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Feb 06, 2007



@Grax: Nice shot, sir! Well played!

From a roleplay standpoint (and I'm a heavy RP-head), the "system" (if there is one) needs to be obeyed. If the universe says (for example), "Telekinetic powers are located in the brain," then a brain injury should adversely affect those powers.

Similarly, if the system does *not* allow PvP between players of the same faction, no matter what level of moral difference, guild out-fighting, etc... that is the same (from an RP standpoint) as God saying, not just, "Thou shalt not slay thy faction-mates," but "Thou CAN NOT slay them." Which ends up being an implicit (if not explicit) command to slay members of the opposition... since the overt storyline (and morality) of the game involves killing to level (PvE killing) of sentient beings by the bus-load... ie there's no moral problem with killing per se.

So... "Go forth and gankify?"

So on a non-RP server, the most RP thing you can do is gank? Hmmmm..... Never thought of it that way.

Now... this ignores the "going out of your way to gank" aspect of the argument. Yes, whacking a lowbie that you come across may end up being a moral-RP imperative, but is that the same as seeking out, time after time, gangs of noobs to gank?

Well... if, by doing so, one higher-level member of the faction can prevent scores of lower members from gaining levels, goods, quests, etc... well... er... that would mean you'd need to have higher level folks on guard duty, eh?

And we're back to emergent gameplay...

This is all contingent, as Grax points out, on the fact that WoW's PvP is "race specific." If I, as a character, could whack whomever I chose, based on any criteria at all... ganking would be back in the "Why bother?" category.

So maybe, Thomas, you need to find a game that doesn't have race-on-race RP reasons for encouraging ganking?

Another consideration I thought of earlier today is that death is so damned meaningless in WoW, period. Character death = 2 minutes of downtime. Whoop-dee-dee. And there is no alignment penalties for any kind of killing. In other RPG systems, you don't just get to go a'killin' for shits-n-grins. But in WoW? It's the norm, both in PvE and PvP. Killing's what's for dinner. So ganking, while maybe on the childish end of the murderous spectrum, doesn't hold the same moral horror it would on a system where character death is, well... anything more than a brief commercial message from the grim reaper.


@Magicback(Frank): Fascinating idea. But who called your 9 perspectives "irrelevant"? If you mean me (though I didn't use that word), I was responding quickly but now have time to engage it thoroughly. I have a reservation that I'll restate about the list, but I think the project of trying to think through where other unconventional sources of meaningful action come from is highly relevant. (Or maybe you're referring to your other list, here? This damn thread is too long, lol.)

One thing that's particularly helpful about your comment is it suggests that we might want first to list the possible avenues through which meaning can be generated in games, or ganking specifically (perhaps a shorter list), in the ways that are familiar. From the ones you mention just now, externally defined is clear to me, as is self-defined (although we'll have to leave aside just where those meanings could have come from in the first place).

I'd like to ask you for clarification on internally induced. Is this what I would call emergent meaning, that which is generated by open-ended process as it meets existing expectations? (This is, by the way, a necessary but insufficient element, I would argue, of the generation of an emergent set of ethical conventions, as David Simkins described it.) But perhaps you mean something else.

In any case, thinking back to the list of 9 you gave, speculating about more possible sources of meaning beyond the familiar ones, I guess I was honestly not enthused about trying to get at candidates through the RP'rs stated possibilities for chaotic neutral. I understand the idea, but I think it's revealing that your most recent suggestion, habit (essentially), is really quite a powerful one, and one that I wouldn't expect RP'rs to hit upon readily when trying to parse chaotic neutral behavior in the front of their minds.

But the broader question, once we're in this territory, is can meaning exist or -- put better -- is it useful to think of meaning as existing *before* reflection? In a way, I've been pretty much working from an idea of meaning as fundamentally only realized (made real) in reflection. I don't mean by this a state of considered repose, but simply that by meaning we're referring to an act of signification, made individually or collectively, amidst the flow of social action. I guess that's why I wonder how far we can stretch meaning to include those aspects of our experience that are non-reflective.

