Trolls and Ghosts

In the time leading up to our MMP, I thought I’d use some blog space to discuss some of the aspects of my topic that I didn’t get to explore in my midterm paper.

Phillips’ article did a good job of exhibiting trolling behaviors and the various forms they tend to take, but it seems as if the understated premise of the article was that trolls do what they do in order to gain attention and to nurture the relationship between the source of the attention that they act upon (aggressively or otherwise) in order to garner it. Regardless of the means employed to achieve it, attention is the goal of trolls, according to Phillips. Here is where I disagree.
Magic, like any other game with a competitive audience and a broad following, has developed a significant presence in the streaming community, specifically on twitch.tv. While it exists in fringe forms in other games and streams, Magic by and large is the only game streamed in which ghosting occurs in damaging amounts.

Ghosting, for those not familiar, is an act of malicious trolling in which the streamer playing a game of Magic, which is exclusively multiplayer, is watched through the stream by his or her opponent. This gives the opponent a significant information advantage, as the streamer’s hand is exposed, and the streamer often will talk through his thought processes and strategies as a way of engaging with the rest of his or her audience. More extreme examples include a member of the stream’s audience finding the streamer’s opponent through the online game client and messaging the opponent the contents of the streamer’s hand or current strategy, unsolicited by the opponent, who may or may not be aware the stream exists in the first place. I would posit that this doesn’t occur in other games because other popular streamed games, such as League of Legends or Starcraft, are simply too fast paced for the transmission of information involved in ghosting to have a significant, controlled impact on the game.

This is where definitions of what it means to be a troll begin to muddle. If a troll is only seeking attention, why ghost? Ghosting is the result of a direct desire to see the streamer lose, or for the opponent to win; the troll never admits to ghosting unless already caught, so it cannot be a behavior used for attention-seeking. Rather, I would make the argument that when placed into a competitive context such as a match of Magic, wherein there is a clear winner and a clear loser, the desire to ghost comes from a troll’s desire to see their actions have impact on other people.

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