Griefing the MMO Part 2 – The… Good?

In the comforting warmth of the capsule, surrounded by an inertia-dampening field that cradled her like a loving mother, Captain NoRetreeet surveyed the space around her through the tingling cobweb of sensors that were her link to the vastness that surrounded her.

It had been a good haul, a feat made all the more impressive by her relative inexperience with the craft and sector. Her hold was full of minerals from one of the  many asteroids that hung in space like a necklace around the glowing red planet.

Things might be all right after all, she thought, experiencing an unexpected wash of optimism as she willed the ship to a sublight cruising speed toward the jump portal. This would do for now. Her past was behind her, the messiness and abuse she had suffered were now just distant memories. She had been given a new beginning, a fresh start.

A sudden crash of noise split her concentration like a cleaver and she struggled momentarily to get her bearings. Proximity sensors wired directly into her brain shouted red-tinged warnings: ships had snuck up on her. A lot of ships.

She mentally checked her database against the ship types, saw the name of the pilot of the lead vessel flash across her vision. Oh no, she thought, her previous optimism replaced by the familiar feeling of desperation.

“Ur ISK, we needz them,” came the voice over her commlink. It was a voice she knew all too well: Captain TwattHamer, of the fearsome band of pirates, Deth2Nubs.

As a reflex more than anything else, NoRetreeet opened fire with her pathetic armament as she calculated the coordinates to jump away. She knew it was useless, but to go down without a fight? After all her hard work? Never.

But then it was over, and her ship was nothing but glittering fragments, oddly beautiful in the light of the distant star. The pirates scooped up her cargo.

Sighing, NoRetreeet spun up her autopilot to limp to her home station and outfit with another ship. It was going to be a long trip.

This was her last thought before the missile hit her capsule and ended this clone’s career once and for all.

“LOL,” The pirate said. “LOL. NOOB.”

Seconds later another armada showed up and blasted the pirates to atoms.


So last time we talked about griefing in MMOs, we discussed the hows and whys of things, and what effects griefers have in a game, and what both sides have to say about the whole weird business. It was a pretty balanced and well thought out article, in my opinion, and it introduced the idea of the peanut butter and baby poop sandwich metaphor to our collective food nightmare database. Did I mention it was balanced and well thought out? I did? OK, moving on.

So most of the opinions I managed to express in the previous mish-mash made it pretty clear that griefing has a negative effect on the games in which it happens. Generally, it’s there simply to make the griefed player unhappy, to make the game more difficult (or even functionally unplayable), and to cause irritating mischief for the sake of mischief. On the other hand, from the griefer’s point of view, the whole thing is just how they like to play, and how they have a great time.

And possibly…how they teach those they grief a thing or two about being a grown up?

“When I was being an obnoxious little asshole in Ultima Online and vanilla WoW,” reports Dreadgoat on Reddit r/games, “the satisfaction of being obnoxious came from the griefer being acutely aware that the ‘victim’ was mostly causing problems for him or herself, and that the ‘victim’ would take a hilariously long time to figure this out. If I annoyed someone a bit and they shrugged it off, then I wouldn’t annoy them any further. If they overreact? No relenting until they respond in a mature manner.”

Ok, ok, I’m listening. So it’s really a matter of handing down valuable life lessons from the School of Video Game Hard Knocks? That’s an intriguing concept: force people who need it to take a long, hard stare in the mirror, to truly see themselves for what they are. Hey, it’s not easy, but sometimes you’ve got to see the warts before you can start to change. These griefers are really not such bad guys after all! They’re just making the world better in an unorthodox manner!

Avarice991 agrees: “I’ve learned a lot during my griefing, but the most important lesson is this–there’s a tremendous difference between hating the griefer, and actually fighting back somehow. The former is contemptible weakness, the latter begins to be worthy of respect.” Well said. It’s called “tough love,” kids. Avarice991 ain’t got a hankie to wipe away your little baby tears.

You can’t know what every griefer is thinking, and frankly you might not want to know in some instances, but it seems like at least a few of them are out there doing more than just trying to be annoying. They’re fighting a tough, unappreciated battle against the forces of immaturity and apathy. That explains a lot. It doesn’t explain the Second Life Parade of Dicks necessarily, but it explains a lot. It’s enough to give one pause to reflect on the nature of human interaction, on the motivations for behavior, on the reasons why I feel it necessary to have three things in this list.

But that’s not all!

One of the biggest reasons to appreciate griefing is the same reason I had for not appreciating it last time around: it creates something that’s closer to the real world. And winning at the real world beats winning on the playground hands down (especially when you’re an adult–those kids are easy to take one-on-one, but watch it if they swarm. Also: jail).

Look at EVE Online, the MMO/Excel Spreadsheet that puts characters in charge of a ship and sends them out into the void to sink or swim in a hostile universe. Unlike most online games that are divided between several servers, EVE is just one giant server, one universe of possibilities where even small actions can ripple across virtual light years. In a game like this, griefing or being griefed actually means something. Think camping an Alliance is annoying? How about dissolving the infrastructure of several galactic sectors, plunging hundreds of players into bankruptcy with a single in-game betrayal? In that case, fucking with someone isn’t just annoying, it’s epically annoying.

And ultimately, that’s what we’re here for. Not just experiences. We get those every day. Going to the bathroom is an experience. Eating a banana is an experience. Doing both at the same time is, you know, kind of weird–but if that’s your thing, go with it. No, what we’re looking for is epic experience. We’re looking, however subconsciously, to strive and overcome the odds and become the best we can be. And God help us if griefers don’t give us a hand along the way sometimes. And they do it of their own free will despite all the negative press. Because it’s a way to help people grow up, because it’s a way to help people get tougher…

“Because it’s hilarious.” That’ll do, crazyjake56. That’ll do.

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