The Price of Serenity?

In the World of Warcraft, Serenity Now - a hardcore Player-verus-Player (PvP) guild - attacked an in-game memorial service held by another guild for a guild member who passed away in real life.  They made a video of the exploit, apparently for recruitment purposes.  In their wake they left many questions...

This story has been around for a couple of weeks and is now leaking out into the greater gamer consciousness.   I find myself as ambiguous today about that event as I was.  Often one hopes for clarity with exaggerated examples - this one is certainly that, e.g. a guild of self-described "assholes" trashing a personal moment embued with gravity.

Yet, in its time, in its place, there was a drama of some scale , complexity in motive, and personal choice.

PvP combat tends to be a third-rail topic in MMOG circles.  Players have strong feelings one way or the other and discussions tend to polarize quickly.   This example likely is not the best vehicle for a nuanced "PvP is good" versus "PvP is bad" exchange - given its exaggerations.  A rough sampling of forum discussions (refs below) certainly reinforces this.

A subtler question might be how much of the excess surrounding this event would you have to trim away before you became (un)comfortable with PvP - depending on your original view?  Put it another way, where are your boundaries?

Perhaps, however, the more interesting question is the meta one.  Do you prefer your virtual worlds as mixed up places capable of outrageous excesses and surprises or do you find more carefully orchestrated world experiences - scoped by styles of play, role-playing demeanor, RL geography, nationality, and yes PvP, more to your taste?

Other echoes of the world-y world versus game-y world debate, perhaps.

---------------------------------

Refs.   

Good discussion (Joe Rybicki)

AFK Gamer's post (including archived drama thread)

WorldofWar.net forums


Comments on The Price of Serenity?:

Jeffool says:

Just thought I'd point to a link for a hi-res torrent for those inclined.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 3:03:42 PM | link

Frank Lantz says:

That's why they call it griefing! And while we're making hilarious death-related puns, "Sorry for your loss" - I kind of doubt the joke there is intentional, but if it was it's a very good joke in very bad taste.

One of the nice things about MMORPG's is how they're like a laboratory that executes thought experiments faster than you can think them up. Anyone interested in the ethical status of gameworld actions just got a nice Easter present.

I wonder if this analogy helps:

A member of a local Tennis club dies. This guy really loved Tennis. The club gets together and holds a memorial service on his favorite court. Members of a rival Tennis club show up and disrupt the event by hitting Tennis balls at the mourners.

vs.

A member of a local Tennis club dies. This guy really loved Tennis. The club gets together and hosts a Tennis tournament on his favorite court. Members of a rival Tennis club show up and compete in the event (which, again, involves hitting Tennis balls at the mourners).

What is the meaning of an in-game funeral? Is it a regular funeral that is hijacking the MMORPG infrastructure in the same way the Tennis club appropriates the gamespace of a Tennis court in example one? Or is it genuinely in-game? Is having a funeral one of the things you can do *in* World of Warcraft, just like you can have a conversation or have a guild or have a rivalry?

If the second, then it seems like one of the essential properties of a WoW funeral is that it can be attacked by the enemy faction. And, if so, it seems to me that this is kind of an *improvement* over real-world funerals. When was the last time you went to funeral where everyone died and lived to talk about it? (and talk and talk and talk...)

The fact that this funeral, whose ontological status is unresolved, turned into an orgiastic display of the "little death", the feigned death around which the experience of WoW is constructed, is sort of wonderful.

In other words, the fictional status of game actions is not a deficiency - it is their essential property and the source of their great power. (But this is a longer battle.)

Another thing that was clear to me from this video was how much more fun world combat is than battlegrounds. In the context of a role-playing game, this is the kind of PVP I like: messy, chaotic, layered with multiple contradictory narrative meanings. Not the tidy little sporting events of Alterac Valley, Arathi Basin, and Warsong Gulch.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 4:43:48 PM | link

Idyll says:

Considering that the text is unreadable in much of the google video, thank you Jeffool. In regards to the question, while I wouldn't appreciate the act I can see a number of reasons for it to occur including 1. It was a result of a conflict between roleplaying and hack-and-slash mentalities. A number of people defending SN suggest that those holding the eFuneral are to blame for not only make the time and place public but also for no anticipating an attack. That's the hack-and-slash mentality. However, when is the last time you brought weapons to a funeral? Those who are used to living in a role will be drawing on their real life experiences to best fill the roll and good luck finding someone who has been attacked at a funeral. The other direction some of the SN apologists have taken (quite similar to Frank Lantz's second analogy) is SN was simply playing its role as an alliance guild striking at an off guard horde gathering.
The forum posts (and their unique grammar) are another matter but my standards for eCivility are without a doubt much higher that could ever be expected in an anonymous environment.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 4:51:23 PM | link

Mike Sellers says:

Nate asks the meta question: Perhaps, however, the more interesting question is the meta one. Do you prefer your virtual worlds as mixed up places capable of outrageous excesses and surprises or do you find more carefully orchestrated world experiences...?

It seems to me (anecdotally) that many of those who prefer a "suprising" (i.e. PvP-laden) experience are also those who champion the currently fashionable idea that MMOs do better with stupid monsters and unimaginative combat.

I can't explain this paradox except to point out that when monsters get "ganked" they may not provide the same outraged responses that drive the sense of schadenfreude that accompanies the quasi-bullying actions of non-consensual PvP -- as amply demonstrated by the funeral crashers.

Whether to include non-consenual PvP in a game is the developer's decision. It troubles me in cases like this much as it does in cases like whacking prostitutes in GTA: its presence as a valid action in the game provides a sense of license and entitlement. What's wrong is right, because otherwise why would it be in the game? The logic seems to be along the lines of White's "everything not forbidden is compulsory" -- or at least completely defensible (see the comment above about the attackability of funerals in WoW being one of their "essential features" and thus an "improvement" -- from whose POV, I wonder?). The linking of ability with defensibility enables those who whack others to rationalize away their effects and avoid any depth of ethical consideration with such sidesteps as, "cry more n00b! It's only a game!"

I don't personally see any real difference between a guild of socially pathological bullies descending on a virtual funeral or a lone player ganking a lower-level character along the road someplace. Both do so just because they can, because any reprisal is either trivial or irrelevant to the glee they get in ruining someone else's play, and of course because the game entitles them to do so.

Given that, this story isn't really all that remarkable. Ninja-PvPers -- aka PKers or griefers -- have been behaving this way (including crashing weddings, funerals, and anything else they could) for as long as games have allowed (and enabled) them to do so.

What's remarkable to me is that developers and operators still cater to this socially pathological market -- and then wonder why their customer service costs are so high.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 5:14:38 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Curiouser and curiouser...

To me, it raises very similar questions to the whole RMT discussion that I just took part in a few posts back. Questions about RL values in a virtual world, when the narrative of the world itself is highly violent and markedly different than the narrative we live daily. Questions about different players playing the same game at the same time... but not really at all, in terms of what they consider "the rules." Questions about bringing different flavors of play into the game.

The funeral was for a real-life person. That broke one rule of some RPers. Which is that you shouldn't really be bringing real-life stuff into the game. I'm not going to argue the point, or say that for people who really love/live a particular hobby/game/medium, it's wrong/right to do so. They can do it, they did it. But if they didn't want the virtual world to interrupt a real-life event, they could have hosted the funeral in a non WoW chat forum. Again... shades of a discussion we've had about characters/players/issues overlapping from one world to another. This is what happens when you bring "stats" -- in this case, real world grief -- into WoW.

But having done so... didn't the other PvP Guild have every "right" to bust up the event? In a strange way... I almost feel as if they were showing respect. I know nothing about the poor player who died, his grieving friends/guild-mates, nor the gankers. But I know that, in a strange, sick way... would I want my virtual funeral crashed by a mad, blasting blaze of screaming enemies? Maybe... yeah... maybe I would. In the "metaphor" of the game, stepping up is a way to show respect, ain't it? The opposite of "love" isn't "hate" in an MMO... it's disdain.

Let's kick the question up a notch and see if we get any takers. Death, while really, really bad... is final and, thus, somewhat cut-and-dried.

Note: I'm about to pose a hypothetical situation that is really, really sick. In order to push the envelope and check out where the "light side" really does end, and the dark side begins. If you don't cotton to that kind of philosophizing... walk on by.

Suppose we had a WoW player who had to stop playing because he/she had been brutally assaulted in RL by another player he/she had met through the game and had been tricked into meeting in RL. His/her guildmates post info about and hold an in-game meeting to discuss the matter and to inform/educate their guildmates about the situation, the status of their injured comrade, how to avoid similar situations, what may be happening from a legal standpoint, etc.

What if that WoW meeting were to get attacked by another, enemy PvP guild? What if it were the guild of the person who had assaulted the player in RL? What if they bragged, in chat, about the RL assault during the PvP fight? What if the player (alleged perp) him/herself was among the characters involved in the fight?

What if the whole RL side of the thing turned out to be a hoax?

What if it wasn't a hoax, but some of the players on the perp's guild started that rumor?

The lines are very, very blurry.

That's one of the reasons I was ranting, for quite a few pages of text, for rules, rules, rules (related to the subject of RMT). In a game, rules help define "this action is bad and wrong" (broken rule that hurts everyone) vs. "this is good and wrong" (broken rule that hurts nobody), vs. "this is bad and right" (no rule broken, badly played, you lose).

When you get 6.5 million people together to play a game... some of them spending 20-to-40 hours (or more) a week... a game that involves lots of emotions... and, sadly, real-life issues...

Well... "virtual world" doesn't mean it doesn't intersect with the real one, eh? Not in terms of money, love or death.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 7:28:38 PM | link

Brent Michael Krupp says:

It's WAY simpler than all of that. The players involved chose to play on a PVP server. They got attacked in PVP. Whoop-de-doo. We should care why exactly?

Posted Apr 15, 2006 7:43:50 PM | link

Kathygnome says:

People like this guild are why PVP tends to be very unpopular in MMPORPGs. It's not that PVP isn't liked by people, it's that "PVPers" aren't.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 8:06:58 PM | link

Nate says:


Mike>
It troubles me in cases like this much as it does in cases like whacking prostitutes in GTA: its presence as a valid action in the game provides a sense of license and entitlement. What's wrong is right, because otherwise why would it be in the game?

Andy>
That broke one rule of some RPers. Which is that you shouldn't really be bringing real-life stuff into the game... The lines are very, very blurry.

------------------------------------------

I stated in the post that I was having problems with this incident - I can see both sides. I think Mike and Andy's points begins to circle the problem I'm having: to what extent are we expected to buy into the narrative of these world systems and to what extent are we accountable to what we've bought into (RL exemptions?).

In a world where space marines are expected to kill aliens except when some aliens are played by humans...

OTOH

The game world is also a system of shared experiences by all players on all sides. Shouldn't the rules of Cricket and fair-and-decent play apply.

If I agree with anything, it is with Frank's point: its a rich and confusing ethical testbed.



Posted Apr 15, 2006 8:14:37 PM | link

Mike says:

Wow. It's like a mafia hit.

Anything-goes PvP allows players to create interesting scenarios. As Will Wright says, player stories are often more powerful than scripted stories. Remember the Eve Online heist?

Posted Apr 15, 2006 11:21:52 PM | link

Virtual says:

Thanks for the information.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 11:36:04 PM | link

Merus says:

Sure, they might be more powerful, but then the true crime stories in Reader's Digest are somewhat powerful as well. That still doesn't mean I want to be one of the people in the story, and honestly that heist story was enough to make me avoid Eve Online.

It'd be nice if there was some middle ground here - a way for players to create their own stories, without needing to screw over other players to do it. It's probably never really happened because computer-run enemies in MMOGs have never really been antagonistic, and players rarely respond well to it.

Posted Apr 15, 2006 11:49:51 PM | link

Derek Licciardi says:

Mike, my sentiments exactly. Do I think its wrong, sure, but as a game designer I'm not going to impose that morality on the sandbox I create. The only bad thing about WoW in this case is the griefed have no means to exact justice beyond the soon to be forgotten social justice of blacklisting the guild. Hell the blacklist might even make the guild more popular to some, hence the recruiting video.

Bottom line in that scenario is if its ok to give the Godfather an Oscar and praise the story up and down Hollywood, then why when a much less powerful story comes out of a game, do we look to condemn those that played the part of the antagonist? Someone has to play the part or the story doesn't get told. As game designers is it our job to white room the antagonistic situations so that no one gets their feelings hurt? If we're expected to white room everything then we should remove as much player story telling avenues from the game as possible so that we retain ultimate control ... Not that I think anything of the sort can be done....

There's no social implications of this action that imply anything we already didn't know. It's not the lowest form of PvP. Desecrating graves/ceremonies has been part and parcel of many stories for centuries. Telling this story in this new medium does not suggest anything from a socialogical standpoint in my eyes.

Nate: In other IT arenas like telcos and ISPs they've discussed the idea of liability from involvement in the content that takes places over their lines. MMOs need to take the stance that they provide a service and nothing more. I think that when a MMO starts imposing morality on its players they get into lots of legal murky water. Look at the GLBT issue WoW had. They got involved in a situation that had nothing to do with game play and was primarily in the space of player to player interraction. By putting their heads in there, they were forced to backpedal from their remarks just to avoid a big nasty law suit that would have come forth if they stood strong on their morals. From a legal standpoint, I've always been told that you want as little to do with this type of stuff as possible, thereby reducing the amount of "responsibility" you could be attributed. Nothing Serenity did in game violated game play mechanics therefore the "story" surrounding the attack remains firmly in the realm of player to player interractions. Let the players figure out what to do about it. Besides, those kinds of stories will get you four page free advertising articles in PC Gamer.(See Eve Online example)

Posted Apr 16, 2006 12:09:04 AM | link

Brian 'Psychochild' Green says:

Let me throw more kerosene on the fire. How much of this event was essentially encouraged by the design of the game? Specifically, that Horde and Alliance can't communicate with each other, and that there is no real in-game consequence for such actions.

The PvP design that was in favor when WoW was being developed prevented communication between different factions in the game. The goal of this was to reduce verbal griefing, with the result that enemy factions basically behaved like intelligent monsters. In effect, this dehumanized the enemy.

In this particular case, I think the design had an unintended result. The Alliance guild had no way to have any meaningful connection with the player that passed away, or to have any connection with the players mourning the loss. The Horde people there were just intelligent monsters lining up in a row. Therefore, they didn't see the disruption as anything major: it was just like attacking a bunch of NPCs at a "funeral".

Admittedly, it isn't quite that simple. The Alliance guild knew this was a funeral, and they knew these were characters controlled by players. You can't really argue that the people attacking the funeral were completely blameless. But, the question remains: would they have acted differently if they had the opportunity to communicate with their opponents?

The second problem is that there is little consequence for these actions. What are the Horde victims supposed to do, kill the people that disrupted the funeral? Even if they were to hunt down everyone and kill them, there is little to be gained in this. Their enemies will just resurrect and get more PvP fighting that the obviously want. The game was designed to minimize the in-game effect of combat, so there is an imbalance in power here that allowed the Alliance players to inflict a significant harm on the Horde players (disruption of a solemn event), but there is no way for those Horde players to inflict any revenge on the Alliance players or characters. They can only really bring social pressure against the Alliance players, but that is only outside the context of the game (through forum postings, etc.)

