PvP and Bad Behaviour

There’s been a lot of talk lately about PvP people and there apparent deficiencies lately, I don’t see it that way but it seems that’s the way a lot of people feel about those that enjoy conflict. It does make me a bit sad at times that this is the way it is because, coming from the inside I know a lot of people whom this is so far from the truth to be laughable. They love PvP, some it’s all the do and of course this involves plenty of ganking and what people would call “illegitimate” PvP. Knowing them though, I know their reasoning and I know what they get out of it and yeh at times it’s a good laugh at the other person but not in the mean spirited, make them feel bad kind of way. It’s all for the personal fun I guess and some won’t like that as it puts them out but, that’s the mechanics of the game.

Doone had a great post over at XP chronicles about whether PvP fosters bullies that outlines the feelings of many. Bullying is a funny term here though as it has very, physical and real world connotations that don’t apply as much to the online space. Of course intimidation is real, ostracization happens and it is a very real issue but even then I don’t equate it the style of game. It is a by product of the internet, fostered in a way by the companies themselves. With those that don’t seem to enforce such elements it tends to run riot… Pun intended.

I wouldn’t exactly call twitter a PvP game but yet, it’s been home to say of the worst kind of individuals of late. I see this sort of “bullying, for lack of a better word, on forums in many games, PvE ones included. And besides I’ve seen plenty of deplorable behaviour amongst pve games at least in the PvP ones you have the ability to get a little revenge. To maybe forcible stop the people engaging in assholery. That just seems an unfortunate side effect of the relative infancy of these online times and companies just haven’t caught up. The onus is on them to either control and shape the behaviour within their game spaces or give players the rights to do it on their own.

I also don’t get how some people can call PvP anti-social when what I see is the complete opposite. What I see is a far more social space than any other PvE game. Within these PvP spaces I see people grouping up more often, I see guilds planning play together, inter-guild alliances forming and general just a lot more collaborative styles of play. In every PvE game of played lately it’s just been this solo march to cap and even then your actions are mostly self serving… that’s anti-social. PvP is and always has been about the group and interactions between players.

I do like the term contested that Zubon of Kill ten rats brought up, basically actions that require another reacts too. Something that changes the game space. This is that something that I love about PvP. A basic form of emergent play but a type that is ever present in PvP mmo’s. It’s funny thinking about it that way as I’ve definitely had an impact on many during my play, whether they wanted it or not. I more adhere to the gentlemen (or ladies) code of PvP. A criteria of around equal level opponents and straight up fights, not duels per se but pretty close. But then, those that I have attacked that met such criteria some probably didn’t want to PvP. Did I inhibit their play? There was one person when questing in Hellswamp that I kept killing because they kept coming back to the place I was questing. That was more preemptively killing though. But I killed them a few times so… was that griefing?

You see such simple definitions just aren’t easy even when you do have the inside information, from the outside it’s playing Pin the Tale on the Prick. Your just blindly trying to pin a tag on a target. Whether it fits or not seems immaterial.

#mmo #PvP

29 thoughts on “PvP and Bad Behaviour

  1. I agree with your thoughts here J3w3l – I don’t associate PvP with groups of bullies lurking together to abuse innocent folk. I associate it with strong guilds tied together by common purpose to fight a mutual enemy. I associate with laughs and good times, friends and comrades pitted against rivals and enemies. Things can get heated at times, but we’re all adults and we signed up for this.

    I tried to post what I felt like was a reasonable response on Doone’s blog, but it seems that I have been banned from posting, perhaps due to our disagreements in the past. Censored and gagged, eh? Ah, well – perhaps it’s for the best. 😀

    Regardless, I will post here what I tried to post on his blog.

    Whether PvP is a cover for bullying depends largely on context, as well as on a player’s intention. Mesmer wrote a great reply in Doone’s blog, and I believe Dahakha also wrote a great piece a while back on his blog about how the difference between good and bad OWPvP is determined by the mechanics which incentivise and reinforce it.


