Why do my friends keep killing me?!

Team killers! Griefers! Why backstabbers keep ruining your game

In the chaotic and lawless world of online gaming, pretty much anything goes. After all, few places offer as much freedom to say or do what you like as a randomly chosen multiplayer match. Yet one act remains so despised and so taboo that, to gamers, it might as well be the equivalent of cheating on your spouse or betraying your country.

It's called the team kill. Shooting friend instead of foe. Griefing. And it may be one of the most misunderstood behaviors in all of gaming.

Why? Because every time someone tries to dissect the possible motivations for one teammate murdering another, they tend to either over simplify or over complicate the analysis. Look, everyone understands that cyberspace is anonymous, that actions are uninhibited and that immature kids are plentiful. We don't need an article to tell us that.

We also don't need a professional psychiatrist. Features that attempt to diagnose team killers with serious psychological problems like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - or try to label them as psychotic, antisocial or substance abusers -take the whole phenomenon way too seriously.

The real motivations are much more straightforward and - dare we say it - justifiable. By examining some recent games, and basic human behavior, we were able to identify five reasons why a player might commit a team kill, why he or she might continue to team kill, why so many people team kill in general... and why you are most likely guilty of a few team kills yourself.