Faces of Grief

As Bartle pointed out in his Player Types paper, Achievers and Griefers are different points on the same spectrum - Achievers act on the world while Griefers act on other players. A factor-based model of player motivations created from player survey data suggests that a desire for power and control are the underlying themes that connect Achievers and Griefers. Achievers enjoy the power derived from items and abilities and the increased control these give them over the game world (faster movement, better protection, etc.). Griefers on the other hand enjoy the power derived from dominating or tricking other players and the control this gives them over other players. The underlying similarity between Achievers and Griefers is supported by survey data. These two motivations are highly correlated (r = .40, N = 1995).

Unsolicited or unbalanced player-killing is the most straight-forward form of griefing - it in essence deprives another player of all his power and in the process demonstrates the griefer's dominance and control over other people.

Most games (like Lineage 2) have an XP penalty when you die, and if someone targets you and stalks you while you play to just kill you multiple times, it's depressing/angering. Especially if you're a higher level. Imagine spending 10 hours hunting, having a good time, playing with friends, only to have all of the work you've done erased by one guy, who is level ridiculous, who arbitrarily decided to kill you 15 times. Granted it could just be avoided most times by logging out for awhile, but then that causes moral issues with giving into the bastard who is killing you, and letting him ruin your gaming experience for the night. And well, either way it's a lose lose in that case. You either log out, and your game for the night is ruined, or you keep trying to play, and he keeps killing you, and you loose a lot of work and effort. Although at least with the latter you don't feel like he truly defeated you. Or rather, I don't. [Lineage 2, M, 19]

Player Killing. It's the most rude obnoxious thing that folks 'say' is in the spirit of the game, but yet RARELY is even close to anything enjoyable for anyone but the PK'rs themselves. Don't get me wrong, PK'ing can be fun, when it's taken seriously and involves strategy. Sadly, it's rarely for that reason, but more often just to irritate and annoy other players. [F, 44]


Different methods of scamming and theft also demonstrate forms of power and control. In these cases, griefers derive pleasure from gaining control over the possessions of unwilling victims.

My character once owned a house in UO. I was experiencing particularly bad lag and a player (there was open PvP) who had a faster connection took everything in my house, killed my character then also taunted me about how much gold his character made off my things. At that time, the game was transitioning a new method for owning homes and anyone with a key (he also stole the house key off my corpse) could claim the house. He tried to do so but luckily, since the house was purchased by me, I got it in the end. I promptly moved it elsewhere. This experience made me HATE PvP and griefers in general and made me actually cry. [UO, F, 47]

i have been playing ultima for over 4 years now and i still remember the devastation i felt at being scammed of all the money i had been saving to buy my first house. i had been playing for around 6 mths and someone offered to sell me a house for all the money i had, as i had spent most of the previous 6 mths levelling my char i had not really been exposed to certain sections of the MMORPG community and naturally trusted the other guy. he of coarse took my money and disappeared. i was so upset i immediately cancelled my account....only to return at a later date. [UO, M, 37]

In fact, what becomes clear is that many griefers seem to prefer subtle forms of domination rather than overt forms such as player-killing. After all, the more devious and cunning the act, the more pleasure it provides. Now, griefers will gloat once the act succeeds, but the most devious acts typically require the most subtlety and planning. It is easy to kill someone. It is much harder to trick someone into willingly handing over all their gold.


This makes it easier to understand what emotional griefing is about. Instead of gaining control over someone's life or possessions, emotional griefing seeks to gain control over someone's emotions by causing them distress, guilt or shame.

I had to leave a server because of a certain player that griefed me constantly. I squelched him but he would log on other peoples accounts to harass me. He had his friends harass me also. The words he used in private chat to me were just as nasty as the actions he described and threats he made. I reported him and nothing happened. He spread rumors about me being a thief and hacking accounts. (I don't know how to hack... and I don't' steal)...Why did he do this? Because I dismissed him as my vassal. I never told anyone, except him, why I was dismissing him but it really irritated him. I know that he was having a problem in his RL relationship, he told me. I almost quit playing the game because of him. Glad I thought to move to another server. Too bad I had to leave the first char I ever made in MMORPG. [AC1, F, 54]

As a newbie I grouped with an experienced player leveling an alt. He seems very knowledgeable and invited me to group with him daily. He seemed to know his way around everywhere and what zones we could handle. After a point in time he would act upset if I had other plans when he wanted to group. He accused me of using him, threatened suicide, was verbally abusive to me. I also found out he had done this to more than a few other female players. I would put him on my ignore list and he would make a new alt, he would send tells to my friends and guildmates telling lies about me, he tried to find out my phone number from my friends and brother. To this day this is only resolved because he is no longer playing the game. [F, 46]


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