I tweeted a dumb story about my Skyrim dog and I went viral and it’s insane

So, basically a few days ago I was very hungover and trying to write an article about Parks and Rec, and decided to procrastinate by going on Twitter and talking about Skyrim. Cut to a couple of hours later, and my phone literally shut itself off because I was getting too many notifications. I’d gone viral. Over the next few days – up until about now basically, although I think it’s dying down – I watched it spread around the world. It seemed to take off in the UK first, and then got picked up by Buzzfeed UK:

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and then spread into the US when they all woke up, getting picked up by Imgur, Daily Dot, Kotaku, all the other Buzzfeeds, and then basically everywhere. It was the front page of Reddit, it’s doing the rounds on Tumblr with a billion reblogs, it was even shared by New York Magazine?

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It’s just been ridiculous and hilarious, and has meant I’ve spent the last few days chatting with really excellent people (except for a couple of gamergaters who I joked about summoning AND THEN THEY CAME and then I blocked them all bc it was all too much).

And some legend sent me 10 Euros for ‘dog food’ to my Paypal account, so it’s been pretty lucrative for me.

Going viral is just a weird experience, because literally more people than I can actually imagine have read something dumb that I’ve written. It’s not the dumbest thing, but it’s also a story about being overly committed to a video game. Oh, and my mum sent me this amazing message:

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Internet success.

Anyway, here’s the whole ludicrous story, or you can read it on Twitter here.

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HELLO INTERNET BOY #41: Say no to bunnies

Last night at my improv class, we were talking about bad behaviour on stage. From something so dumb, the ‘prov as it’s known, sure looks like it has a lot of rules. Although, it’s actually kind of a myth. Improv is kind of like painstakingly breaking down the process of communication, and building it back up again using idiots. Every “rule” is just another layer of basic process. The classic rules that people know about improv is the whole ‘say yes’ thing. It starts off being prescriptive, but after a while it’s not so much a rule as a layer. It’s about being open and receptive to what the other person on stage is trying to do, and not shutting them down. When you start off, you’re encouraged to literally never say no, in order to try and drum this into your head. Saying no is actually quite instinctual in improv, because we have this idea that drama and interesting things come from opposition, although it tends to actually just stall things, or spin a scene into a stalemate of bickering. After a while you’re actually allowed to say ‘no’ as long as that ‘no’ is in some way saying yes to the situation proposed. There’s something known as the ‘game’ of the scene, which is both the technical structure, and also somehow the soul of the whole thing. Saying yes to the game, can sometimes look like saying no to something a character is proposing. This is confusing, maybe I’ll go read my UCB handbook and explain this better.

Anyway, breaking down improv rules and talking about bad behaviour made me think about roleplaying, especially on Aelyria. It’s interesting, because the two mediums are so incredibly different, yet at their heart, they are exactly the same. There’s a lot of rules on Aelyria too. If you ask me, there’s way too many at the moment, and a lot of them involve complicated time-measuring systems. I have a lot of trouble telling the time in reality, let along in magic world. But the main, overarching rule of playing Aelyria used to be known as ‘no bunnying’. I don’t know if they use bunnying as a term anymore, but it basically means being true to the reality of Aelyria, and not overstepping your bounds. Bunnying can include giving your character knowledge that they couldn’t possibly know, like if there are assassins breaking into the castle in the night, just coincidentally waking up and putting plate armour on for no reason. Bunnying can also be affecting the world around you – like walking up to a tree and finding a deus ex machina apple in it, when your character is starving. In essence, bunnying is saying no to the reality of Aelyria. It’s literally rejecting the ‘game’. Everyone is helping construct a fantasy world, and to reject even a part of it, weakens the shared communication, the shared goal.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #40: Stampede!

In Aelyria, the action has finally begun. After a nice little monologue from the gruff dog-man, Patrick finds out that he’s been thinking bad, possibly mildly racist things, about a guy who used to be a thug, and now tries to help people. Patrick loves a redemption arc, so for the first time he begins to feel comfortable. I really do love a redemption arc, by the way. It’s one of the few tropes that basically always appeals to me. I have no idea why – I’ve never been a particularly bad guy, and I’m far too law-abiding to ever get really tempted by the dark side, but I suppose that’s what makes it exotic. It’s interesting to think of the circumstances that could turn you evil, and then good again. Not that I’m particularly good. For me it would be evil and then kinda OK again.

