Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ganking what is.

Ganking what is.

I've been asked this question many times (in proper English), but since someone actually used the above phrase as a search parameter (really!), ultimately discovering my blog, I'll indulge and try to answer it, and perhaps embellish a bit.

First of all, perhaps a bit of history.

In traditional role playing games, it was rare that players ever actually killed each other. The goal was to work together in nearly every situation to accomplish the task the dungeon/game master set forth. Killing your cleric was probably not a good idea, even if you really didn't like the cleric.

On the other hand, there evolved games that were pure player versus player competition, such as Warhammer. The entire game was designed like a giant Stratego or Chess board. There was very little content other than pure war.

Eventually, these concepts merged, albeit clumsily. One of the first graphic MMOGs was Ultima Online. It took place in a fantasy world with plenty of individual and group questing to satisfy the classic DnDers. However, it added a component that distracted and discouraged many players. It was the ability for players to kill other players. UO limited a player's ability to kill within the borders of a city (supernaturally speedy guards destroyed anyone trying to kill another player within the borders), but left the huge expanse of land outside the cities to the brigands. Since most people when UO came out were playing on various low-speed dial-up connections, the latency issue added to the mess when groups of players combined forces with the sole purpose of killing everyone not in their group.

UO and the players tagged these types, and anyone else who killed another player, as "player killers" (PK, PKs, PKers, and other variations, for short).

When a player ventured out of town, as was essential to get anything done, and gets killed by such players, that player had been "PKd." I know many players who abandoned UO entirely because of the rampant PKing.

One could argue all day whether PKing was "right" or "wrong," but at that time, most UO players would likely say that, at minimum, the PKing there was unbalanced and it detracted from the joy of gameplay. Especially when dying had dire consequences: loss of experience, loss of items, loss of questing/gathering time, etc.

Regardless of the ethical implications of player killing, it was widely held that the term "PK" brought negative connotations. Not surprisingly, some players were even proud to wear the PK tag. It was a sign that they were aggressive and were always up to a challenge (as long as they had a distinct advantage).

Thus, PKers were often of higher levels, or sufficiently protected within PK groups before heading out on killing sprees. However, when an individual player of an even or lower level tried to kill another player, the PK term wasn't as often applied. Perhaps "idiot" was more commonly used. So, it seemed that from an early point, there was a fundamental PK quality of "having a distinct advantage."

Here is how Wikipedia currently defines Player Killing:

Player killing, or PKing, is nonconsensual and usually random. An aggressor attacks an opponent without agreement to any set of rules of engagement or combat. This can include raiding spawns, camping towns, and any other action which constitutes griefing another party. It also can be applied to group versus group, or GvG, combat where one group has an advantage usually due to larger in number. In Ultima Online, before the release of the Renaissance expansion which added a Trammel facet where PvP was not allowed, a rift formed of those who enjoyed PKing and the Anti-PKs, who do not and protected Trammies.

Now we've entered the age of "ganking." According to Wikipedia, ganking is ...

used in relation to Player vs. Player games where a group of 2 or more people gang up and kill another player, especially if they have an unfair advantage over the person being killed, and is an abbreviation for Gang Kill. Popularised by the MMORPG World of Warcraft, it is now often used in any situation where the person being killed is at a significant disadvantage to the person killing, as in "That horde just ganked me!".

Like many terms, "ganking" has become universally overused, and has lost much of the fundamental definition. If, in fact, it is short for "gang kill," it literally does not apply to those times players are killed by individuals, regardless of the level difference. The concept, however, is the same. When a level 40 player kills a level 15 player, it's equivalent to a "gang" of level 15 players killing that lone level 15.

Some players have narrowed the definition by requiring that it apply only to certain situations. For instance, if the situation is apparently even (like two level 20s meeting on even ground with no assistance, and no distractions), despite the fact that one player will win, it is not a "gank." However, when a player waits till a target player has lowered health while fighting computer AI mobs, and then kills, many will call that a "gank," even if the ganker killed multiple targets.

Regardless of its "proper" usage, "ganking" is always used as a derogatory term, even if proudly used by one's self. For instance, I've heard players attest to a ganking thus: "Ah, man, I just ganked a whole party of grey horde!" Meaning that the player, being at least ten levels higher than the horde party, attacked and killed the horde party, most likely when the party was otherwise occupied fighting mobs. Although bragging, the player likely understands that what was done was generally thought of as negative, at least by the targeted players.

