World of Warcraft: Guide to Getting Ganked

I debated whether or not to rewrite this old post from my last blog since I’m not on a pvp server any more, but some folks found it useful, so what the heck. I’m updating it to include a few clarified thoughts and responses to issues people have raised.

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Defining “ganked”: There’s some difficulty in discussing the issue of getting “ganked” on a pvp (player vs. player) server because it means something a bit different to everyone. Some folks use it so widely when their characters get killed that it has become almost as meaningless as the term “farmer”. Originally as I understand it the term was short for “gang killed,” meaning that your character was killed by vastly superior numbers. I (and most of the gamers I know) use it to mean a character death achieved through the use of vastly superior firepower, power, level, or numbers–i.e., a situation in which the downed player had virtually no chance whatsoever.

Note that I’m not defining any uneven fight as ganking–just the ones in which the downed player basically had no chance and wasn’t a necessary tactical target at the time. Trying to make a tactical battle uneven through the use of tactics, gear, or circumstance is smart; beating up random lowbies for fun is ganking. I’m belaboring this point because the “justified gankers” camp tends to have such a knee-jerk reply of “it’s just good tactics” that I figured I’d better get that distinction out of the way ahead of time.

Justifiable ganking? One argument I’ve heard is that ganking is “justifiable” in some cases. That if you don’t kill the enemy the moment you get the chance, he’ll just call in reinforcements and come after you. Certainly this can happen at times. This is very much a personality judgment call. Are you the kind of person who fights dirty in order to succeed, or do you prefer to fight fair and honorably? You can certainly be the win-at-all-cost type, but you have to accept that plenty of folks don’t like that kind of person. You can also certainly be the fair and honorable type, as long as you understand that you will occasionally get screwed by the unscrupulous types, and that you have to live with that. This is, of course, a continuum–you don’t have to be at an extreme end of this spectrum, and if you are, that’s your choice and you live with the consequences.

My choice: I choose the latter when I play on a pvp server. I don’t kill characters that are gray to me (much lower level); I don’t ambush them when they’re nearly dead after fighting something else (unless I’m much lower level than them and it’s more like evening the odds); and I don’t swarm people and kill them with overwhelming numbers. Nor do I grief them to keep them from completing quests, or corpse-camp them (kill them repeatedly as they come back weakened from dying). I also don’t whine when this occasionally results in someone taking advantage of the situation–I know that’s a possibility and I live with it. More often than not, however, I find that folks appreciate the courtesy and return the favor. (Note that if someone tries to do one of the above to me first, however, I feel no compunction about returning that “favor,” too–having scruples doesn’t mean being a doormat.)

Challenge vs. bullying: When I played pvp, it was for the challenge of playing against other players. It wasn’t because I enjoy making other people miserable. Engaging in ganking takes the challenge away and turns the whole thing into an exercise in bullying–most of the folks who gank make it very clear through their behavior that they enjoy what they’re doing and not doing it out of some sort of “justifiable” self-preservation reasoning; that argument only comes out later when they want to feel good about it. Although I hear plenty of people use justifications to make ganking sound reasonable, I’ve only seen one or two behave as though they were doing it for those reasons, and actions speak far louder than words. Players can make all of the justifications they want, but when they kill someone repeatedly, spit on them, make rude gestures, grief them while they’re trying to complete a quest, and so on, all while vastly out-numbering or out-leveling them, they’re enjoying someone else’s misery–plain and simple.

I’ve similarly seen folks justify it as revenge for similar acts carried out on their own characters. Unless they use some sort of grudge mod/kill on sight list or have an awfully good memory, however, and make sure that they’re specifically targeting folks who have a history of ganking, it isn’t vengeance.

(Yeah, I know I’m going to make a bunch of the gankers who like to be all righteous about ganking indignant and mad. Go for it. What can I say; I speak my mind.)

None of this means that you have to flagellate yourself if you kill a rare low-level character because you forgot to look at their level or you were in a bad mood. And if you enjoy a rivalry with other guilds where you go all-out trying to kill each other no matter the circumstances, cool! Tons of fun. I’m hardly saying you have to hold yourself to some rigid code of conduct in a game. The point is to not be an ass about it, to not enjoy others’ misery and then hold yourself up as somehow being a good person for it. There’s a difference between some good old-fashioned mayhem and getting off on hurting others. What eventually made me decide to leave the pvp server I was on and head for pve was the sheer prevalence of people who flat-out enjoyed preying on the weak. You literally couldn’t move for ten minutes in STV–the main leveling area from levels 30-45–without getting ganked by at least one level 60 (usually a pack of them) whose idea of a good time was corpse-camping lowbies to keep them from playing the game. With that level difference they weren’t even getting honor out of it, nor anything else–the only reward was emotional.

And yes, this happened constantly in areas of that level. These weren’t isolated events.

Seductive? Part of the problem is that it’s a slippery and seductive slope for the folks who are on the “fun mayhem” side. They get frustrated because they get ganked. They listen to the people around them talking about “justifiable” ganking. Before long it all sounds oh-so-reasonable, and you’ve gone from a few annoying folks to not being able to do much of anything on a pvp server in contested areas without full backup.

