Photo by Peacemaker

According wikipedia:

A Griefer is a slang term used to describe a player in an multiplayer video game who plays the game simply to cause grief to other players through harassment. Griefing could be considered a malignant form of emergent gameplay.

Here’s some more about griefers in Second Life according to the Second Life Insider blog:

A griefer, is generally accepted as a person who derives enjoyment from
being obstructive, diminishing the enjoyment of others, preventing the enjoyment of others, wasting your time, and so forth. Depending on the environment, there may be a wide variety of specific behaviours (kill-stealing, blocking, training, player-killing, team-killing etc). They don’t enjoy Second Life the way you or I enjoy Second Life. They enjoy it when they make you sad, or unhappy, or frustrated. Especially when you show it. Face it – it’s easier to destroy than to create – and it requires comparatively little effort or talent.

So, in some ways griefers are the virtual world equivalent of trolls, cyberbullies, and hackers.

I first heard the term over a year ago when I first started exploring Second Life and we implemented the first TechSoup Nonprofits in Second Life event. What about griefers? someone asked at the meeting.   While everyone was a little nervous about the potential for these virtual bad people to show up at the event and be destructive, no one did.  At the Nonprofit Commons recent laugh party last month, there were concerns about griefers, particularly because of the experience of the honored guest

Today, the griefers arrived.  The Nonprofit Commons was one of many sims attacked with mutant ninja turtle posters.  Susan Tenby, on the Second Life and Nonprofits Blog, reports what it is like to be in the middle of a griefing event:

The griefing made it dizzying and unpleasant to be in the NPC sim, but I
was still able to talk to avatars. I got bumped around a bit, but it
was a little like trying to have a conversation in a hailstorm or a
typhoon. The rain though, in this case was hundreds of little square teenage mutant ninja turtle posters. There was also a deafening scream, but I just muted my computer.

Susan Tenby wonders whether the attack was from someone trying to get into a group called ‘The goons," an elite group of griefers who only accept members after proving themselves for at least three months. The act of greifing becomes a sort of fraternity hazing activity.  Perhaps matching the age profile of griefers, although there is debate whether or not all griefers are 19 year olds.

It is unclear whether griefing attacks can be entirely prevented.  Like troll behavior and cyberbullying, it can’t be entirely avoided.   There are ways to minimize the risk as this Businessweek article recommends, but as Susan Tenby notes in her blog post, "It does also give me pause to think about how vulnerable SL is to hacks, though".

What do nonprofits need to be aware and be prepared for, if anything, of in terms of griefers if they are doing a project in Second Life?

Written by: kanter