Haunting the world of online gaming is an irritating group of people that show no signs of disappearing... the Griefers!
Ever since the introduction of online games and communities there’s been an insidious invasion by a nasty sub-group of gamers known as Griefers. These unpleasant creatures love to ruin gaming experiences for other players, leaving a haze of misery behind them as they slink from server to server.
They are the virtual equivalent of the school bully, they beat up the smaller kids and throw damp paper at the teacher.
It’s not exactly easy to accurately define a griefer. There are plenty of criteria listed across the vast reaches of the internet but they don’t all necessarily agree on the specifics. A griefer isn’t some snotty kid with an idiot attitude, no; a griefer’s intended purpose is to negatively and strategically impact the gameplay of other people.
They know how to carefully manipulate in-game mechanics and leave their victims feeling helpless, unable to exact retribution outside of the usual channels, such as Game Masters, complaint systems and online and in-game tools.
Griefers can operate alone or they band together forming gangs and they either focus on one particular MMO or move from one to the next, causing as much trouble as possible. There have been plenty of cases where these gangs have, after months and years of patient planning, completely destroyed players.
One such case took place in the game Eve Online in 2005, when a group known as the Guiding Hand Social Club infiltrated the corporation known as Ubiqua Seraph and robbed them of assets valued at thousands of real pounds. While there were plenty of people amazed and impressed by the sheer scope of the operation, ultimately it was a sneaky, underhanded act that cost other gamers real money and years of effort. Griefing at its most perfidious.
If you’ve ever dabbled in World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, Second Life, Live for Speed, EVE online and titles from the genre, then you’ve probably encountered one or two of these feckless creatures. They’re the ones that sit in game chat and make puerile remarks designed to antagonise and irritate regular players, they join your Raids (WoW) and cause chaos and have you reaching for the aspirin and the off-button within minutes of logging on.
Depending on what type of game you’re playing, your griefing experiences will differ. In online racing games such as Live for Speed or iRacing.com, griefers are those players that purposefully drive backwards or crash into oncoming cars making it impossible for players to win and often resulting in their being kicked from the game while the griefer goes on to inflict further damage.
The thing is, hate them or love them, griefers aren’t stupid. Well, some are, but for the sake of argument, let’s focus on those griefers that do more than just ninja your loot or say naughty words. True griefers don’t just amble onto servers willy nilly, throwing well-timed insults and crashing into your car.
They read the Terms of Service for every game they play and they learn exactly how to slip between the cracks. They find ways of playing with the rules to cause the most mayhem, leaving players gabbling futilely at flustered Game Masters.
Huddled over their computers in dark little rooms griefers form bully support groups, egging each other on until they explode into virtual mini-mobs, frothing at the mouth in feverous anticipation of the damage they’re about to inflict.
Any action can feel justified when enough people tell you it’s ok. There’s no small measure of peer pressure involved here.
They can be anyone you know – your best friend, your dad, your sister, your boss. You can’t control them or identify them beyond the fake names they choose for themselves in these hidden worlds. And they’re causing more than just problems for gamers; the developers themselves are starting to feel the financial sting in the griefer’s scorpion tail.
Blizzard and EA have both made public statements about the impact of griefing on their bottom lines and other developers, like Microsoft, have begun to implement specific strategies to try and limit its effect. Let’s face it; nobody wants to log on to a virtual world for an evening of abuse, frustration and rage.
So if you ever have the misfortune of stumbling across a griefer or two, just remember that they’re really not worth any emotional expenditure at all. Griefers are, in essence, cowards. They would never behave in such appalling ways if they were in groups of real, live people.
This behaviour would never be tolerated in the real world - fouling your teammates in football would lose you friends and your place on the team very, very quickly.
Instead these denizens slither onto screens because of the anonymity it affords them and do things that are, frankly, so far outside the realms of human decency and social mores that they may as well be in outerspace.
Here are some tips on tackling these tacky pests:
- Ignore them. Use in-game tools to Block them or just stop interacting with them. Surely there is somewhere else you can be? Failing that, log off and read a book. No point in getting your blood pressure up and satisfying the sad needs of some gimp bouncing up and down like an imp with a new banana.
- Copy their strategy and learn the Terms of Service for your game. If you know the rules then you can manage difficult situations more effectively.
- Make sure you only report proper griefing offences otherwise you’ll be the one with the bad reputation, and don’t for the love of all that’s holy tell them that you’re going to report them. That’s hand delivering a case load of bananas...