GTA Online Should Incentivize Cooperation

You can punish griefers or reward assistance and co-operation

GTA Online has had two long-standing “social” issues since it released way back in 2013: hacking and griefing. While the former has since been fixed and no longer threatens the in-game cash of players, the latter is still very much an issue going into the new year.

As we said, hacking was dealt with – quite severely – earlier this year. Griefing, however? Well, griefing is still very much around. While 2016 was the year that the hacker issue was solved, it was also the year that the griefer issue became much more prominent.

With the release of the Further Adventures in Finance and Felony update, Rockstar gave players the chance to fill up warehouses with valuable contraband, which they could then sell off to black market contacts for high profit. These crates of cargo had to be bought, meaning getting into this business required quite a bit of investment, and hence, it was a large risk.

The source of the risk? Crates could be destroyed in transit. Here you have a situation, where a given player will put effort, time and money into filling their warehouse, maybe even with special cargo, meaning a pretty darn high investment, of possibly even several hundred thousands of in-game cash. Then, when they go off to sell this cargo, some dick in a Hydra shows up to blow everything.

What does the Hydra pilot get? No more than $6000, tops. That’s it. But the thing is, they do get that 6K.

Human history has been filled with violence. Not a single day has passed in the thousands of years since civilizations have been producing records that there wasn’t some conflict or other being waged somewhere in the world. Violence in an inherent human trait and people are generally assholes to one another by default. People kill actual people in real life for pettier reasons.

And dickish behavior is being rewarded? Even without this small incentive, griefers would continue to grief simply because it is human nature. The only way to subvert this psychological urge is to reward the opposite – being a decent human being.

The relative failure of the bad sport system and mental state systems to curb this issue prove that simple and lenient punishments won’t do anything to prevent them from occurring. Which leaves two avenues open in the pursuit of a solution for griefing.

Rockstar can either further punish this behavior or incentivize cooperation. The former would be a risky route to take since it would essentially punish players for playing the game. While it’s true on the one hand that being a dick to others is, to put it bluntly, bad; it’s also true that the inherent systems and nature of GTA Online mean that the option to be a dick should be present.

To misquote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I disapprove of you being an insufferable ponce, but I will defend to the death your right to be an insufferable ponce. Further restrictions would only ever be to the detriment of GTA Online and players would find ways around them anyway. Censorship and punishment are not the ideal way to solve the griefer issue.

Rewarding players for helping each other out, on the other hand, is. Now, I can already hear people saying “but it’s GTA, it’s how it’s meant to be played” or “you should just deal with it”. Thing is, griefers usually aren’t the ones putting effort into CEO missions for a decent payout, so they have no clue what it’s like to lose all that work.

Every online community, and therefore every multiplayer game, has its undesirables – it’s inevitable. However, the issue is particularly prominent in GTA Online. No other multiplayer game, save League of Legends, has such an amount of vitriol and spite. MMOs in particular generally have more examples of spontaneous acts of kindness, rather than killing your fellow player just for kicks.

So what systems should Rockstar implement? Maybe if a random player saves a CEO ferrying crates from attacking NPCs or other players, they would get a small RP boost and free ammo, or something along those lines. Instead of being punished for destroying personal vehicles, get rewarded for not doing so with a renown system. The longer you go without an infraction, the bigger bonus percentage you get for RP.

Say you go a day without destroying a personal vehicle in GTA Online, and you’re rewarded with a +1% bonus RP and Cash multiplier in all missions. Not much, right? But if you go for a whole week, that buffs out to 5%. Still not significant. Behave well for a month, and you get +15%, which is actually a decent bonus in the better paying jobs.

These aren’t fortunes we’re talking about. These bonuses won’t cause the demand for Shark Cards to crash. These rewards won’t suddenly make the game less profitable. If anything, it will keep players getting frustrated by the griefer issue from leaving altogether.

Positive feedback is the single most effective way of manipulating humans, and yes, sad as it may be, players need to be manipulated not to cock up each other’s entertainment. GTA Online’s current anti-griefing systems, such as the ghosting feature, simply alleviate symptoms. Sure, ghosting that spawn-killing griefer will get them off your back, but they’ll just go after another victim. The issue needs to be treated at the source.

I mean, even from Rockstar’s point of view, the griefer issue would be insulting at the very least. These are people who play this game that is chock full of lovingly crafted content, developed by passionate people who put countless man-hours and probably crunched the hell out of it before launch – and instead of enjoying and experiencing all of that, they sit in a jet and ruin afternoons.

Doesn’t it sting that, for all the griefers care, you didn’t even have to go to all those lengths to develop what is the single most vibrant and lively open-world in the gaming industry? Doesn’t it bother you that the several dozen unique missions you created are gathering virtual dust while players are messing with one another, creating frustrations that are then misdirected towards the game itself? I’ve done game development in the past and I know this would bother the hell out of me.

Dealing with the hacker problem won Rockstar a lot of goodwill, and goodwill equals revenue. Dealing with the griefer problem, especially in such a clean and positive way, would amplify this effect. The game would have better rep, players wouldn’t quit out of frustration, stories of fun encounters with new internet friends would spread the word of the game and it would mean that more players would actually play and enjoy the content.

Would you welcome systems in GTA Online that rewarded cooperative and cordial play-styles?


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