Love/Hate: The five stages of griefing


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Noted fiction writer and feminist Angela Carter is credited with saying that "Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people". I can't think of a better summation of my love/hate relationship with griefing in videogames.

When I'm trying to be fully immersed in a game and some cyber-yokel is screwing with my experience, I feel rage of an unparalleled magnitude. Gaming is supposed to be my refuge from the selfishness and stupidity of society at large, and I take such affronts with an undue level of seriousness.

At the same time, if I'm watching another player get Loki-fied by a truly creative mischief-maker, I can't help but laugh my ass off. The cleverness of some of the pranksters out there, combined with the grumpy reactions of the victims, have made for some of the most memorable and hilarious experiences I've had with gaming over the years.

I imagine that most gamers have found themselves on both sides of this double standard at some point during their hobbying. It doesn't matter whether you're an unredeemable griefer or a perpetually indignant griefee. There's just no getting around the fact that where there is multiplayer, there will always be griefing.

As you navigate through this troublesome realization, you may take solace in the fact that you're not alone. Many others have experienced the same spectrum of negative emotions that you're currently experiencing. To help you through this process, let's briefly explore each of the five stages of griefing. 

"No, I will NOT make you a sandwich!!! Lalalalalalalalalalalalala!"


When experiencing the social interaction present in most multiplayer experiences, the most common initial reaction is disbelief. It is very easy to get swept up into the possibility that we have somehow been transported into an alternate dimension where Spike TV programming has become the foundation of the educational system. The inclination at this point is to pinch one's arm with great force in the hopes that one will wake up from this gaming dystopia.

Like an organ recipient whose body rejects a foreign kidney, the human mind often refuses to accept that such levels of vocal prejudice, deficient vocabulary, and willful pig-ignorance are the norm as opposed to the exception. If you wish to experience gaming in the public arena, it is wise to first venture into the wilds of multiplayer with a group of gamers whose behavior won't threaten your faith in the future of the human race.

Outside of this safety net of friends, you must disavow yourself of the notion that huge numbers of griefers are not a reality. They are, and denial is not a useful long-term coping mechanism for multi-player gamers. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can move on to ...

"Dammit, Spacey! STOP spawn-camping!!!"


When dealing with griefer culture, the instinct to see red and utilize creative words not listed in the dictionary can often be overwhelming. But be wary, fellow gamers. The griefer is a murderous psychopath by nature. Much like the movie Seven, when you give in to your wrath and desire for bloody vengeance, the griefer wins.

It doesn't matter whether their infuriating ways get you slowly over time by stressing you out until your aorta finally gives from the strain, or if they get you quickly by pissing you off so badly that you just burst a blood vessel in your forehead and pass out in your living room. The griefer relies on your extreme frustration combined with your inability to reach through the internet and choke people to force you slowly towards your grave.

If you plan to remain a multiplayer gamer, you must learn to control your hatred. Don't respond in kind, or give away how much frustration you're experiencing -- this is exactly what the griefer is looking for. If you cannot calm your soul, at least focus your rage into paying them back in the game. When you verbalize your anger, you merely feed the beasts and make them stronger.

If you can master this powerful emotion, you will be ready to move on to ...

"I'm sorry -- I swear, I'll never farm newbies again!"


Common griefing scenario: The elevator doors open, and once again you've been trapped inside. For many, this cruelly imposed multiplayer limbo is the the straw that broke the camel's back. You're not in denial, and you refuse to let this childishness send you over the edge. But how to cope?

This is your time to come to terms with the powers that be. Many gamers will find themselves searching their own karmic ledger books, bartering with the cosmos for deliverance from the griefing phenomenon. In exchange for the universe making these people go away, the player promises to never grief anyone else again, or stop eating meat, or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Anything for relief from the incessant irritation.

While prayer and meditation help with controlling anger, they have proved to be wholly ineffective at preventing griefers from impacting game experience. When the multi-player gamer finally realizes that even an appeal to the divine won't deliver them from the unwashed legions, and the player has exhausted their coping options, they will move from bargaining into ...

Morrissey would hate XBL.


Have you withdrawn from multiplayer society? Do you find yourself constantly gaming alone? Have you lost interest in leaderboards, kill/death ratios or online based achievements? If so, you may be experiencing clinical griefer depression.

This stage is typically characterized by a reluctance to engage in competitive gaming, along with an extreme aversion to voice chat of any kind. The gamers may play in a catatonic state, mutely going through the single-player motions without social interaction. Sadness, despair, and abject hopelessness abound. The gamer feels powerless to deal with that fact that the digital world is apparently populated with a bunch of juvenile head-cases with more e-peen than IQ.

The player must fight this fatalistic urge to quit gaming at all costs. Online interaction with friends may help despondent multiplayer gamers through this phase. Online communities such as this one offer an excellent support network full of other players who are also tearfully upset with the state of XBL and PSN communities. Banding together with other healthy-minded (mostly) and good-hearted gamers for small bursts of confined online play will help speed the healing process.

There is no shame in reaching out for help. I also once suffered from this terrible affliction. I was eventually able to move through this phase with the help of other like-minded gamers to reach the final stage of griefing, which is ...

"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the tools I cannot kick. . ."


When all other strategies and options have been exhausted, a gamer is left with two choices. They can either quit online gaming entirely, or they can make their peace with the reality of griefers in multiplayer games.

A number of strategies can be employed here. The liberal application of the mute button may be the best approach for many. Restricting your online gaming to playing with those individuals on your friends lists is also a successful course of action. Use resources such as Friday Night Fights, forums, and IRC to find a group of gamers you can stomach playing with.

When you at last find that calm, still place of serenity deep inside yourself, you may choose to approach griefing in several ways.

One way is to respond in kind. If griefing is a permanent part of online gaming culture, why should you be left out of the fun? Go ahead, give it a try! Some people really need or deserve to have their stone-faced seriousness mocked and defaced from time to time. Just don't be a total douche about it -- use griefing responsibly, and in moderation.

The other is to be a shining example of sportsmanship, conduct, and gaming skill. Showing the griefers that the way of the peaceful warrior is the way of a winning player is often its own reward. Winning the game is the final word online, and the moral high-ground is the perfect location for sniping.

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Sean Carey
Sean Carey   gamer profile

community Thanks to wanderingpixel for the above! I am a 34 year old cubicle monkey living in Austin, with my lovely wife of 2 more + disclosures


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