So, in the end, we have mechanics which were intended to keep the game fun for everyone, but that really encouraged fairly monstrous behavior from some people. Their enemies were dehumanized and made impotent to defend themselves meaningfully. Another lesson in unintended consequences.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 12:43:50 AM | link

Chas says:

I find it to be a poor assumption that only "roleplayers" were involved in the funeral. I see this as more of a socializer's event- and as some of Nick's data suggests, socializers aren't necessarily roleplayers.

Now, imagine someone you knew ONLY online died. For "real life" friends, you'd have a funeral- a viewing- some way to say "goodbye" but:

1) you might be geographically separated
2) you might not even recognize the real person, you knew the avatar.

Still, the friendships are real. The void you're going to experience is real. The loss is real.

Yes, you could have a private moment to think about the friend, but we assemble in funerals IRL as much for the living as for the dead. It's a social tool that exists for a reason.

It's a gesture to the family, expressing an understanding of their loss. It's a gesture to the friends, showing that they're not all alone in their grief. It's a time to come together and realize just how many people were impacted by this person.

These aren't people who went to a real-life funeral, then enacted it online. These are people coming together for many of the same reasons they would in real life but couldn't. They were saying farewell to a friend that they only knew in a medium that doesn't really facilitate such social structures.

---
Should they have prepared for the inevitable grief attack?

I would have, but I'd learned long and hard through organizing player events and Player-GM'ed competitions that any announced event will be crashed- particularly if it looks like the prey will be unprepared.

Even if I didn't know the person, I'd be volunteering for and organizing a perimeter guard that would allow those that need to express their final farewell.

So, perhaps they should have kept their guard up... but they shouldn't have had to.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 1:14:22 AM | link

Mike Sellers says:

Derek: ...as a game designer I'm not going to impose that morality on the sandbox I create.

It's not nearly that simple. We inject a morality of our own choosing -- consciously or not -- into any game we design. The Sims, KOTOR, GTA, and Wow (to call out just a few) each have a definitive morality woven into them. GTA's morality seems to be almost entirely focused on the transgressive; The Sims' morality is more subtle and even subversive than it might first appear. KOTOR was interesting because it played with a dual morality overtly, and in a way that hasn't been seen in MMOs. WoW's morality is drawn in stark lines, as Brian notes, that dehumanize every enemy.

Does that make it acceptable to act in ways that you as a player know to be violating another player's expectations and wishes? I can't see any possible defense for such behavior that would stand up in any other social context. This is just playground bullying with new labels - Horde and Alliance in this case.

Bottom line in that scenario is if its ok to give the Godfather an Oscar and praise the story up and down Hollywood, then why when a much less powerful story comes out of a game, do we look to condemn those that played the part of the antagonist?

Yes. Because when a theatre full of people watch The Godfather, they all have substantially the same experience. None of them are selected to be slapped every time someone on-screen gets shot. Nor are those who choose to go out to the lobby seen as valid victims by those who stay in the theatre.

Movies are one-way, passive entertainment. Online games are multi-way, interactive entertainment. This changes the context and social consequences at every level.

MMOs need to take the stance that they provide a service and nothing more.

The "common carrier" argument is used by Second Life, but it's not really an MMO like other game-worlds. IMO, any game that tries to say, "hey, we just run the service" will find itself without many customers real quickly. The service of a game includes the entirety of the experience, not just the technial aspects or even the game systems. Imagine the employees at Disneyland saying, "someone slapped your family around? Sorry, we just keep the rides running. Go slap them back."

Let the players figure out what to do about it.

Without giving the players the tools to be able to actually do anything about it (oooh, I know, we'll kill them more!), this is an exercise that the players will quickly realize is futile. In such situations, you as the game operator are lucky if they just leave. If they don't do that, what invariably happens is they take all their frustration and ire and turn it not onto those who have given them a bad time, but onto you, Game Developer, both corporately and individually. You become the Bad Guy, and the game for such a disaffected player who doesn't just fade away becomes seeing how they can twist the game for others into the worst possible living hell.

Such downward spirals aren't the best way to run a thriving service-oriented business.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 1:41:46 AM | link

Grax says:

Blizzard deserves much of the "blame" for this. With their watered-down zero-loss PvP that has been largely moved into the antiseptic Battlegrounds, Blizzard have helped create a disgruntled PvPer minority that are always looking for new ways to actually _affect_ their victims.

If you remove that desperation to actually have a strong effect on the gameworld through PvP, then perhaps Serenity Now would not have done this.

Then again, maybe they would have anyway. Nonetheless, the desperation is undeniably there.

When game designers assume that all PvPers are griefers and that their influence must be bottled up very carefully, they end up with games that PvPers will either not want to play, or will play but will always try to break the barriers that have been imposed from above.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 3:01:37 AM | link

kathygnome says:

If you remove that desperation to actually have a strong effect on the gameworld through PvP, then perhaps Serenity Now would not have done this.

Those assumptions of grief in pvp are based on hard repeated evidence.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 11:32:01 AM | link

Grax says:

No, it has yet to be shown that "everyone is a griefer" (which is the assumption that I discussed).

The fact is that those oppressive mechanisms aimed at curbing the grief behavior of a small minority of the PvP playerbase end up creating a significantly larger minority of PvPers who are willing to grief when they see the slightest opportunity to do so. When an entire group of players sees its possible actions/influences inelegantly controlled from above, there is a general desperation to not be kept bottled up, which manifests itself when otherwise mild-mannered PvPers do things that they would not have done if the game's ruleset allowed for a bit more freedom of action.

I can give you an example of this type of desperation. When I played WoW, I was quite horrified at the fact that people lost nothing at all when they died in PvP. They did not even have their equipped items 10% damaged, which is the penalty that Blizzard reserved for when a player died to a creature. When I PvPed I would, whenever possible, allow a creature to get the final hit on my victim, so that the player would get a tiny penalty for doing something he probably should not have done. This was to try to avoid, or at least minimize, the bindrush effect (where a player dies and instantly runs to his body, at which point he either attacks you or goes on doing what he was doing, etc.).

When a player finds a game offensively oppressive, that player will (before quitting the game in disgust) often act as a bit of a freedom-of-action vigilante.

As I said in my earlier post, some people do not need to be "desperate to influence", as grief-play comes to them more naturally than to others. The point, however, is that one creates a much larger number of people willing to use grief-play when one's game has mechanisms that control and severely limit player behavior.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 12:48:26 PM | link

Fizloki says:

From personal experience, I have to agree with grax. I started PVPing with UO, moved on to EQ and played everything else along the way until finally ending up at WoW. I never griefed in UO or EQ. In fact, I rarely pvped. In these games, killing another player really felt like you were doing harm to another real life person. I was a fairly nice guy, but I enjoyed playing on PVP servers nonetheless, because of the realistic communities it formed. I tried PVE servers in EQ, but after playing PVP I felt too restricted and the relationships with my fellow players were less important to my success in the game.

Enter WoW. You can't even communicate with the people you are killing. Death is so painless, that I don't even blink when someone kills me. These two factors, lead to a situation where enemy PCs appear more like amoral NPCs and to have any affect on the game or your fellow players you must grief people into realizing that, "hey I killed you." The amount of griefing I did and the amount of griefing I experienced increased 100 fold when I started playing WoW.

I believe grax is onto something here. The most tame PVP I ever experienced was also the PVP with the least restrictions (ability to speak with the enemy, lack of safe zones, etc) and had the harshest death penalty (exp loss, item drop, etc). I can remember the numerous times in EQ where enemies would stop me and question me, only to let me go on my way because I was simply doing a corpse run or trying to get to a new city. This would never happen in WoW, where PCs are no more than flashly looking NPCs. In neocron, due to the FPS nature of the weapons, people would often accidently kill bystanders. They (and I) felt so bad, that they would apologize and make sure they were able to get their items back. These weren't members of the same team. Heck, they didnt even know each other. But, death stung enough, that people wouldn't dish it out without reason. In fact, I'd argue that Neocron is one of the safest PVP games out there. You can walk through any area of the game, and at worst you'll probably get a warning from other players to get off their turf. And yet, it has one of the harshest death penalties (item drops, money penalties, exp penalties, etc) and the pvp is completely unrestricted by faction, level, area, etc.

In the end, when you assume your players are a bunch of immature 12 year old griefers and you design your game with them in mind, more often than not people will act like immature 12 year old griefers in response to your design decisions and against their own better nature.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 4:18:38 PM | link

Monique Mudama says:

I haven't seen anyone mention the fact that, in WoW, there are plenty of places in which the opposite faction cannot attack you.

I am one of those people who hates PvP servers, or rather, the players I tend to find on them. I hate minding my own business, questing or chatting or whatever, and then being ruthlessly attacked. I hate dealing with griefers and corpse campers. I take the whole thing very personally, and that's why I just don't play on PvP servers. It's too stressful for me.

I'm also a very social player, and I totally understand the guild's very real emotional need to say goodbye and bring some closure.

All of that being said -- this guild could have chosen any number of perfectly safe locations in which to hold the funeral. It kind of baffles me that they didn't.

If I were playing on a PvP WoW server and I wanted to hold a funeral event, I would have handled it one of two ways. One, if I wanted a peaceful and contemplative funeral, I would have found an appropriate spot in a non-contested area. Two, if I wanted a cathartic event and it was appropriate to the personality of the deceased, I would have worn my best PvP gear, gathered somewhere in a contested area, and hoped to honor the dead by having the biggest slaughterfest ever seen.

What I can't understand is going to a contested area in formal wear and expecting everyone to walk around on tiptoes, especially considering the very real fact that WoW does make it almost impossible to communicate with the opposite faction, as Brian Green pointed out.

I agree with Mike Sellers 100% when he says, "I don't personally see any real difference between a guild of socially pathological bullies descending on a virtual funeral or a lone player ganking a lower-level character along the road someplace. Both do so just because they can, because any reprisal is either trivial or irrelevant to the glee they get in ruining someone else's play, and of course because the game entitles them to do so." Because I agree with this point, I avoid PVP servers unless I very specifically want to deal with that aspect. And because anyone who's spent any time in a MMORPG, especially a PvP server, must know that there are always a few people out to ruin someone's game experience and hide behind "it's just a game," I have trouble understanding why the funeral was held as it was, where it was.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 5:41:39 PM | link

illovich says:

My question, directed rhetorically at the people who organized the funeral is:

Why did you organize a funeral where you could be attacked? There are "safe" places (Cities, plus Newbie Zones) to hold a funeral where Serenity Now would have had to mount a raid of some difficulty in order to get at the funeral.

But no, the organizers held the Funeral in Winterspring (a high level zone for non-players), far away even from Everlook, where it would be (I would argue likely) for the funeral to be attacked, even not on purpose. As folks have already mentioned, WoW PVP keeps cross-faction talk totally cut off, so Alliance who didn't know about it might have attacked, and there would have been no way to tell them to stop.

Are SN a bunch of jerks? Sure, but we knew that already. If you play on a PVP server, you have to assume that stupid crap like this is going to happen.

Of course, the victims could always retaliate by turning in the makers of the video in to the copyright holder whose rights were clearly infringed by the public release of this video, especially Apple Music who I hear is particularly thrilled about the the internet age.

"LOL PWND"

Posted Apr 16, 2006 10:16:02 PM | link

Chas says:

I don't WoW, so I'm not sure of the game mechanics at play here, but I'd suggest that, from what I've heard, the zone was selected so players from both sides could pay their wishes (weak excuse, maybe... I don't know the mechanics)

The fact that one of the cameramen was a "spy" in the line to pay respects supports the idea that the service was multifaction.

Posted Apr 16, 2006 11:07:25 PM | link

Monique Mudama says:

Ah. That could be. It would be a little odd, though, in that as mentioned before, it's incredibly difficult to have in-game communication between Alliance and Horde*. I guess Alliance players might have gotten to know the person via message boards and still wanted to pay their respects. But it would take an awful lot of trust for an Alliance player to approach a Horde gathering and believe it would be tolerated.

* I won't say impossible because, on a non-pvp server, I was in an Alliance pair and "grouped" with a Horde character a few levels higher than us. It slowly became clear that we could all benefit one another by alternating pulls and then, once first hit had been established (which is what determines loot and xp rights in WoW), all beating on the creature. All of us were able to progress a lot faster, and a lot more safely, than we could have without the cross-faction help. That being said, it's hard for me to imagine establishing this kind of behavior on a PvP server, where it would be so easy to whack the other guy when his HP are low. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to imagine for someone who plays on a PvP server every day.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 1:02:03 AM | link

Delos Mace Jr. says:

With regards to PvP and MMO(RPG), I notice that there are several people here who dislike PvP, and those who take a hands off approach. Yet in all of this discussion, and for that mater, discussions on any board , there is little if any discussion of the effects on the people who are the "victims" in these situations beyond the game effects such as loss of items/experience/loot/time. What I am talking about, and why I do not PvP, are the psychological effects.

Most people tend to think of violence as restricted to a physical medium, and if one is not physically hurt, there was no violence. Yet I think that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship, or has suffered being sued, can assuredly relate how violence can take many forms. While physical hurts can be shown to anyone, and can be recognized for what it is, psychological wounds, in my opinion, can be far more serious.

When a person attacks another "in game", they are attacking an avatar of the person playing, most likely a extension of the individual through either exploration of various aspects of their personality, or a reflection of themselves. In either case, it is a part of the person that is being attacked.

Therefore, when such an attack comes at a time when the attention is elsewhere, or the person is unprepared, etc..., this comes as not an attack on the avatar, but upon the person. The ego has not had time to prepare, and it becomes "personal". In such a case, I believe that this attack upon the individual IS harmful, and does have real world effects, up to and including change of personality, hostility, anger, and perhaps even hatred. These are not healthy emotions, and I doubt that the person playing even realises it is happening.

As for those who argue that it is just a game, that is a silly argument. Basketball is just a game, as is football, cricket, soccer, etc..., and look how people react in the real world. There are definite real world consequences, and we ignore it at our own peril.

Look at it this way for a moment. MMO(RPG)s allow people around the world to play and communicate together in a sophisticated and interesting manner. I would argue that most people play because of the social aspects of the game, because you can get better storylines and action from a single player game. In this social aspect, most people (IMO) probably spend more time talking to other people than they do questing or any other action. If they are attacked by a PvP griefer, this disrupts that persons connection to other players, if only briefly. Still, it might be likened to opening a letter you send to a friend far away, and some jerk at the post office opens it, scribbles on the letter, and seals it back up. When your friend gets it, the letter from you has been despoiled by a stranger. I think that PvP has much the same effect from time to time.

Let us also seperate the types of people who PvP. There is the type who wants to challenge themselves against others, because it is much more difficult that going against a NPC script at any time. The other type has been adequately described earlier as a psychopathic bully, who enjoys hurting others, while hiding behind the "game" facade. It is the second category of individuals that cause the most harm to others, changing the game experience from a social one, to a hostile one.

In the case that brought this up, those individuals who were paying tribute to a friend found themselves in the midst of an unwelcome and, tragically, negatively transforming event, turning their tribute into something else. If the alliance players knew what was happening, then they are without conscience. If they didn't know, then at least it betrays their willingness to commit offence to others. In either case, the alliance players sound to me like a bunch of spoiled children at best, and possibly dangerous people who commit violence in the game world where they would not dare in the real world (I hope).