However, what players in WoW have been bred to understand is that regardless of what the opposing faction does, it must be wrong because they're on the other side of the wall. Whereas anything one does against the opposing faction must be justified, merely because of the existence of the opposing faction. This dynamic has quietly revolutionized MMOG gaming and offered up a new definition without a suitable term. The definition is: acceptable ganking from the perspective of one's own faction, but unacceptable from the opposing faction.

Of course, there are those who would disagree that "ganking" an opposing faction member is ever justified. There are guilds that enforce no ganking rules, and rules that prohibit killing any opposing faction member below a certain relative level. How, then, can we define the phenomenon whereby in general, a faction (not merely a "PKing" guild) feels justified performing the equivalent action as defined by "ganking" merely because it is performing it against an opposing faction, and, at the same time, feels that it violates some fundamental or ethical principle for the opposing faction to return the favor in kind?

I challenge anyone to re-define this phenomenon more accurately, if necessary, and to coin a new term for it.


Blogger GSH said...


Wednesday, January 11, 2006 1:31:00 PM  
Blogger Heartless_ said...

Good write up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Very eloquently said.

I just never understood the point of ganking. Where's the challenge? What's someone proving other than that they have the capacity to beat on the "little guy" (figuratively speaking)? I never thought of that as something to be proud of.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, sucha nerd

Friday, January 13, 2006 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger Psyae said...

I'm fascinated that you can say that and not have the guts to identify yourself. Perhaps if you had supported it with something, you might have had a point. However, everyone with a modicum of intelligence will quickly disregard your "comment" as having no substance or purpose, but instead is the obvious representation of a youth (if not in body, then in mind) who has nothing better to do than hurl insults at strangers for expressing well thought out and supported ideas.

But thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 13, 2006 4:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does everything you do in the game have to be a "challenge"? Maybe you aren't actually looking for a challenge, but looking to get an easy kill or two. Even less so does it even need to "prove" anything.

In countless computer games with any kind of repeatable content that also includes character progression, the player invariably returns to content that was once a challenge after progressing far beyond that content. It's no different in multiplayer games.

There are many reasons to gank. However, it's only negative if you're the one being ganked.

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I understand looking for an easy kill, but for that there's the thousands of computer-generated mobs. I don't need to do it at the expense of another player's fun. And all the players I've ever heard crow about having ganked others definitely seemed to think it proved something about their badass-ness.

As for it only being negative if you're the one being ganked--sure, most people play that way. But not everyone. The best guild I was ever in had a standard rule that ganking was considered dishonorable and that players who engaged in it weren't welcome. It had the nicest, most mature group of players in it I'd ever known. Some of them still very competitive and very good at what they did. And I sure felt badly the once or twice I attacked someone without noticing how low-level they were first.

It's like saying, "here, let me frustrate your questing and fun for no good reason other than my self-gratification." At the very least it's a self-centered way to play. To plenty of people it's perfectly reasonable to be self-centered and consider only their own fun. To others--myself one of them--it isn't.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger Valdesta said...

I wonder if the folks who were ganked whine so much that the bullies get off on that part of things?


Wednesday, January 18, 2006 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I began the game with a fair degree of self-assurance that my own sense of honor was the right one to have in the game: I felt it was dishonorable and distracting to attack a player from another faction. Just as in battle, the tempation to do so was greater when the level statistics were on my side - we all aim to win.

In most cases my sense of honor lead me to wave from a distance to a Horde to signify peaceful passage or intent. Most often, the Horde player would wave back, and in most cases, if the Horde player were of 5 to 10 levels higher than I was, I would soon find myself ambushed by that player and his friends. There were other, less frequent instances where the opposite would happen - I would end up in wonderful interactions, sometimes collaborating with the opposing Horde player. These were always highly satisfying, as it added a completely new dimension to the game.

I regret to admit that I now rarely wave. After having been targeted all too often, I'd rather play it safe. If there's even a hint of aggression (or if it's just an undead rogue), I eliminate first, ask questions later.

