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April 2018

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There is an old saying: it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Whenever I think about the issue of griefing at a LARP, I like to change that saying to ‘It’s all fun and games until someone threatens you out of game with character death.’ Okay, so that’s not quite as snappy, but the point still stands. Any good LARP experience can be marred by the presence of game harassment known as griefing, so let’s break down the practice in its many forms.

A griefer is defined as a player who intentionally spoils a game for other players.While that might seem too wide a description, in many roleplaying communities it has become a term for players who use their character’s capabilities to seek to kill other player characters to either show off their character’s superiority, to loot for in-game goods or gear, or to act out some out-of-character vendetta against another player. The term is used heavily in online games like MMORPGs where griefers might be players who camp out at respawn points to murder newly returned and weak players, or higher level players that camp out in low-level areas to harass the new players or extort them for loot. This kind of player versus player (PVP) action is segregated to certain areas in many online games to allow players who just want player versus environment (PVE) adventures to play in peace. Still, that is not the case in every online game, and in LARP that kind of segregation of player population is nigh impossible. Unless a game outlaws PVP altogether, the issue of griefing can occur.

Each of the ways in which griefing expresses itself can have vastly different consequences and reasons behind it. The first kind of griefing can occur when a player just wants to show off the strength of their character. To gain attention, they’ll take on other players and push a player versus player agenda into their character just to get the opportunity to kill others. This is perhaps the least insidious form of griefing because at its core it is pretty blatant as to the motivations. Player A wants to feel powerful while playing his character, so he’ll target other players to rack up a kill count. Usually it is easy to identify this kind of griefing because the actions the player takes with their character will often not match up with plot or storyline, and the player will probably go out of their way to kill another character ‘just because’.

The next form of griefing is what I like to think of as mercenary griefing. Since most games have an in-game economy that player characters participate in, the quest for resources can put people into competition with one another. If a player wants that new piece of armor, or a better weapon, they’d better have the gold for it; sometimes there just aren’t enough enemies dropping loot to get everyone what they need. The impulse can then turn to treating fellow player characters just like you’d treat NPC enemies, and kill them for their gear, goods, or gold. This kind of behavior can have lots of causes, but I postulate that it might stem from identifying the self as the sole important part of the game and everyone else as background characters to the individual player’s ‘success.’

griefingThe third kind of griefing is far more insidious. Griefer has also come to mean someone who threatens to or kills another player’s character due to out of character reasons. That out of character reason might be personal (‘I don’t like Jimmy, so I’m going to kill Jimmy’s character Ferrox the Unholy’) or it might sadly be more ideological (‘I don’t like Jimmy because he is ______ so Ferrox has to go’). Still other times it can come from more unfortunate inter-game conflicts in which players may try to dissuade someone from playing in multiple games at once. Most LARP communities have at least one instance of inter-game feuds that they can reference from their history. Two games occur near one another, jealousy over player base sizes can occur, and somewhere along the line pressure is put upon players to decide where to go.

Regardless of the reason behind the griefing, when a player begins to see killing a person’s character as retribution, that’s when the unfortunate out of character/in character line is crossed. While all three ways to grief another player can be harmful to player experience, this last one is the most troubling. It steps outside the in-game exercise of player versus player into a meta-game that can be straight harassment. Many games include anti-harassment policies that include considerations about vendetta actions like these and may be consider such actions as subject to punishment.

So where does the impulse to grief come from? The behavior might be tracked back to a number of factors. To start with, what some may see as griefing can be seen by other players as simple competitive exercise within the game’s rules. In that mindset, player versus player battle is only another way to engage with the environment, as they treat other players the same as they’d treat an NPC without consideration for the out of character feelings of the killed player. It is that last part that turns PvP into something more than just two players vying against one another and turns it into what might become an uncomfortable situation; a PvP situation isn’t griefing until it steps over the line into spoiling the game for someone else. In the end, it really is all fun and games until someone gets killed in-game for making someone angry out of character. Then, it’s just a giant, painful mess.