Let us not keep deluding ourselves that games cause no harm, and look at the psychological effects, and what it says about our morality. Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should, and when we create systems that not only allow for these behaviors, but even reward them, let us not shake our heads and claim ignorance. Just because it is "virtual" doesn't mean it doesn't have real world impact. If a scientist creates a weapon, and then gives it out, let him not be surprised when someone gets hurt.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 3:13:35 AM | link

Frank Lantz says:

Games are about conflict.

The essence of games is that they are capable of transmuting conflict into art, of transforming the will to power into a mutually beneficial form of self-improvement by taking the psychopathic bully within us all and submitting it to a topological shift that turns it into something not just harmless but potenitally transcendent. Larry Bird, Tiger Woods, Garry Kasparov, Muhammad Ali, Zileas, Wayne Gretsky, Shusaku, Babe Ruth, and so on.

The key ingredient of that phase change is the special status of game objects and actions as existing outside the domain of regular life.

To remove the stylized conflict at the heart of games would be to nerf them out of existence.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 5:42:12 AM | link

Bhagpuss says:

PvP offers the opportunity to do many things in virtuality that would be not only morally unacceptable in most cultures, but also often illegal.

As the non-gaming world slowly catches on to the existence of virtual spaces, real-world lawmakers and enforcers will begin to take an interest. Incidents like this, for example, could clearly result in both civil cases for damages (stress-related loss of earnings following the shock and trauma of the attack, for example) and in criminal charges too, should, for example, the shock of such an attack lead to someone having a heart attack or stroke at the keyboard.

All this sounds fanciful now, but if MMOs do become the mass entertainment that is often predicted, there will be a lot of people involved who don't subscribe to, or understand, gamer behavior conventions. And there will be potential money to be made out of lawsuits.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 6:08:18 AM | link

Chas York says:

I have done a considerable amount of PvP, but I do share some of Delos Mace Jr's issues with it.

No matter what the game may "allow," I don't enjoy stalking prey that would have very little chance at detection, evasion, or retaliation- (I don't enjoy BEING that prey either). If cross-faction communication is allowed, I give my foe an honorable /salute and compliment them on their style.

Some argue that the "added danger" contributes to the fun, but I'd argue that the adrenaline rush of danger is one thing, but a danger that's preventable / counterable by some user action is much more preferred to danger that cannot be reasonably prepared for or responded to.

We've used sports analogies in the past- commenting that things like "high sticking" in hockey are technically assaults, but not treated as such in-game (even though the attack is in violation of the game's rules, too).

PvP can be as fair and offenseless as a sporting competition. Both sides consented, both sides know the rules. Both sides may enjoy playing within those rules or playing elsewhere.

Foes in PvP are providing each other content. Foes that stay within the rules, or show respect to their enemy, will find their enemy more willing to compete with them. Foes that push the limits of the rules sets perform the equivalent of a "high sticking" and will, over time, alienate their competitors.

A game that insures that each battle is relatively balanced could get away with greater penalties on death, but too often, the latest runs of PvP have focused on level disparities that predetermine the battle's outcome. A bottom-dweller will attack prey with little to no chance of evasion or defense and expect substantial penalties be applied upon them for a loss they were powerless to prevent.

These are games where actions, responses, and decision-making should affect the success or failure of a mission, but this PvP takes all that away from a player- where a single orange-conned foe can slay an entire team- where stealth is a toggle that's counterable only by a few select classes, and a stealth-attack can mean instant death.

A good game designer would think twice before developing a zone for a specific level range, then adding content that could not be taken on by people of that level, but that's often exactly what is done in PvP.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 9:16:40 AM | link

Endie says:

kathygnome said:
People like this guild are why PVP tends to be very unpopular in MMPORPGs.

That was the received wisdom between Trammel and 15 months ago. Take a look at the balance between pvp ruleset servers (substantial majority) and non-pvp servers on WoW and it turns out that we were all wrong.

This also kinda pokes a finger in the eye of all those who are saying how broken Blizz's PvP zero-loss implementation is. People seem to like PvP MMOs when it's just a laugh an nobody gets hurt. Give 'em what they want. I don't play on them myself, but I can see the numbers.

In this example, there is nobody to blame but the griefers. Saying that the attendees got what they deserved for playing on that server sounds awfully like saying "she was wearing a short skirt". No, the parallel is not exact by any means, but I am wary of blaming the victim for the actions of those who gained pleasure from causing grief and discomfort to others.

This is where someone like Raph can suggest systems which try to impose real consequences on grief play without the possibility of those griefers being able to use those consequences against thier victims. If the consequences are taking away the right of a character - of an account - to PvP then sandbox ftw!

Oh, and it needs saying that Serenity and their like are kids and dorks who, if they tried their bullying in real life, would receive a much-needed lesson in non-zero-consequence PvP.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 9:27:09 AM | link

AFFA says:

I don't have any sympathy for people who claim "the mechanics let me do it." It's not like the Hand of God comes out of the sky and stops you from murdering someone in real life. If you're a jerk in an anonymous, punishment-free game, that doesn't make you some kind of nihilistic revolutionary testing the philosophical limits of on-line spaces. It means you're a jerk that's not brave enough to do anything that might have real consequences (though I suppose a few griefers are jerks in real-life, too).

I wouldn't blame the lack of cross-faction communication, either. If anything, DAoC and WoW have friendlier PvP than other games because they don't let people taunt and brag and whine for hours (though I've been... ah... contacted a couple times by someone who made a cross-faction alt just for that purpose). Would these players have acted differently if they could talk? Yes. They would have called the funeral attendees fags and emoted raping the corpses.

Enemy players are not just "smart NPCs." Regardless of whether the game mechanics encourage that impression, griefers are fully aware that enemy players are, first and foremost, the avatars of real humans. Humans who can be hurt, annoyed, and scored on. Grief behavior only makes sense in the context of attacking players instead of avatars. Or: why don't griefers brag about ganking low level NPCs?

I agree that the lack of any death penalty in PvP contributes to the problem. I don't think WoW would be improved by letting people call each other names, but I think the PvP would be friendlier if death had more sting, at least in open PvP (I'm not sure I'd add any death penalty to the Battlegrounds). Gankers would get more joy because they could "punish" other players, but greater joy comes with greater risk, since victims would have a greater incentive to track down gankers and take revenge (which would hurt--ideally, you'd want to punish gankers more, perhaps with PvP ranks that are reset to zero with death). At least, that's how it seems to work in other games.

Personally, I'm in the "love PvP, hate the PvPers" category. I'd appreciate a PvP game that didn't make policing, defending, and taking revenge (bounties?) an order of magnitude more difficult than ganking and hit-and-run tactics. DAoC's RvR achieved this to some degree, even though it wasn't open PvP. I didn't last a month under WoW's PvP ruleset, but I often walked around PvP-enabled on an RP server. Most other players were honorable prior to the introduction of PvP ranks. After that, it was chancy.

Ideas matter. Incentives matter. Most MMOs make PvP incentives that reward PvP without context. I admit, coming up with unexpoitable rules for rewarding "fair" PvP is tricky, perhaps impossible. The "Honor System" didn't directly discourage honorable PvP, but it rewarded all PvP kills without context (i.e. running around in a full group while killing lower level players is just as rewarding as a more even matched fight). Plus, it locked out the higher ranks from casual players by making rank competitve against your own side and based only of total kills instead of a win/loss ratio.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 10:30:05 AM | link

Mike Sellers says:

This is where someone like Raph can suggest systems which try to impose real consequences on grief play without the possibility of those griefers being able to use those consequences against thier victims.

Designers have tried to impose "real consequences" on griefers in many MMOs. We tried a number of ways of dealing with this in M59, from the classic of making those who kill others killable themselves without penalty to creating negative karma to summoning a powerful undead to relentlessly hunt you down when you kill an innocent of lower level than you. You'd think that combination would have been a powerful disincentive to grief-PKing, but it wasn't.

The fundamental lesson of such ideas is that at best they only partially work: they're game mechanic solutions being applied to social situations. That is, they aren't penalizing the griefer/PKer/bully in a way that is significant to them. If a griefer dies to a revenant or is attackable by city guards or whatever, this is just "the cost of doing business" that doesn't diminish the fierce enjoyment they get from ganking others. They're also willing to bounce back from death again and again (others are correct that this is made easier in games like WoW with little death penalty), honing their skills faster than their victims tend to, as the victims are playing a broader game.

The only in-game way I know of to provide balance against non-consensual PK (or similar activities, if you're going to allow them) is to make such actions strongly self-limiting in terms of the character's abilities, and to put the limitations in the hands of both victims and bystanders. This is what happens when you're ostracized from "civilized society" in real life. Unfortunately the analogs to this are difficult and thus far clunky and porous -- meaning that invoking them penalizes the victim (forcing them to "play" a part of the game they have no interest in) and ultimately provides little disincentive to the grief-player.

All that said, I'm curious about the popularity of the PvP servers in WoW. I have a character on one because of friends who play there, but I don't much enjoy the paranoid style of gameplay this breeds. Given the availability of consensual PvP and battlegrounds on PvE servers, why are the PvP servers as popular as they are?

Posted Apr 17, 2006 10:40:20 AM | link

Chas York says:

Endie> Oh, and it needs saying that Serenity and their like are kids and dorks who, if they tried their bullying in real life, would receive a much-needed lesson in non-zero-consequence PvP.

Ok, I'm more interested in the full post, but the end is the most quotable.. :P

I'm glad to see PvP servers becoming more common- and Endie's right- it takes zero-loss PvP to get its popularity to the masses.

As mentioned, the griefer was the characteristic barrier to PvP- one griefer could make alot of PvP-neutral players prefer "no-pvp" just to avoid the idiots. With zero-loss, they can just accept the respawn as the easiest way to "get away from the idiot" and get on with play.

However, I believe we shouldn't have had to resort to such limitations to curb such idiocy. Grief-players are damaging to a robust, healthy PvP community, and we've had to severely curtail risks AND rewards to minimize their impact.... and for this, I put some of the burden on the developers.

Developers often say that they don't want to impose social rules on the players, and scholars studying MMO's often want to watch for "emergent structures" rather than suggest community-building structures. Together, we take away many of the methods a community could use for self-policing, for self-regulation, and for truly building community rules- methods to express values of what's acceptable or not acceptable.

Is it any wonder why our worlds appear to be populated by sociopaths?

(FINAL NOTE: Don't include "PvP server count" as too much of a metric for PvP's popularity. There are many PvE-centric players who want to leave the OPTION TO PvP available, rather than be denied any chance at PvP. Previously, not being PvP-centric was a death sentence on PvP servers. I think many of them are finding the no-loss PvP safe enough to participate.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 10:41:28 AM | link

Frank Lantz says:

Mike Sellers: Why are the PvP servers as popular as they are?

Because playing Chess (with some House in it) is more interesting than playing House (with some Chess in it).

/mc

Posted Apr 17, 2006 11:31:35 AM | link

duckilama says:

[i]Given that, this story isn't really all that remarkable. Ninja-PvPers -- aka PKers or griefers -- have been behaving this way (including crashing weddings, funerals, and anything else they could) for as long as games have allowed (and enabled) them to do so.

What's remarkable to me is that developers and operators still cater to this socially pathological market -- and then wonder why their customer service costs are so high. [/i]

If WoW were like the original UO, I _might_ agree with you.
WoW is not like UO at release. The people on this server _chose_ to play on a PvP server where this sort of event is possible. They weren't forced to play in this environment, they elected to do so. This is not a developer decision, other than to make the option of playing on this server type available.

Additionally, there are "safe" places, even on PvP servers that a funeral could be held. Basically, publicly announcing that there was going to be a big gathering of people in a non-safe area at a given time on a server with a ruleset that specifically enables non-consentual PvP(a term that carries little weight when you choose to play on such a server) is essentially begging to be attacked.

This situation is precisely why PvPers choose to play on PvP servers. If you don't want unplanned PvP, don't play on a PvP server, basically.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 11:52:19 AM | link

Chas York says:

duckilama> This situation is precisely why PvPers choose to play on PvP servers. If you don't want unplanned PvP, don't play on a PvP server, basically.

However, it's an all-or-nothing decision: Many people WANT TO PvP, but prefer PvP in moderation (meaning they'd have to maintain an alt account with enough activity for guild relationships) or have to be comfortable enough with griefer-deaths to weather through- something that the "no risk" PvP enables.

(That's for server-based PvP. Zone-based PvP- where most PvE adventure zones are PvE only, allows for the sometime-PvP'er, makes the stalking of half-dead PvE'ers less possible, and allows you to enforce zone controls to minimize the level disparity. You can usually expect a player in one of the few PvP zones to be there TO PvP)

Both server-based and zone-based PvP has some problems, and that is that a few people we'll just characterize as 'overly aggressive' can ruin it for the masses... and if these people have too much power, people will just leave.

So, the devs have minimized penalties over and over, trying to encourage the casual PvPers to remain despite the aggressive player, and doing little about the root problem. They took away inter-faction chat to minimize the harsh words. They took away looting and loss, made spawn camping more difficult, all to make the "overly aggressive player" less damaging to the PvP world.

But the problem remains- now, PvP is rather meaningless, and the aggressive players still experiments with new, improved ways to make others feel like crud. Players who remain sensitive to even that level of watered-down cruelty (so remarkably thin-skinned as that may sound) still opt out of PvP. But now, for many "hardcore"... PvP is too bland.

We can't keep taking things away. There's not much left as it is.

I'd like to see a fresh look at PvP- one that allows players to take more control- and for once, allows them to define acceptable behavior, and acceptable "levels" of investment.

PvP is a competition- a sport- with professionals, semi-professionals, ametuers, and people who just casually play with friends. They each have different values and different expectations from their competition and each other, yet we lump them all together.

How long can we expect the casual ametuer leaguer to play against a pro after the "celebrity awe" has worn off? How many times will they be willing to lose... or to play with rules that cater to the pro-carreerist?

What do we do to insure that the "ametuer leaguers" don't have to worry about a pro "ringer" coming in and dominating things?

If players were able to organize their own rivalries, they could define the "rules for participation" and even the "prizes" for the victors. Players could enroll in the "leagues" that best fit their style and compete against other players that share those values. "Overly Aggressive" players could form their own leagues based on the values they espouse, but can be "thrown out" of leagues where they abuse or misuse the system. Active league leaders would be encouraged to do so, as enough dissent would result in players leaving to form another league.

Of course, with the level ranges that we see in a modern MMO, this wouldn't work very well: It can take long enough to find a rival within x level ranges now, with only 2-3 factions. Imagine when the player base is divided among 20-30 "leagues." (Many other current game design assumptions would also need "tweaked")

This model would, however, at least acknowledge that PvP is very different for different people. Some want each battle to be a tactical competition. Some see "building the template" as part of the battle. Some want to "control the battlefield" by expelling all defeated foes to a faraway place- or put zone-entrance timers, while others don't want the "hours of inaction" that such a tactic might cause. Leagues could define their values, recruit members of similar mindsets, and give rewards as they see fit.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 12:45:51 PM | link

Aaron says:

PvP is irrelevant. This is about psychological violence deliberately inflicted on other human beings.

The attack on the funeral was not just an attack on Horde characters. The players who attacked the funeral had read the messages posted by friends of the deceased player. They were fully aware that the dead player's guildmates felt authentic human grief about the loss of their friend.

Serenity Now attacked the funeral because they derived pleasure from behaving in a cruel way toward other human beings.

We can talk endlessly about the contested perimeter of the magic circle, but we should also look at *where* the violence takes place. In this case, the virtual violence against game characters is not the issue; we should be concerned with the psychological violence inflicted on the mourners themselves.

