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Faces of Grief

The following narrative demonstrates just how much trouble and time a player may go through to grief another player emotionally.

While EQ2's servers were down this past weekend, I created a character on WoW. My little pink haired gnome mage was killing tiny beasts at level 2 in the snow covered beginning zone, when another pink haired male gnome came up to her. He said 'I am lost and have lost my clothes, and I am cold'. He was wearing only underwear. I said 'I am heading to the city, follow me'. I went to my village, saw my trainer, sold some stuff, and turned in a quest or 2.

When I left the village to do more hunting, I was amazed to see he was following me. He whispered 'I love you. I will follow you forever'. And continued to follow me, just watching as I slew wolves and boars. Once or twice in a close fight, he unleashed a spell that assisted me. He continued to proclaim his love in whispers and out loud, even shouting at times, and calling me pet names. I began to play along, telling him he only loved me for my pink hair, and trying to rebuff his attentions.

He asked me to group and I accepted. He still rarely fought, but when a pelt dropped, I found that his loot settings were set to only high level loot. That surprised me, because I didn't even know there were loot settings, and being a newbie, I needed every little scrap that could be sold. We went into a very low level dungeon. I think I had leveled to 3 by this time, and came out the other side. He still did not fight much, and continued to role-play a love-struck gnome.

We came out the other side, to a bit higher zone, and he sent off his fire spell to a higher level boar. I was taken by surprise when it attacked, and while I defended myself, he stood by, and we both died. It was my first death, and you are sent to a cemetery with a wan angel. You are given a choice to be revived then, but not presented with an alternative. I asked him what to do, but he didn't answer. I chose to be revived, and he followed suit. I had been having in game movement issues.. not being able to stop running, and this happened now. I stopped myself by running into a huge tree.

Although I kept running, at least I stayed in one place! He then challenged me to a duel. Another first! I accepted. Since I was running and couldn't stop, I was unable to cast a spell or fight, and he beat me handily. He shouted 'You are too weak to be my lover' and ran off. Funny I thought. I sent a /tell LOL. He next appeared where I was still stuck to the tree, but dressed in full wizardly garb. And ran off.

To solve my running problem, I logged out, then back in. I sent him a /tell Thanking him for the role-playing fun. He replied 'You sick freak! You loser!' I was stunned and shocked. I thought we had been role-playing, but apparently he was just griefing me .. with a big buildup. He began to heckle me in /tells and /shouts. I was now stuck to the tree, but not running, and a crowd of onlookers gathered. I couldn't escape! I finally got unstuck and ran away. He appeared again, in just the underwear, saying he was wrong, begging me to take him back, declaring his love. I turned on /ignore. I felt so duped, emotionally. My feelings were of betrayal and I was very upset by his behavior. [WoW, F, 53]

External Link:
Grief Player Motivations by Chek Yang Foo


Posted on January 11, 2005 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)


Equating Achievers and Griefers based on desire for power and control without context is really the same as comparing hunters and professional killers. They both use rifles to shoot and kill things, so of course we should electrocute both. While I agree that the comparison is valid in a very abstract level, in practice the two are in most ways the polar opposites of each other.

Most griefers have of course extreme emotional defects usually related to self-esteem. Clingy men who are over-sensitive to rejection, little kids who try to lift themselves up by pushing the people around them down, you name it. The exact same things happen all the time in real life, so why not in virtual worlds? It is the same people after all, except that since those with emotional defects often use these games as outlets, their numbers must be much greater.

The reason is said "most griefers" is that there is a subgroup which might be said not to operate based on personal issues. Having had opportunity to observe one in real life for years, I can say with confidence that virtual worlds provide the perfect environment for psychopaths. They do not hurt others because of personal issues, they do it simply because they think it's fun. When one is completely detached from one's own feelings, it becomes amusing to watch the pain of others. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that a disproportionate number of players in online games are psychopaths. This would especially apply to the worst cases of scamming, corpse camping, etc; that is their entertainment.

Posted by: Jade on January 12, 2005 4:29 PM

I'm not equating Achievers with Griefers.

For example, if I say that Introverts and Extraverts are related based on how they generate and conserve energy - Introverts need quiet spaces to become energized, while Extraverts need social settings to become energized - it doesn't mean I'm saying Introverts are the same as Extraverts.

My point is not they are the same, but that they do have an underlying commonality that is expressed differently. Achievers and Griefers express their desire for control and power very differently - the same way Introverts and Extraverts generate energy in different settings.

