Warning: Slight spoilers for some of the characters featured in this round-up.
Trolling is a art. From full-fledged flame wars to intentional spelling and grammatical errors, Trolling has become a part of everyday life. There’s just something mildly therapeutic about invoking a scathing emotional response from someone half the word away. We dreary mortals get such little fulfillment from our lives, taking away another person’s pleasure (or dignity) is one of the only reprieves we get, so it should come as no surprise to learn that just about everyone is jumping on the Troll train. Mainstream media have begun to lobby against it, not fully understanding exactly what `it’ is, hashtagging teenage swagsters use it as an excuse to act like little pricks and celebrities claim to be trolling when they screw something up or make a social faux pas.
But let’s stop for a moment and take the time to appreciate Trolling for what it actually is. Although you can play loose and fast with the definition, Trolling, from a gaming sense, is all about deliberately, cleverly and secretly pissing people off using dialogue. That doesn’t mean making rude remarks; shouting swear words at someone doesn’t count as trolling and, in most cases, isn’t funny. We’re talkin bout subtly confusing a person and pushing them past their breaking point. Controlling a players emotions with perfectly timed insults and off-beat comments.
So! With all that in mind, here some of Dusty Cartridge’s most Trollerific video game villains.
5Vaas – Far Cry 3
If I was to pick a single character from any recent video game and name him/her/it as my favourite, it’d be Vaas. I love that crazy son of a bitch. The hair, the lingo, the general insanity. It all just… worked and I ate up every minute of his screen action. But I’ll also be the first to admit, starring opposite him as Jason Brody was hard work. Vaas is all troll all the time and as a wide-eyed upper middle class onlooker thrust into the deep, dark jungle, I had a hard time distinguishing where the threats ended and (relative video game) reality began.
After every single Vaas encounter I was questioning his motives. Did he mean for me to escape? Was I being subtlety asked to bring down his criminal empire? At one point I was so mindfucked that I actually thought there was some Fight Club shit going on, and I was Vaas himself. Even his “death” scene had me scratching my head in confusion. When the credits started to roll I actually said “wait…was he trolling me the entire time?” (You’ll know what I mean if you pick the Citra ending.)
As much as I love him, I was kinda happy to see him go just because I was just tired of being jerked around. That’s some next level maneuvering right there.
4Handsome Jack – Borderlands 2
Handsome Jack is a laugh riot, no two ways about it. If I was to compile a list of video game dialogue that literally made me laugh out loud, the ramblings of good old Jack would feature roughly 90% of the time. But roughly 90% of the shit that comes out of his mouth is utter troll drivel. (In the best way possible.) Those first few echo interactions, in which he calls you pumpkin, eats pretzels loudly into the mic and tells you about his diamond pony named Butt Stallion, set the tone for the entire game. It’s as if his voice flags a little ‘beware of trolls’ indicator somewhere on your HUD.
Don’t get me wrong, I looked forward to every interaction and stopped dead in my tracks, where possible, so I didn’t miss a beat. But every time he opened his mouth I’d say to myself `here comes some high quality trollin!’ Few villains have been as invasive as Jack and few have succeeded on such a monumental scale. Was his troll dialogue a direct factor in his success? Yes. The answer is yes.
Side note: Major props to voice actor Dameon Clarke for bringing Handsome Jack to life. His voice performance rates as one of the best video gaming has to offer, save for…
3Wheatley – Portal 2
I’m a little bias here. I’ve been a fan of Stephen Merchant (the voice of Wheatley) for years. So when I heard his adorkably smooth Bristol British accent caressing my eardrums, like a lover, my resulting erection just about broke through the underside of the desk. But he’s a bit of an odd entry. He certainly qualifies as a troll, in some respects, but every interaction is a bizarre situation in which you can’t quite keep track of who’s trolling who anymore.
He’s too stupid to fool you outright, trying to convince you to jump to your death because there are ‘boys down the pit’, for example. “Boys! Loads of fellas. Hunky guys down there! Possibly even a boyfriend. Who’s to say at this stage. But, a lot of good looking fellas down there.” But then again, his stupidity actually made his legitimate tricks and traps that much more surprising. Maybe fooling you into thinking he’s an idiot was his plan all along.
*Cue twilight zone music*
2GLaDOS – Portal 1 & 2
Yea, it’s another Portal entry. If you don’t believe GLaDOS deserves a spot on this list right beside Wheatley then you’ve just booked yourself a ticket to the obscure realm of ‘My Hatred’ along with Robert Kotick and those hipster dirtbags who take pictures of their food in public spaces.
A unique adversary (to everyone who hasn’t played System Shock 2) GLaDOS catapulted into the public eye after Portal. Though it would be hard to attribute her success as a character to any one thing, it’s a safe bet to say that a sizeable chunk of her fame stems from her troll-tastic dialogue. It’s just expertly paced and utterly devious.
She’ll say one thing, then do another. Give you praise, then take it all away with a backhanded comment. “Look at you, sailing through the air majestically like an eagle… piloting a blimp.” She scorns you like a crotchety old step-mother at times. And the worst part is, despite all the degradation and attempted murdering, I STILL felt sorry for the bitch.
Troll and a half.
1Shodan – System Shock 2
Precursor to GLaDOS and master copy of BioShock’s Atlas, (Atlas is a copy of Shodan) Shodan tops the list to become our most Trollerific villain. Born of an era when games had to rely on ACTUAL tension and witty writing to convey plot points – as opposed to pre rendered cutscenes and explosions – Shodan is simply unforgettable. A constant taunting presence, she gets inside the player’s skull to incite fear and twist sensibilities.
From the haunting, jack-in-the-box, reveal, which scared the CRAP out of me as a kid by the way, (insert video of reveal here) to the post cutscene teaser, Shodan is all up in your face at every conceivable moment. “Are you afraid? Insect. What is it you fear? The end of your trivial existence? When the history of my glory is written, your species shall only be a footnote to my magnificence.”
I, literally, shuddered every time I heard her eerie voice track fade in and hoped that the interaction would be a brief one. There’s some fear reaction in there for sure but it was more about the psychological torment than anything else. You play yourself a game of System Shock 2 and I guarantee that by the time the final battle rolls around, you’ll either be chomping at the bit to destroy Shodan, or, so under her spell you’d happily accept death.
It takes a master level vintage Troll to illicit that kind of emotion response and you better respect that.
Have you got a favourite troll villain you just can’t help but love? Let us know in the comments below!