Regarding the location of the funeral, there was some sort of reason given by the organizers. Perhaps it had something to do with their friend's affection for that particular lake?

++++

In light of the many cases of on-line deception in virtual worlds, I'm still not convinced that this story is entirely true. Has anyone been able to track down specific details about the person who died in real life? If so, it would be great to see more details here. What was his or her name? Where did he or she live? How old were they? What did they do for a living?

It would be nice to ground the discussion with these tangible details.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 12:46:58 PM | link

says:

>(That's for server-based PvP. Zone-based PvP- where most PvE adventure zones are PvE only, allows for the sometime-PvP'er, makes the stalking of half-dead PvE'ers less possible, and allows you to enforce zone controls to minimize the level disparity. You can usually expect a player in one of the few PvP zones to be there TO PvP)

I've been saying for a long time, DAoC got zone-based PvP right. It needed better rewards, but the actual mechanics of PvP was good.

>>PvP is irrelevant. This is about psychological violence deliberately inflicted on other human beings.

I disagree. It's a game. Someone found out when and where there would be enough targets to make a guild "raid" worthwhile and set it up. Yes, there are other people playing the other avatars, but it's a game with many metagames.

>>Serenity Now attacked the funeral because they derived pleasure from behaving in a cruel way toward other human beings.
How do you know that?

Posted Apr 17, 2006 1:12:07 PM | link

Erick says:

>Grax "Blizzard deserves much of the "blame" for this. With their watered-down zero-loss PvP that has been largely moved into the antiseptic Battlegrounds, Blizzard have helped create a disgruntled PvPer minority that are always looking for new ways to actually _affect_ their victims."

I think it goes farther than just looking for ways to affect their victims, I think there's a deep need to affect the game world itself. One of my biggest complaints with WoW is that there is no way to change the face of your world. Transfer your character from one server to another and except for the people logged in, you'd have no way of knowing things were different. This was deeply frustating for me, especially coming from games like UO and EVE Online where players have more of an active role in what the game looks like. I couldn't stand the fact that I was just another [insert archetypal WoW character] lost in a sea of identical servers.

For better or for worse, Serenity Now was able to do something that made them and their server stand out, even if just for a few moments. It reminds me of the guild that tried to hold the AQ event for ransom. It seems like people just trying to carve out their own piece of history in a game world that tries its hardest to clone everyone and everything.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 2:43:41 PM | link

Bart Stewart says:

Others have touched on this, but to draw it out a little more: Isn't what's going on here a difference in how people define "the game?"

It sounds to me like the funeral-goers tended to think of "the game" as being the stuff that characters in the game do -- whacking NPCs and critters, traveling, trading, consensual dueling -- basically, "the game" is whatever developer-provided actions yield tangible in-game rewards. So although the people behind the characters were actively using their characters to get together virtually with their guildmates for a funeral of a real person, they weren't "playing the game."

Meanwhile, the SN folks appear to define "the game" in a much broader way. For them, it's not about what characters solely within the virtual world do -- it's about what they, the players behind the characters, can do to the human players behind the other characters in the virtual world. The game isn't limited to the virtual world's code; it encompasses the real people interacting with that code. So crashing the funeral was just "playing the game."

The resulting "how can you think like that?!" debates look an awful lot like a clash of definitions.

----

Side note: The first thing I thought of when I read the funeral-crashing story as Nate relates it was the story of Loki showing up uninvited at a party in Valhalla. Next thing you know, the wonderful Baldur is dead after Loki weasels the blind Hod into firing a mistletoe arrow into Baldur's eye.

Enabling PvP has always encouraged griefing.

--Bart

Posted Apr 17, 2006 3:08:22 PM | link

Aaron says:

In reply to my comment that the griefers derived pleasure from behaving in a cruel way, someone asked for more support for this claim.

The appended quotes were apparently posted by Serenity Now members in the Blizzard forums.

These excerpts alone are depressing, but the way that players in other guilds emphatically supported the attack is even more disturbing.

In all of the social hysteria about video-games and virtual worlds, critics have worried that gamers would lose the ability to distinguish real life from the gameworld.

It is strange to realize that we've reached a point at which the exact opposite condition is far more serious. A significant number of gamers -- including a few who have posted in this forum -- seem unable to comprehend the common humanity that they share with other players.

"bombing the memorial was by far the funniest/most fun thing i have ever done in wow. learn to move on people, this thing is taking over your lives"

"lol you all are such a bunch of whiney #@%$!es. jesus christ, how many more threads must you eknights make about this subject? bombing the memorial was by far the funniest/most fun thing i have ever done in wow. learn to move on people, this thing is taking over your lives."

"A chick died. Memorial tried. SN fried. People cried."

"Life without introspection or philosophy is pointless. The game as a conduit simply fails for making real connections. If WoW is your base for friends or real emotional solice. Then you sir are amazingly damaged person. Get out live real life. Funerals are meant for people who really knew them. Its like all the retards who show up at celeb funerals. You dindt know this person to an extent that gives you a right to mourn them. If you did then its another cookie cutter non person we are talking about."

"Why not ?
Just Because
Wanted to be %@$%s
It was real PVP
Its funny
For Efame
To be hated
To incite nerdrage
We were bored
Pick one, no matter what you choose others will try and convince you your choice is wrong, some will even wish for the very thing they are lambasting to happen to you. Thats the real funny."

These excerpts do a good job of establishing that (a) the members of Serenity Now understood that other people were mourning their friend's death, (b) they knew that they would be even more upset after the funeral was attacked, and (c) they clearly took pleasure in the entire process.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 3:31:39 PM | link

duckilama says:

To me, Aaron, on a handful of those statements meet all 3 of your assumptions.

It looks more like the majority of SNers are of the opinion that it's a game, don't take it so seriously. If the mourners are _that_ upset that, by announcing an intention to have a large number of people in a contested area, on a PvP server, regardless of the purpose, at best you have a codependency situation with plenty of passive-aggression in addition to what you see as hurtful aggression.

Again, most of the excerpts you pulled say to me that the SNers are just playing the game. BGs are not what a PvP server is about, so if one side comes out and says "We're all going to get together in this special place with no guards, whatever you do, please, oh please Br'er Fox, please don't throw me in that briar patch... er, please don't come attack us, I mean. (wink wink, nudge nudge)," what do you really expect from the opposition? Solemn cooperation? That's a rather naive outlook, even if we assume everyone involved is a mature adult.

Really, to me, to cite the SNers for being mean, hateful, cruel, etc. is to fail to look at the whole picture, which includes the actions of the mourners, the environment on the server, the locale chosen by the organizers, etc.

Looks to me, those with the healthiest attitude are the SNers saying "It's a game, get over it."

I watched the video. I have to tell you, my first reaction was to laugh. My second reaction was to ask "where are the bouncers?" My third reaction was to think "what a bunch of fools" because the minute the first SNer showed up, there should have been an awful lot of red flags and preparation going up and on. Clearly, this funeral, while well-intentioned(there's a saying about intentions), was ill-conceived and poorly executed.

This is a game-space, and any time you try to bring out of context situations into it, you have to know things are not going to go according to plan. Things don't go according to plan in the real world, but when the game-space is specifically designed to encourage conflict...

Posted Apr 17, 2006 3:58:34 PM | link

Aaron says:

Duckilama wrote: "Really, to me, to cite the SNers for being mean, hateful, cruel, etc. is to fail to look at the whole picture, which includes the actions of the mourners, the environment on the server, the locale chosen by the organizers, etc. Looks to me, those with the healthiest attitude are the SNers saying 'It's a game, get over it.'"

This is exactly what I mean about the inability to comprehend that we share common humanity with the other players.

Your definition of "the whole picture" is limited to the magic circle constructed by the rules of the PVP server. However, "the whole picture" also includes the broader world of human beings who interact with one another through their computers.

Blatantly denying those real-world connections is not just naive. It's dangerous.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 4:20:10 PM | link

duckilama says:

>Your definition of "the whole picture" is limited to the magic circle constructed by the rules of the PVP server. However, "the whole picture" also includes the broader world of human beings who interact with one another through their computers.

Blatantly denying those real-world connections is not just naive. It's dangerous.
---------

We can take it even further. The mourners expected every one on the server to observe their personal pain by withdrawing from the magic circle, not just those that were attending the funeral.

We could ignore the entire debate about motives, environment, server-rules, etc. and I'd still feel that the mourners were out of line.

As you say, this is a shared space, a broader world of human beings interacting with and in a virtual space. To expect others to abide by your wishes and observe your personal out of context experience with the same attitude as yourself is, in my opinion, either arrogant, ignorant, or naive, all three of which are dangerous.

I would no sooner expect someone to pretend the magic circle was null and void while I tended to my crying toddler than I would expect NASCAR to stop a race because the noise scared my little guy.

In typing that out, what I've realized is, the mourners decided to call time-out(suspend the magic circle) and SN decided not to abide by it. We're debating ad-hoc playground rules, in essence, and what it boils down to, for me, is you can't always just call time-out.

I feel like one of the neighborhood kids is coming to tell on their playmates and half the parents are saying "don't be a tattle tail, and if you're going to play the game, you have to play by the rules" while the others are saying "but she wanted to make her own rules, and the rest of the kids should have let her".

Neither side will sway the other, but it's still a parental debate about playground rules.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 4:36:56 PM | link

Andrew Donoho says:

On the humanity of it all:

What I find really disturbing about this incidient is that these folks knew what they were doing. In the quotes above, they repeatedly discount the humanity of folks meeting through WoW. Folks are told to "lead a real life." As if it isn't a real life to participate in a MMOG. It seems real enough to me. I have real emotions as the result of in-game activities.

Does Blizzard want people to lead a "real life"? No, they want them to lead a mediated life in WoW. There are real humans leading real lives through MMOGs. For WoW to make it to the next level, I think they are going to have to address this more thoroughly than they have.

On game design:

Blizzard continues to ignore the one thing they added to PvP - dishonorable kills. When a lowbie gets ganked, there are no consequences to the ganker. Blizzard protects its civilian NPCs more than it protects its griefed players. At least a lowbie should get the honor deducted from a highbie who ganks them in a dishonorable kill. While it may not be enough to dissuade ganking, it does, at least, compensate the gankee for the trouble. They should also get a free rez from the Spirit Healer without sickness or durability reductions. This would go a long way towards reducing the pain of mismatched PvP. I hate the corpse run after a ganking. I particularly hate the second corpse run. The person who bears the consequences of griefing should have those minimized as much as possible.

Andrew

Posted Apr 17, 2006 4:59:28 PM | link

duckilama says:

Those are good ideas, Andrew, but what about someone that's just being stupid? The level 30 rogue that tries to sneak in to see the throne room? Should a Level 60 that "ganks" him receive a penalty? Should the rogue be compensated for his stupidity or brashness or chutzpa?

Yes, there are cases of "bad" ganking, but how do you determine whether it was a gank or whether the "ganked" was just being dumb? Then how do you translate that to code?

Posted Apr 17, 2006 5:06:18 PM | link

gordon.calleja says:

Frank Lantz says: Games are about conflict.

So, in your view World of Warcraft is a game? Much the same way that chess is a game, soccer is a game, Tetris is a game...? I'm sure that it would make MMOG companies like Blizzard's life easier if the societies their worlds inevitably create were posted neatly under the game heading, but can they?

It's all too easy to excuse any behaviour in a society , online or otherwise, by invoking the taken for granted existence of a supposed magic circle. But how far does viewing online worlds and their complex social structures as games take us down the road of a serious analysis of these phenomena?


Posted Apr 17, 2006 5:10:42 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

When I was in elementary school, one of the most hideously frowned upon tactics during tag was calling time-out shortly before you were tagged, or even if you were about to be chased down. It became a social expectation that you wouldn't do that; otherwise, it became a game of ambush, rather than a game of chase.

I think, from this discussion, it's concludable that, as usual, everyone was in the wrong in one way or another. Stupid actions invite stupid retributions. Don't be naive, don't be ganked.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 6:24:55 PM | link

Andrew Donoho says:

Quoted from duckilama:
"Those are good ideas, Andrew, but what about someone that's just being stupid? The level 30 rogue that tries to sneak in to see the throne room? Should a Level 60 that "ganks" him receive a penalty? Should the rogue be compensated for his stupidity or brashness or chutzpa?"


Actually, I think anytime an L60 ganks an L30 to death, he should be penalized. In particular, the throne room is an easy place to let the NPC guards take care of the pesky L30 problem. The L60 doesn't even have to get his hands dirty. The key is ganking to death.


From duckilama:
"Yes, there are cases of "bad" ganking, but how do you determine whether it was a gank or whether the "ganked" was just being dumb? Then how do you translate that to code?"

I think you are missing the point. There is no smart or dumb criteria - there is just relative imbalance. If this is a game, then keep it competitive. When it isn't competitive, let us reward the inconvenienced player. The dishonorable kill actually does this. My twist was to both turn it on for player characters and convert the ganker's dishonor into the gankee's honor. As well as making it easy for the gankee to escape corpse camping by free spirit healer rezzing. These are easy criteria to reduce to code. You just compare relative levels of characters. When a highbie initiates battle of a lowbie, say 4 levels below, then he gets dishonor for the action. In the opposite case, when a lowbie attacks a highbie of any level, there is no difference to today's PvP.

This is pretty straightforward now that Blizzard already has dishonorable kills implemented for civilian NPCs.

Andrew

Posted Apr 17, 2006 6:40:36 PM | link

Michael Chui says:

Amusingly, in the Star Wars series, Rogue Squadron (the novels), #10 has the protagonist visit a place called Adumar, where the Cartann people are obsessed with killing each other to earn more honor. The New Republic ambassadors aren't too happy about this, whereas the Imps are all too happy too oblige them with demonstrations of superior skill via death count.

The Cartann had a system instituted, however, where it was dishonorable for a veteran to engage in combat with a newbie unless there were special circumstances. They didn't get very far into it, but I think people might consider paging through the novel (Rogue Squadron #10, I believe).

Posted Apr 17, 2006 7:40:57 PM | link

Aaron Delwiche says:

I realize that we may never see eye-to-eye on this. Still, I disagree with the suggestion that everyone was wrong in one way or another.

There was nothing wrong with the funeral organizers attempting to organize this event in memory of their guild-mate. Even on a PVP server, it was a perfectly reasonable, even laudable, response to the loss of a friend.

There was something very wrong with Serenity Now's deliberate attack on the funeral, and there is something very wrong with the flippant response that "LOL. It's just a game. Get over it."

Many of the analogies floated so far (e.g. calling time out in tag, "playground rules," or stopping a NASCAR race because your child is upset) don't apply to this situation.

As noted in the above excerpts from Serenity Now, many of the people participating in the attack deliberately did so because they thought it was "retarded" for people to be grieving on-line for someone who died. They viewed the deceased as a "cookie-cutter non-person."

The "LOL. Get over it response" strikes me as a deliberate attempt to deny any sort of human connection with people controlling other characters in the game.

I sincerely believe that many MMO players are afraid of acknowledging the humanity of other players who are connected to the network.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 8:43:53 PM | link

Nate says:

The "LOL. Get over it response" strikes me as a deliberate attempt to deny any sort of human connection with people controlling other characters in the game.

I sincerely believe that many MMO players are afraid of acknowledging the humanity of other players who are connected to the network.
--------------------------------------------

The problem I have with this is that it encourages a caricature of these sorts of groups that I think gets in the way of understanding what is *really* going on.

