To start talking about what a "griefer in left 4 dead" is, I must first talk to you a bit about what left 4 dead is all about. It's a multiplayer game that has 4 human survivors running trough a few campaigns while they fight all kinds of zombies. From check point to checkpoint (also called saferooms), they will fight zombies that pounce, zombies that use their tongue as a lasso to constrict them, zombies that puke, zombies that bash, zombies on steroids and last but not least a few emo zombies. After a long final battle, a rescue vehicle will pick up the survivors and the match is over.
It's supposed to be fun. The survivors can combat all that zombiefied trash with molotovs, pipe bombs, guns, propane tanks, explosions, you name it they got it!. You can play this game in 2 main modes: versus, where 4 survivor friends will play against some of the zombies that want to destroy them. The hunter (the one which pounces), the boomer, the one that pukes and causes hordes of bashing zombies to surround the survivors), the tank (the one on steroids with a big fist) and the smoker, (the one with the lasso tongue), are then controlled by an enemy team of players that are strategically going to decimate the survivors. So it's a match of 4vs4 players.
You can also play this game in coop, which means that 4 friends will connect to the same server and all the zombies are cpu controlled bots that will attack constantly. That mode is generally a bit easier because you have no human opponents but is compensated by difficulty setings. You can play this mode on Expert where the zombies do lots of damage at a short time and you have to really be careful with friendly fire and molotovs. One shot of a shotgun can incapacitate a survivor instantly. Although this creates an extra tension and fun for 4 players that play together well, it is good way for people who think a bit perverse and want to join in and totally destroy the game for these people. It's those people I want to talk about today. We call them trolls or griefers. They grief somebody else's game in order to derive satisfaction that players loose progress.
The problem with L4D and griefers:
As fun as Left 4 Dead is, its free style gameplay has one big problem. As a steamfriend of mine puts it: "Left 4 dead is a griefer's heaven". And it is true, especially in expert mode. Because you are with only 4 players and the game is heavily team oriented, the griefer I introduced to you has allot of room do find ways to destroy a perfectly legit match and derrive satisfaction from this. With only 3 other players to incapacitate before the game ends, you can understand how pointless a game can get if such a guy (or girl) joins in and takes over to live out their own trollish mindgames and not play the game right. And usually they don't stop untill everyone loses their patience and leaves. Then the griefing mission is succeeded. Some are exhibiting very sociopath-like behavior to achieve their goals, as I will explain to you further.
It doesn't help that the servers that form the multiplayer experience in left 4 dead are generally unmanned and un-administered on an individual base, so that means that griefers can get away with almost everything without being punished. Nobody is there to keep them in check.
On games with 32 players or more, it's not as devastating if one player starts attacking another because it's just pointless. That player will have a huge majority of gamers which will respond and vote the offender off. For example in this other valve game: The benefit of games like Counter-Strike is also that those servers usually have live admins running along, run sourcemod plugins that enable a griefer victim to slay the griefer etc. So there's much more policing happening there. This is not present in left 4 dead because it always ends in 2 or 3 of the 4 players being dead and after that the whole game. Especially in expert difficulty mode it will be very hard to play in such a situation.
These days public games are at the whim of a teamkiller in this game and that's what make them a problem. If a server doesn't has sourcemod administration tool and/or managed by admins, teamkillers take over games very frequently, kill everyone, wear out everyone's patience and then just destroy the game.
They litterally get the most pleasure from destroying beginning player's hard work to get an achievement on expert when they struggled trough a campaign for hours. And then rediculizes everything with false motivations for doing so. FOr example: one shouldn't care about achievements, everyone is noob etc. But they (the teamkillers) care enough so that they try to impose their ways. They care enough for destroying others' games. If their victims shouldn't care about achievements so shouldn't they but somehow they need to disrupt it and have strange motivations to do so. In essence, pure trolling.
I'm not gonna start listing archetypes here, because that's a bit too sketchy and not my goal to start building entire personal profiles behind the griefers. Instead I'd like to talk about them in degrees of severity.
You have griefers that just join in and fire at will until everyone is dead and then leave. But you also have these people that will try to test the patience of everyone in the game. When everyone is dead, this type of griefer tries to stay alive as long as possible in order to cause irritation and so called "rage quits" of all other players.
