Dresden N7's Blog - Jul to Sep 19 (5 followers)
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PermalinkSpartanRanger: How I Accidentally Went Viral On Reddit
This will be a lengthy read, but it should be entertaining if you love internet drama… or pitchfork mobs… or poetic justice. If you’re already familiar with Reddit and just want the action, skip to Part 4.
(PART 1) : REDDIT & KARMA

“Everything’s made up, and the points don’t matter.” – Drew Carey
My handle on Reddit is SpartanRanger. I’ve been a casual user for the past three years, primarily to keep track of news on niche topics. Like most Redditors, I voice my opinions by leaving comments and in doing so, accrue “Karma Points” through upvotes from other users. While it feels good to have your opinion validated this way, I have a nonchalant attitude towards Reddit Karma.

However, many other users take this business of Karma seriously. Some may even say too seriously. Although, the same could be said of GamerScore, TA ratios, and many other numbers that we obsess over. In any case, many Redditors strive to create a constant flow of upvotes and by extension, positive Karma. Commenting in trending threads are a good source of Karma, especially if you voice a popular opinion. However, the most lucrative source of Reddit Karma is to submit a post that goes viral.

How does one strike Reddit oil, so to speak? In a word: luck. Right time. Right place. These are paramount. Quality is immaterial when it comes to what catches on and what doesn’t. Of course, this formula leads to a nasty but inevitable conclusion: the farming of stolen and/or low effort content in the hopes of internet validation.

We’ll come back to this later. But first, a necessary detour.

(PART 2) : MASTER ASSASSIN

“Excellent work, 47. The money has been wired to your account.” – Diana Burnwood
In hindsight, my love of the Hitman series was more of a slow burn. It all started when I saw the intriguing Legacy Trailer for Hitman (2016). I bought into the episodic model at launch and played each level as they were released. My faith in IO Interactive was rewarded with a clever, engrossing experience unlike any other stealth game. Problem was, the rumored sequel still had a ways to go. I would have to look at past titles in the meantime if I wanted more Hitman.

In early 2017, I went on to tackle the older and much-maligned Hitman: Absolution. Another year would go by before Hitman: Blood Money turned backwards compatible and allowed me to complete this classic on my Xbox One. Later in the fall of 2018, IOI released Hitman 2 after surviving near-death as a studio and going independent. It’s one of the best games that I have played.

Spring 2019 saw Microsoft’s backward compatibility program release the last few batches of games before its closure in June. One of these was the Hitman HD Pack--a combo port of the aging Hitman: Silent Assassin & Hitman: Contracts. Arguable the hardest titles in the series, but I eventually managed to complete them.

All that remained were the “HD Enhanced” re-releases of Blood Money & Absolution. A tedious proposition, having already completed them through the BC program. The surprise appearance of a generous sale price proved to be most convincing in the end. However, it wasn’t until August that I found the time and willpower to push through these games for a second and final time.

And with that, I had completed the entire Hitman series on Xbox.* My three-year, on-and-off passion project was finally complete.

*Not counting the two games unavailable on console. Hitman: Codename 47 is the PC-only title that started this series back in 2000. (Although, the best levels were remade in Hitman: Contracts.) The other title is Hitman GO, a mobile game delisted from the Windows platform.

(PART 3) : THE SNOWBALL

“Pics or it didn’t happen.” – Unknown
Reddit is divided into compartmentalized subreddits. Analogous to a country consisting of states and provinces. No matter how much of a dumpster fire one subreddit turns into, this shouldn’t affect the other communities across the site. That’s the theory, anyways. At least for every bad subreddit, there are several good ones.

It should come to no surprise that I’m a semi-frequent poster of the subreddit for the Hitman game series (no real killing here). r/HiTMAN is a relatively small community on Reddit with approximately 50,000 users. It’s usually filled with news covering Hitman 2’s weekly content, complaints & bug reports, videos of feats, and of course… memes. Of all the subreddits, I figured they would understand and appreciate the labor of love that went into completing the entire series.

So, I decided to share an image. Proof that I had completed every single Hitman entry. To do so, I first organized the games in my achievement list in reverse chronological order to mirror how I finished them. Afterwards, I brought up my achievements on the Xbox mobile app. I ran into a minor issue, however. The high number of games made it difficult to use only one screenshot. To solve this problem, I took two images--one for each half of the list--and merged them together. Little did I know this simple screenshot would create so much drama.