What do you think? Is griefing such a huge problem, or merely an exercise in differences of opinion? What kind of griefing do you think is the most problematic? Share your experiences and let’s break down this phenomenon a little more.комплексная поисковая оптимизация сайтовtopodсайткак взломать пароль в одноклассниках бесплатноаквалоо ценыбыстрые займы онлайн круглосуточноjuegos de casino gratis para bajardubai escorts high classbetsafe online casinonetbet casinoдешевый тур в африкуклубные танцы марьино

Shoshana Kessock

Shoshana Kessock is a game designer and writer who has worked on over a dozen larps over the years. She is the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions, an independent tabletop and larp publication and production house, and a full-time storyteller at Dystopia Rising New Jersey. When she isn't writing for LARPing.org she is getting her masters degree at NYU in Game Design, working on several theater LARPs including The Unofficial Dresden Files LARP and writing both fiction and tabletop RPGs. She lives in New York.

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9 Comments

  1. Sarah August 28, 2013 9:39 AM

    There is definitely something to be said about OC/IC harassment. It is a bigger thing than I think most players realize, but I have seen several occasions where, whether intending to or not, one player has threatened to kill or otherwise assault another player’s character. This has caused distraught in players that I know and has even caused some to want to make a new character or just not play at all.

    I have seen experienced when a player threatens to sexually assault another player’s character (usually male to female, but I bet it happens all across the board). This is also insidious in nature, because it causes a huge feeling of discomfort and unease both in and out of character.

    This kind of thing is very hard to put a finger on, because the aggressor often claims he or she is joking or kidding around, and with a world of creative players, it may be difficult to point out whether a player is acting IC when they take action towards your character, or is moving because of some OC grudge or motivation.

    Even if the aggressor is simply “joking around,” it’s not funny and can be very discomforting especially for new or younger players. LARPers should keep in mind that there is a line to be crossed when joking or hanging out and should do their best to be aware of their surroundings.

    Additionally, LARPing is a game and is supposed to be fun. If you as a player feel uncomfortable with someone, it’s also your responsibility to speak up and let the player know that what they’ve said has made you uncomfortable. Often times they don’t realize that what they’ve said is offensive. If it is still a problem, then it’s appropriate to involve the staff of the game to help resolve the issue.

    Reply
    • Axel August 28, 2013 1:00 PM

      Your comment:
      “I have seen experienced when a player threatens to sexually assault another player’s character…
      “…This kind of thing is very hard to put a finger on, because the aggressor often claims he or she is joking or kidding around”

      I really hope that this would be unacceptable behaviour under any circumstances, whether in or out of game, and that game staff would come down on an aggressor like a tonne of bricks.

      Sexual violence is way too common and triggering to be a safe subject to play with in any event where all the players don’t know each other very well.

      Reply
  2. Rachel Sanks August 28, 2013 6:42 PM

    Hi Shoshana,

    Hm, I think “griefing” and player/player combat and violence in a LARP are two different things. I tend to think griefers are folks that perform senseless acts for no discernable reason. I think in certain LARPs there are very valid that involve the death of your character or others — and that the importance is keeping the “story” in he game, and being three dimensional people when folks are out-of-game.

    I think it really underscores the importance of the OOC/IC divide.

    – Rachel

    Reply
  3. Xavi August 29, 2013 3:44 AM

    Hello everyone,

    As Rachel said PVP does not mean OOC violence, not in all games. As an example Drachenfest in germany is a game were death is part of the fun because it is a game mechanic. We are talking here about a larp in which PVP battles are the key point.

    I know games were assasination is accepted among players as it is a common method to obtain your character goals and almost everyone is threatened of it.

    So i think that to know if PVP with character death is acceptable we should look at how the game works. personally i consider that allowing character assasination if you don’t intend to have that happening in your games is an important rule flaw.

