Definitions

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Griefer

A griefer is a player who plays a game simply to aggravate and harass other players.

History

The term was applied to online, multiplayer computer games by at least the year 2000 as illustrated by postings to the rec.games.computer.ultima.online USENET group.

Overview

Griefers differ from typical players in that they do not play the game in order to achieve objectives defined by the game world. Instead, they seek to harass other players, causing grief. In particular, they may use tools such as stalking, hurling insults, and exploiting unintended game mechanics. Griefing as a gaming play style is not simply any action that may be considered morally incorrect. Though the staff of each online game defines griefing in a manner that best fits their game, certain criteria must be met for an action to be considered griefing. An act of griefing involves the following three types of actions to be considered grief play:

  • The use or abuse of a game mechanic that was not intended by the game's developers.
  • The inability of the victim to exact some means of retribution beyond utilizing similar unintended game mechanics.
  • The intended purpose of an act of griefing must be to negatively impact the game play of another person.

An act of griefing usually meets all these criteria as well as any game specific criteria set by the developers of the game.

Generally, for griefing to have occurred, the player in question must meet several, if not all, of the criteria listed above. More open definitions of the term suggest that the curbing of enjoyment in any way to be a form of griefing, whether it meets any of the listed criteria or not. These players will often consider the following actions to constitute griefing: kill stealing, player killing, spamming, team killing (or team wounding), teamflashing, door or path blocking, ninja looting, spawn camping, and corpse camping. These actions often meet one of the criteria but may fail to meet others.

Griefing shares much in common with laming, another term in online gaming, though the former tends to have stronger connotations. Although laming is less well-defined, fulfillment of the first criterion is often enough to classify an act as laming, thus, many of the above listed actions, while not accurately considered griefing, may legitimately fall under the category of laming. Though the two terms are very similar, griefing is typically more specific, particularly in regard to the second and especially the third criteria.

It is important to note that griefing methods differ from game to game depending on that game's mechanics. Changes and upgrades can sometimes prevent or lessen some acts of griefing, though the large player community of such games can sometimes find a way around it.

Usage

Griefer is the noun form used by victims to refer to the player causing grief using the previously mentioned methods.

It is important to remember that the term griefer does not refer to any player that causes grief to others. Rather, it refers to a player whose only objective in the game is to cause grief, and who cannot thus be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals, because they have no in-game goals other than to cause grief.

To grief is the infinitive form. It appears to be ambitransitive; however, no linguistic research has been done on usage variations to date.

Examples

In MMORPGs that do not allow any player versus player combat, the act of attacking another player is prohibited. "Monster Player Killing" is a method of griefing where monsters (mobs) are manipulated to attack other players. The player character of the griefer first provokes monsters into attacking his/her own character, then lures the mobs to an area populated by many other players. The griefer then utilizes some technique, such as leaving the area, to lose interest of the mobs. The mobs then attack the other players in the vicinity. (This example might not be considered griefing in some contexts, such as in a player versus player environment.) Another example of griefing in an MMORPG would be killing non-player characters, particularly those crucial to questing, vendoring or transportation. This directly disrupts the game play of nearby player characters, who are left with the task of either waiting for the slain characters to respawn, or attempting to kill the offending player(s) if the game allows for PvP combat. More often than not, the offending player is counting on this, so that he may kill other player characters in "self-defense".

In the online multiplayer game Tibia, it was possible to lure extremely strong monsters called Giant Spiders towards nearby players. Most players under level 50 would struggle fighting it and any below level 30 are usually killed instantly. Eventually they managed to put bridges in certain sections of the game to restrict luring. Lately, luring happens a lot less, because if a monster is lured over a certain distance, it automatically disappears, taking any possible loot along with it. Luring is often used to kill the characters belonging to newbies who cannot defeat/escape from strong monsters. It is still being used, albeit at a much lesser scale than before.

In Halo 2 and 3 multiplayer, a group calling themselves HLG (Hidden League Gaming) would deploy an extremely uneithical tactic or a form of cheating that loop holes the xbox live code of conduct. As soon they get the lead, the team would actually hide from the opposing team with elaborate means until time runs out. Robbing the other team of any way to make a come back and their fun.