Here is the post I submitted to r/HiTMAN. Although technically my second post of all time, this was my first real submission on Reddit. And for the record, I wasn’t expecting much of a response. Granted, I’m a writer and like all creators, we thrive off feedback and attention. If we are greeted with neither, we will usually go somewhere else. But I would've been perfectly satisfied with a dozen upvotes and one or two comments.

By the end of that night, my post ended with 1.3 thousand upvotes and over a hundred comments. The response was unanimously positive with a 99% upvote rate. I had several good discussions too. We reminisced over shared suffering through difficult missions, and I answered some interesting questions. I honestly hadn’t expected such a response, especially in a smaller subreddit. My post also received two silver awards, which are basically super upvotes given by users who paid for the ability to do so. The fancier the medal, the more money they paid Reddit to grant you the award.* It’s a semi-rare symbolic gesture. You get nothing for it other than a few days or weeks of ad-free Reddit, depending on the medal, but it’s humbling nonetheless.

By the end of the day, the post had run its course, and I was content with the modest impact it had. Then I went to bed.

*1 Silver Medal = 100 Reddit Coins = $0.40
1 Gold Medal = 500 Reddit Coins = $2.00
1 Platinum Medal = 1800 Reddit Coins = $6.00


(PART 4) : GRAND THEFT... INTERNET

“I made this.”
“You made this? … I made this.”
The Internet by Nedroid (Anthony Clark)
I originally posted my Hitman screenshot on August 16, 2019 (Friday) at 7:48 PM UTC (around noon for me). Now, imagine my surprise when I was alerted by other users that a similar post went up in the massively popular Gaming subreddit on August 17, 2019 (Saturday) at 6:17 AM UTC or roughly 11 hours later. Here is the thief’s post that was submitted to r/Gaming. (I highly suggest you read the comments, but not at the moment. Spoilers!) As long as you’re not legally blind, any reasonable person would quickly come to the conclusion that the image submitted here is identical to the one I submitted half a day earlier.

r/Gaming consists of 23.3 million users and has the reputation for being mostly filled with gaming-related memes and low effort reposts. There are a lot of rules, but like much of Reddit as a whole, there is no explicit rule against stealing content. There are two sides to this issue. The optimist would highlight the impossibility of enforcing such a policy, not to mention the chance of accusing an innocent user of theft. But the pessimist would explain how a hard stance against theft would invalidate a large enough portion of Reddit’s content that it would kill internet traffic and by extension, site income.

I’m not naïve. I’ve seen many stolen submissions in the past and downvoted them. This more often than not is the classical Reddit-style theft. Step 1: user makes post. Step 2: another user steals post and with the right timing, it goes viral. Step 3: thief goes unpunished. It’s just one of those things where you see it over and over, but never expect it would happen to you.

The stolen version of my post received 14 times the Karma, 5 times the comments, got on the front page of r/Gaming, and even received a Gold Medal. But you know what? I wasn’t even angry about the numbers. The thief* could’ve done a crosspost of my original submission to r/Gaming and still receive all that, but the credit of the accomplishment would still be mine. Doing this would’ve been perfectly acceptable. Except the thief didn’t do this. Instead, he or she took possession of my accomplishment… my labor of love. And then blatantly lied about it. That is what angered me.

So, I did something about it. Call out the obvious theft with a simple comparison picture. I wasn’t even sure if it would gain enough traction. There was a good chance that my post would simply disappear in the sea of new submissions. Most likely, the thief would go unpunished like every stolen repost in Reddit history.

I wasn’t ready for what would happen over the next 15 hours.

*There’s a few odd coincidences if you look closely. My username “SpartanRanger” and the thief’s username can be seen as an obscure reference to opposing factions in the Metro series by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Even weirder, the time-limited Elusive Target for Hitman 2 released that Friday was codenamed the “The Identity Thief.”

(PART 5) : THE AVALANCHE

“A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle
Here is my submission to r/Gaming pointing out the blatant theft. The statistics are insane: 24.7 thousand upvotes, 96% upvote rate, over 500 comments, front page of r/Gaming for a day, 3 platinum medals, 3 gold medals, and 6 silver medals. But all of this pales in comparison to the massive amount of goodwill I received from strangers on the internet.

Even looking back at it now, I’m greeted with a blur of memories from a day that became a surreal rollercoaster of emotions. The thread itself is a good read and speaks for itself. I recommend expanding all the comments and tracing the events as they unfolded.

