The five stages of griefing
Misery loves company
Griefing. We've all experienced it at some point: the sadistic joy of screwing with our fellow teammates or bitter enemies in a multiplayer game. It comes in many forms: spawn-camping someone's corpse in an MMO, purposefully blocking a critical choke point in an FPS, ignoring the desperate pleas of your brash allies in a MOBA. Really, anything that saps the enjoyment out of a game for other players counts. We've done it, you've done it, and it's high time you made peace with that most salient fact.
But how did it come to this? No matter the degree of your griefing--whether you're an occasional annoyance or a dedicated game-ruiner--it all had to start somewhere. Since griefing is an act motivated primarily through hateful humor, the Week of Hate seemed like the perfect time to analyze the psychoses of griefers, who, like it or not, have taken permanent residence in the world of online gaming.
Stage 1: Denial
It all begins so innocently. You can't help but laugh--it is funny to observe a team of Battlefield soldiers hop into a freshly spawned helicopter, only to watch its inept pilot send the whole thing crashing into a cliffside, killing everyone (himself included) in a wreck of burning metal. Did he mean to do it? Maybe, maybe not; odds are, he was probably just a newcomer to chopper controls. But wouldn't it be awesome if he did it on purpose? Wouldn't it be hilarious if you had been the one who orchestrated such a frustrating in-game disaster?
No, you think to yourself. This is a team game; the entire point is to band together in the hopes of accomplishing shared goals. Then again, it's just a game! Anyone who would get worked up over such a comical snafu needs to lighten up, and if you get a kick out of these calamities, so much the better. Heck, if you record the footage and make a montage, you might get some traction on YouTube. This is going to be great.
Stage 2: Anger
How dare they. Ban you?! Unbelievable. Here you are, trying to enjoy yourself by pulling some hysterical team-killing pranks, and these self-righteous moderators saw fit to banish you from their server. Well, good riddance. Their server is but a speck in the online realm; you can simply take your antics elsewhere. But deep down, you feel wronged--hurt, even. Are your teammates so uptight that they can't take a joke? Can't they appreciate the humor in the virtual deaths of their fellow gamer? Why is life so unfair?
Screw them. You know what's funny--that's why you've always been the life of the server. Who cares if they don't think it's amusing...you do, and that's all that matters. And should you ever see those players on another server, you'll make them pay. You'll teamkill them as a medic, revive them, then teamkill them again. You'll make them think it's funny.
Stage 3: Bargaining
You love griefing other players. So what? You can see clearly now: You were getting bored of the game, and griefing was the only way to truly get your money's worth. There are only so many times a gamer can support his teammates and work with others to achieve victory. Eventually, it all just becomes so boring. So mundane. By griefing, you've actually infused new life into a game that was slowly dulling towards virtual tedium.
That makes sense, right? Anyone in your situation would do the same. In fact, you can rest easy knowing that, somewhere, a developer is filled with pride that an intrepid gamer like yourself has discovered a new avenue for emergent narrative. Now your teammates are your enemies, and your formers opponents are but spectators to your comedic sabotage. They'll definitely think it's a hoot. They have to.
Stage 4: Depression
What are you doing with your life? You just repeatedly killed the same person, who you've never met and who has never wronged you in any way, for the past 45 minutes straight. This is now the only way you can have fun playing this game. You've surrounded yourself with like-minded gamers, those who revel in your malicious trickery and constantly devise new ways to frustrate their fellow players. Are these truly your friends? What madness will ensue when griefers become so desperate to grief that they start griefing griefers?
Don't you have anything better to do with your time? No--because here you are. Aren't there other games--single-player games--that might be more worthwhile of your attention? No--griefing unfeeling NPCs just doesn't give you the same rush as hearing a human being lament the things you're doing to them. There's no way you'll ever be a pro-level player, so why not master the art of being the worst possible teammate? Watching virtual avatars die doesn't even make you laugh anymore--but damn it, it's all you have.
Stage 5: Acceptance
There's no going back; you're a griefer, plain and simple. As long as there are online games, there will be griefers, those whose modus operandi revolves around pranking and infuriating players for the sheer satisfaction of watching them suffer. You are one of them now; that's all there is to it. Griefing is what you excel at, and no matter how hard developers try to ensure that players will enjoy a welcoming online environment, you'll find a way--at any cost, be it time or gratification--to bring grief to the virtual world.
And you'll always have admirers that appreciate your spiteful work. Because even if they themselves are too cowardly to shoot their teammates in the back of the head, watching you do so--repeatedly--will let them live vicariously through your griefing. You don't just grief for yourself--you grief for them now. You've said your goodbyes to concepts like teamwork, companionship, and altruism. From this day forward, your online alias will be feared--a herald for the destructive griefing that you live for.
Grief and loathing
So, have you been turned to the Dark Side that is griefing? Or do you suffer by their hand every time you try to hop into an online match? Are you the victim of a particularly vicious instance of griefing? Share it all in the comments--it's time we exorcised these grief demons.
And if you're looking for more vitriolic Week of Hate features, check out 12 gamers we hate playing with and The most hateful things said by game devs.