    And about sexual harrasment a good solution would be to have an IC sign – band, symbols,necklaces- pointing when someone is open for romantic role-play. So if you don’t want waer this IC sign and someone is harrasing you is clearly doing it OOC.

    Have a nice time larping!

    Reply
    • Axel August 30, 2013 1:27 PM

      Rachel, Xavi,
      I think everyone understands that some, hopefully most, PvP is a valid and important part of a LARP experience.

      Shoshona is talking about Griefing, which is a subset of PvP where the reasons for attacking another character are not based on CHARACTER motivations but rather come from the PLAYERs personal motives. Because they are not driven by in-game logic, they are bad for the game – much like metagaming or rules lawyering to get your character an in game advantage based on out of game knowledge.

      Xavi,
      Sexual harrassment has nothing in common with romantic roleplay.
      Characters should be able to signal their interest or lack thereof in romantic or sexual RP through in character actions, just like in real life.
      Other players and characters should respect those cues, and unlike real life, if they do not then they should be kicked out of game ASAP.

      Reply
      • Xavi September 13, 2013 2:44 AM

        HI axel,

        Of course sexual hrrassment has nothing to do with romantic role-play. But people shields behind on “romantic IC action” when something happens. That is why i thing that Using an IC sign that allowed that kid of action would reduce drastically this kind of lies, knowin that most people do not want to get involved in romantic role-play.

        An example. Let’s say that in your larp a necklace with a sun-like shape means that you are open for romantic role-play. ONly a very few people would wear it and so anyone trying to shield sexual harrasment actions behind a “romantic-roleplay” action would be easily spotted.

        Being said that i have enconuntered with more problems caused by people flirting IC when they have another OOC partner – grilfriend, boyfriend – than with sexual harrasment – i have seen none-. Happens the same with griefing, everybody talks about it, everybody fears it but i’ve never seen it. At least in the scale exposed in this article.

        So yes, sexual harrrasmen’t it’s definetly not the same as romantic role-playing ^^.

        Reply
  4. Rachel Sanks August 30, 2013 9:17 PM

    Hi Axel,

    I haven’t seen much griefing in LARP – as its been defined. I feel that a lot of this about storytellers taking active control of the game — and that game control is an important part of the ST’s job description. But I can see how it would be a difficulty in game.

    Reply
  5. Johnnie Williams September 8, 2013 7:51 AM

    Another form if Griefing is a bored powerfull player killing new or low level characters “because I can” or worse. “because I’m bored”.
    New layers first experiences should be positive. A negative first impression of a LARP can blacken their outlook thereafter. And both are essentially OOC harassment under cover of PVP. And it makes valid PVP look very bad.

    Griefing can also be used as a deliberate mood killer. The Griefer is out to ruin someone elses enjoyment of the LARP. An old term for it local was “Character Rape”. Though the more correct term would be “Emotion Rape” I guess.

    PVP is so horribly prone to abuse. We’ve known this for a long long time. And often its hard to actually pin down as was pointed out above.

    I think one recurring symptom is when the GMs either turn a blind eye to it, or actually allow these sorts of things to happen. That may be an indicator theres something alot more wrong with the LARP than just someone getting ganked.

    And keep in mind that griefing is not isolated to combat.
    There is the above mentioned threat of rape.
    Also the griefing can be more subtle like robbing the other players camp, somehow interfering with a module, or going OOC repeatedly and blatantly even.

    Reply
  6. Matthew Majchrzak March 10, 2015 7:29 AM

    I have dealt with all three forms of greifing in the past. sadly the first two forms are usually done within the rules of the game, and can only be stopped by a game director or other person in charge stepping in and saying “NO” to something that while incredibly lame, is still well within the rules of the game. The third can be easier to deal with if the game director or other P.I.C. is stern enough about bullying/ metagaming

    I would honestly like to hear some opinions on how to deal with the first two forms in a more organic manor… potentially NPC/story assistance to the players being greifed?

    Reply

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