This is *not* to say that they do not play a role in the generation of meaning (which may be what you're suggesting anyway). That is, if someone ganks out of habit, I'm not sure it makes sense to call that "meaning," at least for the relevant actors on the ground. It is, of course, an *explanation*, and therefore meaningful to someone who sees and makes this connection, but that's a different matter. And also the practices that actors have, many of them habits, can meet in contingent ways with new circumstances and existing meanings to generate new meanings, and therefore I think that thinking about habit here can be quite relevant. In this sense, one could imagine that the first time a ganker happens to gank a toon that bears a shocking resemblance to the neighborhood bully of their childhood, then suddenly the habit looms large in the generation of new meaning for him or her, but I don't think it makes sense to say that it was meaningful for the actors involved until then.

@Grax and Andy: I understand the argument about WoW's overarching narrative determining a "thou must gank" meaning to it all, I just don't buy it. I'm very glad that Grax articulated the argument, because it allows us to talk about it, but from my point of view Blizzard's take on the faction relationship is faaaar more ambivalent. In fact, I think they just wanted to see what would happen, just as much interested in the prospects of cooperation across a very low-communication environment as violence. (And there are plenty of aspects to the gamestory that suggests points of cooperation and even alliance.) Besides, if the message of the game was really "Exterminate the brutes!" wouldn't honor be given for *all* the cross-faction deaths you cause?

What is more, there's a certain tendentiousness to the claim, as Andy points out, that anyone ganking in WoW must be doing it, ultimately, for game reasons. While the unavoidable (coded) structure of the game (which is only *in part* consistent with its narrative) has an enormous influence on its PvP, I don't think anyone doubts that there are other things going on.

That said, I certainly agree that WoW's specific features make sorting through this complexity less than ideal. But then, I said I was being provocative :). In any event, what I was trying to do here, really, was just get us thinking about the fact that, for certain kinds of ganking, there really isn't a game there, and whether that helps us understand what's going on. I'm still persuaded that a big piece of the puzzle is the contrast between bureaucratic and contingent meaning, but I'll have to shuffle off to my chair in the monastery to see if any illumination can be found in that direction.


Here is my take on this. I moved back from a PvE sever to a PvP server cause I love the HATE. Thats right I love the adrenilin rush I get from seeing that red name come over the horizon. It is called World of WAR-craft for a reason, it's WAR. Ok that said I hate corpse campers. Kill me once fine, but then move on. The fact that you killed me should be enough, camping my body for an hour is not cool. I will let lower lvls move on but if your close to me in lvl, well then its game on. The rush from battling a single or multiple similar lvled toons is huge. I love it. The hate makes the game! So if you see me out there (Stig) bring on your best cause I'm more then willing to give you a try. But remember corpse camping is not so cool.


@Thomas: In regards to "irrelevant", that's my take on my list :) as in RL is relevant while play is "irrelevant". (It's my poor choice of words)

In regards to "interally induced", what I meant was the category meaning that the game induces via design, social norms, etc. It can be Raph's theory that games are about finding patterns (that the designers have consciously placed) or emergent (not consciously intented).

Andy's point about death being relatively meaningless from a game design perspective is an example of meaning by designed. The whole corpse camping thing, on the other hand, is an example of emergent meaning. This can come from the outside (MMORPG ganking is not new) or the particular form of ganking is specific to or formed from the game (internally induced).

Now, the mention of acts of significance resonates with me and which transform seemingly "irrelevant" play to something of significance. It's the tree falling in the forest state. Whether someone hear it fall or not is the reflection on significance.

I believe this follows Jen's point of MMO as Ritual. If the significance is shared then it can be ritualized or made into traditions or customs. I think college fraternity hazing practices flow from this logic.

Among current MMORPG players there is a sentiment of earning your levels (and adversion to RMT or other forms of purchased power) and perhaps ganking is part habit and part trials that while not explicitly induced by the game designers is allowed by the game designers.

