One of the latest threads that evolved into a Raph Koster || PK debate inspired this piece, so I will start it with a quote from Raph himself:
“…because I do regard those grief players and those rampant PKers (be they the “good” ones or the griefy ones) as the bad guys in this virtual world, far more so than the monsters.”
There are so many facets to the situation though, that a clear understanding of the “why” that would lead to the solution is one that’s going to take very many years and much theory-to-practice research to come up with. We’ve established that grief players are a plague here to stay in our games – now we’re debating how we can “fix” them.
Where do we start, though? What do you single out as the “cause?” Do we blame the parents for using computers as babysitters? For raising often immoral or unethical children? Do we blame early single player games for ingraining a “must cheat to conquer” mentality? Do we blame the current and future games for not giving enough “tools” to the rest of the players so that they may overcome or police the situation?
Many argue that PvP is what gives a game longevity, and I can’t say I disagree. On the same token, I see that less than a fifth of the current game servers are “free PvP,” and people are playing and sticking around on non-PvP servers for months, if not years. So now we also know that non-PvP games are completely viable. So how do we make PvP games more desirable for those that are requesting it, and for those who would probably enjoy it if it weren’t so painful?
Consequence. There needs to be consequence for making the life of a fellow gamer miserable. There’s currently no real community, as I think I’ve stressed before, so the “they will be outcast” mindset won’t work. You also don’t want to run your game tyrannically, as I think this site has stressed, so that too wouldn’t work. The consequence needs to come in the form of what the griefer desires most: attention. Granted, the drive may also be achievement, but more often than not, I’ve noticed that the true motivation has been attention. The gloating, the bragging, and the infamy that come with being a notorious griefer are all too often the real force behind the actions.
Reward. Currently, the reward for slaughtering the enjoyment of your fellow player is too great. Overcoming a human opponent that thinks and reacts as you do should be reward enough. The “loot system’s” also play a large role: Killing a single opponent and likely getting a fine reward (because more often than not, he won’t be using substandard equipment) rather than waiting in line for hours or killing dozens, if not hundreds, of monsters is much more desirable. Yes, I will agree that some other reward is appropriate too, but not when it is obviously leading to the unhappiness of a paying customer.
It’s just a game. Frankly, this line of thought upsets me. It is more than just a game, especially and specifically, when in context of the enjoyment of another human being. The notion that the person you are repeatedly assaulting is indeed another human being enjoying a hobby, just as you are, is something that they, and sometimes all of us, seem to forget. It’s just a game when your opponent is running on AI, but definitely not when he is a breathing, living human being just as you.
Community. Natural co-existence and co-dependency, while not being very popular, may very well be a factor in reducing random acts of grief. If the person you just killed just so happens to be a well-known healer, you might think twice about ruining your chance at “smoother” gameplay down the line. Of course, none of this is possible unless your server is small enough to where community can play a role.
Breeding bitterness. If our boards have taught me nothing else, they’ve showed me that people have a very love-hate relationship with most things online. What is it in games, or the internet in general, that leads to this? The answer to this is also multi-faceted, and too off topic here. It is clear, however, that unhappy people tend to react poorly. I suppose this goes back to consequence – I know I personally wouldn’t say many of the things I’ve said had I been face-to-face with the individual I was making the comments to. Anonymity and lack of consequence help foster a false sense of confidence and courage to where one acts inappropriately.
Obviously there is no one solution here, and it’s not something we can dissect in a single article, thread, or debate (I’d be a very rich man if I could), but I think talking, debating, and theorizing will bring us a step closer to a definitive answer – if one indeed exists.
These are some of my thoughts, what are yours?