As to ethical implications, I believe this to be a non-issue for me. I chose RPPVP - player vs player is just the reality of my server realm. Horde raids and Horde killings give the game lore meaning, in my opinion. After all, players need personalized reasons to 'feel' the war and it's reasoning - there's nothing more concrete than an opposing Horde player 'ganking' you in the middle of an NPC fight to solidify your belief that the war against the Horde is justified.

Is it an inconvenience to me? It sometimes is, but that's the price I pay for enjoying the high level of unpredictability I love in multiplayer gaming. I love the choas of a town raid, or of meeting a player 10 levels below me who decides to take me on - and wins.

The rules you speak of are set loosely by the game construct. You are free to shoot first, ask questions later. You are also free to collaborate in killing an NPC. You're also free to dance together. What you do within the confines of the construct is what makes multiplayer gaming interesting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 4:00:00 PM  
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Thursday, January 19, 2006 7:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

Are you sure you want to leave anonymous comments on? LOL

Again, another fine post. Only being lvl 16 on your server, I have only had the occasion 3 times to be ganked, but I'm sure I'll come to hate it more in the 20s and 30s.

Monday, January 23, 2006 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!! I came into the game thinking that I would always be honest and considerate player. That's why I'm playing on the side of Alliance - the good guys. However, after being ganked repeatedly and unmercifully in Lakeshire, I changed my opinion. I don't gank or harrass lower-level players, but no one gets a pass. If I see "red" and there isnt enough time to check the level, it's ON, and I'll ask questions later. But I don't dismount to kill someone who's going about their business or chase some lowbie in the area trying to get shit done.

Sunday, January 29, 2006 1:32:00 PM  
Blogger Kinless said...

A few nights back I was helping my wife with a few quests. My level 39 Warrior alt had just completed them so I accompanied her with my 60 Shaman. She's a level 35 Shaman.

Not wishing to group with her and rob her of the experience I merely stayed by her side and kept her healed when it was needed, and if mobs ever got out of hand, take care of them.

We wound up in the Yeti cave in Hillsbrad.

She did quite well beating up the Yetis and skinning them to boot. We made several passes through the cave. (Yetis provide good xp for her level.)

Then, as I knew was inevitable, the red name. I quickly targeted it to see what it was. Level 49 Human Warrior. My wife didn't see him, and he passed us and went down into the cave. He bypassed the Yeti's so was in search of ore no doubt. (Or avoiding me at all costs.)

Then he came up the ramp again and we were in the far corner on that elevation with the chest.

Rather than move out of the cave he kept approaching. My wife was attacking a Yeti, I was behind her watching him.

My radar was spinning like mad! Whoa?! Get out! He's going to try something??

Yes! The son of a gun charges! And he starts swinging. Thunk! Thunk!

I blast him with a frost shock and move in.

Then I see my wife wasn't taking any damage. He'd charged the Yeti she was fighting.

I quickly turned away to avoid damaging him any further and told her that he was cool.

After the Yeti was killed, while she skinned it, I went and stood on the chest. He moved to the metal vein and mined it.

My wife got the chest, we exchanged waves, and he left.

Would things have been different if she were alone? Level 49 Warrior vs. level 35 Shaman? Who knows? Folks on my server seem to tend to have a kill or be killed attitude.

Was he thinking "If only that 60 Shaman hadn't been there I would have ganked her butt." ? I wonder.

I hope he recognizes the names, the guilds, and we each earned a little Karma that will keep us safe later on.

P.S. Getting a "target of target" setup for my Shaman is a priority. Had I know from the get-go that he was charging the Yeti I'd have given him a pass.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I just read your definition. I lovedd it! I do find myself killing lower level characters than me, but I NEVER camp their body. I feel that that is what makes me angry the most. Just the other day i was killed by a level 60, I didnt care that much. But when i went back to pick up my body the jerk was camping it. This went on for about 20 minutes of me running to get my body and that stupid night elf hunting me down. It got to the point where i just got off for an hour and tried again. What im saying is it doesnt bug me that much when a high level kills me, but what doesis when they camp

Monday, February 20, 2006 3:52:00 AM  
Blogger nyenyec said...

How, then, can we define the phenomenon whereby in general, a faction (not merely a "PKing" guild) feels justified performing the equivalent action as defined by "ganking" merely because it is performing it against an opposing faction, and, at the same time, feels that it violates some fundamental or ethical principle for the opposing faction to return the favor in kind?

