Griefer Nation

Griefer Nation
You Don't Know Jack

Dave Thomas | 15 Nov 2005 07:00
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This is a tactic that Jack seems to understand well. He once called Janet Reno a closeted lesbian and that hurt because, well, honestly, would a straight woman wear her hair like that? When Jack calls Doug Lowenstein, the head of the videogame industry's primary trade group the Electronic Software Association, the Goebbels of the game industry, it stings.

Because, if nothing else, Jack knows how to hurt. And he seems to like it. Which makes him appear a lot like the frustrated 13-year-old boys in Everquest who have nothing better to do than build up characters to level 8,000, and then spend day after day annoying people in such a monumental manner that we had to give the behavior its own name: Griefing.

The psychology of the griefer is pretty simple. When nothing else in the world is under your control, why not spend your remaining vital energy pissing people off? If you can't build something up, tear it down. A smoking crater is at least as noticeable as the nice building that once stood in its place. If nothing else, people will know you are there. At least they will care about you, even if it is just to take the time to hate you.

And griefing doesn't just happen in the game world. I've heard these people aptly described as "sh** disturbers" for the simple reason that some people - a fortunately small fraction of a fraction of the population - can't leave well enough alone. If there is a neat pile of anything - books, papers, people in a nice conversation at a party - the Disturber will come around and make a mess out of it.

Some people even turn this into an art.

I know a guy who corresponded with Charles Manson, was friends with Church of Satan founder Anton LeVey and has a fencing set said to be owned by former American Nazi party founder George Lincoln Rockwell.

A fellow writer, a rotund and omnivorous thinker who was liberal to the bone and as perceptive as a Geiger Counter once said of my pal, "He's an intellectual anarchist; he's not happy unless other people are unhappy." What's funny is that this guy, my friend with the interesting taste in pen pals, associates and memorabilia, was still connected to a basic form of order. He was not a Disturber. The people he found amazingly on the edge, further out than his frontier of weirdness, were not just intellectual anarchists; they were, well, Disturbers of the first order.

And I'm starting to think that maybe, this is really the center of Jack Thompson. I think, deep in his bones, Jack likes flipping the Monopoly board over just to see the colorful confetti of play money flying through the air. Because it sure seems like Jack just doesn't want anyone to have any fun.

I wanted to talk to Thompson for the simple reason that as a gamer and free speech advocate, I'm supposed to hate Jack Thompson. And that sounds like the sort of challenge any free-thinking intellectual would jump at. Besides, for all I know, he may be on to something.

What we know for sure, when it comes to videogames and violence, is that we don't know enough. Games certainly have not spawned any apocalypse of violence. Then again, I'm not sure we should run around saying games have no effect at all. Of course they do. I don't play Halo 2 for the pleasure of being bored. I like it because it is fun to blow someone away with a sniper rifle. It's even better when you can tag some chump up close with a sticky grenade. If you can pistol whip another guy to death, that's just artistry.

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