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.