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griefing

formerly on the Wikipedia page for ‘griefer’:

A griefer is a player who plays a game simply to aggravate and harass other players. Griefing is a form of emergent gameplay.

Griefers differ from typical players in that they do not play the game in order to achieve objectives defined by the game world. Instead, they seek to harass other players, causing grief. In particular, they may use tools such as stalking, hurling insults, and exploiting unintended game mechanics. Griefing as a gaming play style is not simply any action that may be considered morally incorrect. Though the staff of each online game defines griefing in a manner that best fits their game, certain criteria must be met for an action to be considered griefing.

It is important to remember that the term griefer does not refer to any player that causes grief to others. Rather, it refers to a player whose only objective in the game is to cause grief, and who cannot thus by deterred by penalties related to in-game goals, because they have no in-game goals other than to cause grief.

from Jamais Cascio’s “Advanced Griefing in the Material World”:

In the comments to yesterday’s post, my friend J. Eric Townsend argues that there’s little real difference between griefing and “hacking” (in the commonplace sense) — viruses and malware written not to steal, but simply to be perversely destructive. I see his point. Like most griefers, the “skr1pt k1dd13s” and virus-makers so prominent in the early days of the web had little motivation other than attacking other computer user for the fun of it.

But there is a difference, and it’s a big one. While hacking and malware can destroy data and one’s sense of security, griefing goes after trust and social cohesion. The teammate who shoots me instead of the opposing team isn’t just attacking my datastream, he’s attacking me. The prevalence of malware on the Internet seems environmental, like some kind of biohazard — the origin of a virus or scam may be useful for the digital epidemiologists, but what I care most about is making sure my immunities are up to date. There are no such protections from griefing, because its presence depends on the social behavior we value in the participatory web. You can eliminate griefing by eliminating social interaction; it becomes necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.

from Cascio’s “The Griefer Future”

Griefing is, simply put, making someone else’s online game session miserable. It’s not simply beating someone in player-vs.-player competitions, or even annoying someone as the side-effect of otherwise game-focused actions. Griefing means taking action intended to harm the game-play of someone else — these can include attacking someone ostensibly on your own team, blocking passageways, intentionally crashing your vehicle into someone else’s, leading masses of monsters to attack unsuspecting players (“training”), using known software bugs to force another player to “crash out” of the game, and so forth. While many of these might happen by accident, griefing is all about intent.

As the technologies and habits of the metaverse expand past the world of gaming, so too do social dilemmas like griefing. We’ve already started to see its appearance: just a couple of months ago, someone the posted flashing images to an epilepsy support website, triggering seizures and fugues for many of its visitors. If that sounds like harassment, it is — griefing definitely falls into that category. But griefing has two characteristic elements, unique in combination: the use of system flaws or unintended consequences to abuse people with less-sophisticated system knowledge; and the griefer’s belief that the griefing action is funny. For many griefers, it’s just another kind of prank.

As long as griefing was limited to online games, the prank argument made sense. As the epilepsy attack demonstrates, however, when griefing moves into other online arenas, the line between pranks and harassment becomes harder to see. This will only increase over time. Emerging metaverse technologies lend themselves to various forms of griefing, such as intentional errors added to augmented reality or mirror world databases, pollution of simulated spaces with inappropriate content, or intentional creation of false public data — the “participatory decepticon” I wrote about recently is a prime example of metaverse griefing.

from Cascio’s “The Participatrory Decepticon”

What happens when not only have the tools of documenting the world become democratized, so too have the tools for manipulating our interpretations of reality?

The rise of technologies of ubiquitous personal observation — what I’ve termed the “participatory panopticon” — has already begun to transform how we relate to each other socially and politically. The acceleration of mobile media creation capabilities maps to a growing desire by individuals of all ages and backgrounds to have greater control over their personal media technologies. These tools move quickly from dubious to ubiquitous, and streaming video from cameraphones offers the best example.

I’ve argued before that this kind of live streaming video from phones will likely be abundant and potentially quite important during the 2008 general election campaign in the US. We saw in 2004 how “video vigilantes” could demonstrate that the NY police had edited their arrest videos, resulting in a near-90% dismissal rate for protestor arrests during the Republican national convention. In 2008, anyone with a cheap Internet-enabled cameraphone will be able to serve the same “watching the watchmen” function.

But add easy video manipulation to the mix, and another possibility emerges: the crafting of political videos documenting candidate insults and errors that never happened. Not in a clumsy, easily-detected form, but as a sufficiently-believable web video. There are more than enough audio recordings out there of most major political candidates to allow political pranksters/”dirty tricksters” to make that candidate say just about anything; the cameraphone and flash video media offer insufficient clarity to be able to see if a candidate’s mouth is truly saying the words he or she seems to be saying.

Such a deception wouldn’t stand for very long, but would almost certainly last long enough set off a wave of furious blog posts and mainstream media attention. Initially, claims that the video was fake would be characterized as “campaign denials,” and only after a bit of forensics (and people coming forward with alternate videos of the same events, but with different words) would it be clear that the video was a fake. Call it three days of chaos.

Moreover, a proliferation of faked political videos would undermine the legitimacy of the YouTube/web video medium for political purposes. Any video showing a candidate — or, just as easily, police officers, or neighbors, or musician, or anyone else — saying or doing something offensive could be dismissed as “just another Internet video hoax.”

from Alvis’ comment to the above post:

Having been burned by fake news like the iphone face-to-face talk photos and having seen many a critical thinker hoodwinked by April Fool’s blog posts I def agree the Decepticon is in its nascency. The deception, camoflaging, variation seems to indicate a new (as far as on the internets) type of evolutionary memetic/temetic/content mechanism at work. By “mutating” a piece of content appropriately a human is capable of deriving benefits from this replication/proliferation. So if we view memes and temes as more or less alive, as Susan Blackmore argues and I tend to concur, then what’s happening is these little virtual organisms (in concert with humans, for now) are developing new survival and reproduction strategies.

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