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Player Killing is the act of killing another player's 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 abandoning the poor victim to fight a monster much stronger than he is without helping out one bit, 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.

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.

Examples of Player Killing include:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Player killing in "The World R:2" is Serious Business in .hack//G.U. 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.
  • 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 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.
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