The Marketing Potential of Internet Trolls

For the last two months, I have been back doing digital marketing work, which is good. It’s the kind of work I enjoy doing the most. In that time, I have noticed something quite interesting.

I currently work for a charity and, as a result, there are some people who are strongly opposed to their work. With businesses that I’ve worked for in the past, there was never anything to prompt anything particularly negative, but it seems like wildlife conservation is something which can stir up bad feelings with certain people (for some reason.)

But as irritating as these negative comments are, I think they’re actually useful. I notice that the Facebook posts with the most negative comments are the ones which tend to generate the most money. Are these two things connected?

On the one hand, it could be that the ones making the most money have the most negative comments because they are seen by the most people. On the other hand, I feel like negative comments might be beneficial to some organisations. These comments are so obviously wrong and written with such clear maliciousness, that it’s easy to see who the good guy is. I feel like it makes the organisation into an under dog – it clearly highlights the ignorance that we are fighting against. Perhaps people then donate in order to oppose the nasty commenters and to distance themselves from them. It’s only a theory, but I think it has its merits…

When I first started, I wanted to find a way to block the same trolls who would comments all the time – but now, I hope that they will comment because they are doing good that they don’t realise. Or at least, I think they are/

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare

If you don’t know the story of Macbeth, you’ve probably still heard of it – at least through reputation. This is, after all, “The Scottish Play” which some actors feel so superstitious about it (due to its dark themes and witchcraft) that they won’t even say its name. For me, this background information alone put me into an eager state of mind going into it.

The story follows a man called Macbeth, an army general who is told by three witches that he will one day become king. So, along with a little bit of encouragement from his wife, he begins to make plans to murder the king so that he can replace him. As you can tell, it’s the kind of plan which is is going to end up with somebody getting hurt. It is a plan for murder, after all.

When reading, it’s easy to see why the play has it’s gruesome reputation. I was quite shocked by some of the things that happened and even though everybody speaks Shakespearean English and feels one step removed from reality, I still felt for these characters and certain moments did pack an emotional punch.

Nonetheless, I did find the character of Macbeth himself a little unbelievable. He just seemed kind of stupid to me – so easily swayed by others. I didn’t feel like he had a real reason to want to murder the king, based on what we had seen. He simply didn’t feel real. I did, however, enjoy Lady Macbeth (her ultimate fate seemed quite strange, almost mysterious) and the three witches themselves, who came across as quite enigmatic.

If you’re interested in reading any Shakespeare plays, then I guess that this is one of those which you should prioritise. It’s one of the better known ones and, generally speaking, a fairly enjoyable read. Though of course, like all Shakespeare, it isn’t very accessible.

Rating: 7.4/10

Buy it here.

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Snapshot 1

Over the years, we had slowly grown resentful of each other. We’d both wronged each other in some ways, but despite the negative feelings which had emerged, deep down I believe we both cared for each other. The origins of our friendship had been pure and innocent and nothing could change the fact that that was the seed from which it had all grown.

Nonetheless, I decided that it was best for us to part ways. I saw that I had two options: option 1 was a negative and confrontational ending and option 2 was a happy ending, of sorts.  Guess which one I chose? Circumstances meant that we wouldn’t be seeing much of each other anyway, so I decided we should have a one on one dinner to mark the occasion. I remember calling it a “Goodbye Meal” but while it was publicly a goodbye for now, inside it was goodbye forever.

So for one evening and for one dinner, we went back to the way that we had been. We were friendly, we made each other laugh, we didn’t worry about all the tensions. We were just two friends having dinner together and that was quite nice.

During the meal, you accidentally spilled a glass of orange juice over my food – which I ate anyway. It was disgusting. Perhaps a perfect allegory for our friendship: you’d do things and feel bad, I’d insist it was fine, but actually be kind of annoyed. When you’re young, you don’t recognise unhealthy habits so easily.

At the end of the meal, you drove me back home. I remember our last words distinctly. “See you later,” you said. I smiled, knowing that that was not the case at all and said only “yes.” I watched you drive away and thought excitedly of a future free from the chains of the past.

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The Unending Growth of the Broken Heart

I like to think that each time we meet somebody, our heart grows a little bigger. It grows bigger to accommodate the feelings of love and affection that we hold for that person. When a person leaves our lives, our hearts don’t shrink, but a part of them disappears. When we’re left with these holes in our hearts, they can’t ever be filled by anything other than those same people. But that doesn’t mean it can’t keep growing – and it will do, every time a new bond is forged.

The pain of a heartbreak will never lessen, but it will seem to. As the heart grows from feeding off the positive energy of new relationships, the pain of the older holes begins to feel comparatively smaller. The balance will sometimes change, as people come and go and hopefully we can go through our lives with the number of holes remaining small – and I do think it’s very true that past emotional pain doesn’t cease to hurt (they will if you focus on them) and instead gets lost among later, more positive influences.