But the worst griefers out there will exhibit obsessive compulsive behavior in their actions. That is their next flaw. It becomes such an obsession to them to destroy game after game, that it resembles the signs of addiction that some people have to stalking, sniffing leather, or always looking at porn. It becomes a neurosis. Internet is an anonymous thing and this gives rise for some minds to just need to get their daily kick out of destroying people's game, because they are bored, or have problems with the concept of "cooperation", respect for other people etc. So they feel good if they can be as pervert as possible towards others and not show the normal reasonable empathy for people that you would expect in normal face to face communication.
They form troll groups that will dedicate themself in the "art of destroying games" and will take all kind of actions like blaming their victims, voting them off and hereby confuse a "normal" random player on how to proceed and who to kick. Normal public players can't be expected to cope with this almost bipolar behavior of a griefer, it's that chaos a teamkiller seeks.
The absolute worse happens when these teamkillers team up in pairs and then have a clear advantage over the unsuspecting players they victimize, totally altering the game, changing it to their own objectives and hereby creating such a condition where normal coop gameplay is no longer possible and their victims either leave the game, and the ones that do try to stand up are being tested and worn out untill they leave as well or make a mistake in the constant kickvote windows that pop up. If one teamkiller always backs up the other to neutralize kickvotes (because you're only with 4 players in a game), it's getting very frustrated if the other 2 "victims" don't know how to properly handle themself and give these teamkillers a piece of their own misery.
The flawed griefer mind:
A typical griefer can have any number of reasons or excuses to start their nonsensegame. A typical griefer plays emotionally numb, tries to come across as relaxed and laid back but at the same time, they will stay up to 15-30 minutes on the server trying to be as destructive and pervert as possible. Compare it to the regular hissy fit of a mad child not getting their way but then in online form.
I've observed and analyzed them during the past years and debunked their pose of being what they pretend to be. In their own righteous mind they are the good guy which is relaxed in life and play games for fun. They feel the urge to "teach" players not to view games so seriously. But their flaw is that they contradict their own stance by being so obsessive about it. Their other flaw is that they project their own misery, domestic chores or whatever reason that they feel averted to the normal ways, onto other people they don't know and don't care about the repercussions.
Mostly when they are bored, irritated or for whatever reason in a non serious mood, they seem envious of the fun that others have in playing a game the "right way". Some types of griefers come from versus mode where there is the competitive factor of playing (pwning) other players and they have a one-dimensional outlook on "what is fun" and what is not, and they think expert players (that play coop only) are loosers. These griefers just can't get out of that competitive mode and everyone who plays different game modes are slackers and have to be punished or annoyed. They change "coop" in "versus" by just challenging everyone to get shot first, which is totally not the objective of coop mode.
Although they think it is funny to prevent their victims from having fun themself, they only act upon what hey feel on their side of the emotional spectrum and this way, they can use anything as an excuse or validation of why they troll. Everything what they feel is "wrong" is an excuse for them to harrass others. This is downright egocentric and is further enhanced by the fact that everyone on the net is anonymous.
The other big irony of a griefer is that they are exhibiting worn out behavior that you could expect with tired 3 year old not getting their way. They have the same typical halo around them and their steam profiles just gives it away often. Usually private, lots of name changes and if it's not a private profile you'll see lots of average damage to team mates. Their names, their avatars always give away their intentions and they become very predictable if you "mine" them for so long as I have in l4d. They do it so often and with such a frequency that it just seems that there's lots of teamkillers in left 4 dead. But they often are the same people that do the same thing over and over with different names. Some even go as far as to buy a new copy of left 4 dead (2) when it's being sold for $5. It deserves at least the thought of how desperate they are to be fed negative attention, so desperate that they pay money for it.
Griefers are rarely "kids". problem seems to start in puberty. With almost NO exception, ALL griefers have their male voice already. You can't stop thinking that they have some issues with interpersonal relationships and how to deal with it online when they enter their puberty. Begin to get problems with authority or establishment but because it happens online and anonymously it get's excessively bitter and they derail too much and continue to do this kind of behavior for years.
The worst examples out there will spend an entire evening/week/year(s) hopping from expert game to expert game to cause grief for other players and still they want to pretend emotional detachment and play the cool guy which has no problems and make it seem like others have issues. I have litterally seen the same guy do this since 2010. He has recently stopped but 2 others have taken his place ever since. At the time of writing, he has taken another steam name but ofcourse because I banned his ass 2 years ago with his steam ID, he can't join my own private server.
