Last week, I included some passionate but mostly reasonable discussion of debuffs on the official forums from the earliest days of WoW and beyond. The official forums have always been a rough and tumble part of the game -- an area that Blizzard has always wanted to improve.
One can speculate about a dozen different reasons for why WoW's official forums have been so full of jerks. Is it because there are just so many players and thus so many people with forum access, raising the statistical jerk demographic? Does the game's immense popularity encourage people to demand more of the company that makes it than any other in gaming? Does the ongoing passion for WoW simply make the forums the best place to troll on the Internet?
The forums have become gradually better over time, but the vanilla and Burning Crusade eras were completely out of control. Caught off-guard by the game's explosive early popularity, Blizzard's first team of community managers found themselves overwhelmingly outnumbered in their own forums. They couldn't possibly hope to keep up with the sheer volume of threads being generated. The CMs did what they could, but it was a losing battle from the start. The trolls took the forums by storm, and Blizzard never fully ousted them.
Then, in May 2007, one community manager simply couldn't take it any more.
A little about Tseric
We don't know a whole lot about Tseric's life outside the forums. We do know that he was an active, friendly, and frequently hilarious poster who was respected by his teammates. Fellow CM Drokthul once wrote of him, "Tseric is a genuinely good person, and has an amazing command of the English language. There have been times when I have turned to him rather than going to dictionary.com or other such sites to find definitions." Before the incident, Tseric served as a CM for more than two years.
When trolls attack
At the time of the incident, the enhancement shaman population was very unhappy with their spec, and they had made it known repeatedly in their subforum. Tseric had been posting frequently in response. If you were paying attention, you could tell that it was getting to him. A few days prior, a poster named Velaura created a classy thread called "Tseric = Dou chebag," to which Tseric replied,
Then, this happened. You can click for the entire sordid thread, but I will give the lowlights below.
At least I don't circumvent the profanity filter and try to call someone out.
I guess you can't help it. You're an e-thug.
The thread began when a player named Irrelevance posted to ask where he could "report CMs for inappropriate behavior/comments." Tseric, always willing to help, replied with the email address. When the poster thanked him, he said, "Good luck with trying to get me fired, or whatever..." He was clearly joking, but the trolls pounced.
"Aw, are you depressed?" they wrote. Tseric stood up for himself:
When someone sarcastically quoted the lyrics to the traditional Irish song "Danny Boy," Tseric maintained his good humor. "It's funny cause I'm Irish :D" he wrote.
Not really. Have you ever had the guts to provide an accountable venue for yourself on the internet?
At least I step up.
Then the argument began in earnest. Tseric went back and forth with some of the trolls. When a third party made a plea for sanity, Tseric tried to explain his no-win situation:
This post was shockingly frank and also dead-on accurate. He got a lot of cheers for it, but also condemnation. When a player accused him of being unprofessional, Tseric went off with a healthy dose of brutal and eloquent truth:
Can't help it.
Posting impassionately, they say you don't care.
Posting nothing, they say you ignore.
Posting with passion, you incite trolls.
Posting fluff, you say nonsense.
Post with what facts you have, they whittle down with rationale.
There is no win.
There is only slow degredation.
Take note. It is the first and only time you'll see someone in my position make that position.
You can be me when I'm gone.
For once, the trolls were taken aback. "Hey, come on now," one wrote. "It's all in good fun."
When you can understand how a group of beligerent and angry posters can drive away people from this game with an uncrafted and improvisational campaign of misery and spin-doctoring, then perhaps, you can understand the decisions I make. Until you face mobs of psychology, you will not see my side.
Until you see some bright-eyed player coming onto the forums wanting to know what they should spec as this class, and see them shat on and driven away by petty and selfish people who are simply leveraging for game buffs, you will not understand.
You will not understand until you have to see it daily, for years...
Until you understand that many people will trod over you to get where they're going, or to get what they want.
Until you understand that so many people will agree, completely, 100% with a loud, vulgar and assertive individual, not because he is right, but because he is making a stand against "the Man"; to take no critical thought in what they say, but simply to hop on board.
Until you actually try to acknowledge those who do not speak on the forums, for whatever reason they have, you will not understand.
If you think an archaic business formula like "the customer is always right" works, you fail to understand customers, not a customer. It is a collective. No one person, even myself, is truly above the whole.
I simply have the unfortunate quality of being easily singled out.
No longer content to play the affable CM, Tseric blasted back:
The thread was quickly deleted, but of course nothing is ever really deleted once it's on the Internet.
Understand that this moment will be fleeting, and that there is a hard crash of self-esteem to follow. You'll try to feed it again, and fill the void, but it will never be enough.
You've backpeddled into the troll excuse. You have no point. You have no meaning. You have no significance.
You will be forgotten.
Tseric's final post appeared later that day. Trolls had tasted blood in the water, and they had grown both bold and merciless. A forums meme of that era went, "Skinning a bear should aggro every bears." (It was based on a typo/grammar fail from an angry poster complaining about how mining ore would aggro nearby mobs.) A player created a thread called "Killing a Tseric should aggro every ..." and finished the thought with "every Tserics in a 40 yard radius. It makes sense, you are actually killing their best friend."
In response, Tseric posted,
I'm sure you all think you're hilarious in your own space/mind.
Get off my internet.
When Tseric's rant thread went viral, WoW Insider covered it, asking whether the forums were a force of good or evil. A few days later, Blizzard announced that Tseric had left the company. Speculation ran rampant over whether he had quit or been fired. Many players were awed by his audacity. They applauded a CM finally telling off the trolls. The "normal" posters, after all, were just as annoyed by the trolls as the CMs. Some called him a hero. A lot of people simply wrote, "It's about time someone at Blizzard said it." Others of course went out of their way to taunt and insult him further.
WoW Insider's Amanda Rivera wrote a response to the incident, thanking Tseric for his years of hard work and using her own experience as a customer service rep to put his side of the story in perspective.
CMs are human, of course, and they can only take so much abuse before they reach the breaking point. It's a sad story, and what's even sadder is that the people responsible probably did it for the reason they stated -- just for fun. Wherever Tseric is now, I hope he has a great job with as little customer interaction as possible.
Blizzard has taken many steps to try to curtail the trolling and encourage a positive community in their forums, but that is a topic for another week!
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.