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Yavin_Prime's Blog

A blog about MMORPGing, the game community, stories and the entertainment we as gamers love so much. Why do we do the things we do and why do we like the things we like? This and more inside.

Author: Yavin_Prime

Griefing in Sandbox games, why we do it and why we allow it.

Posted by Yavin_Prime Wednesday April 6 2011 at 5:07PM
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Greetings everyone. Since this is my first blog on I wanted to give a short list of my happenings in the world (heck its always nice to know why you should read someones rants). Well I'm an MMO gamer since way back when in 1999. My first MMORPG was Dark Ages (not of Camelot) shortly followed by both Ultima Online and Everquest. I spent a year trying to become a game developer at the Art Institute of L.A. but then came to the conclusion that I liked playing games more than making them. These days I'm a published author, my under construction at: Writing is my passion, even if I need an editor constantly and these days I do my best to mix my writing with my gaming. As such I've run a few roleplaying guilds in the past and 'am currently building up a Star Wars the Old Republic guild called the Council of the Kissai.
So with that said lets get to the topic at hand. Griefing and Sandbox MMORPGs. In the past I've been one of the many people who have screamed out for new sandbox MMORPGs and lately a new one came out called Xsyon (a few of you may have heard of it). Well as a good supporter of sandbox games I decided to look into the game. For me I had two options, play Rift (an obvious Theam Park style MMORPG) or Xyson (the Sandbox contender). After reading the latest Survivor Guy column on Xsyon I had to step back and say "gee I don't know if I want to play that game." So why is it that I, an avid sandbox playing mmoer, didn't want anything to do with the latest sandbox mmo? Its simple: Griefing.
So what makes Griefing so bad? Well I for one tend to get upset when some random person wearing underwear and a deer hat kills me outside of town (true story that happened to me in UO) with nothing more than a basic quarter staff. I asked him why he did it and his only response was "I had nothing to do and you were an easy kill." Now I'm not a griefer, nor 'am I a psycologist but its obvious that something is wrong with this picture. How is it that someone can harm someone without remorse and gain little to nothing for it. I suppose it would have been different if I was carrying the worlds larges ruby or if I were transporting Lord British's goold to the castle, but I wasn't. I had a pack full of worthless newbie junck. He litteraly took my gold and left the rest (which ammounted to little more than ten gold coins, enough to buy some booze at the local bar).
Now I've thought over this question for years now, why did he do it and why do hundreds of people continue to greif every day? I've heard many explinations on this topic over the years. Some say its because we as people are anyonomus and that being over the computer makes us seem "less human". I've heard that people who greif are broken mentaly and that they've endured some form of emotional trauma. These explinations are all fine and such but to me they lack something "real" to them.
Rather than trying to explain greifing in game worlds I decided to find instances of it in the real world. Now I live north of L.A. and recently (just yesterday) I heard about a local gang who was setting people up. They had a child standing out on the street crying for help. When someone pulled over and help them the child gave them an adress and asked if they would take them home. Once the victim pulled up to the house a bunch of gang members rushed out and dragged the person into the house... after which very nasty things were done to the victim. So why did this happen? Were the gangster's just out of ways to kill time?
I don't have the answer to why that instance of violence occurred but I can point out that many gangsters and other malicious people have reasons for killing or hurting people. In gangs it can be a form of initiation, in the military it is usually war. Often people are killed mainly because they have something that someone wants or because someone is attempting to control territory.
When I put it in those lights griefing makes more sense. It doesn’t make it right but it makes more sense. So the guy killing me outside of Britain in UO in some carnal and subconscious level was establishing that that was his territory. Others would see my rotting corpse and know that the area was dangerous. In the survivor guy article about Xsyon he is killed while trying to join a guild/group of people. In a way perhaps that player was establishing dominance over the author and showing other players that that was his land.
Getting back to the gaming aspect of this topic it’s obvious that griefing has a lot to do with control. Now are griefers in the real world bad people? No not necessarily but the fact that they are thousands of miles away and not face to face with their victims makes them feel empowered, they tap into the animalistic instinct to dominate through violence and to denote territory through displays of barbarism. The truth is griefing is a normal part of the human condition just amplified by the feeling of safety that the internet gives us. So being human means griefing is normal? No I'm not saying that, what I'm trying to point out is that when people run on their impulses and raw desires griefing is a normal aspect of being human. What makes us less barbaric and more civilized (the opposite of barbaric) is honor (or the perception of it).
The truth is many people live their lives day to day in our civilized system of honor but in truth they have very strong thoughts and sensations towards barbaric behavior. So in truth griefers are just barbaric people who are forced to push down those emotions and desires in their day to day lives by civilization and society. In truth perhaps if they didn't have gaming they might be those gang members or murderous militia that we so often hear in the news.
So with that said does all this make griefing alright? I'll leave you the readers to judge that. Just know that when we scream out for open pvp worlds and truly "life like" sandbox games that we're also screaming out for barbarians, bandits, brigands, and murderers.
mrcalhou writes:

Sometimes the greifer is just looking for a challenge. How did the guy in the deer hat and undies, and using a basic weapon, know that you were defintely weaker than them? Maybe you could have been much stronger than you appeared. Maybe he just needed a few gold coins or maybe he thought you would be carrying more than you were?

As far as griefing goes, I'm not a fan of it when it's legitimate griefing, like running a train of mobs on you. But even that can be a viable tactic in some cases. People are greedy and easily bored.

When it comes to PvP in sandbox MMOs I prefer a progressive system of increasing lawless-ness or segregated areas on the same server/shard/universe, much like how Eve does it or UO with Trammel and Fel. As long the Risk vs. Reward is balanced.

Wed Apr 06 2011 11:09PM Report
theAsna writes:

Griefing other playings within such a "virtual playground" is definitley no positive game experience.

But try to look at it from a different view point. Take for example a single player CRPG. When you start the game you first get accustomed to the basic game play. Then shortly after you're led towards the story. A story/plot of a CRPG is easily summed up into: There is a bad guy who did some major griefing and you as a player have to assemble a party of noble heroes and stop the evil guy.

When taking that to the MMO example. Yes, you as a player can do a similar thing. Summon some friends/allies and fight the griefers in-game. That's not a quest given by an NPC. You can't really tell when you will be finished with such a quest. And probably it's not worth the effort if you expect some item rewards at the end.

Thu Apr 07 2011 12:25AM Report
kjempff writes:

Your explanation of why people do it is true, a way to live out the primal barbarian instincts. It is all about these primal emotions that everyone have, bottled up or not - Just someone has greater need to act on them than others.


In a game you are not directly in touch with humans and feel there are no consequences for your actions, so it is easier to give away and do things you would never do in real life. It is about distance to the effects of your actions... like you hate someone from tv and would have no problem pressing the fry button ... you think, but if you had to spend a month with that person then you could not do it.

Point is the griefer has distance to his "victims" and therefore can do the things without morale scrouples. There are also various other factors I guess, the good old best cure for feeling bad is seeing others feel worse. Beeing the superior alpha male/female in a game, when you can't be that in real life.

 I am not judging, its just basic human psychology as I see it.

Mon Apr 18 2011 2:23PM Report writes:
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