You could "blame" the gameplay. As said: it's a griefer's paradise. But you can use a knife to stab someone or to apply butter on your bread (which is more constructive). What I want to say here is that the gameplay is what it is and players show their intentions trough the use (or abuse) of that gameplay. If somebody griefs games all the time, THEY and they alone are responsible for these actions, not the game.
It's not that this type of severe griefing is so massively widespread among a large portion of the playerbase, it's t's just a core of 300+ people doing it over and over and making it seem that there's a huge issue because it's always the same people hopping on many servers doing it. It creates the illusion of an omnipresent threat.
A funny remark I would liket o make is that most teamkillers seem to be either French or Brittish but rarely you see German teamkillers. There's some Dutch ones as well but they are a vast minority. Me and some friends sometimes joke if this would have anything to do with the aftermath of world war 2, that the French feel overrun and the Brittish feel sandwished between alliances. But all jokes aside, it's just a big problem to the point that in left 4 dead you better just play with friends on privately owned / managed servers.
their ultimate excuses:
I hear you thinking now: Really Cosmic ? Really ? Do you take this online griefing so seriously that you have to write a whole friggin thought museum about it ? The answer is ofcourse, yes! Why ? Because so many people are oblivious to the mentality these griefers haver. And that in my years of internet access I've seen people do all kinds of things that they would not do in real life and use "online" or "I like to get people angry" as an excuse to do it, and as a ruse for people to actually not "feed the troll". "They crave negative attention so don't give it"
If you think about it, there's lots of indifference about this online. Griefers have issues and just saying "don't care" is is actually a flawed atitude in my oppinon. It's just easier for everyone to sidestep around them and leave them be instead of grabbing them by the collar and saying that they go too far.
It doesn't matter whether you become angry at them or not, whether you give them attention or not. People generally just say "don't know don't care" so griefers gain more free reign to ruin games rergardless of anything. The real issue is (and i'm gonna say it once again) their negative attitude. They need to work on that attitude, period, actually being punished for perpetual bad behavior, people should police the net more and not act indifferent all the time.
Let's get this straight, I'm not Jack Thompson. It's not because a griefer destroys games, that they are probably the next James Holmes waiting to attack schools and children in real life. I want to clearly distance myself from this kind of thinking. I think this griefing however CAN be an indication of deminished moral respect for other people's free time and fun than anything else. Griefing is coming forth of a selfish attitude. What irritates me most is that this is viewed so lightheartedly because it so happens "online". The "teamkilling" aspect is just one of the vehicles for them to cause irritation with their victim's so that is in fact why it IS a problem, it could as well be all other things they do in games that make them look like a jerk.
So many times I heard them say "I got my reward because I made you rage/angry, owned, goal achieved" etc etc..." The real problem is NOT that their victims get angry, it's that they can only seem to derrive a rewarding feeling from that sort of thing. That makes the griefer the one with an atittitude problem and not the one getting angry. People turn morals on their ear just to avoid having to deal with rioters or toxic behavior.
Not calling out griefers and trolls would be the same as saying "Hey nice ,you slapped me in the face 24 timesI feel positively envigorated about that, wanna slap again ? " Griefers who have this obsession of only finding relief in their selfish motives, are generally unaware of the way they are preceived by the outside world and have an underdeveloped sense of online ethics, otherwise they wouldn't do this and instead use empathy as a radar of what is wrong with their systemic game-breaking behavior towards other gamers or other people on forums. They need to be made aware, not encouraged by everyone's tolerance and inactions!
The excuse of "online so it doesn't matter" is so annoying. Interacting online should be no different than how you interact with people in real life. Not taking this issue seriously is like saying that verbal abuse and psychological manipulation in real life doesn't happen and the victim - as a person - should develop a thick skin at all time and just deal with it.
Griefers wiill give you a checklist of silly and unfounded reasons why they teamkill just because it is in their nature to troll you and put you on edge. Thats why you have to harm them where it hurts. Make them unable to grief. They detect your triggers, then hand you a bunch of situations in which you are labeled as silly for being triggered and reverse their bullying and want to make you believe you are the problem. If it happens once, that can be a great personality lesson but if it keeps happening, I can't help but thinking that they somhow derrive diabolical entertainment from doing it so often. A sane person starts wondering about when these trolls are going to have finally enough and move on themself.
