Fight or Kite: Griefing! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.


Here we are at the very first Fight or Kite of the New Year and of the decade. With it, let’s discuss something that many gamers believe goes hand-in-hand with PvP: griefing.

Let me go out on a limb and remind any gamers who may have forgotten: Griefing is not the same as PvP. PvP is good. Griefing is straight-up trash, and you should feel bad if you make it a regular part of your gaming sessions. Don’t agree? Well, have at ya, brah!

What is griefing if it’s not PvP?

Let’s start off by making it clear exactly what griefing is and is not. Griefing is the act of intentionally and repeatedly annoying, harassing, or overall ruining another player’s game experience. It is not attacking someone because he is in a PvP zone. It isn’t even ganking, although ganking could lead to griefing if consistent and often enough.

Let me clarify that because I’m not a proponent of ganking either. But running through a lowbie zone to kill off easy targets may be annoying, but for me it doesn’t cross the threshold of griefing. However, following the same player through that lowbie zone just to kill her constantly so she can’t do anything else in that zone – yeah, that rises to the level of griefing.

There are so many, different, ways that players have come up with to grief others. And many of them aren’t even related to PvP at all. The common thread is that the goal is about ruining someone else’s game. It’s rarely done for rewards.

Issues with games that encourage griefing

Now, let’s not lay this all on the players. Game studios have made some very poor choices before when it comes to PvP and griefing that set the tone of the whole game.

Take a look at Worlds Adrift’s original approach to PvP and ganking. At first, the studio suggested victimized players needed to just “git gud.” The team clearly later regretted that decision as it walked back the initial free-for-all concept of the game by adding PvE servers. Then it finally realized that there is a difference between PvP and pure gank griefing. I love Bossa’s quote here as it expresses exactly my thoughts on PvP versus griefing:

“This pretty much exemplifies the difference between PvP and griefing; one is a fair fight between two similarly levelled players. The other, a completely unbalanced slaughter, whereby one player has little to no chance of defending themselves.”

There are even more recent examples of studios that (accidentally?) reward ganking, which can lead to an environment of griefing. ArcheAge Unchained’s ArchePass at one point included a “kill 100 hostile players” quest that did not have any level restrictions. Luckily someone with sense – possibly after enough backlash – realized how foolish this was and changed the quest to count only for characters within 4 levels of the killer.

Worlds Adrift

Reducing or combating griefing

For just about every studio that has encountered griefing in its game, there’s been some sort of attempt at countering that griefing. Let’s take a look at a few online titles that have addressed the problem in recent months.

Red Dead Online has taken at least two different shots at handling griefers. First, it developed a parley and feud system that lets players choose to either talk it out or have a duel to settle the score. After that, it made life a bit more difficult on the griefers by showing them more prominently on the maps and even having NPC bounty hunters come after their heads. (Bounty systems are super popular avenues for anti-grief mechanics.)

A “stress system” determines how much damage you take from PvP in Identity. Everyone begins at a low stress level. But, as the devs describe, if you were to run after someone who drew a gun on you, then you would have a high stress and would take more damage than if you simply gave up and chilled out. Strange approach if you ask me, but it’s interesting.

Sea of Thieves has attempted several types of griefing solutions. Rare increased the respawn distance so that players can’t constantly kill someone over and over. It even created a brig in game that a team could vote to put players in if they were acting badly. Of course, griefers just took that system over until it was fixed- as griefers always do.

See, the problem seems to be that studios tend to look for bandages to cover over their griefing issues when they really need to see it for what it is: a cancer that needs to be eliminated and removed. Immediately. If you don’t, it’ll be the end of you, or at least of your paying playerbase.

Players shouldn’t shun PvP games, but they should discourage griefing

Now, all that doom and gloom about griefing should paint a pretty obvious picture about how I feel about griefing. Yet I’m sure there are many of you out there that might not see how I could be such an adamant PvPer and yet also despise griefing.

There’s certainly a big misunderstanding from non-PvPers about griefing. MMO gamers who say they won’t touch a game the moment it mentions PvP? I’m talking about you. I know you say you don’t like PvP, but most likely what you really don’t like is the griefing. I completely understand that. I hate it too.

There are so many ways to engage in real PvP that doesn’t involve griefing, but you’ve been burned. You joined a game at some point that didn’t have its priorities set correctly and you were griefed. At that point you put a wall in your mind between PvP and PvE. It’s black and white to you. But honestly, PvP isn’t the enemy. There must be some moments when you played Mortal Kombat, Mario Party, or even Monopoly and you had fun. All those games are PvP games! You don’t hate PvP; you hate the griefing.

So what I’m really trying to close out with here is pretty simple: Griefing bad, PvP good. These two concepts have become rather unfortunately tied together in MMOs, yet they shouldn’t be. Part of the issue is that even developers don’t always understand the difference. They come down on the concept as an intentional game design, wolves and sheep.

Well, I’m sure everyone agrees with me 100%, right? PvP is about the thrill of the fight. Griefing is about ruining someone else’s day. Maybe you’d care to explain to me how your griefing isn’t that bad and you’re actually trying to improve the game? Maybe you think PvP’s very nature encourages griefers and that is why you don’t play PvP games. I’ll agree that it’s the simplest form, but certainly not the only one. Don’t write off a game because of PvP. But you should encourage developers to understand that griefing mechanics are not tolerable.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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