On Griefing

Warning: this post contains links to sites that use some pretty strong language at times and several links are also NSFW.

Recently we received an e-mail from a reader asking what to do about “auction house griefing”. The reader said that any time he placed an item for sale in the auction house a certain other player would undercut him almost immediately. Our advice was to basically ignore the competitor and press on with normal trading. If that doesn’t resolve the issue after a few days, simply move your auctioning business over to an alt for a few weeks. Without an audience, or participatory ‘victim’, you remove a key component of the griefer’s game and render them irrelevant.

We assume this advice worked in that we haven’t heard anything further concerning the incident but it did get us thinking, what’s with all the hating lately?

While griefing has been an internet tradition since inception, it sure does seem that in the past few weeks the WoW anger level has risen to epic levels. Perhaps it was the natural result of forcing players to fight for colored eggs. Perhaps it was the result of encouraging selfish game play through poorly designed game mechanics. Regardless, the griefing doesn’t stop with world events and it certainly didn’t start there either.

Now we’re not quite sure where or when griefing began but you might argue that it is simply human nature. We can easily fathom a scene where one caveman leads another into the subterranean habitat of a prehistoric bear just for the sheer joy of later telling his caveman buddies, “Man, you shoulda seen the look on his face when that thing roared.”

MMO griefing certainly didn’t start with WoW. There are many examples of both the amusing (if somewhat tasteless) and the annoying variety. Some have built entire empires based on what’s often called the art’ of griefing. Of course, when we start calling it art we also stop calling it grief. At that point it becomes a prank or a joke or some other term with a less of a negative connotation.

What strikes us most is that there are such a variety of responses to griefing. Sometimes the response is a compassionate “that sucks, sorry to hear that happened to you.” And, more often than not it seems, the complainant is met with cries of “QQ more noob.” The most common argument we hear is that the griefer is teaching the victim not to take things so serious- that this is, after all, just a game. The problem with this logic is that it lacks perspective. Sometimes griefing is considered criminal. At other times it is considered an act of heroism. Of course, at one point or another every MMO player is a victim of griefing in some form. It may be that person in /trade chat with the trolling comments while you’re trying to sell something or perhaps it is the guy that ‘stole’ your ore node. Either way, even the most ardent defender of griefing will eventually, himself, be griefed. Put another way, you never hear the target of griefing say, “Lighten up. It’s just a game.”

There are interesting perspectives on griefing all over the internet. Tobold’s got a good take on it. Last year’s AGDC conference kicked off an interesting discussion on the matter. The most recent issue of The Escapist features an in-depth look at griefing, particularly as pertains to WoW apparently. There are some hilarious examples of griefing crossing over into real life (while probably NSFW, that’s a must watch video there). About a year ago Wired Magazine did an interesting interview with a few notorious griefers (includes photos and yes, they look about as dorky as you’d expect).

Our own take on the matter from the WoWenomics team is that it has something to do with the Online Disinhibition Effect (summarized so flawlessly by Penny Arcade) mixed with the theory of the Monkysphere (in which proponents argue that we only have enough mental and emotional bandwith to care about a specific relatively small amount of people). We believe the best way to combat a griefer is simply to ignore it as much as possible. Getting angry or engaging them at all only feeds into their desire to cause strife in others. Threats and complaining will only exacerbate the issue.

As far as Blizzard goes, they remain liaise faire on the issue of griefing. Don’t look to them for resolution unless the incident violates the ToS. Even if it does, barring racist (or similar) comments from the offending party or other serious violations, the likelihood of a punishment beyond a slap on the wrist is fairly low.

All said and done however, it would be wise to remember that we all fall victim to this type of behavior at one point or another. Further, keep in mind that the internet isn’t always totally anonymous. And sometimes, just sometimes, a griefer will get his due.

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6 Comments

Filed under Off Topic, WoW Market Commentary

6 responses to “On Griefing

  1. Hagu

    I don’t understand where the griefing is in this scenario? If I am on and going thru my auctions, especially if it is one of a few items I am trying to make a market in, then I would undercut someone if I noticed they had placed an auction. The same way that if I see an opposing player in Wintergrasp, I will try to kill them. (I probably won’t succeed but I will try. )

    Now if the reader was saying this person was just undercutting their auctions but not other people’s auctions, then that is personal and is a bit closer to griefing. But isn’t the point to give buyers the lowest price by having sellers compete?

    For higher volume commodities,
    if you post an auction when a competitor is online, then wouldn’t you expect to be undercut? E.g., if you post an auction for frostweave at 6 PM Saturday, you should not be surprised if you are not the lowest price for too long.

  2. Enli

    A big reason why griefing is so popular is that it gets people the attention they crave.

    Don’t write about them in articles like this. Don’t tell them to go away. Don’t scream and curse at them. Ignore them. They are not worthy of your attention. If they don’t get the satisfaction they want, most of them will go away after a while.

    If you listen to them, if you discuss their actions, you are just giving them what they want. Just talk about something else. Anything else.

    Hey, did you catch Generic Sports Team’s game last night?

  3. Capela

    My usual advise if you are griefed: don’t let it get to you, sit still for a while, observe what is happening, and plan for what you are going to do, either running away or doing something to counter the griefer.
    Last night a Lock 75/DK 80 went to grief me while I (Prot Pally 77) was killing some elite mob. I get back there in time to see they get killed by said elite. So, I rez, heal, drink, and pull the mob over into open sea to kill it slowly as a prot pally does. By the time the DK (with a new lv80 companion) found me, after wondering why the mob was taking so much time to respawn, there was not enough time to kill me before I killed the beast.
    One other time I was playing with two friends, trying to do an escort quest, when a way stronger ally party simply killed us and started doing another escort that happened to be in the same place. We spent the next 45 minutes killing their NPC; even though we didn’t have a chance to kill the other players we had an affliction warlock and they didn’t have anyone to decurse or heal the NPC.

  4. Strange, I’ve never met a griefer in AH. Or I just did not notice them. I consider undercutting a completely normal operation and see nothing wrong or offensive in it.

  5. gor

    I agree with Hagu. I think the concept of
    griefing is misapplied here. If I want to sell
    an item and I don’t care about losing some
    small percentage of the sale price, why not
    undercut? If my item sells to one guy today
    then I have less to sell tomorrow. If someone
    is selling manufactured items for less than cost
    they are just clearing excess raw materials or
    maybe dumping items created in powerleveling
    skills. Either way I don’t see how griefing is the
    appropriate point of view.

  6. jederus

    @ Hagu and Gor- We didn’t go into great detail regarding the incident the e-mailer described and perhaps should have given more detail but the incident itself was not the point of our initial post. Tt did sound, to us, like some kind of AH griefing in the sense that it was only his auctions being undercut, they were undercut by the same person immediately after our reader posted his item, and the accused griefer also messaged him saying something along the lines of “I’m going to mess up your business.” While some of us have recieved messages from unhappy competetors in the past, this type of thing was a first for us. At least, if it has happened before (as we expect it probably has), we haven’t noticed or otherwise heard about it. Hopefully that clarifies the ‘was it grief or not’ issue. We’re all for strategic undercutting and wholly expect this to occur in any auction based economic system. We undercut others and expect the same, in both real-world and WoW business for that matter.

    That said, the disagreement over what constitutes ‘griefing’ sort of only exemplifies the main point of our post which was that griefing has very different definitions to each person and how they deal with the issue also varies widely. There’s really no right or wrong here- just differing perspectives which, again, is our point.

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