this is the actual artwork commissioned for our actual wedding invitations.

Yes, this is the actual artwork commissioned for our actual wedding invitations.

Our story is a testament to the notion that there is good out there, even amongst the cesspools of the internet. Two weird, wacky minds found one another and resonated, came together and made something good. And it may not have happened without the likes of someone who ended up being somewhat of an enemy to both of us.

Despite all of the bad blood and insidious behavior Sol has had a hand in over all these years (I’m not really here to debate this, but send me a private message if you want to discuss it in more detail), and even though he and I are no longer friends (Were we ever? It’s hard to tell with a person like that.), I’m still grateful for his actions, too.

If he’d never submitted that post to reddit, I would probably never have seen it, and I may never have met my favorite person in all the world.

So, hey. Sol. Stillgray. Iain. Whatever you like to call yourself.

THANKS.

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[I realize I may have just alienated a significant portion of my twitter feed due to this confession of enmity between myself and Sol, but I guess it just has to be that way. I’m not here to paint him in a negative light — only to share the truth of my circumstances. Do with that what you will.]