    Good OWPvP are games which give players a reason to fight other than just pure combat. The battle for sovereignty in EVE gives players a legitimate excuse to blow each other up and indulge in space politics, as well as providing the engine which drives the game economy. The use of trade routes and piracy in AA are both incentivised, offering a lucrative reward for people to engage in either activity. TESO is tri-faction warfare ala DaoC, and each faction competes with each other to win campaigns of finite duration before doing it all over again. Bad OWPvP are games which only allow PvP as an afterthought. WoW OWPvP is bad because it means nothing beyond pure combat (Arenas and Rated BGs are a different creature). As Dahakha and Mesmer have said, OWPvP has to be more than ruining another player’s day to be a good feature.

    It should also be noted that there can be a disconnect between an attacking player’s intention, and the way the defender interprets an attack. I kill every enemy I see in TESO regardless of level, because anyone in TESO (until patch 1.5 drops) can drop a Forward Camp and use it to spawn enemy reinforcements. I could see how he/she may interpret this as bullying. Similarly, a factional patriot may adopt the policy “if it’s red it’s dead” and kill everyone they see but have no personal animosity at all towards their opponents. Their victims, however, might see it a different way, and interpret the attacks as bullying. This makes it very difficult to differentiate between real cases of bullying, and cases of people just playing the game as it was intended by the designers.

    None of the above are meant to argue that bullying doesn’t exist in PvP. It certainly can, but its existence should not rule out the various other reasons why rational and intelligent people play OWPvP games. Not all of us are bastards, and quite a significant number of people play the game for fun and competition, not as a means of belittling others.. PvE can be used as a cover for bullying, too. You don’t have to attack people directly in PvP to bully them, and in many ways, direct PvP is more honest. I raided in BC and WotlK, and I saw enough cases of browbeating and badgering and DPS meter shaming to know that bullying is not an activity limited to PvP.

      • Sorry Doone – I think it might be a problem on my end. I’ve tried to post a few times on a few different topics but my posts keep getting lost in the ether.

        I’ll work on it, apologies for the “censored and gagged” line above.

    • On topic, I think you hit on a valuable point: how do players interpret an attack? And this might be an area where thats not really easy to read. I mean, an attack is always unfriendly, always intended to do harm. How do players know it’s a “friendly” (for lack of a better term) attack and not some griefer or bully? It’s interesting to think about, but this might be where so much gray behavior lies.

      • yeh it is an interesting grey area open up for interpretation. I think it’s important to hear both sides as well, especially for me as i don’t really want my action construed as some kind of personal attack. I guess for the other side it’s nice to know too, that it isn’t some kind of personally focussed attack.

    • great comment, all I have to say is that we need more thought put into the reason for conflict. Lazy design leads to the experiences people dislike

    • Hey no problem. Find me on Steam if you keep having this issue. I double checked my Disqus ban list and its clean except for a single spammer.

  2. PvP on even footing, with solid rules and consent – I get that.

    All other PvP is the definition of anti-social because there is no parallel in the real world that provides a positive benefit/isn’t illegal. Stealing food? jail. Stabbing someone who’s going to the store? jail. Teabagging? That’s a paddlin’. Pirates at a port? Pretty solid way to get an army to attack you or an armada/fleet. Honestly, it’s like seeing my history books in gaming. Before MMOs allowed this activity, where did people get their kicks from?

    And while some players are to blame, poor design is often the root cause. Social constructs that build are few and far between and provide little benefit when compared to roaming bands of bridgands. The risk/benefit aspect is all on being evil.

    • I get this view, but they are still games and we should have variety in them. Yes, these are anti-social behaviours, but piracy and ganking both breed their own cultures, friendships, and yes socialization.

      I just find your parallel to the real world argument questionable. I wouldn’t befriend corpse summoning, demon worshipping masters of evil either, but I don’t think every in game warlock is being controlled by someone who wants to be evil IRL.

      • Yes, but by the same token if they are games they will have rules. It’s the very definition of a game that any action taken within it can be accurately judged to be permitted or prohibited. If all MMOs were was games we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The problem is that they are also social spaces shared by a whole disparate bunch of special interest groups, many of whom are in direct conflict with each other for resources. Etiquette for games just doesn’t work for virtual worlds. Etiquette for real life does.

      • http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/jian-ghomeshi-investigators-hear-from-3rd-woman-1.2820697
        This is what happens when you blur the line between fantasy and consent.