Posted by: Nick Yee on January 12, 2005 4:57 PM

Lets say "comparing" instead of "equating" then, that seems more appropriate. What I'm wondering about is what purpose this information serves - for example, we could also make the comparison based on that achievers and griefers are both human beings, but while a valid comparison, it does not appear to serve a specific purpose.

Since you appear to be familiar with the MBTI, perhaps the observation of power hunger could reflect the fact that the types of people who are drawn to online games tend to be NT-types. And NTs love power. Young NTs might express it in destructive ways, whereas elders would have found ways to do so without harming others.

Posted by: Jade on January 13, 2005 3:01 AM

I used to play on the baja server in Ultima Online. I had this friend that helped me out for about a year. As time went on, he became more and more demanding of my time and would become infuriated if I spend time with other people in game. One time I logged on and his in-game girlfriend asked me why did I arrange to have him PK'ed. I was like "Whaaaaat?" I never pvp. She sent me his message via ICQ which said that I had arranged to have him PK'ed that day, while I was at WORK! I asked him about it and he just blew me off and called me bad names. So I placed him on ignore in both game and ICQ. In retaliation he went everywhere telling people how I scammed him out of all his riches. It got so bad, I had to move to a different server. It was the best in-game decision I ever made.

Posted by: David on January 13, 2005 5:21 PM

I've been playing MMORPGs for 5-6 years now and I have been fortunate enough to have never really been harassed in a MMORPG. Of course I like most players have had occasional run-ins with people but nothing that ever lasted or got too out of hand. MMORPGs unfortunately do attract a small percentage of people who relish such acts in a MMORPG maybe even as a kind of vengance or escapism from their own RL problems. Usually getting angry or responding to them in any way that they may percieve as a negative response on your part usually makes their day.

My general rule is to squelch early and I have even squelched players who are not directly interacting with me but who are just being plain annoying (e.g. spamming the same message constantly). By denying them this interaction early on you are locking them out before they even get chance to get nasty with you or even build up a hatred against you. You may find in doing this that they start slagging you off in OOC or via shouts and assuming that my own response is typical, most players are too busy doing their own stuff to take any real notice of this kind of activity let alone remember who the 'alleged' culprit of any misdemenour was.

If you are worried that this will fill up your squelch list - don't because I rarely find that my lists gets that large, and you can always remove the ones that have been on it for a while. In some games, squelching allows you to squelch an entire account so it's worth trying to find out of that's possible.

Other forms of grief can also be managed to some extent - for example generally if grouped I prefer to group with guild-mates or people I know in RL or through years of playing. Reduce the risk of scamming by somone unknown to you via secure trade (if available or a 3rd party if not) and always examine what you are trading to make sure it is what they say it is - above all never trade a high proportion of what you own with someone unless you can 100% guarentee a succesful trade.

Random PKing is probabally the hardest to avoid but if you are playing a game that allows you to be PKd then you must learn to live with that and not get upset when it occurs (and it always will). A rule of PK is that if you are outmatched - hit back and try & make em bleed for their kill because the chances are that you will not escape by running anyway. I can think of an example in a RvR dungeon in AC2 where someone decided to set upon a couple of us trying to complete a quest in there, we were clearly outmatched, as my friends were dying I ran down the tunnel, aggroed a few mobs and then dragged them back to the PKer. I died of course but had the delight of seeing the mobs aggo on him afterwards ultimately killing him in return.

Posted by: on January 14, 2005 6:06 AM

An interesting variation on this is the RvR of Dark Age of Camelot. When mostly restricted to foreign adversaries in the frontier wars, and characters are roughly on the same power plane, 'Griefing' becomes a matter of hunting down your adversary you cannot communicate with while they hunt down you.

I think the lack of in-game communication makes a huge difference (how often do you IRQ/Teamspeak/whatever with adversaries from a foreign realm?). In my experience a certain 'professional' respect can lead to entertaining long term rivalries.

This was very different from my expereiences with Ultima Online, where (at the time) I could be stripped of all my hard won cash and gear by a well organized gang of player-killers.

But even in DAOC, if the other player simply 'owns' you over and over, while you're still suffering 'rez sickness' and aren't even worth any realm points, it can be just as frustrating as any other PvP 'Griefing'.

Posted by: Rob on January 15, 2005 10:58 AM

Let's break down the walls and be painfully blunt here; most of the people who can afford to spend a lot of time playing MMORPG's are seriously lacking in other social activities.

