Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bored of being nice

I recently got griefed by a rather unusual suspect: Wilhelm Arcturus of The Ancient Gaming Noob blog. Basically he got bored of The Sims Social (so did I), and being bored of playing nice he experimented with the all the options to cause harm to his fellow players. For some reason he chose me as target and documented himself implying my mother was a llama with screenshots on his blog. Now The Sims Social is a Facebook game, and has what I call asynchronous social interactions: You interact with your friends' avatars even when your friends are offline. That enables these games to simply hide a lot of negative interactions. I do see when Wilhelm rearranges the keys on my keyboard, but I don't see him insulting my mother. If he hadn't posted it on his blog, I would have never known, and wouldn't have been forced to send my mother by his house to complain.

But the social mechanics of griefing other players out of boredom also work in games where players can actually harm each other. Proponents of PvP games often claim that griefing would not be a problem as long as the game had social mechanisms that would allow the upright citizens to ostracize or otherwise punish the griefing offender. But that only works if the player is still really interested in the game. If he is already bored, and ready to quit, he has nothing to lose. If the griefers avatar can hurt your avatar, and your avatar can hurt his avatar back, the loser is automatically the person who cares more for his avatar. The player who griefs because he is bored of the game is the automatic winner of such a contest.

Now some people, including companies, propose to solve that problem by introducing real IDs. If you know the real name of a person hurting you in a game, and that person doesn't care what you do to him in game, you can have your revenge outside the game. For example by murdering him. I am still at a loss why anybody would think that is a good idea.

And as I don't want games offering me the possibility of my enemies waiting for me in real life with a baseball bat in the parking lot, I do think that games like The Sims Social still have the best way to handle griefing: They simply hide the fact that you have been griefed from the victim. If another player can't really do anything to you which would hurt your avatar or game progress, there is no griefing.

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