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Player Killing

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"Have you heard about the Pink Devil? It's a PKer in the desert field that ambushes other players. It killed Kenji!"

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 purposes.

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 possibly 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 inevitably leads to others pointing out that they are themselves player killers, and asking whether they are any better than the player killers.(Though since its just a game its better to be one then to just let them keep griefing, someone has do something after all.)

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.


Video Games

  • 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 G.I.F.T. 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 Entertainment , 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.
  • Another famous RPG by Blizzard Entertainment, Diablo II, has hardcore mode, where the players stay dead. Duelling to death and Town Portal player killing were very popular. Sometimes, winner was eligible to loot the loser's corpse.
  • In .hack//G.U., player killing in "The World R:2" is Serious Business. 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, Crimson 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.
  • 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 (for example, having a bowl of multi-colored candies at the table, and punishing anyone who takes one different than their assigned color).
    • 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 other's 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 it's 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 someone down.
    • 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.
  • Beastmasters from Final Fantasy XI gained a very negative reputation for player killing for a few years. Due to stigmas surrounding the job it was very hard to them to get invitations to experience point parties so a soloing subculture developed around the class. Beastmasters had very specific camps for soloing experience gain (plots with a good supply of pets and prey) so if an experience party was already present in the camp it was a common occurrence for a Beastmaster to "free up" the camp by using the charm command to bring high level monsters over and release them from control on top of the party until the party was wiped. This was at a time when the amount of experience lost upon death could amount to hours of grinding.
    • It was also a common occurrence for players to drag large amounts of aggressive monsters to high traffic zone entrances resulting in players being dead before the zone had even loaded. Both methods were later patched out in a patch which caused monsters who had been dragged out of their wandering area to despawn if they no longer had hate on anyone present. Many Beastmasters Rage Quit in response.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has an indirect version where a player can drag a monster towards other players not fighting it and have them be hit by the monster's wide area of effect attacks. This is highly discouraged since it's against the rules of conduct and intentionally having enemies attack other players that are not a part of the fight can get you suspended or even banned. The practice of luring enemies towards other players was done quite commonly on players that were in a gathering class since said classes have no battle capabilities and could die easily. The developers released a patch where gather classes can't be damaged by area of effect attacks. They also have a skill (which eventually becomes passive) that prevents enemies in level-appropriate zones from aggroing them at all. There are also forms of indirect player killing during a dungeon run or trial where tanks can refuse to hold aggro or healers refuse to heal, or anyone can deliberately do certain bosses mechanics incorrectly in order to cause a Total Party Wipe. This is also a reportable offense.
  • Grand Theft Auto V is all about letting players go nuts in an open world sandbox with killing each other being part of the charm. To discourage people from going too crazy with player killing, players that go on a killing spree on other players will be highlighted as a red skull on the map where other players can kill them for money and experience points. Bounties can also be set on other players to further discourage that player from killing everyone mindlessly. If friendly fire is enabled in organizations, players can decide to go for being a Team Killer and kill their allies.
  • RuneScape has PKing in numerous forms, from the relatively anarchic Wilderness to Bounty Hunter servers and minigames. A notorious glitch allowed a player, Durial321, to attack unsuspecting bystanders in a crowded city, during a popular player-held celebration. While he was later banned for real-world trading, Jagex has acknowledged the event, both as an in-game historical tragedy where dozens were killed in cold blood, and as an in-game event on the tenth anniversary, where Durial321 would return from the great beyond to kill again.
  • CABAL Online has PK mode. Players can attack other players by pressing Shift and using a skill to attack them. Doing so will make offenders lose honor points, turn their name orange then black to indicate they're Player Killers, and apply penalties that stack the more the player kills until the offending player is sent to a large labyrinth after 5 successive kills. Naturally, players see escaping the labyrinth as a challenge and will go back to killing another poor sod once they break out. Doing this in a dedicated PK channel or the Forgotten Ruins map won't give any penalties and gives out honor points instead.

In fiction

  • 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!
  • 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 are due to the perpetrators not believing that killing another player would also kill them in real life. Or in some cases, not caring. 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. Once everyone's out of The Most Dangerous Video Game and new tech comes along without the risk of killing people in real life, player killing becomes popular again
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, the Laughing Coffin guild is made up of player killers led by a lunatic who hallucinates Jesus telling him to kill things (and reveals this at the least opportune times). Kirito gives them advice on how to better themselves (by becoming a Murder, Inc.), but end up destroyed when one of their ads gives away their location.
  • 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.
  • Hunter Hunter has the Greed Island arc, where the cast presume they're on a digital island attempting to gather every card in the game to win. However, the threat of death is very real and the main antagonist of the arc does this to almost every single player in his path if he gets the opportunity with the intent of eliminating rival competition. Even with rules in place that discourage it, (if a player is killed, all their cards are erased, preventing players from looting dead players), the mechanic of a card limit leads to players killing one another just to make a "space" for new cards if they fail to steal them. Even worse, the island is a real place, just running with the card and game rules on a large scale, and there's no systems in place to save or recover defeated players, so a lot of people died over the cards.
  • 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.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Pegasus hires Player Killers to work in Duelist Kingdom to challenge and eliminate other Duelists, with their ultimate goal being to retrieve forty of the eighty Star Chips that were handed out to the competitors (leaving only four players to enter Pegasus Castle). The protagonists run into four of them, the Ventriloquist of the Dead in manga, the Mimic of Doom in the anime, the Player Killer of Darkness, and the two Meikyu Brothers.
  • Winter Moon is a webcomic taking place in an MMORPG. PVP is rampant and seems to have almost no restrictions. Florence is a mage who has managed to piss off most of the powerful players in the game, and constantly gets ambushed. (Which he mostly finds amusing, since he inevitably wipes the floor with his attackers.)
  • We Live In An MMO?! has a major scene involving this; after seeing a group of rival players harassing the NPCs, being attacked by their spellcaster, and seeing his friends being injured, Rando goes completely berserk and kills all three of them in the boundaries of the town. This summons the Guards, who sentence him to a permanent ban.
  • Sora from .hack//SIGN is one, who delights in targeting female characters and demanding their Member Address, something needed to contact them in and out of the game or join their party, and killing them if they don't hand it over. His obnoxious and flippant behavior and entirely self-centered motives make a lot more sense with The Reveal that he's a ten year old boy in real life who had the free time to max out his stats and become an incredibly powerful character, but lacks the maturity to do anything worthwhile with it beyond amusing himself.

Alternative Title(s): Player Kill