Welcome to the twentieth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!
“With the recent completion of the 3rd installment of the Hulkageddon last month, @CyberinEVE, author of Hands Off, My Loots!, asks: “Griefing is a very big part of EVE. Ninja Salvaging, Suicide Ganking, Trolling, and Scamming are all a very large part of the game. What do you think about all these things? You can talk about one, or all…but just let us know your overall opinion on Griefing, and any recommendations you may have to change it if you think it’s needed.”
“Griefing”, as a term, is one which I think is largely misunderstood by many players in EVE. I think that’s largely because peoples perception of what is griefing and what isn’t vary quite widely. At its most extreme griefing can border upon a form of virtual harassment and there is at least an underlying sense that its ‘end state’ is to provoke an extreme emotional response on the victim (“moar tears!!”) with getting the victim to quit the game completely as the pinnacle of success.
Of course the point where said victim breaks down sobbing at their keyboard will vary by player – and the majority will never do so. Some will however and as a generic player type they are likely to fall into those personality types that become more emotionally involved in the game, perhaps more immersed – whereas the ‘griefer’ is likely to profess their detachment from the game as “just a game – its not real!”
What muddies the water however is that within EVE some forms of ‘griefing’ are also potentially quite profitable and a route to ‘easy ISK’. Is that player scamming to provoke wails of anguish from their victim, or just looking to make a fast buck?
At its core griefing is a deeply social interaction, but seeing as MMOs are by definition ‘social’ games should we really apply a term to that? You could argue that griefing is ‘unwanted social interaction’ but then you could say the same about PVP, or gate camps and yet these aren’t normally described as ‘griefing’.
Obviously there is something more going on here and when we scan across Cyberin’s question we can see a general common theme. All the examples Cyberin gives are ones where the ‘rules’ (if you can call them that) are being somehow distorted in a way a victim may not appreciate or even realise. Scamming is a simple example – you expect a contract item to be fairly priced and a ‘genuine article’ – not a Raven when you thought you were buying a Navy Raven. EVE is unusual in that the rules that apply in other MMOs are no longer applicable and that for some can take some getting used to.
I think most MMOs operate on a ‘grief’ scale. At one end of the scale is ‘total care’: the player is protected against harm to all intents and purposes – i.e they never lose progression due to defeat and they cannot lose out on access to progression through the actions of a third party. Guild Wars 2 shows much of that ‘total care’ approach, WOW is another albeit slightly further along the ‘grief’ scale as it is possible to ninja loot drops from a player here.
At the other end of the ‘grief scale’ is total loss, perma death and open PVP everywhere. I’m struggling to think of a game that exhibits those attributes so we have to shift left a bit along the ‘grief’ scale until we find EVE Online. Because of mechanisms such as ship insurance, clones and aggro mechanics EVE still has some “safety nets” – at least in certain areas.
Interestingly the closer to ‘total care’ the more popular an MMO seems to become. I think this drives very much to the core of what players perceive as ‘fair’. We are, as a group, are accustomed to single player games and don’t expect to be cheated out of a reward or our own progression through the act of a third party in those single player games. That’s a tough psychological barrier to break through, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth breaking through and here’s why.
Whilst the care/grief spectrum (above) is one factor within MMOs it is also directly proportional to another scale:
CONSTRAINTS <——————————————-> FREEDOM
The more freedom to act as you wish within a game universe the greater the players range of choices, ‘career paths’, styles of play and expression. EVE does not comprise wholly of PVP players and PVE players, it also has scammers, thieves, spies, pirates, con artists and all the blends in between. This is something that makes EVE unique amongst its peers. Being more freeform also allows players to transition freely between many of these styles – todays spy may be tomorrows industrial corp CEO. In many respects our avatars are defined not by a ‘class’ or by an attribute but by what we actually do in game.
That’s the ‘big’ part of griefing – not how wide spread it is, or the scale of a scam or the length of a troll post: the big thing is that its possible at all.