The MMORPG world is our saturday pick-up football game, it's our friday night clubbing, it's our night out with the boys (or girls).
I'd say it's safe to say that many of us who play this game are geeks, nerds, and dorks. Some more than others or some become that hated thing, the nerd, when they find out how addicting the games can be. I went from never playing video games to rotting in front of my computer when I first picked up Ultima Online and the trend has continued through EQ, DAoC, and now WoW.

So with that said we can examine some of the psychology behind griefing and achieving. If most of our players are nerds, dorks, and geeks than it's safe to assume, as we all know, that they probably don't get a whole lot of respect at school, college, or sometimes even work. If they're men, they're usually not the kinds of guys the really hot women go for... at least not until women reach the point where they realize that muscles don't make a man and popularity stopped being really important in 12th grade.

It's basic alpha male, my "sword" is bigger behavior. What they can't do in real life, i.e. be tough, successful, popular, feel powerful, they do in the virtual world. For some this means achieving; it means getting the best equipment, the highest level, and the biggest guild. For others it means getting revenge on the popular kid at school by harassing strangers in a virtual world.

Now am I making assumptions here? Possibly. But I am part of a group of friends in the real-world who play MMORPG's on regular, almost addicted, basis. And I have no shame in saying that we are all geeks. Not that we're ugly, or without other social outlets, girlfriends or boyfriends, or friends in general but if the decision comes whether to head to the bar, or go downtown, OR play WoW (or other games, Halo2, etc) then we choose the later.

The difference is how we execute what stress or aggression we may develop throughout the course of the day. I do it by hunting for equipment, slaughtering monsters, or engaging in healthy, fair PvP. Some people do it by kill stealing, ninja looting, or filling public channels with potty-talk ;)

If you're 13 or 14 and participate in this behavior, you have some excuse. If you're 22 and still griefing, you're just a mean person who's maladjusted and probably has no friends or social life in the Real World. You take your frustration out on people whom you will never meet and therefore will never have the chance to give you what you deserve... and that's a swift butt-kicking.

I have nor espect for griefers or anyone who excels at the cost of another's happiness. And, as a rather large, tough dork I invite any griefer who really thinks he's a tough guy to find me in the Real World and we can engage in some real Alpha Male behavior.

Posted by: Da Bum on January 18, 2005 6:54 AM

I for one actually dont mind griefers. I love it when a random person griefs me for half an hour in a row, and then I set my sights on out-leveling him/her and rez-killing him for an extended period of time. Revenge is unreal, and here I am with a legitimate passport for griefing on a PC becasue he/she griefed me in the past.
Fact is, in the end everyone reaches a high level if they play enough, and the more a person griefs, the liklier it is that he/she will be griefed later on.

Posted by: Puma on January 18, 2005 2:15 PM

What Da Bum is speaking of when it comes to "alpha male" behavior of achieving success in the game as a replacement for not achieving it in real life is well known is sociology as seeking "status". Because in real life not everyone can be the boss; there needs to be outlets for that frustration that allow them to do that. Indeed being socially ackward makes it that much more difficult for "geeks" to achieve it in real life. It was the theme focused on in "Fight Club" that had a broad appeal to all "status frustrated" people, not just the geeks.

Posted by: RoyBoy on January 20, 2005 8:13 PM

Sometimes I feel "griefed" (taken in a very broad sense, obviously) when some random player "buffs" my character without my asking. Seems to me there's something interesting about that.

How can I feel griefed when I'm being helped? Because at that particular moment I was trying to figure out whether my character could overcome some obstacle under its own power, in my neverending effort to understand the fundamental game mechanics (for example).

I find it very strange that some folks will go out of their way to help other players with apparently random acts of altruism. In a lot of these instances, one could make a compelling argument that they are not being very helpful at all, in the grand scheme of things. I often wonder when, in any MMORPG, I meet a high level character that has most obviously been "helped" way too much (which can be easily deduced from their overall lack of knowledge about the game).

Being too helpful can be harmful. Sometimes, it creates a character that falls under my category of "accidents waiting to happen" (I remember one who managed to die six times before figuring out how to turn on his "mez-resistance" ability). And it creates a whole lot of unhappy feelings when these characters decide to actualize their accidental potential, in a group setting.

"Helpful" players often have much the same motivations as "griefiers". The difference is that the actions that arise out of those motivations are percieved by others as helpful rather than harmful.

Posted by: Alain on February 6, 2005 1:18 PM

I used to play Ulimate Online.

Reading some of these senarios poste here brought back lots of bad memories from my time in the game and within the UO community as a whole. In hindsight it seems that the game attracts a large number of cyber bullies who greatly out number everyone else. These cyber bullies can be found on every shard and on every fan site within the community.

