Thursday, June 22, 2006
Cap'n John asked me for a blog entry on griefing, which is an interesting theme to discuss. The case he was telling me about was some Horde rogue on a PvE server who used a PvP flagged level 1 character in Goldshire as decoy. When somebody nice passed by and buffed the level 1, that would inadvertedly trigger the nice person's PvP flag for 5 minutes, and then the high level rogue would stab him in the back and gank him.
In a way that is a credit to Blizzard: Griefers need to come up with quite ingenious ideas if they want to gank somebody. World of Warcraft is grief-resistant to a remarkable level. You can't gank somebody on a PvE server if that person doesn't have a PvP flag. You can't killsteal. And your possibilities to ninja-loot are much more limited than in other games. But in any game that has social interaction, griefing exists.
A recent story that was widely told all over the internet was of a World of Warcraft player who died, and his friends held a funeral to his honor in the game. But as they were on a PvP server, the funeral procession got attacked and slaughtered by a bunch of griefers who had heard of the event. That seriously destroyed the solemn nature of the event and thus made other player-organized events less likely.
My personal theory on griefing is that it is a bit like children destroying toys. Basically the child has either become bored of the toy, and just pushes the envelope of "normal" usage of that toy by disassembling it out of curiosity, or the child is aggressive for some other reason and the toy ends up as punching ball. Little Timmy pulling off the arm of his GI Joe action figure isn't terribly different from Little Timmy griefing somebody in World of Warcraft. The normal, standard game of WoW has become boring, and Little Timmy is experimenting to find out where the borders of the acceptable are. Ideally, just like Little Timmy's mother would scould him for having broken his toy and thus teaching him that this is not acceptable behavior, a GM should slap a 7-day ban on Little Timmy to teach him the same lesson.
Unfortunately while parental supervision of children playing with toys is not always optimal, GM supervision of players in WoW is far, far weaker. Chances are that Little Timmy will never be hit with any negative consequences from griefing, and thus will never learn that this isn't something he can do. And then there is lots of griefing which isn't even a bannable offence. A PvP attack on a funeral procession is totally within the legal limits of the Terms of Service and EULA. And if you get tricked into turning your PvP flag on and then get ganked, there is nothing that a GM would be willing to help you with.
The other problem is that even perfect GM supervision could only ban griefers after the fact. As the griefer is most probably somebody who has grown bored of the game and is somebody who is likely to leave the game anyway soon, banning him isn't really effective punishment. Older children still destroy toys, fully knowing that afterwards they won't be able to play with that toy again. But the questionable "fun" of the destruction beats the limited future interest of the toy that the child has played with for long enough. Breaking the toy is a form of closure, of ending the relationship with that toy. Griefing and getting banned for it is the same for a MMO. The bad thing is that while GI Joe doesn't mind getting his head ripped off, the other player behind the avatar who got griefed is understandably upset.