After Patrick relaxes, that is of course when the bad stuff happens. Suddenly Ruffus is barking orders at us (and for the first time, barking orders is actually a literal description) and there’s some kind of … stampede heading our way. But Ruffus is telling us to run, while holding his weapon, so I don’t think it’s animals. It might be orcs or boar things or something. Anyway, it’s exciting. At the moment I’m just running – I think I’d definitely run from a stampede thing in real life. That’s probably instinct.

Our pet behaviouralist has been educating us about our dogs anxiety disorders, and has been talking about they are triggered into fight or flight from weird shit. It’s a difficult thing to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and a difficult thing to write about in general. We tend to identify our selves via our working brain, as a kind of cohesive psyche – but it’s a bit of a myth. There’s all sorts of triggers and modes in our brain that kind of bypass our full personalities and go deeper and more primal. When we’re in fight or flight, it’s literally those two things. It’s impossible to think about complex morality or pacifism or fear of the law. I wonder if this sort of thing is ever covered in criminal cases, especially in terms of self defence. If I woke up and someone was threatening me with a knife, I know from prior experiences that there’s an equal chance that I’d bludgeon him with the deer antler on my dressing table as run away. I hope I wouldn’t be penalised for that – it’s not a choice I’d consciously make.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #39: Timehop

It’s almost looped around to the time when I first started writing this series, and it’s so weird to think that a year has passed. I’m bad at memory, and very bad at cutting at time into easily digested periods, but it’s amazing how easy it is to follow the course of a year when you’re working on a blog project for the entire time. It’s probably helps that I’m aware that I need to finish all fifty posts by the end of March, and that shit is coming up!

A lot has happened in that year, but it also kind of feels like nothing has happened at all. I don’t feel different, and a lot of the same thoughts and frustrations and anxiety loops that I was going through a year ago are still grinding on. It’s depressing to think that I might be endlessly chewing on the same problems until I die, at the age of 183 from being way too good looking.

But then again, a lot of THINGS have happened, including the entire trip that this series is based on. I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve seen some amazing things. It’s difficult to quantify how that changes you, because I think experiences seep unnoticed into your identity, and become part of the structure that makes up who you are. Unless it’s a horrible experience, and then you generally know the ways in which you’ve changed.

A year ago I was taking my first ever annual leave, going on a trip in which I still got paid, and I felt old and proud, but also a bit sad. I wondered if this was the pattern I would be set into for the rest of my life, the old 9-5 grind and then taking a holiday thing. But, turns out I worried too much, because now I’ve been made redundant! That’s a goddamn change. I have to say that a year ago, as much as I loved my job, I worried that it might be holding me back from my ambition to be an author. Not anymore! Woo! Every cloud has a silver linings playbook.

Being so aware of the past year, and the frustrations and worries I’ve held close to me has really forced me to take this redundancy as an opportunity, as a chance to do something else. What that exactly means remains to be seen, but in a years time, it will all seem hazy and difficult to un-imagine, if that makes any sense.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #36: Ye olde taxi

In my last post, I was heading out on the road with Oswald and Ruffus, a potentially sinister duo of hobbit style man and dog man. And in what I remember as being extremely typical, I’m still waiting – there’s been no word from the moderator who’s writing the other half of the thread. I completely understand this of course – people have lives beyond their weird fake internet lives. The classic trick that Aelyrian’s get drawn into is feeling too impatient to wait for just one or two threads, so you start up another one, and then another one, which all works fine on that day – and then a week later, you suddenly have seven people to reply to, all at once, which is basically the equivalent of writing seven short stories a night, and then you way too stressed and quit. Or at least that’s what I did.

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Anyway, this waiting has actually been a fairly successful narrative device, it’s drawing out the suspense, making me wonder what’s going to happen. I’m 100% convinced they’re going to pull me into a copse of trees and stab me and steal my identity.

It reminds me of when me and my partner went to Vietnam a while ago. Everyone gave me the same tip – when you get off the plane, make sure you go to the correct taxi rank, because there’s a lot of dodgy taxis out there. So when we get off the plane, all bleary and tired and young, what did we do? We let ourselves get drawn away and shoved into a random car, and as we drove off, another dude just jumped into the front seat. It took me a while to realise it, but we’d done exactly the wrong thing.