Just a game: Sure, it’s just a game, folks on a pvp server have to expect to get killed, and so on. On the other hand, thanks to things like the honor system (where only folks within a certain number of levels of you give you honor points), folks have reason going in to think there are certain guidelines people will play by. When everyone has the same expectations about death, mayhem, and so on, it’s one thing, but not everyone has those same expectations. An mmorpg like Warcraft is a social game as well as a combat game. There are folks who make friends through the game, spend time with social groups, and so on. Unlike a purely tactical combat game, there are certain marginal expectations that people will behave with a smidgeon of civility in order to keep that social situation tenable (as evidenced by the fact that there are rules in the terms of service that apply to social behavior). This doesn’t mean players have to be nice to everyone, but it does mean that when people ignore those social aspects, they shouldn’t be surprised if folks think they’re asses.

What do you do about ganking?

I’ve heard people who play both sides insist that the other side is the worst, that all Alliance are bad or all Horde are bad, but I’ve played both sides and have found both sides to be equally good and bad in their behavior (although on some servers one or the other might be a bit worse–it depends on where you are). Both sides have decent people and jerks–it just depends on whom you run into. So how do you deal with the fact that you’ll inevitably get ganked, and still have a good time?

Attitude: Go into it with the right attitude. Realize that it’s simply inevitable that you’re going to get ganked, and try not to worry about it too much. Cultivate a sense of entertainment about it if you can. More pvp options are being provided on pve servers these days (battlegrounds; mini-games in certain areas; etc.), so if you really get frustrated and can’t relax, go pve and enjoy the fact that after spending so much time on a pvp server, you’ll find battlegrounds on a pve server comparatively easy!

Emotes: Try not to let your frustration show. The kind of person who likes beating up on “helpless” people usually loves seeing the misery he causes. The more frustration and anger you show (yelling, rude emotes, etc.), the more folks are likely to stick around to beat you up, because they know they’re getting a rise out of you.

Don’t cry wolf: Too many people call for help and imply that they’re getting ganked when really they aren’t out-powered, out-leveled, or out-numbered–they’re just losing (or when they themselves picked a fight they couldn’t win). Take your lumps and move on when this happens. Remember that not every loss is due to being ganked. The more you call on folks for aid when you don’t need it, the less likely they are to come to your aid when you do.

Be patient: If a group of players is “farming” an area of lowbies, then do something else for a little while rather than fruitlessly getting yourself killed over and over and getting worked up over it. Read a book while you wait for them to get bored and move on. Log into an alternate character and quest in a different area for a while. If they’re camping your body, sit down in ghost form where you can see them and wait for them to leave. Gankers tend to have very little patience–if they don’t get their thrills in one place they’ll move on to another.

Be flexible: If a group of players is farming an area and they aren’t camping the graveyard, then rez at the graveyard and ride, run, port or hearthstone to another game area, wait out the resurrection sickness, and quest there. Choose to do something else for a while.

Ride protection: Bring a character or three up to high-level and spend some of your time running around helping people who are getting ganked or corpse-camped. Encourage others to do the same. Escort people to turn in quests when people are camping quest turn-in areas. Join a guild that does what it can to help out its members in such times of need. When you hear about a group of 60s ganking lowbies who are trying to level up, bring your own group of 60s and engage in some real mayhem!

Scalpel-like vengeance: Pick up a UI mod that keeps a KoS (Kill on Sight) or Grudge list (I used the Opium mod). This way you can remember which people have actually ganked you so that if you feel the need for revenge you can take it out on the right people, not the wrong ones. Take out all that frustration on the folks who actually deserve it. Besides, the same folks who cry “justified” when they gank usually freak out when they get ganked themselves; do it enough times and they may move on.

Don’t gank: Don’t gank, farm, and camp. Remember that when you do you add to the cycle by creating yet more bitterness and yet more players who feel that it’s okay to do those things. The occasional nice gesture can sometimes be enough to remind people that being nice pays. If you want to kill someone, kill them once and then move on before they get back to their body so they know you aren’t camping them.

Take your lumps: Don’t get angry at other players for not riding to your rescue or for not sticking around to get killed over and over in some fruitless bit of revenge. Just because you want to pick a fight doesn’t mean you should expect other people to help you do it.

Party-play: Play in a party whenever possible. Pvp servers aren’t good for solo players–solos might as well have big targets painted on their backs.

Just remember that not everyone who kills you is an ass or ganking you. When you gank out of frustration you’re only making things worse and perpetuating the cycle by frustrating the next group of leveling players. There are plenty of things you can do to minimize the effect gankers can have on your gameplay, and worst case, spend your time going after the gankers or decide that a pvp server isn’t for you. And no matter what justifications someone comes up with, if he enjoys making someone miserable just because it gives him a thrill–it doesn’t matter if it’s a game, he’s still a bully. He’s just a hypocrite as well for trying to justify it. And ultimately, that means he isn’t worth your time.

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