Friday, February 5, 2010

In which I attempt to defend Griefing...

According to a recent post by Tobold, griefing players in an MMO is evil. Albeit, not as evil as say murdering or robbing someone in real life, but evil nonetheless. Strictly speaking, he’s right.

Evil, by definition, is doing that which is morally objectionable. Moral, in this sense, being the standard of what is right and wrong as it conforms to the rest of society. The norms of society are really important to this definition because each individual person has their own perception of morality. It’s only within the context of society that we can judge that which is immoral or evil.

MMOs are interesting in that the social dynamics of the community certainly provide a society for that MMO. And as with all societies, acceptable behavior is defined by the norms of the people in that society.

In this way, there are very clear definitions of what is right and wrong behavior in any MMO. These norms may not be the same in each game, or even a reflection of the broader real world society, but they do exist within the confines of that game.

Men Behaving Badly
In real life, we view things like drug use, lewd or rude behavior, and even sexual promiscuity as immoral acts. And yet, it’s not uncommon for men to revel in a politically incorrect world of booze, burps and boobs.

Morally objectionable? Yes. Fun? Hell, yes!

Therein lies the problem. It may not be proper, it may not even be accepted. But dammit, it’s fun.

We even have a term for the idea that the pursuit of pleasure is the actual (and proper) motive of every action: Hedonism. And if someone is too prudish or too morally upright, we say they have a ‘stick up their ass’.

And our dirty little secret? Everyone has some guilty pleasure they KNOW is questionable but love to do.

The Humor in Griefing
OK. So one of my dark little secrets is that I can see the humor in griefing. I don’t think it’s appropriate, I don’t think people should do it, and I most certainly absolutely hate it when it’s done to me. And yes, if people get griefed, I am very much inclined to blame and hold the developer responsible for allowing it to happen.

And yet, it can be funny. It can be entertaining. And yes, I’ve even done it.

The Bank Hiests in Darkfall is perhaps the worst griefing story I have every read. The author of that link describes in great detail his exploits in robbing and destroying several guilds.  It is appalling. It is unacceptable. I feel horrible for the people involved. And yet, I couldn’t help but laugh and marvel at his accomplishments.

Sometimes when the dark parts of our soul get exposed it’s humorous. Many comedians, films, authors have been incredibly successful because of the dark nature of their humor. Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in Pulp Fiction is the car scene where Marvin gets shot in the head. Taken out of context, it’s horrible and awful. But oh man did it make me laugh when I first saw it.

In fact, to really understand what makes Griefers tick, you really should visit Something Awful, the birthplace of the most famous MMO griefers – The Goons. This is a website dedicated to all the awful things that make us laugh.

Different Strokes for Different Folks
As Tobold also pointed out, when actions are consensual, it’s not really griefing. From this perspective, it’s important to realize that the society morals of a game like Darkfall (with corpse looting) may be much different than a game like World of Warcraft.

Each MMO really is an individual community with it’s own social norms. Certain behavior that is unacceptable in one game may be perfectly acceptable in another game. Even in WoW, social conventions can be different between two servers. If you have ever gone from a PvE to a PvP server (or vice versa), then you likely have some idea what I’m talking about.

Griefing is Evil
But, at the end of the day, despite the potential humor -- Griefing is just not that fun for the guy getting Griefed. It just plain sucks to get Griefed and have your day ruined because some asshat thought it was funny.

Which is ultimately why I will fail in this attempt to defend Griefing.

Because, in the end, Griefing is not something you can defend. It is horrible. It is awful. And funny or not, it isn't something we should condone or support in our games.


Stabs said...

I think evil is a very misused word in this context.

I think evil is a stronger word than simply not socially acceptable. To some communities it's not socially acceptable for a woman to walk around unveiled but doing so is not evil.

Evil is absolute. Murder is evil because it is always wrong to kill another person for selfish reasons. War is evil although it may be a lesser evil than submitting to tyranny.

Playing games is not evil. Not even if you grief. There is always the safety net for players of just turning the game off and walking away so there is a limited extent to which you can be harmed by another player's actions.

If you personally can't cope with experiencing mean people that's about you, not about them. They're not evil, you're just not coping.

sid67 said...

The word 'evil' has several definitions depending on its usage.

If used as an adjective, then 'morally corrupt' is a perfectly acceptable way to use the word. For example: The con man is an evil person because he defrauded that elderly lady out of her savings.

That is really the context in which Tobold (and myself) are using the word evil.

It can also be used as a noun. That usage, according to Wikitionary is more in line with your definition: forces/behaviors that are the opposite or enemy of good. Evil generally seeks own benefit at the expense of others and is based on general malevolence.

Stabs said...

The problem with dictionaries is that they indiscriminately expand the language.

If I use evil to mean mildly naughty most people would say that's plain silly whereas a lexicographer would add 7. Adjective. Mildly naughty to his list of definitions for that word.

I don't buy it that the word can be used for "mildly naughty". Did you see Catch Me If You Can? Was Frank Abagnalle, the conman on whom the film was based evil? I don't think so and I don't think the film-makers thought so. But he conned a lot of little old ladies.

Tldr acts in video games are not, in a real sense, evil whether it's kidnapping puppies in Dragonblight in WoW or robbing guild banks in DF. Sure there are some harsh knocks to be had playing video games - it sucks to be ripped off - but these actions are no more evil than beating an opponent in chess or tackling someone in sport.

DraconianOne said...

Nice turn around in conclusions there.

sid67 said...

The problem with dictionaries is that they indiscriminately expand the language.

Are you really arguing about the dictionary definition of a word?

Seriously, all evil is not absolute. That's why we use the adjectives like 'absolute' or 'pure' to clarify when someone or something is the most evil.

Evil, as an adjective, is a word that can have varying degrees. Consider it's antonym: Good.

Are some good deeds better than other good deeds? Would you say that sacrificing your life to save another person is equal to helping out at a homeless shelter?

Just as there are degrees of good, there are degrees of evil. And as you say, do all the little evils we do outweigh all the good? THAT's how we measure the worth of people like Frank Abagnalle.