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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.[1] 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.[2]


The term was applied to online, multiplayer computer games by the year 2000 or earlier, as illustrated by postings to the USENET group.[3] 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.[4] Julian Dibbell's 1993 article A Rape in Cyberspace analyzed the griefing events in a particular MUD, LambdaMOO, and the staff's response.

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. Behaviors other than griefing which can cause players to be stigmatized as "white-eyed" include cursing, cheating, stealing, and unreasonable killing.[5]


Methods of griefing differ from game to game. What might be considered griefing in one area of a game may even be an intended function or mechanic in another area. Common methods may include but are not limited to:

  • Intentional friendly fire or deliberately performing actions detrimental to other team members' game performance, including wasting or destroying key game elements, colluding with the opposition and giving false information.
  • Actions undertaken to waste other players' time. For example, when losing in a turn-based game, a player may play as slowly as possible. In other games, they may hide from an enemy when there is no tactical benefit in doing so.
  • Impersonation of server administrators or other players through similar screen names.
  • Any method of reversing another player's progress, such as destroying or modifying other players' creations in sandbox games like Minecraft and Terraria.
  • Faking extreme incompetence with the intent of hurting teammates or failing an in-game objective.[6]
  • Written or verbal insults, including false accusations of cheating or griefing. Often directed at the server administrator.
  • Purposeful violation of server rules or guidelines.
  • 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, harass or annoy other players.
  • Uploading offensive or explicit images to profile pictures, in-game sprays or to game skins.
  • Camping at a corpse or spawn area to repeatedly kill players as they respawn, preventing 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. The line of monsters in pursuit looks like a train, and hence this is sometimes called "training".[7]
  • "Training' or "aggroing", i.e. baiting large groups of enemies or very strong enemies into attacking players who are not prepared to battle those enemies.
  • 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).
  • Using in-game bugs (exploits), for example - out of map, going underground.
  • Deliberately blocking shots from a player's own team or blocking a player's view by standing in front of them so they cannot 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).
  • Intentionally lagging a server through various means, such as spawning large amounts of resource-demanding objects.
  • Trapping teammates in inescapable locations by use of physics props, special abilities, or teleporting them to inescapable locations.
  • Constantly pausing the game or lowering game speed down to the slowest one, in the hopes that the winning player will simply give up in frustration and quit, instead of finishing the game and defeating them.
  • Driving vehicles backwards around lapped courses in multiplayer racing games. Often done with the intent of crashing head-on into whoever is in 1st place.
  • Smurfing - playing in much lower skill ranks than is appropriate.

The term is sometimes applied more generally[8] to mean a person who uses the internet to cause distress to others as a prank,[9][10] 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.[11][12][13]

Industry response[edit]

Many subscription-based games actively oppose griefers, since their behavior can drive away business.[14] It is common for developers to release server-side upgrades and patches to annul griefing methods. Many online games employ gamemasters that reprimand offenders. Some use 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.[2]

Blizzard Entertainment has enacted software components and rules for its forums to combat griefing.[15] To prevent non-consensual attacks between players, some games such as Ultima Online have created separate realms for those who wish to be able to attack anyone at any time, and for those who do not. Others implemented separate servers.

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.[16]

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 the game) in its community standards.[17] Sanctions include warnings, suspension from Second Life, or being banned altogether.

Space sims like Eve Online and Elite: Dangerous have incorporated activities typically considered griefing as part of the gameplay mechanism. Corporate spying, theft, scams, gate-camping, and PVP on non-PVP players are all part of their gaming experience.[18][19]

Shooters such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive have implemented peer review systems, where if a player is reported too many times, multiple higher ranked players get to review the Suspect and determine if the reports are valid, and apply a temporary ban to the players account if necessary. The Suspect's name is omitted during the replay, as well as those of the other 9 players in the game.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Warner, Dorothy; Raiter, Mike (2005). "Social Context in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Ethical Questions in Shared Space" (PDF). International Review of Information Ethics. 4 (December). 
  2. ^ a b Davies, Martin (June 15, 2006). "Gamers don't want any more grief". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ "Google Groups: August 14, 2000". Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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 
  6. ^ "Meet the Griefers". 4 January 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Griefer Future". Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Nick Douglas, Internet's Most Wanted: A Rogue's Gallery, Jan 25 2007,
  10. ^ Craigslist Griefer Ordered To Pay Up Over Both Copyright And Privacy Violations (accessed April 26, 2009)
  11. ^ Kevin Poulsen, March 28, 2008, "Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer", Wired.
  12. ^ Cory Doctorow, March 31, 2008, "Griefers deface epilepsy message-board with seizure-inducing animations", Boing Boing.
  13. ^ See also "lulz", for griefer slang referring to enjoyment at others' expense.
  14. ^ Pham, Alex. (September 2, 2002) "Online Bullies Give Grief to Gamers". Los Angeles Times. Section: Main News; Page 1.
  15. ^ "Official forum changes, real life names to be displayed". 
  16. ^ Glenn Barnett (April 1, 2000). "Darktide Rising". 
  17. ^ "Community Standards". Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Griefing". Evelopedia. Retrieved May 26, 2014. In EVE, 'griefing' refers to various activities, some of which can be argued not to be 'griefing' in the classic sense, but parts of valid gameplay. 
  19. ^ Retrieved December 19, 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

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