        I get that people have fantasies to act evil. There just isn’t any other valid argument for that type of activity. It does however require consent from both parties, or you reach a point where the victim takes action. In the real world it’s called criminal charges, in MMOs they quit the game. You need sheep that know that they are sheep and are willing to pay to be that. Darkfall is good example. EvE to some degree but the meta-PvP aspect is something else entirely.

        They build social constructs. The same way gangs do in the real world.

      • in the real world attacks cause physical pain and you bleed… online you have a hp bar. Death is a real thing yet online it’s a quick respawn. Often you don’t even have anything the other person can take so mugging and thief isn’t an option. Piracy.. haha. online it’s just a group of people playing make believe medieval pirate. You keep trying to equate real world actions to their online counter part but the effect and consequences just aren’t comparable. I get that there might be a handful of unhinged people in the world that lose touch with reality but then, anything could be a trigger for them.

        The only thing I think is comparable in online spaces is verbal and written harassment. That still has the same tangible and psychological effect on people. It loses none of it’s sting which is why’ve been championing these companies to change their rules and have a more active approach on moderating. I tolerate and even engage in a little tea bagging but discrimination and verbal assaults I find detestable.

        And yes, the wolves and sheep argument that gets trotted out as a black and white fixture when I think its far more nuanced and flexible. I don’t think a lot of people fall on either side but have a mixture of interests on both side. I know that I’m no pure wolf, and can attest to that with my “gang” (well, we are called the kelly gang). It’s more a group of interests that includes PvP.

      • My argument is the following. If the person on the other end of your actions is not consenting, thereby agreeing in part/whole with your justification, then it’s a form of griefing. If they do consent, then be anti-social to your hearts content. And in most of these games, simply logging on is consent, in particular where there’s no PvE option such as in AA (mind you AA doesnt show it’s stripes until past the half way mark).

        Reading your blog is good insight on the actions of someone who PvPs without the griefing aspect. I’ve mentioned that here and in other places. Your motivations, from what is read here, are for the PvP activity and not for the penalty the other side incurs. It’s one reason I read Syncaine as well.

        To sum my arguments, PvP has a large penchant for anti-social behavior. Gaming can have anti-social behavior, just like the real world, if both parties consent to it. The two arguments are not exclusive from each other.

  3. It’s really, really simple. Every time you engage in an online interaction with another human being ask yourself this question: “Would I do this in an equivalent situation offline?”.

    So, with Twitter, would you be comfortable saying what you just typed to that person’s face? Or, more accurately, would you be comfortable standing on a stage in an auditorium filled with everyone both you and the other person know and saying what you just wrote through the PA system? If you wouldn’t then don’t say it on Twitter.

    Or for PvP, when you’re about to gank a level 5 newbie in the starting area, would you be comfortable running into a school playground, knocking over a five-year old and stealing his bagged lunch? If you would then go right ahead!

    The tricky part is judging the analogy. I would say that in, say, a War Declared zone in ArcheAge, the correct analogy would be something like “am I comfortable diving into to the mosh pit at this Hardcore gig?”. I would say that in that situation the PvE-oriented player who gets upset by being PvP’d would be like someone who came to see the band because he likes the band’s records. He’s not wrong to have come but he’d be well-advised to stand near the back or hang by the bar, not try to get right down the front and then get bent out of shape because someone’s flailing elbow blackens his eye and breaks his glasses.

    There. Clear as crystal!

    • yeh that’s the thing, the real world equivalent isn’t an exact thing… it’s a science onto itself where everyone quabbles over the theories. It’s all based on personal bias as well, I just see those ganks as another character, not a child.
      TWitter and any other communications online is where there it is comparable. Harassment and discrimination hurt people whether it’s face to face or online, that’s something i would never support

  4. There are obviously clear cut cases of bad behavior, such as the use of hateful, abusive and discriminatory language. I do not condone behavior of this type, and anyone thinking otherwise would be wrong.