I believe these griefers should take a long hard look at themselves, because like an alcoholic who lives in denial: they do not realise that they have a problem. At one point they choose to destroy game after game. Their lack of insight in themself, the inability to put themself in the shoes of others are either played or ignored. Most wouldn't behave like this n real life, and especially not turn it into a habit. But it's a sign that they have some grudges and personal demons that they need to take care of.
Imagine in real life if you have kids destroying your cosy board game evening time after time, you will go to a behavioral therapist with them right ?
Griefing ≠ friends griefing
Ofcourse there's this different situation where you can grief your friends in an environment of good fun, ofcourse trolling isn't always bad and it has many nuances: Playful griefing among friends isn't at all the issue because you know eachother's worth.
- FRIENDS is the word here. They have a history together and they might have some playful ways to teas eachother and be OK with it.
- That sort of griefing/teasing/trolling doesn't affect strangers and thus the problem of annoying strangers in their quests for achievements or a good game isn't present. There's no conflicting interests that are imposed on anyone.
- Unlike real griefers, they don't do this from dawn to dusk and back again!
The solution to real griefers:
As Bill would say: these shitheads arn't going to kill themself. So the quickest way to dispose of griefers is if you have access and admin rights on a privately rented left 4 dead server. Or if you're in public and you are aware of what they are doing, just play them at their own game. As soon as you see a known offender join: just act ahead. For example I either kill them as they join and in each rescue closet or I just test their own patience. They will keep coming back for more untill they feel they can change the situation to their own advantage. Some of these griefers will act very bipolar and blame their victims for teamkilling while they started themself and as a reaction, people start to incapacitate them. Then they act all innocent and try to votekick the public players off causing confusion.
The positive thing is that they can only achieve this in public games with unwitty players. So what I do is : I hunt them down in public in order to obtain their steam ID's. These are ID's that are a fixed numeric token that nobody can't change. I gather their steam profiles, investigate their stats and bookmark them, then ban them on my l4d(2) servers.
My own servers give me "immunity" of being votekicked or it gives me the right to respawn myself at will if I am dead, and it allows me to kill and kick users at will as well. When I play with 3 friends and a griefer tries to join, he is usually already banned becuse he is such a jerk and he does this all time and is known to us. If it's an unknown griefer, he is quickly neutralized by admin force and then banned. That is the difference of playing of a server with live admins present.
Left 4 dead is a typical game that almost doesn't have any punishment for these types of players. There are Valve Anti Cheat bans but these are only used if the player in question is using a modification of their game to "cheat" online. But this is a whole other thing than Griefing.
For Left 4 dead 2, Valve has now started to implement a block list functionality in left 4 dead 2 which is quite ingenious. Their creed is "power to the player". So if you meet a jerk online you just select their profile and choose "block player" and then these players in the blocklist can't join your game of you won't join theirs. Ultimately, jerks and trolls will just dig their own hole like this. If they try to troll this system they will ultimately cast themself out. Only legit players that have a right mindset on how to play this game are not going to have problems because if you are mindful about who you add to this list you know who are your friends and you know who are bullshit players.
I hope this will be implemented in other valve games very soon such as l4d1. It's rumored not to work that well but at least they (valve) are trying.
In the rockstar game Max payne 3, the bad players and cheaters are all pooled against eachother on strollservers that are sidetracked from the main community. At least it teaches the griefers a lesson. The "power to the player" approach from valve software can only work if they are adding that blocklist to each of their games. But in left 4 dead 2 it proves to not always work. I really hope they will implement the Rockstar "bad player tier matchmaking" into such upcoming games as Evolve and maybe Watch Dogs. There's already much effort being done for DOTA 2, but it only really punishes ragequitters, not griefers who constantly like to direct the courier to the enemy base or who like to force staff a friendly player into a tower or enemy fountain.
There are automatic solutions that some plugins for servers offer so that teamkillers are always voted off. But those are all but bandaids for a deeper problem.
The griefers themself can find the solution to their problem by understanding that they are needlessly destructive towards other people they don't know. In many ways their typical behavior resembles a real life situation where a group of teens that don't know what to do with their afternoon off, and will go harrass people at the shopping mall. The only difference is that there's really no physical harm done on internet, but the attitude and demeanor of these griefers can be unsettling none the less.
stoptk: the steam group
Another solution is to join my steamgroup! I'm amazed how rarely people think that teamkillers are a pest and try to actually fight back. 70% of the public users that I meet on random left 4 dead games don't know all those offenders like I do. You sometimes join a game where you see a known teamkiller, if I kill him before he can destroy a game, publics will often respond in killing MYSELF as well, and then I am the one being voted off. So I played in public games, also to smoke them out a bit, and to keep MY OWN average damage to teammates stats low.