The more people I got to know, the more problems I encountered, and it only escalated once I got involved in the community forums where I initially went seeking help and information for various things.

In the end I had nothing but hassels and headaches and I found myself miserable because of the "bully gangs" who not only griefed in game, but also did so on the forums as well. They would go shard to shard and community board to community board spreading their malicious lies and hate like a disease.

A computer game is supposed to be fun and a source of entertainment. I found myself sad and miserable and logging off my computer in tears because it was so bad at times.

I finally left not only UO, but the entire UO community and have given up online gaming completely. I vowed to never put myself into such a situation again. If people like that want to beat up on someone, they can do it on someone else.

I actually stumbled on this particular site when I was trying to find an article for a discussion I'm having with someone about cyber bullies in general, and the best way to manage them.

I notice that you have a link to a paper by  
Chek Yang Foo. I actually participated in his research study about my experience with cyber bullies/MMORPG griefers.

Posted by: Melissa on January 15, 2006 5:56 PM

ummm, reading some of these posts, makes me wonder why on earth people would worry about a "online bully"

Ignore? Is that a option?

I wonder about the mental stability of someone who crys over the actions of a griefer.

How do you react to real life issues? Cry?

Oddly enough, as a "casual gamer" I find that the times where I get camped or griefed I can "outsmart" said griefer and continue on with my game. The real life players give online games an extra element, where you cant always predict what will happen, thats why its fun playing against real life peops. ;)

Posted by: Jaythewise on January 16, 2006 11:53 AM

I'm not talking the twink that arrives at the spawn location you are at and kill steals etc. Or the red that kills your miner while you are out gathering ore.

Those you can ignore and get away from by just leaving and going to a different spot, of course you'll probably run into another like him/her, but that's beside the point.

Twinks like that in game I can deal with. The grief they are dishing out isn't targeted at you personally and leaving the area most often ends it. They don't show up at your in game house, or the forums you post on, or all of your favourite in game places, or the different servers you play. They don't know who the person is behind the computer... they are griefing anonymous pixels in order to ruin that person's game play. It could be you, or Jane Doe who happens to be there... they don't care who it is.

What I'm talking about are TRUE griefers, those that befriend you and then stab you in the back, then target you personally and proceed to go shard to shard, fan community to fan community harassing you and spreading malicious lies, not only ruining your fun in game, but trying to destroy you as a person to everyone, everywhere they go, in game and out.

Those griefers you can't get away from other than by doing the following:

1. Giving up all of your on line friends because chances are they either know one of the jerks or someone that does... and people tend to off handedly talk about fellow gamers to each other;

2, Giving up all you have on a server including characters/house/friends/possessions etc, and creating new characters with different names on a different shard and keeping that information 100% to yourself;

Griefers like that take the fun out of the game. You become afraid to interact with anyone or to become friends with anyone you meet for fear that they will do the same thing after earning your trust, or worse, that the new friend you made has associations with the jerks that have been stalking you around sites or the game.

Unless you've experienced something like that personally, you can't even begin to understand the emotional impact it has on you. I'm a strong person and I rarely cry except at funerals, but the impact was so great on me that I was becoming an emotional wreck. It's been well over 2 years (closer to 3 years really) since I left online gaming. I've severed all contact with everyone I have ever met through the game I played, whether they did wrong to me or not. If they had ties to the game or anyone who played it, I wanted nothing to do with them.

You say you "casually" grief, but do you take that grief around the game targeting that one person no matter where they go, and then carry it around out of the game onto all of the fan sites? I don't think you do, but if you do, then shame :(

Posted by: Melissa on January 16, 2006 8:20 PM

If you're gonna write these articles, you could
a) Be a little less biased or no one will take you seriously.
b) Contribute something by making some insights.
c) Put your papers together in a more standard form - abstract, introduction, previous work, contributions, conclusion etc.
d) Reference previous work

Posted by: Daniel on April 30, 2006 7:03 AM

Griefing isn't that bad of a problem on most games. Especially nowadays because developers are trying as hard as possible to make it not worth it.

I play DAoC. Have been playing it for a long time. When I play the PvP, I understand that anything goes. There is no "honor" code out in the frontiers. It's kill or be killed. You just have to accept that. And for people who play on pvp only games, there's just three words I can say to you.

Deal with it.

Posted by: Master of the Arts on April 30, 2006 10:21 AM

Daniel - I'm sorry if you were expecting APA-styled papers on a blog. And I do want to point out that even in this piece I reference previous work.

