A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game, using aspects of the game in unintended ways. A griefer derives pleasure primarily or exclusively from the act of annoying other users, and as such is a particular nuisance in online gaming communities, since griefers often cannot be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals.
In the culture of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) in Taiwan, such as Lineage, griefers are known as "white-eyed" — a metaphor meaning that their eyes have no pupils and so they look without seeing. The behaviours which cause players to be stigmatized in this way include cursing, cheating, stealing and unreasonable killing.
The term was applied to online, multiplayer computer games by the year 2000 or earlier, as illustrated by postings to the rec.games.computer.ultima.online USENET group. The player is said to cause "grief" in the sense of "giving someone grief".
The term "griefing" dates to the late 1990s, when it was used to describe the willfully antisocial behaviors seen in early massively multiplayer online games like Ultima Online and first-person shooters such as Counter-Strike. But even before it had a name, griefer-like behavior was familiar in the virtual worlds of text-based Multi-User Domains (MUDs), where joyriding invaders visited "virtual rape" and similar offenses on the local populace. Julian Dibbell's 1993 article A Rape in Cyberspace analyzed the griefing events in a particular MUD, LambdaMOO, and the staff's response.
Exact griefing methods differ from game to game, an act of griefing in an area of one game may be an intended function or mechanic of another game or the same game in another "area". Common methods may include but are not limited to:
- Player killing in games that do not have areas or options to limit such actions. This does not include games that are designed with constant player combat in mind.
- Intentional friendly fire or deliberately performing actions detrimental to team members' game performance, including wasting key game elements, colluding with the opposition, and giving false information.
- Impersonation of server administrators or other players through similar screen names.
- Any methods of reversing another player's progress, such as randomly destroying other players' creations in Minecraft or Terraria.
- Faking extreme incompetence.
- Written or verbal insults, including false accusations of cheating or griefing. Often directed at the server administrator.
- Purposeful violation of server policies.
- Kill stealing, denying another player the pleasure or gain of killing a target that should have been theirs.
- Spamming a voice or text chat channel to inconvenience, annoy, or harass other players.
- Uploading offensive or explicit images to profile pictures or to game skins.
- Camping at a corpse or spawn area to repeatedly kill players as they resurrect, thus keeping them from being able to play.
- Acting out-of-character in a role-play setting to disrupt the serious gameplay of others.
- Luring many monsters or one big one to chase the griefer, before moving to where other players are "kiting" (attacking monsters from a safe distance). The line of monsters in pursuit looks like a train, and hence this is sometimes called "training".
- Blocking another player's way so they cannot move to or from a particular area, or access an in-game resource (such as a non-player character).
- Deliberately blocking shots from your own team or blocking a player's view by standing in front of them so they can not damage the enemy.
- Intentionally attempting to crash a server, in order to cause interference among players.
- Intentionally using glitches or exploits to halt the progress of a Co-op or Multiplayer game (such as destroying or blocking off access to items without which other players cannot finish the game).
- "Aggroing", i.e. baiting large groups of enemies or very strong enemies into attacking players who are not prepared to battle those enemies.
The term is sometimes applied more generally to mean a person who uses the internet to cause distress to others as a prank, or to intentionally inflict harm, as when it was used to describe an incident in March 2008, when malicious users posted seizure-inducing animations on epilepsy forums.
Industry response 
Many subscription-based games actively oppose griefers, since their behavior can drive away business. It is common for developers to release server-side upgrades and patches to annul griefing methods. Many online games employ gamemasters that reprimand offenders. Others have opted for a crowdsourcing approach, where players can report griefing. Malicious players are then red-flagged, and are then dealt with at a gamemaster's discretion. As many as 25% of customer support calls to companies operating online games deal specifically with griefing.
Blizzard Entertainment has enacted software components and rules for its forums to combat griefing. To prevent non-consensual attacks between players, some games such as Ultima Online have created separate servers for those who wish to be able to attack anyone at anytime, and for those who do not.
When Everquest was released, Sony included a PvP-switch where people could fight each other only if they had enabled that option. This was done in order to prevent the player-killing that was driving people away from Ultima Online, which at that time had no protection on any of its servers.
Second Life bans players for harassment (defined as being rude or threatening, making unwelcome sexual advances, or performing activities likely to annoy or alarm somebody) and assault (shooting, pushing, or shoving in a safe area, or creating scripted objects that target another user and hinder their enjoyment of Second Life) in its community standards. Sanctions include warnings, suspension from Second Life, or being banned altogether.
See also 
- Warner and Raiter 2005
- Davies, Martin (Thursday June 15, 2006). Gamers don't want any more grief. The Guardian
- Holin Lin, Chuen-Tsai Sun (2007), ""White-Eyed" and "Griefer" Player Culture: Deviance Construction in MMORPGs", Worlds in Play: International Perspectives on Digital Games Research, pp. 106 et seq., ISBN 9780820486437
- Google Groups: August 14, 2000 rec.games.computer.ultima.online
- Dibbell, Julian (18 January 2008). "Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World". WIRED magazine. Archived from the original on 8 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- Meet the Griefers
- Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, The Griefer Future, Jun 27, 2008
- Dibbell, Julian (2009). "Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World". In Johnson, Steven. The Best Technology Writing 2009. Grand Rapids, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. pp. 9–19. ISBN 978-0-300-15410-8. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Nick Douglas, Internet's Most Wanted: A Rogue's Gallery, Jan 25 2007,
- Craigslist Griefer Ordered To Pay Up Over Both Copyright And Privacy Violations (accessed April 26, 2009)
- Kevin Poulsen, March 28, 2008, "Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer", Wired.
- Cory Doctorow, March 31, 2008, "Griefers deface epilepsy message-board with seizure-inducing animations", Boing Boing.
- See also "lulz", for griefer slang referring to enjoyment at others' expense.
- Pham, Alex. (September 2, 2002) "Online Bullies Give Grief to Gamers". Los Angeles Times. Section: Main News; Page 1.
- "Official forum changes, real life names to be displayed".
- Glenn Barnett (April 1, 2000). "Darktide Rising".
- Second Life
|Look up griefer in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Globe and Mail: Frontier justice: Can virtual worlds be civilized?
- "Ready, set, game: Learn how to keep video gaming safe and fun."
- Documented incident of griefing during a virtual interview, see also Anshe Chung
- Research Paper on griefing. To view this PDF paper, the host website requires a subscription to the digital library.
- "Feature: The Griefer Within", GamePro.
- Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers,, WIRED MAGAZINE: ISSUE 16.02
- Griefer Madness: Terrorizing Virtual Worlds
- Can you grief it? - feature article at VideoGamer.com.