Racism or Chauvinism.

In WoW Blizzard deliberately strengthens the anomisity between Horde and Alliance. Not letting them to communicate with each other is just the most obvious way of doing it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 5:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, the PK flag started well before UO in text based Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs). It wasn't a common thing to see MUDs that allowed PKs, but it was a mod for various MUD engines. UO took the text based MUD and used a graphical engine -- thereby bringing the beloved text based MUD to the masses.

As for WoW, a couple of points. First, the Alliance are not "the good guys." There is no inherent goodness in either faction. In fact, depending on your perspective, your own faction is "good" and the other is "evil."

Next, Blizzard was kind enough to give you options to play on non-PvP servers, for those of you that have no sense of adventure or challenge. If you don't want to get "ganked," log into a PvE realm. On a PvP server, it's all fair, because, well, everything's fair in love and war.

So yes, I too started with the "why would that ALLIANCE person 50 levels higher than me kill me for no reason?" Then I found STV, which is where I go when I want to take out frustration... by ganking every lowbie I see. The alliance gank just as much as the horde, further proving my point that there are no "good guys."

Monday, November 06, 2006 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger catheryna said...

As a carebear, take my comment with a grain of salt, but IMHO I think the possibility of being ganked is core to the appeal of the PvP server.
To me it kind of makes up for the fact that you can beat the hell out of a mob with his mate standing just outside of trigger range and not suffer ill effects. It makes you more cautious.
If the WoW world were "real", then a lone character running down the highway would definitely be a target for a gang. The gang wouldn't be called names, the stupid loner would be. Loners would die quick and those that survived would learn not to be loners.
However, spawn camping is a different thing - that is an exploit of the game engine and not in the spirit of the game.
So: gank me, I'll clap and chide myself for getting complacent. Spawn camp me and I'll call you a timmy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 2:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Very nice write up! I am very new to WoW and half of my PvP deaths have been to large groups or single players attacking while I am mid fight with an NPC and a good majority of them were from people 10 levels or more higher, as they were labeled "??". The best part is when they stand there and laugh and spit. lol Great accomplishment getting my kill.

The other half were from all out fights defending a town or something, much fun was had.

Friday, November 24, 2006 7:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Post!!!

I'll start off by identifying myself as a PvP'er at heart. I've played MUDs / MMO's for almost 10 years now and I have 19 MMO's under my belt, yes I'm an addict.

I personally do not like the WoW PvP system as it stands. When I tell all my WoW buddies about my PvP stories from Ultima Online, they tend to be in shock that a game even existed with such content.

I enjoy the unsuspecting risk of PvP, something that is lacking in WoW. To stay on topic, I do not "gank" in the Wikipedia definition of being a gang kill, which would mean I was with another person; however, I do attack equal or higher level characters without regard.

As far as the lower level characters, I will give them a chance to leave the area, if they so choose to remain then I will slaughter them without remorse. I do not /wave at the lower level character, I instead /warn.

I feel truly sorry for the MMO'er that started with WoW and missed out on a true virtual world such as Ultima Online.

I feel as thou MMO's have taken the console approach and have created an "Online Game", whereas older MMO's were created in a sense of an "Online World" where players created an environment policed by their own actions and not programmed mechanics that choose who you can & cannot attack.

I yearn for the day I can return to a game where my actions are meaningful and can reign chaos or bliss on those around me, whichever I so choose, and that my friends is a choice I'm willing to pay 15 bucks a month for.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 9:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, the ganking is mostly due to the insecurity and lack of self-esteem of the individual player, thus the distinctive advantage, and a thing I noticed as I reached 70 is that the ganking pretty much decreased by a significant amount.

Though even as a lower Horde player, I've saved many alliance from death only to get PK'd by 70s later.

Either way, as for faction concerns, I think it would not be IC to kill any opposing faction member at random; killing in and of it self is quite serious and affects diplomacy, in an RP-PVP server.

Nice write-up, you are indeed correct - the term has been altered and no longer reflects its initial meaning, much like the American slang, "ignorant".

Monday, September 17, 2007 6:35:00 PM  
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Blogger hou said...

here are guilds that enforce no ganking rules, and rules that prohibit killing any opposing faction member below a certain relative level.
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