While there’s always the capacity for the heart to grow, there’s always a reason to keep going and a chance that the huge hole in your life will one day take up only a small space on your massive, massive heart.

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Crash Bandicoot

Growing up, I always used to think Crash Bandicoot looked really cool. I never really had any of his games as a child, but I wanted them. I even had a couple of toys that you get out of a machine when you put £1 in. Now that I’ve finally played it as an adult, I can see that I would have loved it if I had played as a child.

It’s basically a mixture between classic 2D side scrolling games and early 3D platformers and as those are two things that I enjoy very much, I had a lot of fun with it. Some levels are standard side scrollers, some levels have you moving forward or backward down a set path and other levels are a little bit of a mixture.

A lot of the time, with these older games, you find that the controls have aged badly, but that is certainly not the case with Crash Bandicoot – it felt very tight. When you lose, it feels like you’ve lost because you jumped at the wrong time (or made some other mistake) and when you win, you feel like it was down to pure skill. This fact alone should be very appealing to a lot of people.

The real icing on the cake is how nice all of the game’s environments are. Sometimes you’re taking a path down a jungle. Sometimes you’re exploring an ancient temple. Sometimes you’re floating down a river on a leaf. Other times you’re on a rickety bridge up in the clouds and it’s really annoying… but I digress. It’s probably just nostalgia talking, but I love seeing natural environments created with early 3D graphics. I will admit, though, that they did reuse certain level archetypes a few too many times, meaning that it did get a bit repetitive from time to time.

The biggest problem this game has is its difficulty. It can get really tough at times. You’ll have to jump off moving platforms to land on (and bounce off) flying enemies, while avoiding other enemies and timing anything slightly wrong will lead you falling off the screen and being sent back to the last check point. More casual players are likely to have a lot of trouble with later levels – I certainly did! It was so bad that I almost lost interest in the game. Even saving the game becomes difficult, because it depends on you finding secret tokens within the levels and then successfully completing a tricky mini game. This then means that you end up having to play the hardest levels multiple times. If you’re aiming for 100% – good luck to you. That is going to be extremely hard.

Nonetheless, while the difficulty is problematic, I still think that this is definitely worth playing. You may give up before the end, but the earlier levels are a lot of fun. It’s a game with a lot of historical significance (Crash was kind of Sony’s mascot at the time) and one which holds up pretty well.

Rating: 8.3/10

Buy it here.

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Balloon Fight games:

1984: Balloon Fight
2002: Animal Crossing ¹
2003: WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania! ²
2004: WarioWare: Twisted! ³
2006: Tetris DS
2007: Tingle’s Balloon Fight DS
2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
2009: PiCOPiCT
2012: Nintendo Land
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
2015: Super Mario Maker

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. The original Balloon Fight game is unlockable and playable.
  2. The Balloon Fighter makes a minor playable cameo in a microgame.
  3. The Balloon Fighter makes a minor cameo in a microgame.
  4. One of the game’s modes is based around Balloon Fight.
  5. The giant fish appears in one of the game’s levels.
  6. Characters from the series appear once a certain level is beaten.
  7. A new game, Balloon Trip Spring Breeze, is included.
  8. There is a stage based on the series and the Animal Crossing Villager is implied, in some ways, to be a Balloon Fighter.
  9. The Balloon Fighter is playable via Mystery Mushroom.
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Video Game Characters as Digital Avatars

Many video game characters are designed to be digital avatars of the player. Miis are a clear example of this, where they’re just a way for you to put you and your friends in games. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today, I’d like to talk about how some video game characters can become very strongly associated with people we know in reality to the extent that they become so tightly linked, that you can’t think of the character without thinking of the person in reality.

Let me give an example: Professor Layton. Now, here’s a character who is very clearly not supposed to be an avatar. He has a mind, personality and backstory of his own – but there’s a good friend of mine who will always be associated with him for me. I only played a Professor Layton game for the first time recently and it reminded me of my friend to such an extent that it made me miss him quite a lot. My friend has lots of Layton based memorabilia, he would play me songs that he’d found in the games and he’d even prepare puzzles from the game for me to solve. Now anything with Professor Layton in it will have that added emotional impact for me.

Similarly, another friend of mine is a big Pikachu fan. She loves Pokémon in general, has a Pikachu onesie and will sometimes do little Pikachu impressions. I’ve a lot of fond memories of comparing our Pokémon collections and of discussing the series with her in general. The other day I came across a very nice remix of a song in a Pokémon game and it included audio clips of Pikachu. Because of this association, the first thing I thought of was my old friend and the memories we had shared.

