Jester’s got a post up about EVE being a griefing sandbox, and I think there’s some truth to that. Although I don’t agree with everything he said, he (as usual) raises some great points.
So what IS a griefer, and why in the hell would I say my granny was one? Definitions abound, some of which I think are a little too broad to be useful.
At its core, griefing can be summed up as playing the game in such a way that you derive fun from causing someone else to NOT have fun. That last part is the key — your fun is contingent on the prospect of harvesting their tears. I’d expand that to say it’s not uncommon for a griefer to deliberately employ suboptimal gameplay in order to achieve his purpose of interfering with someone else’s enjoyment. So, he may not play his best game and try to win THAT way — he seizes on the angle that will do the most to fuck up his opponent and ruin his experience.
And yes, that was my granny.
I asked my mom earlier today if I was remembering correctly — I mean, really, would you want to call your granny a griefer and be wrong about it? — and she was like, “Oh, my GOD, yes. She was absolutely incorrigible.”
For the entire time I knew her, there would always be a Scrabble game laid out on the kitchen table in some stage of play. And I hear you saying, “Griefing? At Scrabble?? WTF.” Her opponent of many years was my grandfather, and they played a minimum of one game a day, every day, for decades. They loathed each other. Like, the only reason she didn’t divorce him was because she never could find a scenario in her own personal DMG in which divorce wouldn’t require some heavy house-ruling. (She was a rules-lawyer about the Bible; he was a rules-lawyer about everything else, including Scrabble.)
My grandfather was more educated and widely read than Granny, who only ever finished seventh grade. You’d think with his vastly superior vocabulary he would’ve curb stomped her every day like a hot drop on n00bs, but she won more often. And when he did win, it was a hard, mean fight.
She was a griefer. Her style of gameplay was to figure out which things you would enjoy doing or would bring you a small advantage, and then set about to fuck you up, even if it meant playing a stupid two-letter word nobody else would bother with. Even if it meant screwing up plans for her own tiles. If it blocked you from a particularly cool word or otherwise annoyed the shit out of you, that’s what she was gonna do. She got something out of messing up the game for other people, and I have a hunch what it was.
Now, of the two of them, she was by far the nicer human being. My grandfather was an awful man who destroyed more than a few people’s lives, so I figure being griefed every day in Scrabble is the least of what he deserved. That game was one of the few areas where my grandmother was dominant. She got the shitty end of a shit sandwich everywhere else, with my grandfather and in many other areas in her life.
I learned Scrabble from them when I was around six, so of course I picked up their style of play. I thought that was just how the game worked. I didn’t realize until I played it years later with non-griefers that I was being a real asshole. My in-laws are literary folks who love language, and Scrabble for them is a way to try out fun things and have a bit of competition with it. Yeah, one person still ends up with the highest score at the end of the night, but really, the whole point is hanging out and having a friendly game.
If I were teleported back to that kitchen table to play a game with my grandparents, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it. It’d be amusing in a grim, OMFG kind of way and I’d certainly be glad to see my granny again, but at the same time, I think it’d depress me. She spent most of her gaming time with as fucked-up a person as you’ll meet. I’ve played Scrabble since then with FUN people, who were competitive, sure, but not dicks about it. I have to bring my A game when I play with my in-laws, because instead of laying down crappy words that screw up the board, I’m challenging myself to come up with witty or at least mildly interesting stuff. It’s so much more fun for me to play with them.
I think I understand a little about what my grandmother may have gotten from playing the game the way she did. I couldn’t begin to speculate why someone else — particularly someone I don’t know at all — deliberately spreads unfun in the games they play. Well, I could, but I’d be talking out of my ass. 😉 No conclusions are being drawn here about anyone, anywhere. It’s a case study of one griefer I loved dearly and played Scrabble with for decades. Playstyle is a subject I’m still examining, and my opinions are continuing to evolve as I think more about it.