Harkening to a point made earlier - I side with the idea that there is a clash of view points about game and the roles of participants going on. One may not like SN's take -at least in the extreme- but were it more nuanced...

As for the earlier quotes - I think one could make the argument they are out of context: it was a pretty heated forum thread with quite a bit of mud-flinging on both sides. Not sure what they prove.


Posted Apr 17, 2006 9:35:42 PM | link

Tim says:

Andrew: "Actually, I think anytime an L60 ganks an L30 to death, he should be penalized."

Your solution does not work, and will result in a worse situation than before.

Adding dishonor for gray kills will only lead to level 60s having lowbies tag along with them for their protection. This removes the option for AOE attacks for the opposing party. If it's me, a lone 60, versus a lvl 60 and a lvl 1 character, I have to take extra pains to avoid hitting that lvl 1.

And if it's a level 47 character (gray to 60s), he can actually be doing some rather annoying things that can change the outcome of the fight, and I'll be powerless to take him out of the equation.

Dishonor for gray kills can also lead to multiple grays teaming up to kill a level 60, with no fear of reprisal. You can call it "Reverse-ganking" I guess.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 10:31:04 PM | link

Kirk Cole says:

So i play world of warcraft on a regular basis and also try to read terranova (I like the economic analysis) and think you guys do a great job! I saw the video in question and thought it was really really funny. Whatever moral ethical questions involved within that paticular situation aside, i think the ability to attack indiscriminately reinforces the anarchic relations involved between different factions within the game that leads to such a rich pvp dynamic. 10 / 10

Posted Apr 17, 2006 11:47:33 PM | link

Aaron says:

The earlier quotes from Serenity Now were prefaced with a link to the forum in which they originally appeared. Citations don't get much more "in context" than that.

Regarding the tendency to caricature "these sorts of groups," my comments above were specifically directed at Serenity Now and other gamers (in PvE, RP and PvP servers) who forget that they are interacting with real human beings. This incident is hardly a test case for the merits of PvP.

Posted Apr 17, 2006 11:54:39 PM | link

Andrew Donoho says:

Quote from Tim:
"Adding dishonor for gray kills will only lead to level 60s having lowbies tag along with them for their protection."

I disagree with your assessment and here is why. When I am an L30 being ganked by an L60 with or without an accompanying L1 'target dummy', I do not have time to think about whether I don't use AoE spells because of the L1. In fact, I might not even notice he is there. Furthermore, I am not even trying to fight the ganker but to get away. The target dummy protection from my counter-attack is non-existent because there is no counter attack. Lets remember that this isn't a fair fight but a ganking. The lowbie will lose if they stand their ground. They will try to escape.

The second reason your suggestion is unlikely is how much fun is it for the L1 to follow around an L60 and watch him have all of the 'ganking fun'. Your average l337 ganker will not waste his time being an L1 target dummy.

In the next two quotes from Tim, he appears to be thinking that lowbie always has protection from a highbie. As I said in an earlier post, this would not be the case. A lowbie who intiates an attack on a highbie will get what they deserve - no dishonor protection and a sound thrashing. Furthermore, I think he misses the point that this isn't really protection but rather compensation to the gankee for being inconvenienved by the ganker. This is a modest transfer of honor and a free rez at the spirit healer. Not something for a gankee to seek out.

Quote from Tim:
"And if it's a level 47 character (gray to 60s), he can actually be doing some rather annoying things that can change the outcome of the fight, and I'll be powerless to take him out of the equation."

And this is a problem how? The fact that the lowbie initiates an attack on you while you are in battle does not give them immunity from counter-attack. He will be attacked by the L60 as soon as he shows hostile intent. Furthermore, the loss to the L60 is modest. I cannot image any L60 caring that much. The win to this system is that it reduces the pain of being a gankee and provides a small disincentive for ganking.


Quote from Tim:
"Dishonor for gray kills can also lead to multiple grays teaming up to kill a level 60, with no fear of reprisal. You can call it "Reverse-ganking" I guess."

Isn't a couple of L47 lowbies ambushing L52 highbies what PvP is all about? It can happen now but I rarely see it. Reverse ganking is both unlikely and, if it occurs, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Andrew

Posted Apr 18, 2006 1:58:10 AM | link

Grutar - (frostmourne) says:

On PvP servers in general - they add an extra level for creating stories.

A tauren shaman (lvl 31) and I (lvl 32) watched a human warlock (lvl 41) prancing around the interment camp in K/Hillsbrad on his flaming pony,

We chased him, He ran into the camp thinking he was protected by the alliance guards. We ignored the guards and killed him and then just managed to escape.
It was fun trying to slow him down, get a few damage shots into him all the while the warrior and mage NPCs where attacking us.

Its a story I can tell my son. He, as either an tauren hunter or human rogue, will spend many minutes patiently setting up an ambush of equivalent level opponents. Patience, discipline

On the funeral specifically ( and only for Terranova information). They could have held it at Everlock protected by Steamweedle bruisers (Neutral ground where the NPCs attack the attackers) or there is the Shrine to the Fallen Warrior above Crossroads in the Barrens (contested but close to many horde centres and appropriately named).

Posted Apr 18, 2006 2:04:04 AM | link

Grax says:

One should realize that it is possible to find the video and the event amusing, whether because one is not considering all the implications, or because one appreciates the clash of approaches ("mourners vs gamers"), etc.

And while one finds the funeral-crash amusing, one can also realize (quite non-hypocritically) that one would not do the same thing that Serenity Now did, because one doesn't feel that one needs to be a huge asshole in order to avoid being labelled a pushover.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 2:36:26 AM | link

Jessica Mulligan says:

Endie said:
>kathygnome said:
>People like this guild are why PVP tends to be very unpopular in MMPORPGs.

That was the received wisdom between Trammel and 15 months ago. Take a look at the balance between pvp ruleset servers (substantial majority) and non-pvp servers on WoW and it turns out that we were all wrong.
---

We’re comparing apples and oranges here; UO was a far different game with a far different community culture.

That said: You have to make the distinction between consensual and non-consensual PvP. When anyone could be ganked (and generally was) simply by stepping outside the city guard boundary, UO’s player base grew stagnant and then started to churn out in a mere 12 months from launch. After that game system began to be altered starting in March of 1999 to make the ganking harder, along with some procedural and policy changes, the player base grew by over 50% in 9 months. With the introduction of the split worlds to clearly delineate consensual from non-consensual, the player base grew another 50% in a few months.

So, in effect, UO’s player base, stuck below 120,000 and slowly declining, doubled in 12-15 months to about 235,000, in no small part by making the boundaries between consensual and non-consensual PvP clear and meaningful. Players could make a choice, and they did, much to the good of EA’s coffers.

What Blizzard has done with WoW is the same concept, on a broader scale. In a sense, they’ve taken Mythic’s Realm vs. Realm concept for DAoC and moved it to the next level. I don’t see this as anything particularly new, just a quite well-done rendition of an already-established concept: Players will indulge in PvP under some circumstances, especially if they get to make the choice of when to indulge.

As for “all PvPers are griefers”: I don’t think anyone said that. It is well-known to anyone who has ever had to run a customer service group for an MMO, however, that there is a small subset of the PvP aficionados that PvPs simply to grief. Some people just have a need to be a complete and total asshole, especially when there are no real-world penalties. They sit at their monitors, pulling the wings off flies and giggling hysterically, while planning and executing their next griefing session. Those are the people that give PvP a bad public image, because they A) cause a significant portion of CS calls and B) cause other players to leave your game.

It doesn’t take many to do it, either. One griefer can easily drive out 5 to 10 other players in one two-hour session. Even if he just drives out on per session or two, it adds up fast. For a commercial game, that is a disaster.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 3:33:04 AM | link

Endie says:

Jessica said:

We’re comparing apples and oranges here; UO was a far different game with a far different community culture.

We are comparing the differing implementations of PvP. Both are MMOs with some degree of PvP. One may be an apple and the other an orange, but both are fruits.

In any case, that was a non-sequitor, and I'm not entirely sure that you were really talking about anything in my post. As far as comparisons go, I stick by what I said: that it is meaningful to say that the later of the two disproved generalisations about PvP that people had built up following the Trammel incident.

As for “all PvPers are griefers”: I don’t think anyone said that.

I agree. Not sure about the use of quote marks. I certainly didn't. Again, was thus a reference to another post?

----

As regards Aaron and duckilama, this is just a description about the ability to empathise. I can't help agree with Aaron, to a large extent. Whatever my doubts about the bona fides of the original story (did someone really die?) the fact is that, as Aaron's (pretty representative, having followed this one for a wek or so) quotes showed, SN acted on the basis that it was, and that they thought people mourning for a friend that they never met in person was sad, geeky dorky or something similar.

Maturity comes with being able to say "that's kinda lame, but hey, they might think bits of my life that matter to me are lame, so I'll not be a complete d!ck". Nobody, I think, is accusing SN of maturity. Saying that their behaviour was "nuanced" is a laugh, though. Nice one, Nate. I actually fell for it for a bit. You should have rolled with that one a bit and said that you valorise them for their attitude towards received behavioural norms, and that you view criticisms of them on "moral" grounds as based on problematic binary oppositions. And remember to finish with some sort of terribly clever question that is also a link...

Posted Apr 18, 2006 4:43:36 AM | link

Michael Chui says:

There was nothing wrong with the funeral organizers attempting to organize this event in memory of their guild-mate. Even on a PVP server, it was a perfectly reasonable, even laudable, response to the loss of a friend.

Indeed, it was. They should have posted guards; people who weren't close enough to the deceased to care about attending, but close enough to the guild to care about defending it.

Try holding a public funeral in Iraq right now. The first thing that will happen is, if you're not prevented from entering, or bundled out upon success, is there will be a line of military personnel guarding the site from incursions.

The point is that the funeral organizers were either stupid, naive, or arrogant, as an above poster said, and that cost them. This isn't to say what Serenity Now did was sanctionable -- people blowing cars up isn't sanctionable, by us -- but it's utter foolishness to expect that they won't just because you're being noble.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 4:49:07 AM | link

Nate says:

Endie>

Saying that their behaviour was "nuanced" is a laugh, though. Nice one, Nate. I actually fell for it for a bit. You should have rolled with that one a bit and said that you valorise them for their attitude towards received behavioural norms, and that you view criticisms of them on "moral" grounds as based on problematic binary oppositions. And remember to finish with some sort of terribly clever question that is also a link...

------

heh, Endie - you said it so well... Actually, however, I wasn't suggesting SN's behavior was 'nuanced'. Quite the contrary.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 7:00:31 AM | link

Mike Sellers says:

It is well-known to anyone who has ever had to run a customer service group for an MMO, however, that there is a small subset of the PvP aficionados that PvPs simply to grief. Some people just have a need to be a complete and total asshole, especially when there are no real-world penalties. They sit at their monitors, pulling the wings off flies and giggling hysterically, while planning and executing their next griefing session. Those are the people that give PvP a bad public image, because they A) cause a significant portion of CS calls and B) cause other players to leave your game.

Indeed, this is such a constant that I coined it as Hanke's Law ten years ago, from a comment from M59's producer at the time: "In every aggregation of people online, there is an irreducible proportion of ... jerks (he used a different word :-)"

It's as true today as it was then.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 8:26:55 AM | link

Endie says:

Endie said:

>> Saying that their behaviour was "nuanced" is a laugh, though

Nate said
>> Actually, however, I wasn't suggesting SN's behavior was 'nuanced'. Quite the contrary.

Endie realised Nate actually said:
>> ...but were it more nuanced...

Oops, my apology. Still, I had the fun of playing at valorisation games.

Endie

Posted Apr 18, 2006 9:22:22 AM | link

duckilama says:

[i]The point is that the funeral organizers were either stupid, naive, or arrogant, as an above poster said, and that cost them. This isn't to say what Serenity Now did was sanctionable -- people blowing cars up isn't sanctionable, by us -- but it's utter foolishness to expect that they won't just because you're being noble.

Posted by: Michael Chui | Apr 18, 2006 3:49:07 AM[/i]

Thanks Michael, you said and illustrated it much better than I did. SN acted well within the bounds of the virtual world's rules/laws/norms, and while I can empathize with people feeling grief about losing a (I hesitate to label it this way) virtual friend, the organizers made mistakes that make it hard to agree with them.

It's been said that this is a virtual _world_, not just a game, and that there are people, real people there. To criticize one group for playing the "bad" guys while commending another group for being the "stupid" guys just doesn't add up.

If, at any point, the anti-SNers were to say "I hate SN for doing this, but why didn't someone post guards? Why wasn't the funeral held in a non-contested zone? Why did the mourners telegraph our plans to the enemy?" I'd be happy to say "Yep, _some_ of the SNers are total gits and could probably use a whippin'," but it's as though the people that are demonizing SN are blind to the naivete/stupidity of the funeral organizers.

Seriously, if you are going to deride SN's actions for not taking into account the implications of participating in a virtual world-space with avatars led by real people, can you not see that the funeral organizers and mourners are guilty of precisely the same?

Posted Apr 18, 2006 11:04:16 AM | link

Chas York says:

duckilama: Seriously, if you are going to deride SN's actions for not taking into account the implications of participating in a virtual world-space with avatars led by real people, can you not see that the funeral organizers and mourners are guilty of precisely the same?

Perhaps, but on one side we have people who are being callous to the thought that others have feelings, or (at worst) people intentionally going out of their way to hurt those feeling. On the other side, we have people who may have been naieve... or too idealistic in their view of humanity.

I'd be a more harsh judge against the person with malice in his heart than the one acting in goodwill. (myself: I tend to prepare for the worst from humanity, but hope for the best)

---
A person is walking through a poorly-lit portion of central park alone. At night. He's mugged.

Should he have been walking through central park at night alone? No. Does that make the mugger any less culpable? No. Did it make the mugger's job easier? Sure. Was it preventable? Sure. Was it still the decision of the mugger to take malicious action? Absolutely.

The same person, wearing black, at night, in the rain, darts across the street, far away from a crosswalk or street lighting. He's hit by a car. Neither the driver nor the walker had intended harm, but the pedestrian took unnecessary risks that significantly reduced the driver's ability to anticipate, detect, and prevent an incident. (To the lawyers out there: yes, it could still be argued that the driver should never drive faster than he can detect and respond to events that happen within his stopping distance. The driver may not TOTALLY be guilt-free.)

I'd be less likely to condemn a player who ENCOUNTERED a mass of enemies, unaware of the intent of the assembly, and interfered with it. Without a perimeter guard there to inform and protect, this could have easily happened, and the blame would have been largely on the event organizers.

This was not a traffic accident, though. This was a mugging.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 12:34:01 PM | link

duckilama says:

Chas>A person is walking through a poorly-lit portion of central park alone. At night. He's mugged.

If you change this to a wartime situation, as exists in WoW, with one person on one side and the other on another, you'll get much closer to the situation in the funeral.

The factions are constantly at war with each other. They are not a team, they are opponents, they are supposed to kill each other. That's the setting of World of WARcraft. If one faction wants a cease-fire, they need to talk to the leader of the other faction(s), simply announcing an event and hoping for the best doesn't cut it, particularly in a game set in a world torn by war.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 1:17:18 PM | link

says:

To add to my wartime mention above. During a war, would any group of soldiers be allowed to hold a funeral _between_ the front lines of the two factions? Without guards?

