I rev my engine, just seconds before the countdown ends and the screen says 'Go!' I remember the handful of matches I've played today, many of them against frustrating opponents armed with a barrage of insults. Rocket League offers an endlessly fun experience, but it still has its problem with internet trolls. I noticed my new opponent was named 'Waffle Facts,' but I didn't think much of it. The game starts and I wait for him to send the ball careening towards my net, so I can return it as if I was playing pinball and my car was the flipper.
The ball explodes on impact with my opponent's goal. I send him a message: "one waffle fact per goal plz." I let all those infuriating players get the better of me, to where I was now being what I had hated most about the game: a troll. Feeling particularly proud of myself, I expected Waffle Facts to retort with something equally as shitty, but I got something else.
"Thank you for subscribing to waffle facts. Waffle Fact: The word "waffle" is from the Dutch, meaning 'wafer,'" he said, almost immediately. Needless to say, I was surprised. Over the next five minutes, we would trade goals, each one accompanied by a new fact. He ended up beating me by quite the margin—I told him it was because I wanted more waffle goals, but that was definitely not the truth. Regardless, the player whose waffle knowledge seemed to know no bounds had changed my mood for the better. The irritated player who entered this match left smiling and remembering why I love Rocket League. However, after the match, the two of us parted ways.
Almost two months later, after I tweeted about my experience and thousands of people laughed at the unique player's antics, Alex (aka Waffle Facts) got in touch with me. I was elated to meet the person behind the facts. And as it turns out, the idea to share them came from the same place I was stewing in at the beginning of our match. Being a systems architect for a large retail company, Alex uses his free time with games as a way to de-stress and get away from the more complicated parts of life.
"I try to make games as stress-free as possible, but it's funny with Rocket League, I started wanting to get a lot better, and as I started playing more competitively, I started yelling at my computer," he told me. "I would say some mean things to people, and I found myself being really upset with myself because I'd let the game get the better of me. My wife would sit and play next to me, and she'd say, 'Honey, calm down. It's just a game.'"
Alex saw what the game was doing to him, and it was something he didn't like. However, with his passion for dumb humour, he started to respond to over-competitive players in a different way.
"Instead of being too competitive, I started just saying jokes to people," he explained. "What I noticed is people responded really well to being positive and being happy… so it really just came out of me thinking one day, 'I'm just going to do something stupid.' I have the capabilities to write my own macros, so I thought, 'I'm just going to spit out random dumb things to people and try to make them laugh.' Whenever somebody is negative to me, I'm just going to give them some silliness back."
Just played a game of Rocket League where the person stated a new waffle fact every time someone scored pic.twitter.com/EyjT8RYRigMarch 21, 2017
In the short time we talked, it was obvious that his passion for dumb humour seemed to only be superseded by his passion for his wife. Calling her "the most important part of [his] life," he told me about the one thing she wants every Saturday morning: waffles.
"I was thinking about her and how she always wants to make waffles every Saturday morning, so I thought, 'How funny would it be? I wonder if there are some facts about waffles?' So I jumped on Google and did a few searches and started copying and pasting some waffle facts that I thought were funny or interesting."
Alex's strategy was to give players a couple of real waffle facts before sending off one or two that were "bizarre, off-the-wall, [and] completely not true." He wanted players to stop for a second and go, 'Wait, that's not true, is it?' And nearly every time, they did. In fact, Alex told me that it completely changed the mood of almost every match he was in. Not only were inconsiderate players changing their tune to the sound of waffle facts, but Alex found himself being more positive, too.
"It changed the way I play the game," he said. "I stopped being competitive; I don't care if people miss a goal, I just let it go and have fun. And when people on the other team are angry, I think it's so hilarious to throw a fact at them. And most often, they just laugh and they go, 'That's hilarious, who is this guy?' And it totally changes the dynamic of the game, and that's been really awesome. It's been kinda magical for me.
"I wish I had a log of some of the in-game chats to watch how it can devolve and then get better really fast. And sometimes it doesn't pick up, sometimes people are just trolls and that's just how it is, but most people respond positively to it. It changes the game from negative—you hear a lot of racial slurs and terrible comments—to other people saying funny things, too. It's fantastic."
Rocket League's community aren't the only who have been affected by Alex's unique positivity. I spoke to Psyonix community manager Devin Connors to see how the game's developer felt about the charitable waffle wisdom.
"Everyone around the studio got a real kick out of Waffle Facts after it surfaced on Twitter," he said. "We're all about keeping Rocket League matches upbeat and positive, and Alex appears to be a great ambassador for positive, friendly play… Waffle Facts shows that you can bring a creative, funny, and most importantly positive attitude into a match without upsetting the balance of play."
My match with Alex took place in March, but it wouldn't be until May when he realized that people were falling in love with his concept and hoping they'd be put into a match with him.
"My wife and I had a vacation planned to go down to the Southern Caribbean, and we were gone for nearly all of April. And when I came back, somebody had said, 'Hey, I saw you on Reddit. You're famous,' and I laughed at it. And just the other day, someone said, 'I saw you on Twitter, this is Waffle Facts, you're the guy!' My wife was next to me on my laptop and she found the tweet. We were reading through [the comments] together, and it was hilarious.
"I had somebody who friended me on Steam and said, 'Hey, I want to be a part of your clan, how do I get involved?' And I thought it was really funny. I said, 'Maybe you could be Pancake Facts?' I don't know where it went because I'm not really good at following up on stuff like that, but I think it would be hilarious to have a funny army of people that just try to make things positive in-game, whether they're Waffle Facts or facts about Dutch poffertjes or something like that.
"I don't know why it always comes down to breakfast. I guess brunch is my thing."
However, through all of the smiles, laughs, and positivity, Alex does worry that his use of macros to deliver chat messages is something he could be punished for.
"Somebody did say in-game, 'Are you allowed to do this?' And I'm like, 'I don't know… I hope so. I hope Psyonix doesn't ban me for doing something so stupid,'" he laughed. Thankfully for Alex, Psyonix told me that it sees his waffle-facts delivery service as "pretty harmless."
And so, Alex will continue playing soccer with a rocket-powered car, all the while providing free education about waffles. And if you ever find yourself in a match with a blue car, wearing a waffle antenna and a painted chef hat, make sure to opt in for the facts. You'll learn a thing or two about waffles, but perhaps you'll also remember that video games are supposed to be positive, and they're a lot more fun when you're positive as well.