One last example is Spyro the Dragon. A friend of mine absolutely loves him and all of his games. Since we first met, he has always talked about how much his loves Spyro the Dragon. He did a very good job of making me want to play the games (which I have now done.) Before this, Spyro was just a generic game character to me, but now he has a lot more meaning. As I play through the games myself, I imagine my friend playing them for the first time as a young child and I love to try and imagine it as it would have been through his eyes all those years ago. It makes the experience so much more valuable to me.

I think game characters in particular are more likely to attract this kind of thing, because they are much more of a blank slate than you’ll get with characters in other mediums. This makes it very easy to paint your sentimental feelings about your friends onto them. I could have given some more examples, but I feel like this post would get a little repetitive if I went on. It’s nice to consider the ways that our own experiences affect our appreciation of art.

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On Love and Barley by Basho

I’m not somebody who goes out of their way to buy poetry. Sure, I have been bought some in the past or had to buy some for school or university, but I never could quite understand the appeal in the same way that I could understand the appeal of some regular old prose. It often seemed a little pretentious and didn’t really do a good job of making me feel anything… Now I realise I was reading the wrong poetry!

On Love and Barley is a selection of haiku written by Basho – a Japanese monk from the 17th century. He lived a very solitary life and wandered between different places, often passing through the most beautiful wilderness as he did so. I feel like this selection of haiku is kind of like a selection of snapshots from his life, except they’re much more emotive than any literal snapshots could ever have been.

With the majority of these haiku, I felt as though I had seen the world through his eyes for just a few seconds. It really did feel like I was seeing, hearing and feeling all of the things that he had seen, heard and felt as he wrote these poems. What’s so incredible is that he just captures such small, inconsequential moments (such as a quiet night out on the road, a spider making a web, rain starting to fall etc.) and he still makes them seem absolutely sublime – and they are.

I’m always been somebody who has appreciated the beauty of the world, but I could never capture it in quite the same way as Basho. It’s so uplifting to read these poems and it makes you think – with all of these natural beauties around us, why should we ever feel sad? Our lives are just fleeting moments on something so much bigger and so much more wonderful than we can properly comprehend and the thing is, we’re a part of that huge and incomprehensible, wonderful thing.

I’ll admit, one or two of them did depend a little on historical context (and thankfully, the footnotes cleared them up for me) but the large marjority of these haiku are truly timeless. So if you want to hear the sound of snow that fell four hundreds ago, smell rain that’s fallen and evaporated a thousand time or experience a brief moment in the life of a bird who would otherwise have left no record of his time on this earth, this is the book to buy. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Rating: 9.8/10

Buy it here.

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The Adulthood Catalyst

When you’re in school, most of us will have a group of people who are our friends and a selection of people who we do not like at all. It all comes down to the fact that everyone is a bit meaner as a teenager and that, in turn, means that we’ll all end up having especially negative opinions of certain individuals.

What I find especially nice, as I grow older, is that I see these ill feelings just falling away. As people become more mature and enter the catalyst that is adulthood, they come out with more empathy and compassion. Even people who didn’t like each other will often be on friendly terms, just because the old rivalries that they had are now just memories of a shared childhood.

I always like to see people overcoming their issues and teenagers have a lot of issues. I think growing up with a person helps you to respect them more for this very reason and I often find myself feeling momentarily sad about the fact that I will not be able to grow up with the friends who I met later in life. When you get to see somebody evolve, you kind of get to meet different aspects of them.

Of course, some people will always remain trapped in a teenage perspective, which is a shame – in part, because they can be quite annoying. But, ultimately, you have to feel more pity than annoyance for these people, as their lack of development will prevent them from forming real bonds with others or, indeed, from appreciating life to the fullest extent.

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Responsibilities

There’s a fair number of people whose wellbeing I consider to be my responsibility. I have been told by one or two people that this is an unhealthy attitude. We are each responsible for our own happiness and our own happiness alone, they’ll say, so taking responsibility for somebody else’s wellbeing is particularly unwise.

I do understand that point and, equally, I do think it’s unhealthy when people expect others to be responsible for their own happiness. You have to take responsibility for yourself and you can never, ever demand that of others. Nonetheless, there will still be a few people who do feel responsible for it.

But for me, once I consider a person a friend and I know that they will go out of their way to do things for me/to see me, I feel that I can return that by doing my best to be responsible for their wellbeing. I want all of my friends to have happy and healthy lives, so I do everything I can to ensure that they are. I think it’s healthy and normal to do so.

At the same time, I do appreciate that I have limits. We all have limits. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can’t do anything to help people. Sometimes we need to accept this. But I don’t think that it’s unhealthy to try our best. Too often people hear something concerning from somebody else, but feel that it is not their business to get involved and try to help, but I genuinely think that the world would be a better place if we all took a little more responsibility for each other’s wellbeing.

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