Teamkiller's trollish psychopatic behavior cause confusion and loss of focus for most pubs so it stands to reason that I make the steamgroup as the centerpiece of my crusade aganist Left 4 Dead expert trolls. So please if you want to send a message to them - and this is also directed to 3d party server administrators -, join this group. You can find it on http://steamcommunity.com/groups/STOPTK
Iit will really help your server if you equip it with my banlist. For 3 years I've gathered about 300 offenders who just won't stop and I'm adding a few every week as I often set rat-traps in public games. You can find an always up to date banlist to add to your server here: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1319539/banned_user.cfg.
I have 4 left 4 dead servers myself which use sourcebans and you can find them here.
Rest assured that as good as all steam id's listed here consist of the most obsessive teamkillers out there that do nothing else in this game. If for some odd reason a guy has seen the light an doesn't do this anymore I'd be the first to remove him from this list. And you can "protest a ban" on the sourcebans site. So I will investigate this personally!
Why I spend almost 3 week days on writing and perfecting this article in draft might be a sign that I take internet seriously. I play games on internet, I think for a big part that when I want to be known for the music work I do, I'm gonna need the internet, I have fun on internet and I see it as a legit spending of my time and somebody can be disrespectful of this, or somebody can have another oppinion, but I'm not going to have you destroy my fun.
So what I see on internet is lots of opportunity to engage in a social way, but I also see a general indifference towards bad behavior of people. The reason why griefers run so rampant on Left 4 Dead especially is partially because of the general public's indifference or inadequacy to bring themself to talk to the offender or to take active measures against them with the tools available.
People often say "don't feed the troll". And this might be true on forum discussions because you can't really do anything else but share or not share ideas and to not feed a troll on an internet forum is to just cut off the feed wich makes them reply in a contrary matter. But in the case of gaming this mantra isn't really working as intended. Because either if you call ingame trolls out on their behavior or not, they will continue to do what they do so for me it's better to call them out. Verbally won't probably do much but if you do it on on a systemic level or on the matchmaking level, then we are getting somewhere.
Microsoft is having a reputation system for their new console and I'm a big advocate of that. Otherwise, in the case of left 4 dead you could indeed say there are games enough to join. And if you play with friends only, you don't have to be afraid that these bad gamers destroy your session.
But really: is it so fun to know that there are these players who virtually do trolling for a living, even spending money when the game goes on sale just to have more accounts to troll ? Is it so cool to say "idontcare" if you know that these griefers will destroy your (sometimes precious and effortful) match and again and only have plattitudes to justify themself ? Think about it, why should we just be indifferent about the fact that if you play randomly, there's a high chance you're going to encounter people who destroy your game ? This way, bad behavior is rewarded simply because it is tolerated. Trolls are a bit like cats. Whenever they succeed without being punished or briefed on their behavior, they just go on and on: especially the obsessed ones. Trolls and griefers talk the talk on the internet, knowing they are anonymous and they feel untouchable. Game companies somehow vindicate that behaviour by not taking sufficient action. If it were me it wouldn't even stop by game companies taking actions, also the law would be involved!
These people need to be tracked down and fined to get them out of their "I can be a troll because nobody does something bout it" shell. That doesn't mean rampant communist spy actions against about every guy doing one thing wrong. I'm talking about parametric and reputation system to sift the bad from the good players first, and then to investigate the "bad reputation guys". Trolls who do this for years and never grow out of it should be shaken awake. And it's also not about Left 4 Dead only, it's just a part of cyberbullying going on which is bad behavior and as in real life, that behavior should be directed and punished.
So I hope that I've given you a little insight and incentive to take action at least, and to the griefers I just want to say "get your head out of the dirt", it's almost 2015, a time where coop and teambased games are just as serious as pvp games. And competitive team deathmatch with no emphasis on team events or teamplay in general are no longer the sole dominating game mode around. Either adapt or stay out of games like left 4 dead. Don't use all the bad excuses for your own advantage because you don't want to adapt.