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I pull the pin on the grenade, fling it down, watch it explode and repeat until I'm dead. I chuckle to myself. Half my team is on the ground around me, sprawled in circles around the spawn. The chat begins to flow in, a black rain of hate and human misery.
"OMG U TK"
"dude cut it out that's not f**kin funny"
"Vote this asshole off the team!"
Does it stop me? Hardly. I feed on misery like the pink ooze in Ghostbusters II. The next round, I have enough for a decent gun. I purchase it and whirl like a dervish as the round begins. High caliber rifle rounds penetrate just about all the members of my team and the voice-chat wailing of my fifteen-year-old teammates makes me smile. We're all dead for about three minutes, until the counter-terrorists wipe out our wounded survivors and keep us from our fiendish goal. Maybe I'm some kind of freedom fighter? Nah, I'm just a jerk on the internet.
It didn't take much for the jerk side to seduce me. I was a psychology major. Human behavior fascinates me. When I met my first team killer in Counter-Strike - and I don't mean the guy who accidentally plugs a few teammates, I mean the guy who sets out to make his team cry - I didn't pull away. I am the monkey that touches the monolith. I picked up a stick and poked at team killing (TKing). I had to find out what was behind it. I peered into the abyss, and the abyss peered back and whispered about how fun it was to make people scream and gnash their teeth. I agreed.
Understanding the griefer mindset begins with this: We don't take the game seriously at all. It continues with this: It's fun because you react. Lastly: We do it because we're jerks and like to laugh at you. I am the fly that kamikazes into your soup. I am the reason you can't have nice things.
Griefing your own team in Counter-Strike is fun because your average Counter-Strike player treats the game with the seriousness of open heart surgery. Damaging my team is a rare treat. The misguided server admin turns on friendly fire, seeking "authenticity" and hoping everyone will behave. I don't. Counter-Strike means nothing to me. It's a way to unwind after work, a way to kill a few hours before I go on with my day.
For the CS players I run into, though, it is their day. They know the specs on all the weapons and probably know how the game guns compare with the real thing. They act like they invented tactics because they discovered cover and think "Rush Right!!!" is a sophisticated strategy on a par with Patton and Lee. In an entertainment sphere infested with hormonal teenagers and internet tough guys, CS sinks deeper. Counter-Strike is infested with overly serious teenagers, drawling guys who like guns too much and people who take things way too seriously. And me.
And since I was the jerk on the server, the advent of voice chat was a boon to me. I'd played CS for a long while, but when I could actually hear the voices of those I'd TKed, their adenoidal voices raging with adolescent fury, is when I blossomed. I got to listen to smack talk and high-pitched yelping, and I acquired a whole new avenue into messing with people's lives. Dropping a grenade into my team's spawn isn't particularly funny, but doing it while blasting "Banana Phone" turned griefing into a multimedia art form. It also increased my urges to screw with people. Angry chat messages just don't hold the thrill of listening to a guy's voice getting higher and higher, quivering with righteous indignation, threatening my mother and myself. I will keep pushing until I get kicked or until I hit tears, tears of pure comedic gold.
If I make you cry, you've made my day. Listening to a man brought to tears by a video game is a story I'll tell to all my friends. Just knowing that somewhere out there is an angst-ridden adolescent slumping against his keyboard crying tears of rage because of me gives me a charge. Crying over a video game means you need to step back and realize you're in too deep. Put down the controller and the keyboard and realign your life for a second. I'm not a movie, a poem, a TV show or even a good story in a good video game.
I'm a jerk on the internet.
Millionaire playboy Shannon Drake lives a life on the run surrounded by Japanese schoolgirls and video games. He also writes about anime and games for WarCry.