It all seemed to go fine for about fifteen minutes, until suddenly we pulled off from the road, into what can best be described as a shanty town. Then, the guy in the passenger seat turned around and began yelling at us to give them ‘bridge tax’. Luckily, I’d been expecting this, and had shoved the couple of hundred US dollars I had in my wallet into my shoe, and just played really clueless and dumb, which I was, until they were happy with a few twenties. The guy then got out of the car, and the original driver drove us to our hostel, which was the weirdest part of our taxi heist.

I was mostly just glad that we hadn’t been stabbed and left in a gutter, but I was also a bit sore about paying around fifty US dollars more than we should have. I felt like I’d failed the ONLY thing about travelling that I was actually prepared for. This was mollified, however, when I discovered a big burly US college student in our hostel had paid FIVE HUNDRED US DOLLARS to his taxi.

And, I must have learnt my lesson, because in New York a guy came up to me and said ‘taxi? and then started leading me into an underground carpark’ and suddenly I thought ‘wait a moment, this is that thing I don’t want to happen’ and I said ‘oh wait, I forgot, my mum is picking me up’ and I ran off and caught a real taxi.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

 

 

HELLO INTERNET BOY #35: Wizards… on the road

So, the adventures of “Patrick Lenton” the Aelyrian character have kicked off, in a suitably modest way – more in the style of Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is having breakfast for about 700 pages, but it’s a start. He’s on the road and he’s met a fast-talking Cether (Halfling or Hobbit analogue)named Oswald and his friend Ruffus, a tough-looking Dorin (dog person). Patrick does love dogs. The Cether has basically invited Patrick to travel with them the majority of the way to Port Alyx, and against his (my) better judgement, he has accepted.

You can read it here as it goes on, if you want.

I thought hard about this – I’ve been taking a lot of my narrative cues from longform improv rules lately, and I know the fastest way to stall this story would be to say ‘nope – not travelling with you’. I know that this kind of narrative is different, and there could be different consequences from saying no, but it feels like the very kind moderator who I’m writing this thread with has very clearly offered me a cue, and I have to say yes. I also think that in real life, there’s also a chance I would say yes. In the post, I am both suspicious of their motives, and also ill-at-ease with the idea of spending that much time with strangers – but I am also nervous about travelling in general, and I don’t believe in turning down help.

I wrote about it back at the beginning of my RL trip, but at LA airport, a guy who was on my plane, a kind of tall thin shabby guy, was standing at exactly the same junction as me, with the same confused, over-tired look on his face. We were trying to work out which branch of the confusing customs lanes we had to go down. He asked me if I knew which one, and together we (correctly) guessed and went down one. For the next couple of hours as we wandered around the labyrinth that is LAx, I already regretted being saddled with him. I was tired, so tired. I was starting to suspect he was racist and homophobic. But that said – I felt more secure. At one point I definitely would have had a small anxiety attack when collecting my luggage, because I was sure I’d made a wrong turn. He was able to point out a small sign that showed we were on the right track. I did basically the same thing for him in New York, and waited half an hour with him for his bags, and ended up finding them for him on a different carousel. We helped each other out. It was probably better than not.

That said, in New York, he told me that he was staying in Times Square, and that we should hang out. I didn’t want to do that. He kept pointing out black people, and trying to work out which of our fellow passengers were homos. So I gave him a wrong number.

So yeah – unless I get stabbed, I’m pretty sure Oswald and Ruffus are going to get hard-dropped somewhere around an old-timey ferry.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #34: adventure time

Patrick Lenton has made his first post on Aelyria. Patrick Lenton is leaving the city of Arconis and going out into the world. Patrick Lenton is an unnatural creature. After falling down a rabbit hole of research, I decided that my character lived in Arconis because it had a university and seemed sort of vaguely prosperous and safe. Although, it had recently suffered a pox, some kind of civil war which I can’t find any details about and something called the ‘giant siege’, which I know just enough about to realise it was a siege by actual giants, and not just a really big siege.

Patrick Lenton, a graduate of the Collegia of Arts, has received a grant to travel across Aelyria, researching his family for a book. This is the closest thing I could think of that mirrored this project. Like me, he feels unsure and unready about travelling. But whereas my fears centre on unclear administrative anxieties, his are probably things like: orc warbands, giant bug monsters, necromantic cults, hostile weather, the fact that he is completely untrained to defend himself in a world where there is magic. This seems pretty dumb to me. But I suppose people can kill other people just as easy in reality, with guns and knives and sick burns, and I’ve only got my two arts degrees to fend them off, so the parallel stands.