For the first few hours, my post calling out the theft received some upvotes and comments. Nothing major, but it was better than nothing. But as time went on, something changed. I noticed my post starting to snowball. More and more Redditors continued to comment. Some showed sympathy, others gave respect for what I did, many made jokes about the thief’s username, and a few even apologized for being tricked by the stolen post. My original post and image on the Hitman subreddit also benefited from the attention. It's now the second highest post of all time on r/HiTMAN.

But it kept going.

Almost every comment was a show of support. Each message of goodwill brought in a flood of good feelings. Then the medals started to rain down. Silvers, Golds, and Platinums. I personally messaged each medal-giver to thank them for the humbling gesture. The outpouring of unanimous support was overwhelming. Comments and upvotes continued into the night at a feverish pace. My phone’s notifications were overloaded by a deluge of comments, messages, and username mentions.

The only negative replies I received were from the thief in an attempt to claim that I was the one who stole their post. These comments were downvoted into oblivion and later deleted by the thief. Thankfully, another Redditor saved them. After this approach didn’t work, the thief tried to backpedal and play the dumb card followed by the victim card. And why was that?

I understand that many people love drama. And drama is conflict when boiled down to its essential components. Most Redditors are not strangers to theft. Either it’s happened to them personally or they’ve seen it. Both of these factors, when properly mixed together, apparently creates a brief but spectacular internet mob. And for the record, I never directly encouraged any such action. I only wanted the truth to come out.

It did… with a righteous fury.

For every positive comment left on my posts, there was a negative comment left under the thief’s post. Of the 1.1 thousand replies to his submission, over half are pointing out his theft, and often in a blunt fashion. (As you can imagine, the comment section of his post is also an entertaining read.) Before the truth descended upon him, his post had 14.3 thousand Karma. After everything was said and done? 5.9 thousand Karma. What was previous a 99% upvote rate turned into 50% through downvotes. I had become a rallying cry for the internet equivalent of street justice.* Swift and absolute.

The satirical subreddit called KarmaCourt also got involved. They hold mock trials to bring attention to Karma thefts from stolen posts while making jokes at everyone’s expense. I thought they were unnecessary for my circumstances, but another Redditor levied the charges on my behalf. The regulars there thought it would be like any other case. They were wrong. A KarmaCourt reporter would later bemoan the dogpile. Both are hilarious reads.

Looking back at those 15 hours, I’m only reminded of how surreal the whole experience was. Such a weird, whirlwind of a day.

*There were even a few unsuccessful attempts to make a meme out of the situation.

(PART 6) : AS THE DUST SETTLES

”Irony, I feel, is a very high form of morality.” – Jean Stafford
The irony of my situation is not lost on me. My posts and accomplishments received far more attention and accolades due to the fact they were stolen by another user. In a poetic, roundabout sort of way, the thief did me a favor. I would’ve been perfectly content if the debacle never happened in the first place, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit this turned out for the best. And even if I was the center of all this drama, the real stars were the Redditors who rallied behind me. Because it came down to luck and the goodwill from strangers that some measure of justice prevailed.

Let’s tally the damages, shall we?

The sheer number of medals given, especially of the expensive variety, is mindboggling. I’m not solely referring to myself. Several Redditors acting on my behalf received well-deserved medals too. A few bystanders and spectators also benefited like the aforementioned joke post and mock trial. And we can’t forget the gold medal that was mistakenly gifted to the thief. From my estimates, a total of $50 was spent on these medals (Silver: 10, Gold: 11, Platinum: 4). I’m sure I missed a few.

And what of my viral post?

After a day, it seemed to have run its course and people moved on. A quiet and fitting end to the drama. Then the moderators saw fit to remove my submission. I should count my blessings seeing as nothing was deleted. However, my post no longer appears in r/Gaming and is hidden from search engines. The only way to find my post is with a direct link, looking up my submissions, and through a crosspost I made on r/HiTMAN.

My hope is for this blog to act as a record for posterity. My original post and the debacle that followed is merely a tiny drop in the ocean that is the internet. A minor footnote in Reddit history, but also a reminder that sometimes, in the rarest of circumstances, internet thieves can be punished.

Even if their post remains on r/Gaming.

That’s the whole story from my point of view. If you enjoyed this recollection of events, please share it and/or leave a comment. Also, if you were a victim of internet theft in the past, then by all means, comment below. I’d like to hear your stories too.
Posted by Dresden N7 on 21 August 19 at 15:47 | Last edited on 28 August 19 at 19:10 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.