In case you don’t play games online and don’t know the term, a “griefer” is someone who… you know what? Nobody seems to agree on what a griefer is–and both those accused of doing it and those sick of being griefed have more narrow or broad definitions to suit their views, but here’s how I see it:

Griefing is when someone plays an online game not with an eye on winning, but with an eye on making someone else angry. Bonus points for making them quit the game. Killing someone in a PvP (player vs player) game is not griefing, it’s the whole point of the game.  Teabagging a kill isn’t griefing either, it’s just childish… sometimes gloriously so.

However, if you found an exploit that allowed you to instantly kill the same guy over and over and over again every time they respawned, and gleefully did so, just waiting to hear them scream in rage over the microphone, then you’re a griefer.

The griefer line can shift from game to game. Even the above example isn’t set in stone. A PvP war game operates on different logic than a sandbox MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) or a competitive car racing game. But they too have griefers – epic level characters who enjoy nothing more than squashing new players and telling them to “git gud” or driving so badly they consistently ruin races while pretending to be inexperienced.

It’s all about making other people mad for shits and giggles. Many post these things on YouTube, both to get appreciative laughs from those of their ilk, while getting more rage from those who despise the behavior.  Win-win.

Elite Dangerous also is in a different category.  It has a PvP element, for sure. Wars have been fought between player factions, videos recorded or live streamed about their daring deeds, and constant arguing about how to tweak PvP combat rules, curb exploits, etc…

All this is in a tug-of-war with the PvE (Player vs Environment) sandbox universe. There are those who don’t mind competing or combating other players for legitimate reasons (ie piracy, bounty hunting) but for the most part want to be left alone to do their own thing.  Mine, trade, or fight against the bots without the stress of having a live player breathe down their neck, wanting their blood.

And, of course, there are griefers in Elite. People who find ways to blow them out of the sky as soon as they leave a station, or gang up on their starter ships and destroy them without asking for cargo or giving them a chance to surrender.  Like all other forms of grief, it’s about the gnashing of teeth and anger while simultaneously blaming the victims for letting it happen (especially when it comes to rules exploits).

It can make an online gaming world an ugly place if you’re not prepared for it or have developed a thick skin to such antics. Honestly, it makes the world feel like recess in public school, with the cool kids picking on the outsiders, and it’s certainly just as mature. Sometimes it stems from frustration at a game someone likes, but feel they’ve “used up” and want to shake things up.  Sometimes it’s just because they’re jerks. No doubt psychology papers can and have been written about this behavior.

And after the recent US election, sometimes it feels like they rule the earth… or at least social media.

So why am I writing all this about griefers? So you know the world I’m talking about when I show you this article about the opposite.


Just take a minute and check this out. It’s stuff like this that makes me feel like there’s hope in gaming (and people in general).  Heck, you’ll even notice I get a brief mention in the article (Mossfoot).  I’m proud that I helped encourage the Fuel Rats in those early days, even if I am not really a member (honorary), and the fact that it’s taken off the way that it has, and encouraged others to behave in similar ways is nothing short of amazing.

It demonstrated new ways to look at sandbox games beyond straight up antagonism, creating game content and a sense of community among its members that even the developers hadn’t anticipated. It demonstrated that there is indeed room for the anti-griefer in online games (well, some of them, anyway).

And if that’s the case, maybe there’s room for them in social media as well.

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