Be wary of internet influencers

By Arthur Wang | Reporter

On Jan. 31 this year, a YouTuber known simply as SsethTzeentach released a video about a game called “SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising”. He thoroughly enjoyed the game, commenting that “Every single run is complete madness.”

“Complete madness” also describes what happened to the game shortly afterwards. Within three days, over 600,000 people had watched the review, and even before that mark was hit, many of the video’s viewers were eager to give the game a whirl. It wasn’t long before the game’s global chat was filled with Sseth’s signature intro phrase, “Hey hey people.” The number of people playing at once shot from less than 100 to over three thousand over the course of a few days. The game’s cooperative multiplayer mode, which Sseth had also praised in his review, suddenly had so many games running that connection issues were rife – and the servers for the multiplayer mode even went down a few times due to the sheer amount of players that joined. Flow Fire Games, the developers, had to upgrade their servers on Sunday just to keep up with the influx.

Something similar happened a while back – Sseth made a review of Starsector on August 2nd last year, and the website where the game was purchased received so much traffic it went down temporarily.

Those two incidents got me thinking about the kind of power that celebrities – whether on stage, on a field, or on the internet – can wield, knowingly or not – and the effects that that power can have. In the two cases above, the cause and effects seem simple enough. A popular content creator talks about a product he likes, and it’s not long before his fanbase arrives in force to try it for themselves. A relatively innocent incident of the effects a person’s popularity can have – as opposed to what can happen when people become rivals or even outright enemies.

But, of course, it isn’t nearly as cut and dried as that. A big part of Sseth’s humor is in making offensive jokes – and when his fanbase entered the game’s community, they brought in some of that over-the-line humor. Not only were the game’s global chat and Discord server filled with “Hey hey people”, they were also filled with slurs, insults, and arguments about everything from the game itself to the people who played it. The influx of people pushed Flow Fire Games to not only upgrade the servers but to implement a chat filter, noting that the chat “completely derailed on Sunday”. Even after the chaos largely died down, people would still throw cheap shots at one another, hoping to kick off a shouting match. While Sseth’s video did cause the game to rapidly grow, that kind of growth was not an unequivocally good thing – the more people there are in a group, the more jerks are going to be in it, after all.

Which brings us to the question: What can we do to avoid the worst that these influences bring? There’s two things that are helpful to keep in mind both during popularity surges and when on the internet in general.

First, think about what you’re doing before you do it. Most of the arguments that I saw could have been prevented if the people trying to start them were simply ignored. Instead, people felt the need to feed the trolls, and what happened afterwards didn’t amount to anything good. It’s very easy to wind up acting before you realize that what you’re saying is more reactionary vitriol than rational thought, especially when posting something just takes the pressing of keys and one button, but arguments are like boulders on hills. Just one push can be all it takes for a lot of crying and property damage to ensue. Don’t be the one who pushes. Don’t be in the boulder’s path, either.

Second, have a sense of perspective. This overlaps somewhat with the first in that many of the arguments could have been avoided if people stepped back and realized what would happen if they responded to a comment that was clearly intended to provoke them. At the end of the day, a chat client, a forum post, and a comment section are all really just text on a screen, sent by someone who you may know nothing about. When you think about it like that, getting upset over it makes a lot less sense. If a comment tossed at you by a stranger is enough to goad you into a verbal battle, that means it’s that easy to get you to waste your own time and make you feel worse afterwards.

While there are never not going to be popular people, on the internet or elsewhere, keeping these things in mind should at least minimize the number of hours you spend making yourself angrier. There’s plenty of things to be upset about without adding online drama to the mix.