But if you're looking for APA-styled papers, you can find some of my academic journal articles here.

Posted by: Nick Yee on April 30, 2006 1:30 PM

I don't understand how or why anyone would be so sad as to harass someone in a game to the point of affecting them in real life. These "Greifers" remind me of the myg0t group in the fps, counter-strike, who claim that their sole purpose of existance is to ruin other people's gaming experience. I would actually go looking for people in this group, just to try and get them aggrivated. I usually succeed and they end up either leaving or calling in backup, in which case I would also call up a friend or two and continue to overpower their "hacks" with common sense and acquired skill.
I haven't had much time to play any MMORPG seriously, but it would seem to me that simply ignoring the griefer should get him/her off your back. If he/she actually befriended you, only to stab you in the back, I would repeatedly ask that the player's account (and maybe even ip) to be banned. I would also seriously consider contacting law enforcement, especially if it is obvious that the "Griefer" is an individual suffering from mental instability. I'm not sure, however, if the law enforcement agencies will take this case seriously, but considering the extent to which this had affected people, they reall should. As time goes by and more and more people start to have extremely complicated and established online identities, this issue might become more and more prevailant. The property of anonymity that the internet provides sociopaths and psychopaths basically lets them to whatever they want until they either mess with the wrong person, or law enforcement catches up with them (or both).

Some people may think that it's sad that people spend so much time online that it affects how they act in real life, but this is to be expected. The internet allows people's fantasies to take virtual shape and provides a strong link from these fantasies to the real world. We always see kids being raped in real life after meeting someone online. Simply sending sexually explicit messages to a minor has gotten a congressman into seriously deep $#!!.
It can work the other way around too. I once got into a quarrel with a "friend", (who used his friends for personal gaining instead of having them for a mutual relationship), who started posting terrible comments about me on his xanga. Almost everyone who reads his posts online go to the same school as him and they would probably never have heard about me, but now they can read this terrible comment about me and maybe even ask around or spread it.
"Griefing" is just not online bullying. If someone constantly beats up on you and says nasty things about you, in your presence and behind your back, in an area you spend a lot of time in, (school for example), you would probably feel the same way if you spent a lot of time online.

Posted by: Shock on December 5, 2006 5:44 PM

Mmmmmm, griefer! An interesting subject. A lot of people that i see in these forums are saying to get more social and girls and go out and stuff, but you seem to mistake the fact that even without games, these people would not do those kind of things. We are not all social to the same degree and for some, staying alone is a much better experience than being in public with a lot of people (like bars). Most humans are social creatures, but its the quiet ones that invented, wrote, created the most innovative things of humanity. So all in all, its the quiet unsocial ones that mostly change and improve the whole shebang. The marginalized, the crazy, the frustrated, the obsessives are often the ones capable of seeing things through a different lens than other and by doing so, they explore new territories that other more social humans eventually settle in. MMORPG games were at first for the uber geeks only. Text only(MUD) and imagination ruled. Now, everyone and their cousin are playing these games.

If you are a social creature, you cannot begin to understand these people and even less tell them what to do to fix themselves. They are almost another specie and they have different motivations from the general humanity. They never fit well with others and this is why they have so much time to think about new stuff or about themselves. Not all of them becomes sages, scientists or uber anything but it takes a lot of them for a brillant one to emerge that will change the world.

Now, on the subject of griefing, if you are a social one with good friends, why do you even take the game seriously? By definition, you don't play much so you don't engage in the game much either which mean it should not bother you that much if your toon gets killed/robbed/whatever in the game. You get your kick by socializing with other, so why crying for a game? A little contradiction here. I am somewhat of a heavy gamer and when i get killed repeatedly, i generally start laughing it off to release the frustration. Then, while in spirit mode, i camp my ganker and wait until they go away. They generally don't have that much patience to wait me out. Especially when i'm reading a good book while doing it! ;-) The few i've seen waited 5 min max before going elsewhere. These griefers wants immediate rewards so they are not patient animals.

Have fun!

Posted by: DefStef on June 6, 2007 2:12 PM

I'm bi-polar and thus have emotional problems, but with WoW I deal with it perfectly: PvE! PvE! PvE!

I've never had any bad experiences with griefing, and thus don't have to subject myself to these.. people.

I understand if you play a different game, that option might not be available to you, but that's how I deal with my problems online anyway. The worst experience I've had was an Allied stealing my mineral deposit (ooooh scary!). lol

As for the more screwy emotional abuse, I guess I just count myself lucky.

Posted by: Derek on July 23, 2007 9:57 AM
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