Saturday, August 2, 2008

Leet Hacker Griefer-Trolls Are Coming To Get Me

We're a gamer feedback blog. That's all we are. When we cross into other territory, one could rightfully be concerned that the water will get a bit deep for us. However, I don't believe I could sleep at night without mentioning, at least once, the New York Times Magazine piece about Internet trolls.

Feast your eyes on this fine young man:

As a seasoned denizen of the Internet, is that not the face of your darkest nightmares? How can stereotypes be this accurate? I couldn't come up with a more spot-on troll poster child if I were to draw one from scratch. The guy is practically a forum avatar.

That being said, reading this article was a bit like watching a wizened, grandfatherly Oxford lecturer hold forth on the finer points of oral sex. Incongruous doesn't even begin to cover it. I never thought I'd live to see the words 'quasi-thermodynamic' and 'lulz' used in the same sentence:

Another troll explained the lulz as a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel: “You look for someone who is full of it, a real blowhard. Then you exploit their insecurities to get an insane amount of drama, laughs and lulz."
I understand that the Times has a specific audience, for whom they need to translate the wild, wacky world of the Internet. But we gamers don't need pedantic explanations. We know these sorts of people well; we call them griefers. Difference is, instead of creating blogs to mock teenage suicides, they're using a 20-level advantage to repeatedly one-shot us in Stranglethorn Vale. Or perhaps they're training thirty mobs into our earnest group of roleplaying D&Ders.

Jaded as I am, I felt as if I were reading an expose on lettuce, or perhaps an article on molecular biology that began: "These proteins, or... 'life goo'"...

Five Things: Griefers

I am intimately familiar with griefers. Matter of fact, they are one of my Five Things. Unless you're a griefer, they're likely to be one of yours as well. Anyone who has played many MMOs has experience with getting camped, ganked, curb-stomped, one-shotted, asshatted, podded. For no reason other than the fact that it ruined your playtime. And there are many flavors. Text spamming, group wiping, ninja looting and hate telling are just a few others.

Why do people just plain behave badly in multiplayer games?

Because they can. In real life, this sort of behavior gets you dragged into the street and beaten with a tire iron.

Why do they need to, though?

Probably because they're psychologically damaged, fifteen, or both. Any other answer is a rationalization.

If you are filled with rage, have low self esteem, are paralyzed from the waist down, are disenfranchised at work, are afflicted in a myriad of other ways, chances are you desperately require an outlet for your frustrations. Are you also a gamer? It's pretty likely that the above will significantly contribute to your playstyle.

Of course, you might also be so young that you're not socialized yet. Perhaps hormones are rampaging through your body. Perhaps you have no idea what the consequences of your actions are. Or you know, but don't care, because nobody has ever made you sorry before.

We were talking this week on our forums about a fellow we remember from SWG. He became well-known on the server after he joined a guild just to grab the legendary one-hander from their guildhall and /guildquit. I wonder if he knew what a big deal that would turn out to be.

Whatever the motivation, the effect is the same to the other player. Great aggravation, and possibly stomach ulcers. Multiplayer games (and the Internet as a whole) are a broad canvas for anyone who takes joy in getting negative attention, or in making other people unhappy.

As a player, you cannot allow yourself to give them the satisfaction. Ignore hate tells. Get backup for campers, or wait until they get bored. Never get upset. They win if you do. Choose to end the interaction instead. That was hard for me to learn.

There are game mechanics that prevent griefing. A bevvy of them, in fact. What is WoW's lack of cross-faction chat but one of those? No hate tells, no trash talk. Actually, I like being able to talk to the other side. I'd gladly take the hate tells if it meant being able to say 'good fight.' (I should admit here that I find hate tells to be utterly hilarious, so my opinion is somewhat biased). Blizzard, obviously, does not agree.

PvP safe zones, NPC guards, making lowbies unattackable by veterans... I could list the ways that game developers discourage griefing all day. It isn't instructive to do this, because no matter how creative they are, players (and griefers) will always be more creative.

Age-Limited Servers

It's my personal view that most griefers are young kids. Surely not all, but many. I would pay $30 a month to game on an age-limited server. Enforcement would be difficult, but I'm betting you could cut down on the numbers. Require a credit card in the name of the player. Use an age verification service. Alternatively, you could just design a game so difficult for young minds to grasp that the problem solves itself.

Am I being too harsh here? No. It's my playtime, and I don't have to interact with fifth graders if I don't want to. I'm curmudgeonly, and this is one of my five things. I'm also with Zubon over at Kill Ten Rats:
I confess: I discriminate against pre-pubescent males. Something about the voice of the twelve-year-old boy coming from the Orc Reaver grates.
In the meantime, I'll continue flat-out booting you from group if you behave like an idiot. No warning, no explanation. I will also use my /ignore button frequently, and fervently hope not to get DDoSed by leet hacker griefer-trolls everywhere.

Sorry guys, I didn't mean any of this. I wrote it for the lulz.

We're still friends, right?


Unknown said...

You seem dissatisfied about something... but I can't place what. >:p

Ben said...

More good reads on this, and one is an old classic:

Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses

Griefers hit the Grey Lady

A rape in cyberspace

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