Wednesday, 19 March 2008

'Griefing'

In my last blog, I wrote about games where the computer was unfair, be it down to seemingly impossible situations or a cheating computer. This is not where unfairness in games stops though. It is now spreading to the players with the rise of online gaming. It was just a matter of time before some players gathered together and thought that the tears of others would taste sweet. It is often great fun to watch people 'griefing' in games, that is, making the experience very negative for another player, or several. Some people to it very well, in a funny way, others just do it to make people angry.

My first experience of 'griefing' was back in my first online gaming adventure, Command & Conquer: Renegade. On of the ways the players would gain money was for the team's tiberium harvester to go out and collect the fictional mineral and upon its safe return, deposit the crystals in a refinery, filling player's pockets at the same time. Some guy however thought it would be a brilliant idea to trap the harvester in the refinery so it could not escape. Normally the thing would act as if Stevie Wonder was driving it to it's destination, not stomping for anyone and usually was very happy to chew up any players that got in it's way. The way this guy managed to stop the thing in it's tracks was to get another vehicle and wedge it into the refinery so that the harvester would get stuck and not move. It may have been down to a clipping issue or something, but the one thing I was sure of was the amount of money the team was not getting. This put us at a very serious disadvantage and surprisingly, cost us the game.

Since my experience in Renegade, I have only seen the online hassling of players grow and grow. EVE: Online (I know I keep mentioning it, but an article about 'griefing' without including this would be missing a huge element) is very prone to players trying to peeve people off. It is after all a 'sand box' game that encourages the players to do anything they want. If this means bugging the other inhabitants who want to mind their own business. For example, one group of players has been striking out against the innocent miners who spend their days humping asteroids in exchange for ore. The interesting thing though is that these mining barges are in supposedly 'secure space' where there is a police presence. Funnily enough, it does not stop these acts of virtual terrorism. When the violent act from these people calling themselves 'Jihadswarm' starts a sort of distress call is sent out to Concord, the law enforcers. They do arrive and destroy all those involved in the random murder, but not until after the miner is floating in a puddle of his own frozen urine, deep in space. This is how a lot of people have fun in EVE, they take it from other people. Another act of mass grief this game has seen was when a virtual bank set up by a trusted player, suddenly had all of the money taken out and given to the founder, who made himself a cool 671 billion isk. If he were to successfully sell this on eBay, it would be enough to buy him a house in the real world.

Team Fortress Two, a fantastic online shooter released last year by Valve has seen a great run of abusive 'griefers' who have turned their efforts into a video that can be seen here. The group calling themselves 'Team Roomba' abuse glitches in the maps to get on everyone elses nerves often resulting in much hilarity. One of these glitch exploiting moments of pure gold was when they managed to jam the door to a spawn location shut, trapping the entire team inside. They would then hold the team hostage until they answered a geography based question, only releasing them on their happy little way when a correct answer was given. Another example of their fun involved co-operation with the opposing team. They would set up teleporters right in front of enemy sentry guns, meaning that when players used them, they would be teleported right into the line of fire of an automated death spewer. Other examples include building sentry guns outside of the visible map and teleporting other players behind fences, resulting in very humorous situations for spectators, but probably game breaking hell for the players.

The last example I will give here comes from a story that I heard last week from the internet (so it might not be true, but it's still good to hear). Apparently, in the game Burnout Paradise, if you lose an event in the online multiplayer, you can have a webcam take a picture of your crushed spirit and send it to the victor. One disgruntled man managed to portray his displeasure for losing to a little boy by having the game send said child a picture of his round hairy arse. Whilst it sounds very funny to everyone, it could well have traumatised the innocent boy, being forced to stare into another mans exposed crack.

Making misery for other people is not something that I condone, but it is something that all players will have to adapt to. Lets face it, at the end of the day, the world is full of people who would be more than happy to push a granny over, just to laugh amongst their mates. When this granny pushing translates to online games, the best way to deal with it is not to react, because like all bullies, the reaction of the player is what makes it all worthwhile.

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