Yesterday I, the real me, the real Patrick Lenton was sitting in Hyde Park in Sydney, at lunch in the middle of the day, surrounded by hundreds of people, and while I was reading my book, a guy strode up to me and plucked my phone out of my hand and made to run off with it. I got to my feet, and then he proceeded to beat me up a little – put me in a headlock, punched me in the face and the stomach. I managed to disengage and he called me a ‘homo jew’ and told me to fight like a man. I have no real idea of how I did fight him, because he kept trying to put me in more headlocks. It felt like more of a tussle, but my memory of it is all super disjointed. At some point I did grab his arm with my phone and twist it, until he threw the phone away. Then he ran off, punching a lady and kicking a British boy in the chest, stealing something from a sunbathing couple further up. I believe during it, I said ‘give me my phone, fucko’ and ‘you bag of dicks’. I have ended up with the following unimpressive injuries: wrenched neck, sore back, bruise on my butt and a very bitten tongue.

What surprised me about all this is how I reacted. At no point was there conscious thought involved, my brain was just a kind of blowing void, full of instincts. And those instincts apparently told me that I will “fight” with a guy who is fighting me. I honestly assumed I would probably run or curl up into a ball. And it’s not courage or anything – as I said, there was no conscious thought involved at all. Nothing to be proud of. It’s like being proud of a fart – it was just weird bodily reaction. It actually worries me – I could have gotten hurt so much more, in so many different ways. I would have liked to think that I could always run. But until he actually fucked off, there was no way I was even present enough to think ‘run’. It’s like a stranger running your body.

So when and if a moderator picks up my travelling storyline on Aelyria, and attacks my helpless nerd with a bandit or a werewolf, I actually have a better idea about how Patrick Lenton will react to that. And he’ll probably die.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #31: Patrick Lenton, Human, Dual Class Writer/Marketer

Over the last year, I’ve had various tales of financial woe. They are not interesting – I didn’t blow my fortune at the craps table, or buy some magic beans or suffer from an arrow to the leg. Just shitty life stuff, in which no interesting tale shall spring from, which really adds insult to injury. When I started doing this project, I envisioned a round-the-world tour over the year, as well as my US trip. But as it happened, the money I received from the Thiel Grant for Online Writing was just enough to get me to the US. Getting back was a different story, and has contributed to my wonderful debt.

ANYWAY – not being able to afford to head to New Zealand and Singapore in the next few months, I’ll have to rejig the later part of this project, and this is my idea: instead of real life boy meeting people from the internet in real life, I will now be inserting my real life persona back into the game that started this all. Confusing huh – basically what I’ve done is created a profile for Patrick Lenton (ie, me) in Aelyria, which I last played in my early twenties. I will then document what it’s like to wander around in a fantasy roleplaying game as… myself. Obviously in order to adhere to the rules of the world, I can’t EXACTLY be me – but I will be trying to replicate as much of my own life and my own personality as possible. I will not be a seven foot orc barbarian with fire magic. I will be a six foot lanky writer. What will I even do with my time? What are my own motivations, let alone in a fantasy world? I will endeavour to write a post every day, both in the game and on here, for the next twenty days to explore this.

Today, I created my character sheet and registered on the site. It was weird. In so many ways, the site hasn’t changed at all. But it looks like the gameplay is almost unrecognisable. I’m also pretty sure I have to change my ‘wealth tier’ though, because as I said, I’m probably not steel. I’m probably ‘handful of pebbles’. I don’t know, I have to do some reading and find out what it means.

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Tomorrow I will do some research and maybe write my first post. Back when I first started playing, your first post always had to be in the Aedile’s office, which was basically a real estate agent? You needed a house. I obviously don’t have a house. I rent.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #30:Gifts

Despite never having met my teenage love interest, there was one instance where he managed to somehow appear more real and central and in my life, like when a ghost decides to become a poltergeist and starts moving shit around.  That was when my internet crush sent me a package of gifts in the mail. I didn’t realise it at the time, but limiting my interactions with this guy to MSN Messenger, ICQ and the forums of a fantasy roleplaying game kept the entire relationship as a… fantasy. As something not real. That could be sectioned off from my real life when it became too uncomfortable, or threatened to expose some truths about my sexuality. Even the rare phone calls, his voice crackling through my Nokia with a breathless, American accent, were less than real. They were also exciting and stressful and I missed every third word.