Posted Apr 18, 2006 1:19:46 PM | link

Chas York says:

duckilama:Chas>A person is walking through a poorly-lit portion of central park alone. At night. He's mugged.

If you change this to a wartime situation, as exists in WoW, with one person on one side and the other on another, you'll get much closer to the situation in the funeral.

You, my friend, mustn't travel to central park much :P

duckilama:During a war, would any group of soldiers be allowed to hold a funeral _between_ the front lines of the two factions? Without guards?

Historically: look no further than WWI, christmas

Records also suggest similar "truce" moments to collect the dead from a battlefield and tend the wounded. War wasn't always the absolutist "total war" attitude we characterize it as today- and you'd think that "high fantasy" warfare would be more akin to such methods than the modern equivalent.

Yes, there is brutality- and savagery- and all sorts of atrocities in war. There is also an effort to retain humaninty, honor, and respect for one's foes- not just in the officer's corps either- many "enlisted ranks" (or their historical equivalent) could relate better to their foe than their own leadership. There was often hate and anger at the foe for losing a comrade, but also a common thread that allowed moments of civility.

Some of these we've codified in what we've come to call "the geneva convention" but they were practice long
before they were formalized and could be reasonably be expected to have formed in the harsh realities of WARcraft.

There is no honor in war, but there can be honor in how one faces it.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 2:11:35 PM | link

Warren Grant says:

How bout this as an incentive NOT to PvP:

Whoever attacks another character runs the risk of permanent death if they fail. Their victim runs no such risk. So go ahead and grief the lowbies but if you started it, and someone else steps in to help the lowbie out and finish it - your character and all their equipment is *gone*. Now, thats hardcore :)

Personally, I fall into the "I like PvP, but can't stand PvPers" camp myself. I have met very few PvP players who I didn't consider to be an asshole judging by their conduct. The typical combatant I met in DAOC was such an Ass, emoting sitting on victim's faces (often ones they didn't kill), making rude gestures and no doubt trash talking the dead in their own language. No sense of fair play, no sense of honor, and no consequences for their actions.

Put some possibility of a severe loss into griefing and it will be a whole different ballgame :)

Posted Apr 18, 2006 2:13:06 PM | link

Chas York says:

Warren Grant: How bout this as an incentive NOT to PvP...

Heh... I like it.

I've been thinking about a form of "de-leveling" to account for the level-disparity (level 60 ganking level 30's). Similar to "exemplaring" in City of heroes (where a friend can temporarily de-level to team with a friend)- except, this time, it's about insuring a more level battlefield.

Initial thoughts:
1)This only happens when you initiate combat.
2)You aren't de-leveled entirely down, but within 1-2 levels of a solo foe. Something that gives the foe a reasonable chance at victory, without giving everything away. (Or, you're at the same level, but your improved loot gives the edge)
2) If you're attacked by more than one foe, you "gain back" some levels and fight at that tier.
3) At any time, you can "break" the de-leveling and fight at your prime, but it becomes a dishonorable kill- with real consequences.
(note: vast differences in level-based loot might need addressed, similar to EQ2's mentoring effort.)

On one side, this would help me find PvP foes- as I no longer HAVE TO find a foe within an acceptable level range. On the other side, it severely limits the value of leveling, preparation, and investment in PvP...

Would be a nightmare to balance out the leveling ratios...

Posted Apr 18, 2006 2:59:14 PM | link

Caradhras says:

Chas York: Historically: look no further than WWI, christmas

Records also suggest similar "truce" moments to collect the dead from a battlefield and tend the wounded. War wasn't always the absolutist "total war" attitude we characterize it as today- and you'd think that "high fantasy" warfare would be more akin to such methods than the modern equivalent.

The difference is that a "truce" is consensual and two-sided. The memorial party unilaterally pronounced that nobody should attack them. Unfortunately for them, not everybody abided by their declaration.


Chas York: Yes, there is brutality- and savagery- and all sorts of atrocities in war. There is also an effort to retain humaninty, honor, and respect for one's foes- not just in the officer's corps either- many "enlisted ranks" (or their historical equivalent) could relate better to their foe than their own leadership. There was often hate and anger at the foe for losing a comrade, but also a common thread that allowed moments of civility.

Which is why I agree with the comments further above -- that a sanitized PvP environment where "dying" is essentially meaningless helps dehumanize one's foe even more. You don't need a truce in a game where dying doesn't matter.

Although I feel uncomfortable whole-heartedly defending the memorial crashers, it certainly sounds like the game design of WoW unintentionally encouraged their actions. If "killing someone" is basically meaningless, it's harder to grasp that people might feel differently about "killing someone at an in-game memorial".


All these real-life comparisons with mugging, murder, rape etc. are missing the point... nowhere in real life is there an area where you explicitly go to kill people for fun, and where dying yourself carries virtually no consequences. This is a case of someone deliberately holding their event not just in a dangerous place, but in a place that explicitly encourages people to disrupt their event, and then being outraged when exactly that happens.

Yes these people are real human beings with real feelings. Yes the event had "real life" meaning. But every single decision made about the event -- to hold it in-game, to hold it in-character, to hold it in an area that explicitly encourages combat -- removed it one step further from "real life" and brought it one step closer to "in-game event." At some point it starts to sound silly to say "Yes we held it in-game, yes we held it in-character, yes we held it in a war zone, no we didn't try to guard it against attack, BUT IT WAS A REAL FUNERAL DARNIT."

The organizers of the event had any number of alternatives that would have made it impossible for their event to be griefed in that way, but instead they took every possible pain to ensure it could be attacked. At some point a reasonable person is going to conclude that actions weigh more heavily than words. "Well I know they said not to attack, but they are doing everything in their power to encourage me. If they really didn't want to be griefed they wouldn't have held their event at that location... sounds like fair game to me."

Posted Apr 18, 2006 7:18:21 PM | link

Michael W. says:

If they really didn't want to be griefed they wouldn't have held their event at that location.

I'd just like to note that I edited out, after previewing it, my ridiculously inflammatory response to that line of thought. That said...

I find the actions of the aggressors to be unambiguously childish and inane. So they held it in a war zone. So they held it in-game. So they held it in-character. How many other options did they have? What if the person who had access to the account - a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend - didn't know how to pilot the deceased's toon back to their own territory? How many serious roleplaying games do most people play where real life never enters into it, even if it's considered an intrusion, anyway?

Sandboxes are a favorite metaphor in this thread, so I'll use that: if one's kid wanted to build a castle in a corner of a sandbox at a public park, and just mind her/his own business while doing so, and another kid came over and kicked over the castle and laughed at one's kid as they did so, how interested would anyone be in their explanation that it's a public sandbox and if the kid didn't want their castle knocked over then maybe they should have stayed home?

I play Alliance (mostly) on PvE realms. I have PvPed, outside of Battlegrounds, in very specific circumstances (someone was griefing a guildie whose flag was up but who was otherwise just grinding mobs, so I rolled my main in and showed them how much fun it wasn't). If someone in my guild had done this, I would have far more questions for them - what were they thinking, have they absolutely zero respect for other human beings, have they no sense of how important it is to try for some sense of closure after a loss, have they no sense that behind our toons we are real people - than I would for anyone I found conducting a funeral in-game for a character's player. I like to think that if I had just wandered across that funeral I would have taken a few moments - unstealthed, maybe even unarmed - to show my respects.

And yet, despite all my high talk, even I had to put a "maybe" in to qualify that I'd even be unarmed.

Hmph.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 9:06:10 PM | link

Chas says:

Caradhras: The difference is that a "truce" is consensual and two-sided. The memorial party unilaterally pronounced that nobody should attack them.

Except the "truce" never WAS negotiated or formalized. When one side heard the other singing "silent night" they could have used the noise to sneak up and kill them. Instead, they sang the same song in their own language.

When sides met in the no-man's land to pick up the bodies, anyone could have manned a machine gun nest and opened fire. There were no orders *not to.*

When they exchanged rations and mingled, someone could have poisoned a few cans... just some dysentery to make the next fight a little.. uncomfortable... No accounts of that.

There was no formal truce. Both sides recognized the gravity- the need- for the moment, and respectected it. At all levels.

It really is an amazing thing- it could have been ruined by one person, with one hostile action, at any point along the front. It didn't.

Unfortunately for them, not everybody abided by their declaration.

Yes, unfortunately, for them- the other side didn't display the same strength of spirit- but I think that's what all the clamor is about.

---

I do agree though- the "meaningless" death in the game possibly DID lead these people to be more callous in their application of it.

...nowhere in real life is there an area where you explicitly go to kill people for fun...

Is that all WoW is? I'd assumed there were many other forms of fun in the game, and being in a PvP server doesn't negate all of those, does it?

And, as I recall, there were members of both sides in that line saying their farewells. Not all of them were ambushers. Seems other people DID see value in respecting the moment.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 9:06:12 PM | link

Tim says:

Andrew ->

About level 60s having grays tag along -- that is my bad, I should have mentioned it is in a match-up between two groups of level 60s. Having grays not initiating combat in the fray removes options on both sides.

The more arbitrary rules you add to PvP to protect the weak, the more contrived it becomes.

No more comments from me on this because it is a tangent to the main discussion, which is a fascinating one.

And on that note:

It is a virtual environment, subject to its own laws. You cannot expect the rest of the world to stop functioning so you can have your private event. Even if it was held in a friendly town, it could be ruined (in the past a low-level wedding in Stormwind was rudely interrupted by an alliance warlock who brought in an infernal and let it loose). It could simply be someone same faction at the funeral emoting laughter throughout.

It is the anonymity of the virtual world that makes such behavior easy. The same kid that thinks it would be funny to emote laughter throughout a virtual funeral would probably never dare to do it at a real life one.

Posted Apr 18, 2006 9:47:10 PM | link

Nate says:


All these real-life comparisons with mugging, murder, rape etc.
...
a war zone
...
nowhere in real life is there an area where you explicitly go to kill people for fun, and where dying yourself carries virtually no consequences.

I am reminded of Julian's famous words reflecting the infamous Mr Bungle:


But it was also having some unsettling effects on the way I looked at the
rest of the world. Sometimes, for instance, it was hard for me to
understand why RL society classifies RL rape alongside crimes against
person or property. Since rape can occur without any physical pain or
damage, I found myself reasoning, then it must be classed as a crime
against the mind - more intimately and deeply hurtful, to be sure, than
cross burnings, wolf whistles, and virtual rape, but undeniably located on
the same conceptual continuum. I did not, however, conclude as a result
that rapists were protected in any fashion by the First Amendment. Quite
the opposite, in fact: the more seriously I took the notion of virtual
rape, the less seriously I was able to take the notion of freedom of speech,
with its tidy division of the world into the symbolic and the real.

Let me assure you, though, that I am not presenting these thoughts as
arguments. I offer them, rather, as a picture of the sort of mind-set
that deep immersion in a virtual world has inspired in me.

Now. While I admit I take some issue with trying to explain the events of this thread in terms of the RL analogies used so far - I feel it to be at least an exaggeration and perhaps a debasement of the RL reference...

Yet too, there I've been, more freely comfortable with Julian's feelings before.

Is WoW really just a game and does that give us the necessary protective force-field/fig-leaf?

Sure I think so, and from the posts above, so do many. But it is as true, not everyone is there. So how does one go around reconciling these different viewpoints in a shared place? A number of you are opting for the "social engineering" take - e.g. incentivize the right behavior. Others have mentioned the need for rules. Yet others have suggested (if I got it right) that perhaps there should be mechanisms to allow different types and viewpoints to deconflict and separate in the shared world (ala more space).

Others?

Posted Apr 18, 2006 10:52:26 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

The sandbox analogy always amuses me. If we're talking about sandboxes... are we the parents? Anyways...

I don't see this situation as a "My kid wanted to play by himself quietly in a public sandbox, and a bully whupped him." This is a, "My kid has been playing in a public sandbox where bad behavior, rule-breaking, foul language, immaturity and downright law-breaking are, if not the norm, then certainly not overly discouraged or prevented. One time, he tried to insist on having some quiet time in said sandbox. Whoops! Didn't happen. He got a big face-full of the same ol' same ol'."

I am having less and less sympathy for players of MMOs who, on the one hand, want to engage in TYPE A bad behavior, but don't want others to engage in TYPE B bad behavior. Whatever those two types might be. Griefing is OK, but RMT is not. Out of character chat on an RP server is OK... as long as you don't mention gender or sex issues. Out-of-game IM/voice-chat is OK, but paid-for leveling services aren't, but twinking is, but power guilds aren't, but... but... but...

In the 9 months that I played WoW pretty heavily on an RP server, I found only a handful of players willing to play at what I'd consider even a "polite" roleplaying level. OK. So I stopped worrying that bone. If I want hardcore roleplaying, I go back to pen-and-paper or text based stuff. WoW is more MMO and less RP. But the casual disregard for even a modicum of "Yes, this is RP," was, at times... frighteningly stoopid. These were kids in funny costumes, not people trying in any way whatsoever to stay in character. OK. So they have two other classes of servers for that. If you want to call me, "Dude," all the time and talk about Conan O'Brien on the general chat channel... why are you playing on an RP server? What's the point?

I bring this up, because it addresses a theme I keep coming back to: goals. In games, of course, "goal" means "what you do to score a point." Well, that's kinda true in both senses of the word. What are your goals when playing an MMO? If your measurement of success is making friends, you'll have a much different scorecard than if your goal is to piss people off, power level or just... discover stuff. And when you have multiple types of people playing the same game with different goals... and when people's goals change depending on who's looking...

As long as you're having fun, it's OK. Right? This isn't real life. Right? The mourners weren't deprived of any right that they had a reasonable expectation of, right? They just didn't get to score a "goal" the way they wanted.

Right?

Posted Apr 19, 2006 1:21:43 AM | link

Aaron Delwiche says:

Andy,

You suggest that the mourners were deprived of the ability to score a "goal" the way they wanted. After reading your message multiple times, I'm not sure if that statement was intended ironically. I'll treat it as sincere, while acknowledging that I may have missed your point.

The mourners were not trying to score a goal in a competitive sense. They were trying to make use of this semi-public space to commemorate the loss of a real-world friend. It wasn't about Horde-Alliance competition at all.

In your description of the event, you wrote: "My kid has been playing in a public sandbox where bad behavior, rule-breaking, foul language, immaturity and downright law-breaking are, if not the norm, then certainly not overly discouraged or prevented. One time, he tried to insist on having some quiet time in said sandbox. Whoops! Didn't happen."

I see it differently: "My daughter and her friends have been playing in a public sandbox where bad behavior, rule-breaking, foul language, immaturity and downright law-breaking are, if not the norm, then certainly not overly discouraged or prevented. She and her friends have had a good time doing this for the past eighteen months."

"A few weeks ago, one of her dearest pals in this playground dropped dead quite unexpectedly. My daughter and her friends posted flyers around the playground and in the halls of the school. They announced that they would like to hold a funeral for their dear friend. They chose the playground as the location for the funeral because they had shared so many meaningful times in that space. Each of these flyers contained a heartfelt personal message. Some kids reminisced about mutual experiences on the playground. Others mentioned times when their friend had helped them work through a difficult situation on the homefront. Still others expressed sadness about unresolved issues that they had never had a chance to work out with their friend."

"Everyone agreed that they had been playing a fun game in this lawless space. They also assumed that the significance of this real-world death transcended the game's rules and combat conventions."

