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Griefing: Gaming Scourge or Performance Art?

grief1


There’s probably one in your life right now: a griefer. One of those people who bases their enjoyment of a given activity on wrecking someone else’s good time.

A griefer is the guy who logs into a shooter immediately after attending the midnight launch and spends the rest of the night in multiplayer deliberately getting in front of their teammates so that they can’t shoot at the opposing team.

He plays racing games by driving the wrong way trying to ram other players head on, or perhaps he chooses the largest vehicle and then parks it across the last turn before the finish line just to mess people up on the home stretch. A griefer is someone who will dedicate their entire day to hunting you down in an MMORPG and killing you over and over again until you log out.

But a true griefer will not stop there. They will sit and wait and wait and wait. They will wait as many hours as necessary until you log back just so they can kill you at least one more time and complete their epic vision of online douchebaggery. The angrier you get, the more a griefer laughs. Your hatred is their fuel. Your lack of fun is their fun.

So who are these especial bastards within gaming communities that are already known for their general unpleasantness? What kind of jerk plays video games just to stop other people from being able to play them? Griefers, damn it! Have you not been listening?

Now that we’ve established what a griefer is and does, the question at hand is what to do about them. Most games and services have the option to report such people and after enough reports, they will be banned, but some games have become such a haven for it that it becomes a part of the entire experience, and can even be viewed as essential to it. In fact, some of my fondest online gaming memories have been made possible by people acting like complete tools.

Seeing a lopsided Halo 2 match turn ugly between teammates and end up with one player attempting to help the opposing team of one player win a game of Assault by carrying the bomb to our own base and verbally calling for the enemy to come set it off and the resulting abuse made an otherwise boring match into something hilarious and dramatic.

And, of course, with the endless possibilities and massive popularity of Minecraft and Second Life, it would seem almost a waste to not deliberately incite anarchy on occasion.

Anything that can be built can be destroyed, after all, and is any reaction more priceless than an extremely negative one? Second Life in particular is so full of ridiculousness that it’d almost be bad form not to troll these people.

Mel Brooks once said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”. In other words, as long as it’s not happening to you, misfortune and pain is the definitive source of comedy.

As much as the concept of ruining other peoples’ good times seems wrong, I have to admit I’ve spent a whole lot of time laughing my ass off at videos of people doing it, and I even feel a bit privileged at times when I witness it in-game.

In a sense, griefing is another player expressing their sense of humor and using other players as their improv props, making it an art unto itself. They take the tools given to them in the game and use them in ways other than was intended to create an entirely different kind of game where the object is to incite rage in their fellow humans.

The advent of multiplayer gaming made this kind of behavior inevitable, and the ubiquity of the internet had made it possible for people to record these spontaneous moments of online madness for all the world to see.

Griefing in Minecraft has become an essential part of the community. The game gives you countless tools to be used in creative ways practically limited only by your imagination.

And given that all of the content is built and manipulated by the players, it is natural that people would take to other players’ establishments to set their homes on fire and steal their stuff. And that’s the just the beginning of the possibilities.

You don’t even need to mess up your team or other players in-game to make people lose their minds.

Sometimes, it’s just the little things that really set people off. I’m particularly fond of this video of a player named after a famous post-apocalyptic comic book judge who begins trolling a particularly annoying kid by declaring that he is, in fact, The Law each time he kills somebody.

The best part is when the other players start to join in like saying “amen” in a church service to drive him completely over the edge.

All good harmless fun, right? Maybe; but sometimes maybe not. World of Warcraft, being the world’s most popular MMORPG for a decade or so, is naturally a haven for people who may not have their fellow gamers’ best interests at heart.

In fact, there was an entire episode of South Park dedicated to the game in which the story revolved around a griefer who grew so powerful that not even the game’s moderators could stop him.

south park wow griefer dance gif

Pictured: ultimate swag.

MMO’s are a natural habitat for breeding those kinds of people due to the endless hours spent on them and the social aspect.  All of the leveling up and gear acquired from rare drops makes less experienced players easy targets for veterans, and these games can often bring out the nihilist in people due to sheer boredom and spite.

I mean, once you’ve done all there is to do, what else is there to do but mess with people who haven’t? And on occasion, such instances can go viral and make a player part of the game’s lore. Hence, Leroy Jenkins.

Then there’s the fact that a lot of people who are most invested in MMO’s are often…how to say…considered less than the pinnacle of human sociability. In a sense, the online fantasy world can become their world.

This opens up some of the more serious and sincere players to abuse from the more savage sensibilities of the general online population.

In what’s possibly the most legendary moment in WoW history that doesn’t involve a player jumping the gun on a raid and shouting his own name as he leads his party to the slaughter, a Horde guild crashed an in-game funeral for a player who died in real life.

This definitely begs a legitimate questioning of how far is too far and whether digital rituals should be treated with the same respect as their in real life counterparts.

On one hand, there is definitely a satirical aspect to Serenity Now’s contempt for the concept of a video game funeral service, but on the other there is the matter of respect and common decency.

One could say that the instant you post on the internet that you “would appreciate it if nobody comes to mess things up” you are pretty much begging somebody to do exactly that, but does that excuse the behavior of the ones who do?

While I definitely derive enjoyment from watching the exploits of game-ruiners as I see anti-social behavior as a natural reaction to its more positive counterpart, I can hardly condone something as extreme as starting a fight at an in-game funeral service.

It’s easy to mock it, but at the same time, it is the digital age and this allows us to know people who we may never actually lay eyes on in ways that even our own friends and family in real life can’t relate to.

An in-game memorial may be the only option for gamers to pay their respects to a person who was as much their friend as their co-workers or classmates; just in a different way. In that sense, it’s hard to justify that level of sadism. Even in a video game.

So while a little bit of griefing can make a tired game fun and spontaneous again or provide a great video to entertain us and satirize the occasionally excessive sincerity and bad behavior of gamer culture, there is also a counterproductivity to disrespecting your own community to that extent.

It’s as if you’re saying that the way you choose to spend most of your time is not worth it. And if a game isn’t worth taking seriously, is it worth griefing? And what does that say about the griefer?

Anyways, griefers gotta grief, and grief they will. It’s an inevitable function of people getting together to anonymously interact in a virtual medium.

I’ve cheered on more than a few in my days although I’ve never really felt the need to contribute my own efforts to that end. I respect the need to shake things up on occasion, but hopefully as gaming becomes more sophisticated and gamers grow up a little, we can exercise a little restraint when it’s called for too.

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About Nick Verboon

I am a guy on the internet who writes stuff sometimes. Try and keep up. I used to write reviews Amazon and other sites under the moniker trashcanman before semi-retiring from my unpaid career for a while. But now I'm back in action writing columns for Unreality and Gamemoir. Enjoy. I

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