So when a package of stuff appeared out of the blue, I opened it up in my room (or the caravan I lived in out the back of my parent’s tiny house to be precise) and had a small panic attack. There was a gorgeous letter along with it, where my name had been written in painstaking calligraphy with blue pen, on some kind of bright, spiral stationary. There was a lot of feelings in the letter. It was super teenage. I felt uncomfortable and flushed while I read it, but that wasn’t what freaked me out.

There was a chunky man ring, which I loved, despite the fact that I am definitely not someone who can wear rings. There was… a man bracelet I think?

And then, underneath it all, there was a Playstation.

And this is what freaked me out. The idea of a Playstation was somehow too big, too real. If I wanted to play this, I would have to explain to my parents where the Playstation came from. It was a big white box of reality. So I gave it to my friend Bob.

Problem solved.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #29: Eggs eggs eggs

I just ate scrambled eggs on gluten free bread, mixed in with green capsicum. The smell, now and perhaps forever, reminds me of the little AirBnB I stayed at in New York. I ate that same meal every night, sometimes travelling back on the L train and rushing up to the apartment just to shovel some barely cooked yolk into my mouth before travelling back into Manhattan to catch a show at UCB. Every time I made it, I was almost paralysed by embarrassment, completely sure that my dour eastern European hosts were judging me. They always seemed to be lying in their loft bed that overlooked the kitchen, always stirring and whispering as soon as I fired up the hot plate, as soon as I deftly stole more of their olive oil and pepper.

I didn’t just eat eggs because I’m an unadventurous cook who could almost literally eat the same thing for every meal. Only a week after I got back from the US, I went into hospital for my colonoscopy and endoscopy, or as I like to call it, getting double-teamed by the doctors. The reason was that for a full year I’d been getting horrific stomach cramps, that would put me out of action for days, either in crippling pain or acid nausea. I was tested over and over again for tumours and cancer and ulcers and babies. I got incredibly good at popping up my good vein for blood tests. I got thin and tired and depressed. I finally got a recommendation for a gastroenterologist, who after going through all the tests again, came up with the incredibly unsexy conclusion that I had irritable bowel syndrome. He booked me into hospital to make sure it wasn’t cancer as well, but in the meantime he put me on an exclusion diet, where I basically had to cut everything except basic proteins out of my diet, and then gradually reintroduce things to discover what it was my system was incapable of digesting. By the time I went to New York, I was two weeks into the reintegration diet, and had discovered I couldn’t handle gluten, onions and garlic – ie everything good in the world.

When I booked my trip to New York, I had several people give me comprehensive and amazing lists of things to do. It was amazing, and super useful, considering I was travelling on my own. They also all included the food I should try, the amazing slices, the bagel houses, the burgers. But I wasn’t yet used to asking for things to be made to my specifications, and I was in a strange land, with a currency I was even more incapable of understanding. Instead, I basically didn’t eat anything that I didn’t make with my two stupid hands. I basically just ate eggs. One day during my improv class at UCB, I bought a tuna sandwich with some of my classmates, feeling so incredibly happy to talk to other humans. But while I was eating it, I realised that the bread wasn’t gluten free, and the tuna had onion in it. My stomach immediately twisted into the well-known, well travelled cramps I was used to, and I contemplated with dread having to spend another few days curled up in my makeshift bedroom, enduring the judgement of the Europeans hovering perpetually over me (I’d already spent three days in my first week with the flu). But then I realised it was impossible – there was no way that the poison had reached my bowels yet, no way they were sitting there like undigested bricks. It was all in my head. I still didn’t eat the sandwich though, after those first bites. I’d been in pain for so long that there was no way I could conceive of risking it. One of the guys asked me why I wasn’t eating it, and I told him I was allergic to onion. It just sounds cooler than IBS. More dangerous. ‘I could die’ automatically trumps ‘tong term intestine pain.’ On my last day I went to that famous pizza place in Brooklyn, and then looked at it and decided that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to vomit all over the plane the next day.

The way I got over this fear, and actually started working through my limits was when I got to the South on the roadtrip. There was so much stuff made of corn that I started to get a little giddy, a little free with my choices. I learnt that I can handle a fair amount of gluten before getting ill (less if I’m drinking), a small amount of garlic, and a lesser amount of onion.

I’ve had a few conversations since I’ve gotten back about the food of New York, and I can never actually engage beyond vast amounts of candy and eggs, morning noon and night, eggs eggs eggs. And that’s why eggs reminds me of New York.