The online multiplayer game, Diablo 2, demonstrated many types of griefing methods. Players begging for items would sometimes wait in the town locations for another player to enter the game, wait for that player to move over to a cornered area, and maneuver their own character next to the player, block him, and demand free items to move. Before patching, some in game exploits became so intolerable that players would lose all trust in certain player classes. Some classes had spells that could damage enemies over time with a single cast in a wide area of effect. In the heat of a battle, some griefers in a party would start casting these spells, quickly use an item that allowed them to return to the town, and declare hostility on their own party. The party, still battling, would now take damage from the griefer's spell and likely sustain heavy losses. Other griefers would utilize hacks and third party programs to cheat by killing players in neutral areas, falsifying item trades, duplicating items to trade for legitimate items (the duplicates would soon disappear) and forcing players to disconnect.

In some games where players choose to roleplay, griefers will sometimes attempt to disrupt or undermine ongoing roleplay by standing among the roleplayers and intentionally talking "out of character", shouting profanity or nonsense unrelated to the roleplay or game, hitting players with unwanted buffs (sometimes referred to as "drive by buffing"), or using powers or game mechanics to annoy, push or generally obstruct roleplayers. Some games have dedicated roleplay servers where such behavior can be prevented, but for games with no roleplay server there is usually no way to avoid this type of griefing unless the victim(s) leave, hide or simply move away from the griefer(s).

Another example is the practice of "crashing" in multiplayer racing games, such as Live for Speed. A crasher will often wait at a certain point at a track, ram other players that are in slower cars or braking, or drive in the wrong direction, attempting to collide with another player head-on, among other acts. Crashing is almost always frowned upon, as it disrupts the race of players who are attempting to run a clean race. There is often the option of kicking or banning the offending player, but sometimes such options are not available. Occasionally, rule-abiding players will have had enough, and collectively attack the offending player. Sometimes, servers of certain games will run third-party software which kicks crashers on the basis of movements unusual in a race, but sometimes, as in Live for Speed, the software works to the advantage of the crasher, as the attacked player will trip the software and be kicked, while the crasher will remain.

In online games such as Second Life that allow the scripting of objects, griefing is very common from established groups such as the Patriotic Nigras, who use such scripted objects to harass and lag users, as well as build special self-replicating objects designed to overload a server and take down regions of the game. However simply instigating drama with content deemed 'broadly offensive' or 'harassing' by other players, or the dreaded Governance or "G-team" is deemed to be griefing (the definition of 'broadly offensive' is frequently derided by civil libertarians as offensively broad).

Another example is the practice of intentionally cause a multiplayer game server to crash. For example, in the online multiplayer first person shooter game Battlefield 2142, players who had been designated as commanders and given the ability to command and move Titans ("gigantic flying battleships" which serve as mobile bases) would intentionally crash their Titan into that of another Titan which often crashed the server. This is still a regular occurrence within the game.

Another example is that of myg0t and Rawrzorz(.com). This group is an online gaming organization and website dedicated to "raging" which in principle is very similar to griefing. They use many methods, mainly in FPS (First Person Shooter) games, in order to annoy and spoil the game for others, doing such things as blocking doorways, repeatedly team killing, and using game exploits and hacks in order to annoy others.

The practice of griefing has been the theme of a South Park episode.

Social aspects of griefing

While clear examples of griefing exist, much of the difference between griefing and non-griefing activities depends on individual player's understanding of the social norms of the in-game world. Activities one player considers griefing may be understood by another to be part of normal gameplay. While certain behaviors are generally recognized by the majority of players in a game as griefing, the ultimate classification of any single act as griefing rests on the intent of the perpetrator. Griefing may not occur if the perpetrator's intent is not to negatively impact the victims game play or if the victim is capable of exacting retribution at the present or in the future. The perpetrator must have an advantage that was not intended by the developers of the game to exist.

