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What is a Griefer?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A griefer is an online gamer who participates in games with the sole goal of disrupting the gaming experience for others. Griefers and their actions can take a wide variety of forms, and they are a source of frustration for many legitimate gamers. In response, many administrators attempt to ban or otherwise penalize griefers whenever possible, so that they do not ruin the fun for others. On occasion, the term “griefer” is also used to describe disruptive individuals in the real world.

While some people use the term “griefer” more generically to describe anyone who causes grief or disruption in an online game, most people use the term specifically to refer to people who do so deliberately, taking pleasure from their actions and consequences. A griefer establishes a gaming account and a character with the sole purpose of creating chaos, rather than occasionally or unintentionally causing disruption. This distinction is meant to separate people with aggressive game styles who genuinely enjoy playing the game and interacting with others from griefers.

Griefers use a variety of tricks to irritate people. Many of them exploit certain traits of the game, taking advantage of loopholes to harass other characters. They commonly leave graffiti in game, in games where people can modify the environment, and they may insult, stalk, or harass other users. Griefers also steal goods from other gamers, attempt to get other characters killed, or violate the basic ethics of the game to achieve their desired goal of chaos.

Essentially, a griefer is a form of vandal, and while in some cases griefers may have a legitimate reason to be angry, most of them are simply using the game as a venue for torment. Griefers come from a wide range of classes, age groups, and cultural backgrounds; the thing they have in common is a taste for wanton destruction. Some are also very technically skilled, which can make it difficult to identify and stop a griefer.

For legitimate gamers, the best thing to do is ignore griefers, as they want to get a rise out of other people in the game. If a griefer is routinely harassing a particular gamer or group of gamers, the griefer should be reported to game administrators, who can take action. Some gaming sites also allow people to create private areas with restricted access; these private areas can be used to take a respite from griefers, with friends and allies being invited in to create a safe environment.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon282263 — On Jul 28, 2012

Essentially, a griefer is just a jerk whose parents never really corrected their behavior as children. ADHD and excuses made by the parent on their behalf is simply ex post facto justification of the parents' failure to raise a respectable and productive member of society.

I love the spin thrown on it there. Because I was such a failure as a parent, my child if far better equipped to do things that other people loathe. Whatever. He can help it. Just like "Bipolar" people can't control their behavior. Sure they can, but why should they? People just go "oh... he/she is bipolar, I understand." Bipolar is just a medically sanctioned excuse to act like a jerk all the time too. It rates right up there with ADHD, as medical excuses for immature behavior go.

Sad, really.

By anon133556 — On Dec 11, 2010

I've been told my son is a griefer, which is why I've come to find out what it means.

It doesn't surprise me. He has always been ADHD and creates chaos wherever he goes. When everyone else is yelling and screaming at him, he feels calm and in control. I believe it is because the neurons in his brain don't fire sufficiently unless he is surrounded by chaos, so he seeks to create it.

He tends towards highly stressful jobs and situations other people loathe. So ignore him, and don't waste your energy getting mad, believe me, he can't help it.

The world needs people like him - who else would catch the tiger by the tail? Many of our top politicians, business executives and famous people have this problem, which is why they are so successful yet get into so much strife in their personal life.

By anon28398 — On Mar 16, 2009

You could advise griefers to find counseling which would allow them to enjoy life without hurting other people.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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