"On the appointed day, my daughter and her friends gathered in the sandbox with candles, photographs, and personal memories. They wanted to honor the memory of the thinking, speaking, laughing, crying human being who had made a difference in their lives. One by one, they filed up to a microphone to talk about their dead friend."

"At this point, a group of kids from Serenity Now wandered up. They told my daughter and her friends that they were 'retarded' for feeling any sort of personal connection to the deceased. They mocked them for taking this event seriously. And then, they pelted them with rocks and broken glass. Of course, nobody was killed. Everyone respawned in the safety of the cafeteria. Nevertheless, the funeral service was ruined."

"When my daughter and her friends had the temerity to suggest that this was inappropriate behavior, other kids on the playground sided with the bullies. 'It was foolish of you to have held the service on this dangerous playground,' they said. 'Why didn't you get sixth graders to stand guard on the perimeter of the service?' 'Really, this is your fault, for inviting this aggression upon yourselves. You should have been more responsible.' 'Stop complaining, LOL. This is only a game.'"

Ultimately, Serenity Now -- and their defenders -- fall back on two arguments: (1) "It was OK for us to do this because there was no rule against it." and (2) We had different goals than the people who organized the funeral service.

Both of these justifications are premised on a refusal to respect the authentic feelings of loss and sadness that motivated the funeral in the first place.

Aaron

p.s. It is odd that none of the funeral participants have chimed up in this dicussion. Is this all just a hoax?

Posted Apr 19, 2006 2:20:38 AM | link

WoW player says:

Oh, good grief. It's a pvp server, you should expect it to happen. If you read blizzard's policy, they tell you they have little or no control over this type of bs, or whatever you want to call it, because it's a PvP server(THEY WARN YOU..)

They know they will get the worst people on this type of server. The other guild is also partially at fault for posting the funeral on the forums, and doing it in contested territory. Not the best place to hold a funeral when your pvp flag is always up.

Why go on a PvP server? TO KILL and Have fun. ..have fun killing helpess people who just stand around...that's what contested fields are for.

Posted Apr 19, 2006 3:10:42 AM | link

Grax says:

"p.s. It is odd that none of the funeral participants have chimed up in this dicussion. Is this all just a hoax?"

For the purposes of this discussion, it does not matter whether this particular event was a hoax. This type of griefing happens pretty regularly in MMOGs, and it will continue to happen.

Posted Apr 19, 2006 7:30:43 AM | link

Chas York says:

Nate: ...A number of you are opting for the "social engineering" take - e.g. incentivize the right behavior. Others have mentioned the need for rules. Yet others have suggested (if I got it right) that perhaps there should be mechanisms to allow different types and viewpoints to deconflict and separate in the shared world (ala more space).

Over the course of time, I suspect I've advocated all- including a "take no approach." Oftentimes, it seems that developers set up the environment let people go out and do what they may, arguing that "emerging structures" will define the social landscape.

This, to me, is a cop-out. It's an escape from responsibility. Perhaps its because the most basic emergent structure we see- a form of tribalism so similar to the "in cliques" from school left such a bad memory. Perhaps we're afraid of seeing ourselves as thought police.

In reality, by defining the environment that the society forms in, we ARE defining much of what will "emerge." The mechanisms for punishment and reward, for team play and solo, the way ownership is coded (posession is 10/10 of the law) and the way players can alter the landscape- all of these guide the emergent social structure.

We often claim to be designing a "sandbox" where anything can emerge, but are we? When we build an environment that allows "anything" but doesn't have the reward for "social behavior" that often involves some sacrifice on the player's part, should we at all be suprised when our emergent structures seem so antisocial?

So, I do believe that we need to develop with *some* social engineering in mind. If we would prefer seeing a particular pattern in the emergent social structure, we should insure that -at the least- the structure is on equal footing with other, more easily-built, formats.

I also believe that we need to look at giving player communities more enabling tools- tools that define themselves, define their goals and their intentions, and give them a way to manage their involvement with others that would rather follow other goals.

Here, we talk about PvP as if it were just one "preference" when in reality, PvP is broad enough to encompass MANY goals.

--------------
A non-wow example:

In SWG (pre-cu), some players LOVED the idea that good logistics, planning, teamwork, and (alot of) time could give a team such an edge over anyone else as to be undefeatable (for those that forget, 90% resist armor vs the more commonplace 40% resist, often a doubling of damage on weapons, buffs that exceeded anyone else's, sharing accounts to insure the best templates meshed in the best-formed teams, etc). I recall seeing five (maxed level) take out twenty (maxed level) with barely a scratch... over and over and over.

They weren't griefers, their intent wasn't to grief, but let me tell you, they ruined the fun of many of the casual players that COULDN'T invest that time & effort to compete at that level, or would have preferred a more broad definition of play.

Often, the casual players WANTED TO compete with other casual players, but these guys would come along and dominate the battlefield. The players would move to another location for their competition, and the others would follow.

(Similarly, the time-intensive players often valued "control the battlefield" by poisining/diseasing characters to the point that the heals/mind-healing would force them out of fighting for 15-20 minutes. The "casual players" often just wanted SOME ACTION in their short time available online, and resented having to spend all their time getting healed)

Many of them were honestly SHOCKED when players on their own side would ask them to leave- why didn't everyone appreciate the skill it took to orgainize all that? Template building took ALOT of time and effort. Many of them resented accusations of 'ruining' PvP, cheating, and generally being asses. Some started to realize that their victories were hollow, while others adapted by learning to "revel" in the hate.

There was no way for the players with "casual" values (minor leaguers) to organize, agree on the "rules" that define them, and primarily compete against themselves. And there was no way for the "major leaguers" to find and compete with others that share their values.

Alternatively, the developers could have given a more guiding hand to encourage the play values that they wanted. Had they not allowed such a substantial difference to exist, the groups may not have broken along those lines. Had the resources for the better stuff been more available, it might have trickled down to the casual players enough to let them feel empowered.

(Me? I was a template-analyzing planner and believer in battlefield control that was nevertheless trapped into "casual play" by RL obligations. If I had the time, I would have RULED THEM ALL.. he. he. he.. heh....)

Posted Apr 19, 2006 9:00:09 AM | link

Maxis of Grinenshire says:

And yet again we have a clear example of humans committing inhumane acts in order to achieve something of minor value to the society. This case is indeed a madman’s work, but by far, it is not the first and, sadly, not the last time we see such behaviour. I do not think that we need to focus purely on the idea of PVP and gaming in this discussion, for it leads us down the wrong path, more important is what we learn about the people from it.

In order to explain my point better, I’ll add a real, non-fictive example of such behaviour. Some of you might have heard of it already. About five years ago, in Britain, the Animal Right Protectors have had a strike at the main gates of a mice-breeding facility. They fought for an idea, which in the eyes of masses if often seen as popular. "Animals should be treated in a better way" was the slogan. However, for every noble thing, there’s a disgraceful way of fulfilling it.

Two weeks later, the grave of the mother to the owner of the farm was desecrated. Her bones were stolen and, to my knowledge, never found. This is not what a moral person would do in order to achieve their goal. Nevertheless, they did it. Soon, the owner closed the farm, ironically enough, resulting in the death of all the mice.

It is clear, that the intentions of the Animal Right Protectors were understandable, how they’ve come to the idea of committing an act of this disgrace, isn’t. Fanatism? Possibly. Stupidity and lack of basic moral principles of the participants? Also a possible answer.

If we now regard the case with the attack on the memorial, there is little difference. We can be fairly sure that we are not dealing with fanatism here, however we cannot exclude the later theory. We also need to regard the fact that WOW, despite being a good game, is not something requiring grand intellectual powers. The game could be well played by anyone. If that guild did consists of younger teenagers, not understanding what they are doing, or mentally weak people, thinking it was a funny joke, or even some other minorities, who hated the player so much that they would destroy anything he has ever achieved without a question, is it really that surprising that such even took place? We can be certain that no person in a clear state of mind would ever go into OOC desecration in order to achieve IC aims, such as strengthening his guild. Possibly he wasn’t and a couple of others weren’t normal. The rest just followed. Look at our history and you’ll see that it is not the first time that the masses follow the one without thinking of the consequences. Think about the 3rd Reich.

More important is that these people still do not understand how their act was wrong. As an example, I’ll insert two links to Video Google. One is the original video, the other an interpretation from the attackers point of view. I think the font is enough to understand what’s coming next.

The Original: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7667194685876573666&q=world+of+warcraft+funeral&pl=true

Too original: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=192413559503765132&q=world+of+warcraft+funeral&pl=true

- MoG

Posted Apr 19, 2006 5:18:20 PM | link

Michael W. says:

This isn't real life. Right?

Ah, but it all arose out of a real death, didn't it? I think that changes the scenario quite a bit.

Oh, good grief. It's a pvp server, you should expect it to happen.

(and)

Why go on a PvP server? TO KILL and Have fun.

These, mon ami, are cop-out arguments.

Let me say it again: they are f'ing cop-outs.

See, the whole "it's just a game, they were just having some fun, you can do whatever you want and it doesn't matter" response is based on the idea that nothing matters because everyone in the game is equally free to do what they want, to pursue their own goals. In making this point, such arguments invariably imply that if there is any wrong that's been done it must surely be on the part of the mourners for having complained, and that the aggressors' freedoms are somehow restricted by such complaints. This, however, relies on a belief that the actions of the mourners and the actions of the aggressors were somehow equivalent, and they weren't. One party had a goal it was pursuing; the other party's goal was to impede the first party's goal by any means necessary. That is neither equivalent nor an accurate characterization of war. It's simply being a bully.

I was, as a side note, on Lambda back in the days of MrBungle. He was a messed up college kid with too much time on his hands. I have no idea what's become of him now - I fell out of touch with him due to unrelated circumstances - but at the time I remember wondering if he had yet to figure out that the world, and the people in it, extended beyond the range of his five senses at any given moment. I think the same is probably true of at least some of the people of Serenity Now. I mourn the day they lose someone they love, or someone in their guild steps out in front of a bus, or whatever. Their actions now mean their pain will likely be compounded in future when they realize both what loss is and how they must have made the others feel at the time.

Posted Apr 19, 2006 8:27:48 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Aaron -- my use of the term "goal" was intended ironically. But the idea that they were trying to accomplish something is certainly true. They had "a goal;" to hold a funeral service. It just seems to me that many types of players have many conflicting goals. As was pointed out to me in a recent discussion on RMT, if conflicting goals can't be reasonably arbitrated by the "powers that be," then players should not expect anything other than "the minimum" in these unregulated spaces.

If the sandbox in your version of the analogy above was used, time and time again, for gang fights, and illegal activites, cheating, etc. etc. -- all kinds of bad behavior that (I will jump out on a limb here and make an assumption) some of the mourners took part in... why should they assume that their "will to change goals" should prevail?

Is it sad? Yes. Is it "wrong?" Yes. Is it stupid, juvenille and does it make the VW a less interesting, adult and fundamentally sounds "place?" Yes, yes, yes.

OK. So? I agree with you. What was your point? That a-holes are a-holes? That given enough rope, some people will hang a baby kitten? That bad behavior is... er... bad? I agree on all counts.

But these spaces are "The Wild Virtual West" at this point, it seems to me. That's one of the main reasons I got out of WoW. I couldn't play for 30 minutes at a stretch most nights before running into some group who wanted to "game the game" somehow. Who wanted to "play" in a way that was fundamentally different than what I signed up for; an online RPG.

The circus smells like elephant poop and corn dogs. Live with it or find another venue. I'm tired of arguing. I've been convinced that it's not worth my time to "rage against the server."

Posted Apr 19, 2006 10:37:49 PM | link

Aaron Delwiche says:

Andy -- My point is that the mourners were deprived of a right to which they had a reasonable expectation.

I'm not raging against the server, nor am I raging against you. I have serious problems with people who fail to take responsibility for their actions by saying "the server allowed me to do it."

Bullying is not inevitable, even on a PVP server. "Giving up" and "moving on" are not the only options. "Speaking up" is a third course of action, though it seems to have sparked a firestorm of controversy among many WoW players.

I guess we both agree that this has been a truly exhausting discussion.

Posted Apr 20, 2006 12:25:48 AM | link

Maxis of Grinenshire says:

A notice from Blizzard on the matter would be interesting. It is clear that we aren't getting one, but they could have placed they image in good lights using this disgraceful story in a combination with press. I am thinking more in lines of an administrative notification appearing on all servers after the log-in, stating that the provider is disgraced with the performance of the raiding guild.

Clearly, this notice will never appear. It's a pity though to see Blizzard missing a good marketing opportunity and actually supporting their customers-in-need.

- MoG

Posted Apr 20, 2006 7:12:58 AM | link

Kirk Cole says:

I highly doubt Blizzard would acknowledge this event nor am i convinced that it makes sense at all.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 7:09:08 AM | link

Jackson Reeves says:

As an organiser and cameraman of this even, I must say that it is just a game. You are being ridiculous on both sides of the argument. This discussion is like internet porn. It's not real, but you make it real and exciting enough that you can rub your brains to climax.

Well, if you aren't chaffed yet, and are curious to know a bit more about this video, take a look here: http://www.filecloud.com/files/file.php?user_file_id=123092 It's a high res version of the event with readable text. It also includes the two original posts that started the event...and some choice quotes taken directly after the event. Enjoy.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 12:34:38 PM | link

Pagy says:

Hello folks

I'm a member of Serentiy Now and was present during the pvp raid.

Over the last month and bit, people have really really really overanalyzed everyone's motives. I was linked to this thread and some remarks were sort of interesting, most were borderline silly.

Now i can only speak for myself, so i'd suggest that you people start holding individual participants accountable. I'll try to make a few responses concisely.

1) It's a PvP server. People have fun at others' expense daily... hourly even. It happens, you die and someone else has fun. That's why some people sign up for a PvP server, it's just a shame not all people do.

2) When we were originally made aware of the electronic funeral, a few of us were laughing at the ridiculous nature of the event. I still believe having a funeral inside a video game is inappropriate. I don't login to watch people celebrating things that happen outside the game. When you sign in, you sign an invisable consent contract to be part of that game's ruleset. You can't just call a timeout because something bad happened in real life. My grandfather died 2 days ago, does that mean i can announce to the community that in game my character will be mourning and others are then "jerks" for killing me? Of course not, because my personal life should not come into play, you login to play the game, not to throw cyber-funerals with your cartoon orcs and trolls.

3) Would i condone an act like this in real life? Of course not. I simply do not recognize a video game being a proper forums for a funeral, so instead of a funeral, i saw an opportunity to piss off a bunch of nerds that take the game much too seriously. If you can't separate actions inside a violent video game with actions in real life, or if you confuse motives behind violent acts with real life motivations and attitudes then i feel very sorry for you. i'm no more a jerk than anyone else who laughed at someone else raging out over events in a video game.

4) My inability to respect or honor this funeral is a matter of personal interpretation. Does it make me right? Of course not, but it certainly doesn't make me a villain by any stretch. in my mind i was doing nothing more than killing a bunch of digital trolls that were doing something that was against my stance of what is appropriate in the game, and in the end all we did was kill people on a pvp server. if they choose to bring personal baggage into a game, they certainly shouldnt expect everyone else to put their lives on hold while playing a game that is supposed to be about fun and entertainment.

5) There could have been many more appropriate ways to handle the death of a loved one that you knew online. E-mails, webcams, letters, flowers, sharing memories over telecomm software... not logging into your fantasy online undead mage.

