If you’re unfamiliar with Nintendo’s Tri Force Heroes, check out my review.
My summary is this: it’s a great game ruined by bad people. Why are people jerks, especially in online games? That’s something I can’t answer. But one of the reasons people in Tri Force Heroes are particularly awful is the way they abuse and invade your personal space in the game.
Every video game gives you your own personal space. Perhaps you can customize your character. Maybe. you have a virtual living space to design and decorate. The bad guys are the ones who invade your personal space. They destroy your castle, or they kill you simply by touching you.
Tri Force Heroes is the rare game in which getting all up in other people’s business is a core component of the game.
I didn’t address the game’s totem mechanic in my review because I wanted to talk about it more in depth here.
Tri Force Heroes introduces the Totem mechanic. Three Links can stack atop each other for some hot Link on Link on Link action. As a totem, the Links can reach higher platforms, switches, and enemies, making it a critical component of all aspects of the game. You must totem to explore, to solve puzzles, and to fight.
You can pick up another Link at any time, and any Link can pick up you. However, once you’re picked up, you can’t get down until they put you down. I’m not sure why the developers thought this was a good idea. How would giving the player agency to get down change the game?
Toteming creates situations where you are forced to do things you don’t want to do. Someone might accidentally throw you off a cliff, or you need to only be two Links high, yet the third Link keeps hoisting everyone up.
Most of the time it’s a minor annoyance. Other times it can be more frustrating. But most of the time it comes with the territory.
There are many situations where I might add a person to my blacklist, ensuring that I never see them again. I’m surprised I have any groups online, considering how many people I block.
Here’s a rundown of reasons why I block people.
1. They assume a team leader role even though they have no idea what’s they’re doing, or they don’t allow other teammates to explore at all.
2. They stand on the goal when it appears and spam “Over here!” Honey, I know where the goal is. I’ll be right there.
3. They say “THROW!” when I am holding them, even though it’s a cutscene. I will throw you as soon as I’m able… and probably off the nearest cliff, you ass.
4. They pick me up and carry me to the goal, and not in a chivalrous carry-me-over-the-threshold way, either.
(Bonus points for saying you want to play a Challenge level, and then voting “no challenge.”)
The game calls these people “false heroes,” which is a nice way of saying “entitled bossy little basic bitch.” It seems like the worst false heroes are those who name their character Link. There aren’t many better ways of being a fake hero than taking the name of a real hero and completely failing to live up to it.
There are ways to troll people back. Once, I encountered a false hero who fell into all these categories. I threw him off a cliff. He retaliated. At the end, when it was time to claim loot, I picked him up and held him until the timer counted down. He finished the level empty-handed.
I felt bad after that. Blacklisting him — adding him to a list of players you won’t meet again — would have been the more honorable choice. In this instance, the false hero had turned me into one, too.
Tri Force Heroes allows false heroes to take control of you in ways that other multiplayer games do not. Granted, I don’t play a lot of multiplayer games, but there are annoying players in the games I do play. In Splatoon, you might get a team that isn’t very good. Or they just squid around annoyingly instead of contributing to the team. In Halo (is that still a thing?) it was popular to “teabag” a dead opponent by squatting on their face. Rude? Sure. You deal with it.
Tri Force Heroes takes the potential for trolling a step further. It allows players to physically move your in-game character in a way that feels invasive. I wonder if this is a subconscious reason why gamers hate Tri Force Heroes so much.
People who play Zelda games aren’t used to being treated like this. They’re accustomed to controlling the action, whether it’s riding Epona through Hyrule field or sailing the seas. There’s a bit of a power fantasy in every Zelda game, too. Link is the Hero of Time, but he is often helpless at first. Through him, players fight off evil, save princesses, blow up walls, change the flow of time and of history. His inventory grows and so does his heart meter as he becomes stronger, strong enough to defeat Ganondorf, Vaati, or whomever the villain may be. Plus, Link is a cipher character, with few personality traits other than simple heroism. His blank nature allows him to be imminently relatable.
Link isn’t the sole hero in Tri Force Heroes. He’s part of a team. For me, it’s a lateral move. Link’s role as a hero isn’t lessened by having to work as a team. You can’t always be the one and only hero. However, Link’s role is diminished when he is used as an object by other players. Again, it’s part of the game mechanics. You consent to being totemed simply by playing the game. But it absolutely infuriates me when I or other players are treated this way. Instead of riding Epona, you become Epona, but without a carrot for a reward. It feels personally insulting.
The most offensive thing a false hero can do is to force you into another game.
When you finish a game with a group of strangers, you return to the lobby. To play again, you move to the glowing Triforce logo on the ground. Only when all three members are present will the game begin. If you want to quit, you talk to the little old man by the stairs. It’s only polite to press the “goodbye!” emoticon and say goodbye to your team, even if they were jackasses.
Even without voice chat, your intentions are clear. You’ve waved goodbye. You’re moving toward the exit.
Yet, the totem mechanic can still be employed in the lobby. A player can grab you, carry you to the Triforce teleporter, and throw you on it. If they move to their corner of the Triforce fast enough, and if another player is already waiting on their own triangle, you are forced into another round of the ground. This puts you in the position of being a jerk. You have to go through the costume selection screen, and vote for a level, when you don’t even want to play. Then you quit. Which is what you were attempting to do in the first place.
One of the emoticons is a picture Link grabbing his head as if he has a headache (as if to say, “no totem tonight, honey”) and shouting “NOOO!” When you’re trying to leave and someone picks you up. You shout No, yet they drag you to the portal to play another game with you. The third teammate has the power to help you. They could grab the false hero until you leave. Or, more easily, they can simply stay off the portal, preventing a new game from starting. But sometimes they won’t do this. Either they don’t know what’s going on, or they don’t care. They stand and watch, waiting on the portal, thereby complicit in the other player’s actions. I’ve even seen them help drag me onto the portal for another round.
Many times, the false hero doesn’t have good aim. They throw you onto the teleporter, and they miss. You run for the exit, but they grab you again. No, you say. No!
I’m sensitive to personal space, even in a virtual world. I’d be disturbed if someone treated an NPC like this, but other players do this online to characters being controlled by real people. I wish I could see how these people act in real life. They’re likely unable to be able to physically pick up and move people, but I suspect they still have issues respecting the personal boundaries.
Just like I can’t answer the question, why are people assholes in online games, I’ll never understand the fun or entertainment value in forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. But I do know this, and this is a critical part of the answer, if there is one: False heroes have no real power of their own, so they must take it from others.