    What I object to is people labeling the act of PvP as inherently evil, when I see it as part of the ruleset of the game. A real life example I would use is this. I would never assault anyone in real life except in the most extenuating circumstances, such as a threat to life to me or my loved ones. However I have no problems tackling people in rugby, nor do I have any problems trying to throw, choke or armbar someone in judo, Despite engaging other practitioners in what looks like mindless violence, there is respect and craft there and an implicit consent to take part in this type of activity. I have no illusions about the nature of the Internet – given recent events, we all know about the viciousness which lurks behind the shield of anonymity – but again, I would like to point out that not all people who play PvP (especially OWPvP which is the contentious issue here) are evil bullies getting their jollies kicking down poor newbies. As Murf and J3w3l have pointed out above, there are quite a number of valid reasons to play these games, including socialization, love of this type of gameplay, competition and challenge. In fact the power disparity which exists in OWPvP games is part of the allure which attracts me to these games. Not in the way you would think – i.e. through bullying or belittling others – but in making the ascent from nothing to something, despite all obstacles in your path.

    I get why people don’t like it for various reasons such as of loss of control, disempowerment, or as other commentators have pointed out, a dislike of losing to human as opposed to AI players. Most MMOs nowadays involve a two step process to try and ascertain consent from their players. First the decision to play the game, or to play in PvP servers. Second the decision to venture into “contested” zones. You can play EVE Online or AA without ever having to fight at all. Ever. So I will the meet the old chestnut of an evil griefer ganking a newbie with that other old chestnut – if you don’t like it, don’t play it. The virtual multiverse is big enough to accommodate all playstyles.

  5. @J3w3l: I think youre right that there’s something to be said for PvE bullies. In a lot of ways, bullies in PvE can be far worse because as you said you can’t really retaliate. The abuse of guild members in raid guilds comes to mind, where people are enduring crazy abuse because of someones “leadership” style. It also sounds like you roll with some great people and that counts for something.

    @Duke: Just want to reiterate that I don’t have a ban list. And I can’t even think of a conversation where we disagreed on anything, not that it would be a reason to moderate you any way. To your points …

    I think how players interpret attacks is an important piece of understanding what’s at issue. There are a lot of players who take the position that if you’re in a PvP game, you’re consenting to whatever they want to do to you.

    @Asmiroth: Yeah ….there’s some connection I think between online and offline behavior, but I don’t think its a direct correlation. On the one hand, games *should* be a space where we can experiment with behavior without harsh consequences, but on the other every interaction is with a real, no-kidding, person. We can’t just treat people any way we want by claiming “it’s not real” in a game. It just doesn’t work that way. So I mostly agree, but I also agree with J3w3l that there’s some differences there.

    @Murf: I see your point, but I think what you say is exactly whats at issue. Whats appropriate behavior in PvP? What’s appropriate culture in a PvP community? It seems there are definitely some lines, but games too often just blur them all to hell with their FFA/open world rules. I mean if you had to write down some basic hard rules to behavior in a PvP environment, what would they look like? Right now what happens is bullies claim their behavior is legit becauase PvP. Then there are PvPers like J3w3l who are sincerely there for a good time and aren’t abusing anyone — they’re just playing. And there’s those who take the stance that whatever happens in a game isn’t “real”, as though emotional and psychological trauma isn’t worse than physical.

    The games design is definitely like 90% of the problem imo. People aren’t just “good” or “bad”. We’re mostly reacting to whatever system we’re living within. So changing systems to produce better behavior is the best way to attack any social problem. The problem with *that* is devs are people too and they can hold all the same views the various PvPers hold. I guess in a way, the games they produce say a lot about what they believe.

    • The beauty and the horror of any good sandbox is what emerges from the confluence of its mechanics and its players. Attempting to dictate a universal set of acceptable behavioral norms that crosses all open PvP games would be a fool’s errand at best. I agree that a certain degree of verbal harassment and repeated abuse can cross the line; it’s definitely a problem that needs to be at the forefront everyone’s mind.

      Like you, I think its largely a question of poor design because the only people who’ve been making open PvP friendly games wanted to replicate the complete anarchy of early Ultima Online or innovate it further such as the way Eve has evolved. That’s not necessarily bad (or immoral or antisocial), but by definition, these are not typically accessible games.

      From what I’ve been told, ArchAge is a lot friendlier and more manageable and genuinely seems like a step forward in taming the open PvP sub-genre. It’ll take a sharp knife to cut through years of built up hatred/anxiety/fear over open PvP though, so who knows if this market really has legs.

