Ganking: an alternative perspective
In essence, ganking can be considered to mean "initiating a combat situation in which the
attacker (the gankee) is sure to win". This includes situations in
which the attacker is much more mighty than the victim, a
situation in which the victim is preocuppied (perhaps already fighting
someone else), or where the victim is low on health or suffering from
some debilitating effect. It even includes
exploiting game mechanics to preclude victim survival, and has been
around since the early MUDs and mob trains. So far so good, as
What I have to take exception to is the statement above claiming that ganking occurs when a game designer has done something right, and in particular citing Blizzard's epic World of Warcraft, a game where
the Player versus Player component was 1) designed as an
afterthought, 2) has no impact on the world game whatsoever, and 3) can
be completely avoided or bypassed throughout the entire span of
a WoW character's career (currently levels 1 through 70, with no
indication of change in the upcoming 71-80
bracket), as the prime example. In addition to this (as even mentioned above) the two
so-called opposing sides are so blandly generic that any imagined hostility between them can be only in the writer's imagination.
order to truly comprehend the concept of rightful ganking, one
has to introduce some reward and punishment for both
sides involved in the altercation. Whether it be unique loot, fame,
or simply pecking order, there has to be a reason for beating down
someone far, far lesser than yourself in order for the act to be
considered other than mere bullying, or griefing in online gaming
parlance. In World of Warcraft, with no persistent world history,
controllable territory, limited supply and no investment needed to
play, any such reward is purely imaginary. Let us instead turn to EVE
Online and consider how the gankster and the ganked coexist in its
economy- and player-driven world.
Example 1, Empire space
Empire space is EVE's civilized, commercialized space where the 4
empires live, trade, mine, buy, sell, build and spy on each
other in relative peace. The sectors comprising this
space contain most of the space and most of the population and are
designated as 1.0 space. In this space, any unprovoked attack on any
other player is immediately detected and lethally countered
by the AI-driven CONCORD NPC party. You shoot, you die, regardless of
the armor, shields, or speed rating of your ship.
this scenario: there is a convoy of rare jewels/ship parts/concubines
on a route that you have managed to figure out
somehow. You gather a party of your closest friends and
ambush the freighter, leaving a buddy on the sidelines. You gank the
freighter; you get ganked by CONCORD in return; your buddy swoops in,
grabs the loot, and gets the heck out of Dodge. If of course you fail
to destroy the freighter, you've lost several spaceships and your
rivals (who took the risk of transporting the stuff) get richer (and
are now aware of a spy in their midst and will be more careful in the
future). Risk leads directly to reward for both parties.
0.0 space is on the fringes of the galaxy, and it is where CONCORD no
longer responds. It is purely player-enforced, player-ran territory
(although there are powerful NPC parties here too), with properly commensurate rewards. It is
also the only place where players can build their own structures
(factories, refineries, refit bases, etc.).
The scenario: A
lone fighter or freighter (or heck, even a small group with escorts -
small to avoid detection when coming in, as EVE has a mechanism for roughly showing fleet movements in the galaxy) venture into uncharted
territory to skim a little bit off the rich and terrifying no-man's
lands. Except in this case, these lands "belong" (loosely speaking) to
a powerful corporation who spends a lot of time and money patrolling
the richly laden ore belts. The invading group is taking a risk drawn
by the lure of powerful rewards.
Naturally, the invaders are
found by the patrolling corporation. The trip back to Empire is
typically long and the corporations tend to have multiple heavy hitters
on standby, so the prospecting force is annihilated utterly in seconds
with no chance of retreat. The lessons is compounded and executed by
destroying the pilots' pods - the cost of this venture will certainly
make this group think again before attempting another raid. Any
leniency would be interpreted as a sign of weakness.
reward; utter destruction and (potentially) vast rewards - this is what
makes ruthless ganking justified. In either case the defender has no
chance at defense or escape, but the attacker stands to lose something
should s/he fail to act. Likewise, any aggressor intending to wage
destruction upon a victim has to be aware that there are grave (well,
or at least expensive) consequences.
None of this is present in
World of Warcraft. There is no territory to be contested, there are no
player-controlled areas rich in loot, there is no reward or penalty for
killing an enemy of the opposite side; there aren't even any mechanisms
to warn you of enemy encroachment! The only reason to kill a much
weaker player is to waste their playing time and possibly ruin their
day (see corpse camping) - and any game system that enables pointless
jackassery is not a good one.
To summarise! Inherently, ganking is neither right nor wrong, nor does it denote developer competence or lack thereof. It's really in what it is used for that determines whether it classifies as griefing (WoW) or correct, even laudable behavior (EVE, DAoC).