A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game, using aspects of the game in unintended ways. – Wikipedia
I am a griefer. I’ve been griefing long before most people knew what griefing was. I didn’t do it to be cool. I didn’t do it to make a statement. I just liked it. Back in the early 2000s, when online console gaming was just really starting to take off, I quickly discovered there was more fun to be had playing these new multiplayer games in ways developers didn’t intend than in playing them “correctly.”
For me, my love of griefing all started with a little game called Resident Evil: Outbreak.
Resident Evil: Outbreak was the first game in the classic Resident Evil series to contain an online multiplayer component without being some generic third-person shooter like the new RE games are. It had the original tank controls and the static camera perspectives most fans of the early games loved. Best of all, you could play with up to three other people in one of five scenarios (levels).
Part of the beauty of the game is that firearms are scarce, you only have a limited number of item slots, you can’t pause the game, and you can’t talk to other players over voice chat.
You had to use built-in ad libs to communicate with other players. These consisted of both character names and stock phrases like: “Thank you,” “Help,” “Huh. Wow,” and a ton of other random brilliant sayings later adopted by Tweeters and Tumblrinas the world over.
As you can imagine, all of this made for quite a frustrating experience if I was on your team.
After beating the game a time or two I started getting bored with it, but the inner sadist in me awakened and I soon had an epiphany. What if instead of playing the same damn way I always did, I made it miserable for everyone else? In that instant a griefer was born.
Once the stupid beginning cutscene I’d seen a thousand times ended I ran ahead of everyone, picked up all the guns before they could, used every first aid spray I found whether I needed it or not and boarded up the doorway to the office area above the bar you start in.
Soon the ad-libbed cries of my fellow teammates trapped on the other side of the barricade came pouring through my TV speakers, causing me to laugh so hard my ribs hurt for two days straight.
I watched as my weaponless newbie friends were mauled by a never-ending stream of zombies while trying their hardest to bust through 2x4s with weak melee attacks. All they could do was helplessly yell my character’s name while one by one they bought the farm. By the time the two survivors still standing actually broke through I was already quite a bit further ahead of them.
To get around the problem of limited item slots, whenever I found a new gun I’d empty one I was already carrying into a wall, drop it, and save the fresh one for later.
I only wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall when those suckers behind me saw a shiny pistol, picked it up, and discovered it was completely useless to them because it was out of ammo.
In another part of the level you had to fight through a horde of zombies that trap you in a courtyard until you and an AI cop can break open a locked door. On the other side of that door is a wrecked fuel tanker. You can either run past the fuel tanker or you can run up to it, let a bunch of fuel out the back of it and set the zombies on fire.
If any slower or injured characters were still in the pool of gas when you used your lighter to set it off, they’d burn to a crisp with the zombies. I can’t recall how many players I killed in that blaze over the numerous times I played that level, but I’d estimate it was at least a few dozen.
Later on near the end of the scenario there’s a part where you have the option of either jumping in the back of a police van to end the level or gathering bomb parts in the middle of a crowd of zombies to blow up an entire street in a massive explosion. Most newbies wanted to blow up the street because of the cool cinematic you’d see afterwards and you better believe I took full advantage of this.
While my under-equipped friends fought off an endless mob, I’d run around through the zombie crowd picking up the parts necessary to blow up the street. When I had all of them in my possession I’d retreat to the far back area the zombies took forever to reach. I’d stand there and continuously spin in circles while one or two people repeatedly shouted “KEVIN!” or “I NEED THAT!” to no avail.
Sometimes I’d empty a handgun into them, which would either do nothing but annoy them if friendly fire was off or actually hurt them if it was turned on.
At that point one of two things would usually happen:
1. They’d keep trying to fight the endless horde and request the parts from me over and over again.
2. They’d run back to the waiting police van and complete the level.
In the early days after the game’s release they always went with option one. Watching them fall to the ground wounded, begging for help while they crawled around filled my teenage heart with glee. The other levels had opportunities for minor griefing too, but Outbreak was structured in a way that made it extremely fun and easy.
Capcom finally “fixed” the built-in “flaws” in the end of the level that allowed me to wreak havoc on my teammates by adding duplicates of the bomb parts, but for a good while I ruined the experience for everyone I could.
All Good Things Come To An End
Once those clever fellas shut me out I wracked my brain on how to continue fucking with other players. I soon discovered that I could use my crappy Playstation 2 GameShark (an external cheating device that attaches to the PS2 and modifies game code) to screw up the game in several new and unexpected ways.
As fun as that was for a while, I eventually got tired of playing the same thing over and over again despite the fact watching people die then whine in the lobby chat afterwards was pretty hilarious.
For a number of months I occupied myself with other pursuits… until I discovered the joys of griefing Battlefield 2 on the PC. And it turns out I wasn’t the only one.