In the end it's about how people interpret and handle video games. When you play with other people, you have to learn pretty quick that not everyone has the same interpretation of what is fun, fair and right. As such, you can either whine and cry about people not going out of the way to make the game fun for you, or you can enjoy a game for what it is... or better yet find one that you do enjoy.

Comments made on forums after the event are the opinions of those that posted them. I'm on a voice comm program our guild runs everyday and while i don't know any other member personally, i know enough of these people to know any comments were made to simply poke and prod people over the internet, and while some would question the maturity of "trolling" people online, saying "mean" things online isn't anything new, nor can you really judge someone's character over trivial remarks by strangers online... sticks and stones.

-Pagy, Serenity Now, Illidan

Posted Apr 21, 2006 1:15:33 PM | link

Pagy says:

"I am thinking more in lines of an administrative notification appearing on all servers after the log-in, stating that the provider is disgraced with the performance of the raiding guild.

Clearly, this notice will never appear. It's a pity though to see Blizzard missing a good marketing opportunity and actually supporting their customers-in-need."

I find this simply ridiculous and arbitrary. This wasnt the first time someone was killed in a game that was suffering a real life loss. Also there was nothing we did that counters Blizzard's user policies or server ruleset.

it's also naive to think that everyone that plays the game is some super-carebear who doesn't want pvp rules to be enforced on pvp servers. you can't randomly get upset at how people play your game within the rules you designed because a few people are upset about something that happened on a different server.

relax, this happened march 4th... nothing is going to happen.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 1:23:44 PM | link

Tundara says:

Wow.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 7:12:56 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Jackson: "This discussion is like internet porn. It's not real..."

How is internet porn "not real?" And how is WoW, the PvP event, this forum or this discussion, "not real?" Because they're not actual trolls killing actual elves at an actual funeral? Right. In that sense, sure. Not real. But it's real in the sense that people pay money for it, spend time doing it and care about it. It's as real as football and religion. If you don't think it's real, don't even bother commenting.


Pagy: "if they choose to bring personal baggage into a game, they certainly shouldnt expect everyone else to put their lives on hold while playing a game that is supposed to be about fun and entertainment."

In the video I watched, the Serenity Now folks went out-of-their way to organize and launch the attack. Now, within the bounds of "it doesn't violate the rules of the game, the EULA, and roleplaying..." I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But for you to say that their behavior required you to "put your lives on hold" is absurd. They may have put *their* lives on hold, but I don't see that "What they were doing offended me" is in any way an excuse for your behavior. Their event was non-intrusive and could have been ignored, eh? You heard about it. OK. You could have said, "That's innane. Stupid. Childish. Ridiculous. Dumb." Whatever. Fine. And then ignored them. Which is, frankly, the mature thing to do when someone else is playing a game (in a non-intrusive manner) in a way that's different than how you want to. If me and my friends are playing with dolls (over here), and you and your friends are playing with Legos (over there), and we're not stealing your Legos... let us play with dolls, OK?

Pagy: "I still believe having a funeral inside a video game is inappropriate." and, "When you play with other people, you have to learn pretty quick that not everyone has the same interpretation of what is fun, fair and right."

As soon as you decided, "They're doing something we think is stupid. Therefore, we will intrude," you assumed a level of responsibility for your action; either in-game or out of it. In game? Fine. It's, as you say, a PvP server. I'm a hardcore roleplaying freak. I believe you should roleplay to the max. But let me ask you this... if you think that an in-game funeral based on a real-word death is dumb, on what basis do you defend attacking a real-world-inspired event? You found out the plans for the event out-of-game, did you not? You didn't have an in-game spy that found out what was going on, report back and then gather the troops. You learned about it in "the real world," the same way that the mourners did. So, in essence, your raid was a real-world smack-down that took place in-game, on a real-world funeral, that took place in-game. If you want to chide the mourners for bringing baggage into the VW, get into that line your own bad self.

Again -- I'm not saying what you did was "wrong." Nor am I saying that holding an in-game, WoW funeral on a PvP server and expecting nobody to come in a-blazin' was particularly bright. But I do think what you did showed a high level of "I want to play my way, regardless of how you want to play."

Which is exactly what you're accusing the mourners of doing.

Which is exactly why you say you attacked them.

They happened to want to play in a way that you say is "inappropriate" in terms of "pure game" context. You wanted to play in a way that many (including me) say is "inappropraite" in terms of a "general sportsmanship" context. Your way happened to "win" in this case.

You proved that anybody who wants to engage in out-of-world behavior of any kind needs to be prepared for the worst kind of game-appropriate in-world behavior, regardless of the out-of-world motives.

That's a good lesson for the VW community to learn.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 9:17:18 PM | link

Nate says:


Andy>
...I do think what you did showed a high level of "I want to play my way, regardless of how you want to play."

Which is exactly what you're accusing the mourners of doing.

Strikes me as an excellent point.


Andy>
any kind needs to be prepared for the worst kind of game-appropriate in-world behavior...

That's a good lesson for the VW community to learn.

If I may be a little less pessimistic, I wonder if the larger lesson is related to your first point. As much as we want to think of these places are large homogeneous social spaces and communities, they are really a lot of little spaces/communities. We may idealize of a harmonious whole with a single vision of purpose, but perhaps the fact-of-the matter is that all politics is indeed local and the trick is just figuring out who to get everyone to be civil, while in disagreement. Perhaps too, these sorts of tensions among the subsets is not all bad. Perhaps that is where the creative forment and the interesting excursions take place.

Posted Apr 21, 2006 9:36:41 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Thanks, Nate:

Now... A complete aside, with a related point at the end.

I'm a member at www.Lit.org, a community of writers. Lots of levels of participants; everything from young kids up through old-timers; new writers, learners, and some really good ones, too. A few simple rules involving obscenity and "forbidden" topics. Posts are reviewed before going up on the site, etc. Beyond that... it's self-regulating. If you like it, you stay. Not, you leave.

Some people write as therapy and post their stuff in order to share the content of their souls. Some people write in order to share the ideas. Some write to improve their writing. For most, it's a combination of all three to some degree. Many people comment based on how they write, and it's fun and intriguing to see how various folks' comments overlap with their own "takes" on the process of writing.

I've just told you the "rules" of Lit.org. If you break them often enough -- if you post rude or inflamatory or obscene stuff -- you'll get banned. You can start a new account... but all your old stuff will be gone, and you'll need to start again in terms of meeting people, making friends, etc.

Now... awhile ago, a user who'd been posting and commenting -- very good, very cogent writing and comments -- was exposed as a fraud; i.e., the "real life" personna she had been "revealing" to many of the members in personal notes (IM) and email was, it turned out, a fake. There was some suggestion that this facade had been set up to endear the person to other members in order to establish relationships that went beyond writing, possibly into ones of a sexual or business nature.

Did this person "break the rules" of the site? Nope. Their posts and comments were great. All of them. Well written, smart, funny, often helpful and very supportive of young writers. I received quite a few myself, and enjoyed them all. I didn't engage in any off-site communications with this person... but I occasionally do so with other members, and I don't credit my own wisdom or foresight in having not done so in this case. It just didn't happen.

So... "in world" -- within the Virtual World of Lit.org -- this person broke no rules. In fact, they probably broke (to the best of my knowledge) no real life laws or any moral/ethical codes other than "don't lie." They did lie, though. Up one side and down the other. And upon leaving Lit.org, the revelation of these lies left a foul taste in the mouths of hundreds of other "players."

So... the in-game behavior was impeccable. The virtual game-play was spot-on. What level of real-world morality is owed to our virtual selves? What "personal baggage" as Pagy calls it, do we bring into these spaces?

What do I owe you online? The same as I owe you in person? More? Less? Only what the server demands? The law? The hosting entity?

Posted Apr 21, 2006 10:38:52 PM | link

Byzon says:

Amazing, over a month later and SN is still defending their actions on all fronts.

Anyway, here's a few facts that are slightly skewed here, as well as some other points.

- Serenity Now is not a "hardcore PVP guild" by any means (note: members of the actual hardcore PVP alliance guilds on the server showed up to pay respects)
- Maledicitons is not an RP guild by any means
- Just about all of Maledicitons stopped commenting on the event 3 days after it happened.

- Its discussions like these that are keeping this going, this is something that happened mainly between two guilds that escalated out of control due to one of those two guilds seeking e-fame posting their video all over the internet.

However, since Im already posting Im going to respond to a few of Pagy's comments here.

"I still believe having a funeral inside a video game is inappropriate. I don't login to watch people celebrating things that happen outside the game."

And you obviously had a choice and were in no way shape or form obligated to watch anything. So you cant really justify that comment.

"They certainly shouldnt expect everyone else to put their lives on hold while playing a game that is supposed to be about fun and entertainment."

We did not expect everyone to put their lives on hold, yet, funny that you made this comment, because you guys infact put what you were doing on hold (they were in the middle of another raid), to travel from one end of the world to the other, purposely to disrupt it.

"There could have been many more appropriate ways to handle the death of a loved one that you knew online. E-mails, webcams, letters, flowers, sharing memories over telecomm software... not logging into your fantasy online undead mage"

Tell me, how do we e-mail a dead person? how do we webcam them, how do we write to this person? we knew the girl that passed, not her family. One of the comments I loved when this all hit the fan was "You should have gone to the actual funeral if you cared so much" I didn't see SN volunteering to flip the bill to fly everyone to the actual funeral, we certainly couldnt afford to do it, even you did we probably would not have gone as stated above, did not know her RL, did not know her family, how weird would it have been for 20-40 random strangers to show up at a funeral? seriously. As someone else stated, we only knew her through this medium and she was a very nice person who went out of their way for the friendships they made. This was our way of paying our respects to a friend.

I'm sorry that you cant comprehend the concept of a friend, here's the definition:

Friend

A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

No where in here does it state that one must know another in RL to consider them a friend, there is no unspoken rule stating this either.

This is how we knew our friend, this was how we decided to pay our respects to her, in the way we knew her. I have made many friends and / or acquaintance all over the world playing this games, while I may not play with them anymore, I still talk to them over various forums, hell, it got me into the closed alpha test for this very game you apparently cherish so deeply and take alot of pride in with "accomplishments".

You can call me or anyone else a nerd all you like, but by your definition your no different, its the same game, as you said, sticks and stones, except you seem to be throwing them inadvertantly at yourself.

Byzon, Maledictions, Illidan

Posted Apr 21, 2006 11:46:44 PM | link

Byzon says:

"all over the world playing this games"

sorry, supposed to be "these games"

Posted Apr 21, 2006 11:48:54 PM | link

Pagy says:

Interesting that you would pick this as a medium to reply to us.

Most of your post is already covered, some parts are plain stupid... how do you e-mail a dead person? wow you kids really are this stupid.

i have nothing more to add, when you drag your personal baggage into the game, you have no right to demand people to stop playing their video game because of your rl drama. If you have trouble reading, i never said she wasn't a friend, i simply called you a bunch of freakish nerds for thinking acting out a funeral inside a video game was idiotic in my opinion, and yes i went out of my way to kill stupid people doing something stupid in a video game. i loved doing it, and seeing you cry here w/o being able to not read or understand what i said. it's a simple gray issue, some of us thought you were a bunch of idiots for dragging your rl drama inside the game and we decided to make a bunch of nerds rage out... cry more dude.

If you feel like continuing this, this site is not the proper medium and while we all know you noobs at maledictions are too timid or stupid to post with your characters on our other forums designed for this sort of squabble, then you simply aren't going to drag me any further into this.

Posted Apr 22, 2006 12:51:56 AM | link

Aaron Delwiche says:

Pagy,

If you choose to walk away from this thread, please don't use the justification that "this site is not the proper medium."

This discussion thread is a perfect forum for discussing different perspectives on the funeral incident. You, Byzon, and Jackson are the only people participating in this conversation who were actually present at the event.

I'm curious about the backstory on Serenity Now. Is it a large guild? You said that it is hardcore. Is it composed of mostly younger players? (Your guild's website seems to be down at the moment.)

If you feel like not being dragged into this thread, please encourage some of your guildmates to become involved in the discussion. Your guild has strong feelings about what it means to play on a PVP server. This is an opportunity to vent those feelings.

Posted Apr 22, 2006 2:27:15 AM | link

Byzon says:

Pagy,

Get this straight, we dragged ZERO drama into the game, we chose to remember a friend, there is NOTHING dramatic about it, no one was crying then, no one is crying now, it was a simple goodbye. The only drama that came out of it was you guys deciding to create it.

"how do you e-mail a dead person? wow you kids really are this stupid"

Hey, your the one that suggested we send e-mails, not me, again, we do not know her family, we knew her, who the hell would we send the e-mails too? people we dont know? I highly doubt that.

"i simply called you a bunch of freakish nerds for thinking acting out a funeral inside a video game was idiotic in my opinion"

as you say "sticks and stones", so given your own stance on the name calling subject, you seem to be a bit of a hypocrit?

"If you feel like continuing this, this site is not the proper medium and while we all know you noobs at maledictions are too timid or stupid to post with your characters on our other forums designed for this sort of squabble, then you simply aren't going to drag me any further into this."

You came here first, so dont say its not the proper medium, second, this is just as good a forum to discuss it on as any, why did I pick this one? because I have yet to see the "omglolroflzomglasergunpewpewpew" retards posting here, you know? the vast majority 10-15 year olds defending you who dont really add to the discussion? most forums they get deleted on anyway.

Now Aaron,

Serenity Now nows numbers arnt as big as its made out to be, they are mainly a PVE guild, and a wanna-be PVP guild (im not in any way claiming Mal is a PVP guild either) They're own members got mad at the individuals who did what they did and even more so frustrated because they were being harrassed for something they had no part of, your claiming to blame the individuals responsible, being the MMO-God your making yourself out to be you of all people should know the term "guilty by association" it always has run rampant in these game, and it always will, ANYONE wearing the SN tag, will be associated to your actions wether they want to / you want them to be or not.

Their website is down because hacked it after the event

Posted Apr 22, 2006 11:38:26 AM | link

Byzon says:

Oh yeah, and Pagy, as much as you would like to think im crying and bent out of shape about this, im not, im just posting my side of the story, just - like - you.

Posted Apr 22, 2006 11:40:53 AM | link

Guthwulf says:

I saw nothing wrong with the way things went down. Horde had a funeral in a PVP flagged area in-game and Alliance came and killed them. I didn't read everything here, but I did read a bit towards the beginning, and I have to say the tennis analogy is way off base. I think a better example would be that the Palestinians had someone die, and decided to have the funeral in the Gaza Strip.

You don't hold public events in contested territory without the threat of your enemy. Fortunately though, WoW is just a game, and all those people that SN and GS killed in the video were rezed and going about their happy eFuneral way within a minute or two after the Alliance left. No excessive griefing or corpse camping took place, they went in, did the deed, and left.

I can't believe such a big deal is still being made about this, almost two months after it happened. It's a game! People have been PKing and griefing planned events since Ultima Online was in it's prime. Ah well, any publicity is good publicity ;)

Guthwulf - Gnomeland Security - Illidan

Posted Apr 24, 2006 6:16:39 PM | link

funnt says:

Back in the day, attacking an enemy's funeral was 100% legit. It is called hate. This is a MMO and if you can't roleplay in the game you don't deserve to play. I hope all of you self righteous whiners get PK'd.

Posted Apr 25, 2006 10:15:26 AM | link