Player Killing is the act of killing another player's Digital Avatar
in a multiplayer game. While the term could apply to all genres, it is used primarily in cooperative focused games (mostly MMORPGs
) to designate "unnecessary" kills. Games such as first person shooters don't usually have the term applied to them because the whole focus is to kill other players (if in a team setting, it's usually called "Team Killing" if you kill your teammates). The term usually comes up when it's viewed as a dishonorable action, usually referring to kills that were done for griefing
Player killing can be done either directly or indirectly. Direct player killing is just fairly straightforward attacking of other players. Indirect player killing can take many forms. Whether it be through manipulating other monsters to attack a player, causing a monster currently being fought to perform an otherwise avertable action, abuse of the game mechanics, or simply agreeing to team up to defeat a more powerful opponent, then abandoning the poor victim to fight a monster he can't possible defeat by himself without any of your promised support, this has become significantly more common due to the fact that most MMORPGs
don't allow non-consensual player versus player any more.
The issue of player killing is as old as MMORPGs
themselves, with Ultima Online
becoming infamous for player killing right from launch. The game initially had all incentive and no recourse for player killing, leading to a very hostile world that made starting out extremely difficult. Due to the fact that other players can steal from the corpse after they killed a player, it became a case where the best way to gain wealth was not to actually go out and earn it, but instead to mug other players. All the richest players would end up being sociopathic killers. Over time, many attempts were made to alleviate this issue, but it took a fully optional system of whether or not you would be subject to player killing before players were happy.
Games that allow Player Killing may result in some players becoming Player Killer Killers
. These people focus on killing other player killers only, as a form of in-game police to punish griefers
and otherwise discourage pointless killing. This inevitable leads to others pointing out that they are themselves player killers, and rather they are any better then the player killers
One of the major issues of The Great Player Versus Player Debate
. Also can be in the form of a Griefer
where a person kills other players
(friend or foe and mostly weak players at that) for the sheer humor of it.
- In the actual game World of Warcraft, this has existed in a several forms but two variants are exceptionally notable:
- The Kiter: A player, usually a hunter, would attack an extremely powerful enemy and draw it away from its usual spawn site. The ultimate goal of this was generally to lure a mob to a capital city, where it would proceed to murder everything in sight. Most such mobs now "leash" back to their spawn.
- The Corrupted Blood Plague: An exceedingly memorable event and held as proof of the GIFT. Players discovered an ability cast by a raid boss could be brought out of the instance to populated cities, where it would proceed to spread and kill everything. When Blizzard attempted to eliminate this, the Griefers buckled down and found new, inventive ways of spreading it.
- To explain how awful the Corrupted Blood Plague was for Blizzard, it took months of doing things such as quarantining an area and formatting servers, among other things. It's actually studied in Real Life as an extreme (although safe) example of medical terrorism.
- Player killing in "The World R:2" is Serious Business in Dot Hack GU Player Killers are opposed by... Player Killer Killers.
- Both are frowned on in the series, and given that The World is made up psychically of the people who play it, it probably isn't healthy even without the Mind Rape powers that Haseo and others acquire.
- Popped up from time to time in the first version of the world; at first, the game had full PKing but was primarily player governed, and the large Guild, Crimsion Knights, handed out punishments and sometimes worked with CC Corp for breaking rules set by CC Corp. After they disbanded, things got really out of hand, causing CC Corp to remove PKing entirely. (Thus setting the stage for the first set of games.) They later (After the games were finished) restored it.
- The same in Thunder Dome MUD, where the implementor's policy was 'If you want to be a big ass, you're going to meet a bigger ass.'. And players who went on unjustified killings typically got
corrected humiliated by more veteran players. For this to work, there has to be a core group of generally cool players with the muscle and know-how.
- TDX, a later version of the MUD, hardcoded a justice and enforcement system that also protected NPC's in civilized areas. Law was a learnable skill though, so a good lawyer could walk in to face multiple counts of crimes and argue them away in one session (easiest for savages, with high natural stamina, and cyborgs with stamina overboost and a supply of batteries.) This also provided a new layer of player vs. player screwage, as a good lawyer could not only get off scott free, but could successfully prosecute another player, bumping up their penalty. Bounty hunting was also Serious Business.
- Also the same in Sociolotron, which implemented the means for players to handle the justice system themselves. Players could elect district Judges, prosecutors and jury, who appoint guards and investigators. And there are still lawless districts, corrupt and/or gang-run districts, but this is also by design. Fortunately, the prison system is hardcoded and doesn't require player oversight, it also by design still provides the possibility of jailbreak, but with a ridiculously high possibility of permanent character death. Some player guards took the role for the perks and status, and unfortunately fewer took it as Serious Business.
- In Ace Online, Player Killing within either nation is not a major issue, as players are unable to attack fellow members of their nation without declaring a duel and having the duel accepted. However, players from the enemy nation are always fair game.
- Which gives an interesting problem if an enemy from an opposing nation is able to go unopposed deep within friendly territory. It is always a good idea for newcomers to level up in Safe Zones... except of course, when they don't.
- Plays a big part in the "Years of Yarncraft" Story Arc from Sluggy Freelance.
