I am writing and thinking about game definitions now, and a part of that thinking about games and gaming is thinking about griefing. Twixt’s play in CoH has been widely labeled griefing play. It’s been labeled a lot of other things too — very similar to the labels and labeling I’ve discussed before.
I’ve denied all this labeling. Here, there, everywhere. But my arguments tend to be less effective than the simpler ones:
Now the argument here is likely to be that a rule wasn’t broken.. that this was legal play. But that’s a crock of shit and we all know it.
[taken from the comment chain of my good buddies over at Broken Toys]
Instead of just believing what we “know,” let’s look at some ways to define griefing.
The most common are player-based ways. These include intent-to-harm and effect-of-harm. Both are subjective because (unless there is some sort of physical evidence associated with effect-of-harm maybe), they are largely impossible to refute.
I say you intended to harm me, and you say didn’t. Who wins?
You weren’t really harmed, and you say you were. Who knows?
There might be a third category here – potential-to-harm – but that’s equally problematic. Does pvp play, for instance, have a more/less potential-to-harm than pve play? Do games have more/less potential-to-harm than real life? Again, if the common answer is player-based, then that answer can still be considered subjective.
Okay, so if subjective definitions don’t really work, what about objective definitions? [Alas, I have a long and somewhat technical discussion about objective definitions here, but it turned out to be much TOO long – so later sometime]
The third possible sort of definition is somewhere in between the subjective and the objective: not just any old player-based definitions, but EXPERT player-based definitions. This is sort of what we depend on in our legal system, by the way: a judge’s opinion.
So, who would be the best judge/expert in the case of Twixt’s play?
1. The players involved. Okay, this trends back dangerously close to the player-based and subjective definitions, but I could see this IF the players involved were REALLY involved (i. e., experts) and not just repeating something they read about on a WoW forum somewhere. Right now, for instance, I would be more than willing to have the FULL RANGE of players in RV adjudicate Twixt’s behavior in RV. What’s happened with Twixt, though, is that there is now this huge outcry of “Off With His Head!” to take into account (e. g., the jury has not been sequestered).
2. Twixt himself. I. e., me. Now, before you scream bloody murder, consider this: I was there. I observed every single bit of Twixt’s behavior. I kept logs. I thought about it. I also have considerable experience within CoH – and, even more importantly, pvp play inside RV – that should help me determine what is and isn’t griefing. No matter what you think of Twixt, he put in the hours, right? My verdict (just so you can scream some more): No griefing. No way.
3. NCsoft. This is probably the expert that matters the most. It’s their game, so really, ultimately, legally, it’s their call. And the conclusions are clearer here than anywhere: There was nothing done outside the rules of play. Nothing outside what might be expected to occur within the pvp zone of RV. All good clean fun (on Twixt’s side at least). No bans. No reprimands. No warnings. No contacts. Nada.
So, if we leave the objective definitions part out for the moment [too bad, cause I think that’s really going to be the best part], then what’s the verdict?
It’s the mob of the moment vs. 14 months of NCsoft monitoring Twixt’s play in RV.