Every now and then the Internet puts you in an awkward position and gives you an embarrassing story to tell.

Recently I’ve started playing a game called Town of Salem. It’s a video game, but it plays more like a board game, really.

The basics are simple. There are 15 players to start. Among those 15 players are 3 or 4 mafia members. The mafia members know who the other mafia members are, but the other players do not. Each turn, the mafia will kill off one of the villagers. The players can then decide amongst themselves to execute a player if they believe that player to be a mafia member. The villagers need to identify who the mafia members are before the mafia wipes them out and takes control of the town. There are plenty of intricacies, but that’s the gist of it anyhow. It feels a lot like The Resistance, if you’ve played that.

Here’s how it looks:

Salem.png

So, on the first turn, the mafia decided to kill off “prinzEugen”, and the remaining 14 townsfolk will now discuss who, if anyone, to send to the gallows.

By its very nature this game requires a lot of communication with complete strangers. If you’re a villager you need to convince the other villagers that you’re trustworthy, and if you’re a mafia member, you need to convince the other villagers that you’re trustworthy while trying to spread confusion and doubt so that they make the mistake of executing other villagers rather than mafia members. In either case, communication is necessary. You can stay silent for the first few turns, but once the number of players starts to dwindle, saying absolutely nothing looks suspicious as hell. So naturally you get chatting with people, both about the game and other subjects.

Today I got chatting with a girl named Karla. I say this, but of course this is the Internet, so I had no idea if the person I was speaking with was really a girl named Karla. But my rule with anonymous Internet conversations is to take things at face value unless the person gives you a reason not to. So, Karla it was.

She mentioned that she was from England, so we got talking on that subject for a bit. The game ended before our conversation reached a natural conclusion, so I sent her an in-game friend request, and we kept chatting.

Then she asked me “How old are you?”

I froze up. That’s not something people usually ask. Not this early in an Internet conversation anyway. One alarm bell went off in my head. This was a reason to suspect that the person I was talking to might not be a girl from England named Karla. It might be a creep.

At the same time, I didn’t want to be rude. So, I decided to test “Karla” by saying “I’ll tell you how old I am if you tell me where in England you’re from.”

She said “London”, which is the exact answer you would give if you weren’t a girl from England named Karla. Another alarm bell.

I said “London’s a massive city, you’ve got to be more specific than that – what neighbourhood?”

She said “I don’t know lol.”

About a dozen alarm bells went off in my head. How could you possibly not know what part of London you’re from? “Karla” could have said just about anything and I’d have believed her. She could have made up a neighbourhood and I’d have been none the wiser.

But she didn’t. She said “I don’t know lol.”

I knew that what I should do at this point was close the conversation, unfriend “her”, and never speak with her again. That would have been the smart move.

But I am not a smart man. I had to say one more thing. And in doing so I guaranteed my own doom.

I said “You don’t know where in London you’re from? Hmm. But whatever, I’m 25.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with telling a complete stranger that you’re 25 years old. There’s nothing they can do with that information.

But by saying that, I gave her a chance to reply. And how did she reply?

“Cool. I’m 10.”

The alarm bells stopped ringing.

I sighed, I closed the conversation, I unfriended her, I blocked her, and then I closed the game.

There was no longer any doubt that I had been talking to a girl from London named Karla. A 10 year old girl from London named Karla, who didn’t know what part of London she’s from because she’s 10 years old. A 10 year old girl from London named Karla who didn’t know that it’s not polite to ask how old people are on the Internet because she’s 10 years old.

And to that 10 year old girl from London named Karla, just minutes before, I had said “I’ll tell you how old I am if you tell me what part of England you’re from.”

With horror I realized that I was the creep.

No more Internet for me today. I’m banned.

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.

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