Torg: I kept trying to show Riff how nothing you do in this game means anything! "It's just a shiny endless hamster wheel you run on. Something fun to play here and there but nothing to lose your life to." I was wrong! I found something! Something in the game, beneath the surface, that is very real! Giving another real human being somewhere in the real world a really bad day!
- In Urban Dead, every killing is a PK since there are no NPCs. Thus, the term only refers to people who kill those of their own factions... except for bounty hunters, who are hired to kill P Kers for their victims.
- Zombie players who kill other zombies are often called ZKillers, and typically aren't as annoying since a dead zombie can simply stand back up, while a dead survivor rises as a zombie and must be cured by another survivor.
- Some consider ZKillers to be doing a public service for other zombie players, since it keeps the victim from being killed by a survivor with the Head Shot ability and needing to spend extra AP to stand up.
- A similar phenomenon happens in DayZ where the only people you can kill are zombies or other players and killing another player usually means you get access to their gear. However, teaming up with another player ensures someone has your back against other trigger happy players or the horde of zombies.
- Worth noting that if a player kills enough players, they become a bandit, changing the appearance to resemble one. Also bandit kills are scored separately from player kills.
- Dark Souls has several entire Covenants based around invading another player's world and killing them for their Humanity. Whereas the Forest Hunters and Darkmoon Blades are purely reactionary (targeting trespassers and prolific player killers) and the Path of the Dragon revolves around orderly one on one, the Gravelord Servants and (especially) the Darkwraiths fill the slot quite nicely. The Servants curse an opponent's world with Superpowered Mooks until the victim comes after them, whereas the Darkwraiths plainly and simply jump into a random world and murder to their hearts content.
- Tabletop RPG's are usually open for this style of play although some groups have a strong social pressure against fellow players who do this or just flat out prohibit it unless there's a strong story reason for two player characters to fight. The rules themselves can influence the frequency and openness to this trope as seen below:
- Paranoia is a comedic game set in a dystopia run by an insane computer. The missions are supposed to end badly due to the massive number of conflicting goals and agendas handed to the players and each player is given a six pack of backup clones as a result. A good game of Paranoia will result in everyone dying at least once before the group even makes it to the initial mission briefing.
- Mutants & Masterminds by default strongly discourages this in a couple of ways. The genre calls for cooperation and do-gooding, the players can't loot each others stuff (your regular equipment/power devices have to be paid for with your build points even if given to you by or stolen from another player though they can lend you their equipment temporarily) and by default its impossible to accidentally kill your opponents (though the game has optional rules to support more lethal play styles reflecting darker comic book genres and eras).
- Dungeons & Dragons is in the middle. Challenges are built on the assumption of a balanced party that generally cooperates so opportunistic killing is discouraged but killing a teammate will generally yield the best loot to challenge ratio and the system allows players to play characters of any moral or ethical bent.
- Left 4 Dead is a cooperative game where you and three others team up and push through hordes of zombies to reach safe houses and then an escape vehicle. Friendly fire is enabled at all times (except on Easy) in order to encourage players to not blindly shoot at everything in front of them and to duck down while standing in front of other players. Griefers will usually shoot at another player until they're incapacitated and then shoot at them some more until they die. This is almost commonplace on Expert difficulty since all friendly fire damage is full, so a single shotgun blast at close range is enough to take down someone.
- It's also just as common to find griefers in the actual Versus mode where griefers playing as survivors can simply kill off their teammates and basically screwed their team out of a potential victory since Versus mode doesn't allow survivors to respawn.
- South Park had an episode based around player killing in World of Warcraft, where one player had managed to go past the rules and was using it to oppress all the other players.
- It exists in Sword Art Online and some of these incidents is due to the perpetrators not believing that killing another player would also kill them in real life. Though its noted that during the first year, despite there being around 1000 players choosing to become bandits in SAO, there was never a single incident of player killing. Though there's an entire guild dedicated to it. And in SWO dying in the game kills you in real life as well.
- Log Horizon shares similarities with SAO, but player death isn't permanent, although they do lose some items upon dying before being resurrected at a cathedral in a nearby city. Unfortunately, this also caused some players to resort to this trope because they're either bored, or For the Evulz.
- Somewhat meta-example, given the medium: In Red vs. Blue, Caboose is ridiculously guilty of this behavior by virtue of being very, very stupid. While it's true that he only managed to kill one teammate in the original series (albeit several times), as of Reconstruction he has managed to almost empty out the base he was transferred to completely by accident.
- In episode 5 of Ctrl+Alt+Del season 2 Zeke is shown to be player killing.
- Noob mentions it also and the Coalition has a dedicated guild. A Running Gag exists in the webseries and comics due to one of its members getting in a Mistaken for Badass situation with The Fool among the protagonists. It eventually culminates in him getting expelled from his guild, and the resulting humiliation drives him into Rage Quitting the game.
- In The Wretched Ones, Yayne, Charlie, and Charlie's sister Kazuko are seen fighting Nazis in a multiplayer game. Not knowing that the server had friendly fire enabled, Yayne accidentally kills Charlie with her Sniper Rifle... Twice.