Meanings do form from experiencing contingencies, but when the risks and rewards are measured (and best practices are shared) those situations cease to be contingencies and become more of a system process. Meaning then can be stripped which results in the explanation that it's just "the way things are done around here."



Magicback(Frank) wrote:

Meanings do form from experiencing contingencies, but when the risks and rewards are measured (and best practices are shared) those situations cease to be contingencies and become more of a system process. Meaning then can be stripped which results in the explanation that it's just "the way things are done around here."

I could not agree more. Weber FTW (sorry, couldn't resist)!


>> Aren't there ever anti-griefers?
>> Self-designated virtual vigilantes or Virtualantes
>>(hehe) who lie in wait or chase prospective griefers
>> and give them a taste of their own medicine?

Funny question. If there are, they are admins, who make sure by whatever means that these gankers cannot enter the game ever again, as they ruin the day for some, and hurt the profit of a company. 'nuff said.


Here's one for *actual* humanistic posturing: http://mmopacifist.livejournal.com/ :)


The Horde is not evil; ganking is evil.


@JuJutsu and Thomas

WoW is a true sandbox in that it suggests some goals, but does not preclude anyone from making their own.

It may be true that the meaning of ganking is external to the game, but note that the enjoyment of the game is external as well. It is not the character that is enjoying things, it is the player. Each player is entitled to their own view of what makes the game fun.

As for ganking, I would not force my style of play upon other unwilling players. However, by selecting to play on a PvP server they have all willingly chosen to play in the PvP environment. If non-consensual PvP ruins the gaming experience for someone they should change to a PvE server.

Oh, JuJutsu, you may find ganking immature, but there are plenty of people even older than you who think that playing games on the computer is a childish passtime as a whole. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and neither of us have to think that they are right. :)


@Softserv: I understand what you're saying, but your argument breaks down once you appeal to the PvP environment as justifying anything that takes place within it. It is a familiar excuse with online games to claim that whatever the code allows is, by definition, fair gameplay.

Thus, you assert, any kind of PvP that is allowed by the code on a PvP server (and not explicitly disallowed by the ToS) is not only to be expected (I'm with you that far :/ ), but implicitly *legitimate*. This forecloses the possibility of the emergence of good sportsmanship (as several practices in soccer demonstrate well), and of a shared conception of the parameters of ethical gameplay in general. Consider, by contrast, how offline games quite obviously cannot completely control player behavior either "architecturally" (material constraints) or through the rules, yet we're ready to recognize that emergent ethical conventions must fill in the rest. In online games, it is also impossible to "code out" (or rule out) all the behavior you don't want, but yet some take their coded nature as license to adopt an "anything not forbidden is legitimate" position. This is easier for them given the relative anonymity of online spaces, but understanding why this reasoning happens doesn't make it morally right. To me, it smacks of sociopathy, to be honest.


Thomas, I'll have to study up on Weber as I forgot most of the stuff I learned :)

Softserv is arguing the point of individualized meaning. It only points to his thinking and perspective rather than forecloses the possibility of the emergence of good sportmanship.

In another more open competitive environments, other factors like mutual welfare seed the emergence of code of practice, sportmanship, etc.

As you have structured the ganking situation, there is only two major modes: the exercise of dominance(gank) or the exercise of mercy (not to gank).

There is no internal benefit to gank or not-gank, but there appears to be more external reward to exercising dominance than exercising mercy.




You are not taking into consideration the fact that ganking IS intentionally designed into the game. It IS inherently legitimite, as the game designers obviously chose to implement the possibility of ganking into PvP system.

There are many other routes they could easily have taken, including implementing a level-difference-range for world PvP or making fewer contested zones. However, they opted for the current no-holds-barred PvP system.

Ganking isn't an exploit or bending of the rules. It is simply an intended game mechanic. Saying that ganking is inherently illegitimate just because you do not like it does not add any strength to your case.

Good sportsmanship is another issue altogether. While I would agree that ganking is not a polite action, I would not say that it is sociopathic in the least. That is just silly.

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