A number of gaming groups are believed to exist for the sole purpose of griefing (for instance the aforementioned myg0t). Again, the classification of these groups as griefing groups is subject to individual analysis and the required criterion for actions that can be considered griefing. In some cases the perpetrator may claim to be a griefer but be acting in a completely developer intended manner. The perpetrator's intent may be to grief but if the victim has a clear means of reprisal that was intended by the developers of the game, the offensive acts are not griefing but merely a means of playing the game.

Combating griefers

Many subscription-based games have taken steps to combat griefers as they reduce the amount of enjoyment non-griefers take in the game and thus drive away business. However, the opportunity to grief is present in the functional requirements of multiplayer games in general (spamming is an unavoidable given non-restrictive player to player communication). Also, some griefing activities are easier to curtail than others. While spamming can be prevented with an ignore function, preventing the use of exploits in the FPS genre requires altering game balance issues. This is not impossible, but would remove the strategy aspect of some team-based first-person shooters. Also, since all griefing involves manipulating exploits, only by eliminating all of them can programmers remove those opportunities from Player Versus Player oriented games and Non-Player Versus Player oriented games. Given the scope and complexity of most multiplayer games, preventing griefing in Non-Player Versus Player games can be next to impossible.

In light of this, most games allow either for server admins to reprimand offenders (up to and including banning certain IP address from logging onto a local server) or, as in the case of MMORPGs with persistent worlds, have a reporting process by which the activities of certain players can be brought to the attention of Game Masters. The GMs or Customer Service Representatives then decide on any disciplinary action (if appropriate). By some accounts, as many as 25% of customer support calls to companies operating online games deal specifically with griefing. But in some MMOs griefing is reportable only as an abuse or exploitation of unintended game mechanics, which is frustrating to the victim of such acts as the griefer may not be dealt with as the report will go directly to the developers to fix the abused code.

Several games practically eliminate the major forms of grief in online games by having separate instances for areas between towns and outposts, meaning no one except the player and their party can be found in that area. This means that many aspects of griefing are impossible and a griefer could only grief another player by gaining entry into the party.

Sometimes the playerbase themselves rise up to combat the griefers as demonstrated within Second Life. There are many established groups and organizations dedicated to fighting groups like the Patriotic Nigras.

Reducing Griefing Without Combat

One group in Second Life, BNT Holdings and its Ng Security subdivision, adopted a different approach after many months of going along with the same "War on e-Terrorism" approach followed by other groups they worked with to combat griefing. Rather than treating griefing as a form of terrorism that must be wiped out, which typically resulted in banning of accounts with new anonymous alts used minutes later, with proxifying applications to avoid grid-bans, BNT chose to treat it as a problem of juvenile crime, which is what it really is (even when some of its practitioners are legally adults)

Firstly, when the Woodbury University sim was infiltrated by PN members , Linden Lab shut down the sim Woodbury then contracted with BNT to reenter SL with security staff and policies against griefing, as a place for creative individuals seeking to relegitimize themselves in the SL community to have a place to create within a 4chan-based community.

BNT entered into an agreement with the then-head of the Linden Lab governance team, Michael Linden, to encourage individual griefers who had developed legitimate activities in the game, to help BNT demoralize the PN and reduce their manpower supply in the 4chan.org community. LL would unban such individuals if they agreed to stop griefing and work with BNT. BNT was then able to recruit nearly a dozen PN members, who served as a core for changing the culture. BNT used memes to demoralize the group members. Firstly by convincing a number of people that the leader of the PN was in reality the groups arch-enemy (i.e. Angel = Mudkips) The leader quit in the drama , and the group elected a new leader, who was a BNT spy and who looted their server of its IP logs, before being outed as a furry and kicked out of the group. Another leader was elected, who was also a BNT spy and also further looted the server before being outed as a furry and kicked out. The second spy discovered that the groups sysadmin was a closet furry into inflation fetishes and outed this information in an article on the Second Life Herald. In the ensuing drama, there was a mass exodus of members from the PN, disgusted by the idea of being led by furrys

BNT has since then employed various 4chan '/b/tards' in its building and security departments, and helped to expand the new Woodbury University campus in SL to three sims, giving young people with 'channer' interests a place to create in peace and to participate in WU's virtual educational opportunities. As a result of BNT's work, griefing in SL is estimated to have dropped by some 90% in the past year.

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