      • Universality isn’t required, but since PvP is an activity with very specific features it stands to reason every PvP system will have common rules and produce a certain kind of culture. If PvP is a thing at all, then all PvP systems have things in common which work well for them all. But yeah it’s really difficult to think of what PvP culture is supposed to be, heh.

    • great points Mr D. Experimentation is a big part of the online experience. It’s a place where we should be able to experiment with identity but also elements of morality that just aren’t appropriate within the real world. It can, and probably is a huge learning space for many.

      Appropriate culture will always be a tricky area though and I don’t think we will ever see a consensus there between the different groups although it would be good to talk about what the limits should be. NOt vague TOS stuff either but exact specifications and examples that are clearly visible

  6. The bigger problem I’ve witnessed with regards to OPvP players and the games that support that playstyle are the braggarts. The point isn’t that PvE and PvP games are both full of assholes–that’s life, both digital and meatspace. But the bile spewing from the mouth of an OPvP player perpetuates this idea that all PvP players are superbros that greet people in headbutts and middle fingers.

    This isn’t terribly helped by a lack of some games failing to enforce rules or risk on the attacker as well as the attackee. All of the risk and danger lies in the guy trying to haul their stuff from point A to point B, while the person dskulking about looking for a reason to use the word “rekt” in casual conversation faces little to no recourse for their actions. That’s poor design on the part of the game devs, and not the fault of xXStabsYou420Xx.

    As ever, the people who enjoy both PvP and PvE games and aren’t mentally maladjusted are enjoying their game instead of tossing about superlative idiocy like “hardcore” “carebear” and “tryhard”. Perception is reality for folks outside looking in, though…and perhaps those rational people should pipe up and say “Look, RektPwnzerTank, maybe you should shut the hell up. You’re making the rest of us look like Neanderthals.”

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  8. The whole topic of PVP being important all of a sudden is interesting. I remember the days where the most vocal in the MMO community looked down upon those who played on “care bear” servers. Now it seems that those players have changed their tune.

    I think the change is because a game like ArcheAge has leveled the playing field by being entirely PvP. Griefers have lost their excuse, “If you don’t want to be ganked go play on a non-PvP server.” I think you hit the nail on the head with your personal story. There are consequences when interacting with another player in game. Sometimes that consequence occurs when a player looks in the mirror and realizes they have become the jerk in real life that they thought they only played out in their digital life.

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  10. I can really enjoy PVP, but I’m one of those that doesn’t play it that often any more or just with friends because I’m wary of how people behave. I’ve signed onto servers in the past to have abuse shouted at me, which in my opinion ruins the game and is unacceptable. I don’t have a problem with trash talking, but there’s a line where it becomes too personal. I also find it difficult to know where the line is in regards to the games design. For the most part, I believe that if the game allows you to do something, then it’s fair play. If you don’t like it then play a different game. On the other hand there can be gaps in the rules that can be manipulated or people that make up their own. I’ve been told off before for apparently breaking rules that I wasn’t even aware existed and didn’t really agree with the enforcing of. I’ve also been accused of picking on people when the thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all, they just happened to be there. If an opponent shows up then I attack them, I don’t pause to wonder whether I should be allowed to or not, in which time I could be killed myself. Not my fault that it happened to be the same person a few times in a row.

    • Everyone has there own interpretation of the rules at times and it seems the hard part is bridging the gap between them about what is and isn’t acceptable. Like with trash talking, the boundaries of what people find acceptable is quite broad. I find personal attacks a bit too much as well and avoid games and servers where that seems to be prominent. If I know the people though then I’m usually ok with it, and will actively participate.

    • What Eri just said plus ….

      “if it’s allowed” is terribly vague. The truth is that “allowed” only means “it’s not stated somewhere public that I can’t do this specific thing”. That’s how players basically interpret “allowed”. So no games have any explicit rules that say you can’t corpse camp players 50 levels lower than you, yet I think many would say this is clearly an abuse of the system. Theres also the fact that there’s no possible way to make a long list of “do not”s. The games rules and system have to implicitly apply rules as well, not just explicitly state them. For example, a rule that says you lose 100 gold for each level lower that your victim is compared to your level, the implicit rule is “do not attack players lower level”. I think that’s why the systems themselves require a good designer who cares about this kind of thing.

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