Metagaming in this fashion enables griefers to change the way a game is played in a manner casual players cannot. Although games like World of Warcraft and other MMOGs promise incredible open-endedness and provide an excellent playground for experimentation, most players are content to settle with predetermined styles of play: take quests, level up, improve gear. If there is a definable pay-off for a player's actions, he or she will be content to treadmill ad infinitum.
This is why a griefer's drive to interrupt standard play can be so infuriating. If you have invested hours into escorting some elderly turtle around a beach, the last thing you want is an overpowered joker in his underwear crashing the party minutes before your final checkpoint. You were playing the turtle-protecting game. They were playing the "look out, a naked assassin!" game. One game flourishes at the expense of the other, but when that element of suffering is completely unscripted and beyond reproduction, aren't those the most sought-after experiences in gaming? That turtle will be waiting for you next time. The underoos avenger may not.
In the same way, a gang of brigands suddenly commandeering a standard means of transportation is not something most players anticipate. If "Boat Wars" had been part of a pre-announced world event, there would have been very few dissenters. Subscribers might have actually been excited. Who doesn't love pirates? (Aside from people sailing off the Somali coast, anyway.)
The last piece of the puzzle is the timing of our escapades. Many hardcore players might notice discrepancies between Wrath of the Lich King and the game of which I speak, with good reason. All of this occurred in Warcraft's infancy, a time when defeating premiere head bad guy Ragnaros was a feat and not a punch line, when having more than two mounts was just excessive and when PvP was a zero-sum game. Those who killed other players did so purely for the sport of it. Honorable Kills, Battlegrounds and all the rewards thereof were but promises of a distant patch.
Many players chose PvP servers more to have the option of killing the opposition than to exercise it. Griefers filled an essential niche, enforcing the tension the split factions were meant to embody. Their methods may have been brutal, unorthodox and occasionally downright unfair. But isn't war? And shouldn't also, then, be a PvP server?
While our motives may have been selfish, the event turned out to be - against all odds - something both sides would remember fondly and enact several times before the release of PvP-specific patches changed the game. We had already been a fairly notorious guild, but Boat Wars propelled us to an unanticipated level of infamy. Vae Victus somehow ascended from being common thugs to able and (overly) willing PvP combatants, and the contempt from the fallen gave way to respect. We had changed the game for the better.
Guess every griefer has his off days.
Brett Staebell cannot promise no one was griefed in the writing of this article. Those who want to take it up with him can drop by his residence in Japan or hit him up at defendership[at]gmail[dot]com. Bring your own sword either way.