I was Ganked by Cheaters!

Does the word “Gank” mean anything anymore?

Cute Kitten Picture For Those Who Do Not Care About Ganking

“Gank” used to mean something back in the mists of time.

Or so I am told.

I am not big on PvP in MMOs, so for the most part I can only guess at the meaning of the word based on what I read.

And as far as I can infer from current usage I see about, the term had been reduced to meaning something like, “I got killed in PvP by an opponent who had an advantage in equipment or numbers, or who was totally cheating.”

Which can be reduced to “I got killed in PvP” about 99% of the time.

Cheating, of course, has always had a variety of meanings when people use the term.  It could be deliberate hacking of the game or the use of game mechanics to bestow an advantage.    Often though, it seems to mean, “The other side was more skilled, but there is no way I am admitting that in a public forum.”  You don’t win at smacktalk by saying things like that!

Given the above, I can pretty much summarize the majority of my MMO PvP experience with the title of this post, “I was Ganked by Cheaters!”

I certainly cannot recall a time when I was defeated in PvP where the above did not apply, and cheating (as defined above) is always at the top of the list, since I am massively unskilled at PvP.

But that is just my inference of the meaning of the word from the way it gets thrown around in comments and forums.  And, we know people say a lot of crazy, or at least ill-considered, things in comment threads and forums.

I am also convinced that one of the great lies PvP players tell is that they only want a fair fight.  Obviously this is not so, what with all this ganking going on.  But perhaps that is another topic.

But the word is now so tied in with MMO PvP that we cannot seem to mention one without the other.

So what does ganking mean to you?  Or what did it used to mean to you?

And has it lost all real meaning through mis-use?

26 thoughts on “I was Ganked by Cheaters!

  1. Justin

    Enjoy this ASCII Venn diagram of how I define Ganking.

    |pwned |
    | |
    | |——|
    | |ganked|
    | | |

    In short, all not every pwning is a ganking. but all gankings are pwnings.

    Ganking would be Pwning somebody off guard. Surprising them and rocking their world so hard that they never had a chance.

    I’ve been pwned and ganked many times in my PVP experience. And you are right, nobody wants a fair fight, they want it to seem like a fair fight but they really have the upper hand.

    I find myself guilty of this as well.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Justin – I had not considered the Gank vs. Pwn aspect, though from what I have read, ganking is something that only happens to you and not the other guy.

    I may have to re-create that Venn Diagram for a follow-up.


  3. SmakenDahed

    It’s been boiled down to meaning, “killed” but originally, it did imply some sort of unfairness or trickery.

    i.e. “I was just in the washroom and came back to my PC to find I’d been ganked! That’ll teach me to wash my hands!”

    In some ways it could also imply the person was on the defensive or ambushed.


  4. SmakenDahed

    Oh no, you can definitely gank someone. I ganked a paladin/priest duo (I think the person was duo-boxing) several times – even going so far as to track them around Stranglethorn.

    I did the same to a Night Elf Hunter, so much that he logged, created a horde toon just to whisper me in order to explain he didn’t know how to turn off his PVP flag.

    I said, “oh, okay.”

    Then ganked him when he logged back on his Night Elf.


  5. Snick

    Ganking came from early EQ days in my book and generally meant someone taking the upper hand in a battle to score loot or kill.

    Example: You are a caster fighting a mob, a paladin or warrior type with much higher agro ability zooms in and takes agro and makes the final kill, thus getting the XP and loot rights.

    Depending on the game mechanics ganking can take different forms, but usually involved finishing something you started and reaping the rewards, denying you any.

    At least that’s how I was introduced to the term. It’s different from griefing and ‘pwning’ for sure.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author


    Google results for “I was ganked” – 25,300

    Google results for “I ganked” – 17,700

    So clearly you are correct. Yet the really whiny (and thus attention getting) forum posts seem to favor the “I was ganked” category (Or “Ganking is an issue!” because I was ganked), or such is my impression. I have not made a thorough study of it.


  7. PeterD

    The original meaning represented a much more dramatic unfairness in the exchange. Generally the “ganker” had such a massive advantage in levels or gear over the “gankee” that the victim had absolutely no chance of winning whatsoever. Typically the ganker had nothing to gain by ganking the victim except he malicious pleasure of ruining someone else’s gameplay.

    A level 50 in a newbie area killing new players is ganking. A level 18 killing a level 15 in a PvP battleground is not ganking. Someone beating you with superior skill is not ganking. Waiting until someone is at 10% health from fighting mobs and then jumping them is ganking.

    Essentially, if the mechanics of the game make a win essentially impossible regardless of player skill, it’s a gank.


  8. Snick

    I should amend, that on the PVP servers, the term also included a PVP kill while the target player was unawares and down on health fighting a mob. I think they patched that behavior at a later date, but I might be wrong as I abandoned PVP EQ after too much griefing.

    so I think this is where games with PVP flagging like WoW have sort of subverted the ‘original’ meaning of the term.


  9. Orkanen

    Huh. Over on EVE, as you’d expect, I don’t think they’d understand the concept of fair v.s. unfair killings. It’s all ganking as far as I can tell. That’s just what you do. It’s spread to ship fittings, too. Just as a ship that can absorb a lot of damage is said to have a big tank, a ship that can deal a lot of damage is said to have a lot of gank.


  10. SynCaine

    This is a pretty long-winded way of saying “I wanted to link Lum’s post”, isn’t it?

    On topic, to me ganking has always been about jumping someone who is not looking for PvP at that moment, usually because they are PvE’ing, and killing them while they are at that disadvantage.

    The difference between ganking and griefing is that when you are griefing, the only reward is someones anger.

    Pwning is being better than someone else and winning, either because you are more skilled, or because you have a better character/computer/life/whatever.


  11. CunningB

    Ganking to me is as simply as killing when the victory is 100% assured, ie your target has no way to fight back, be that being attacked at 10% health, by someone 20 levels higher or by someone that out gears you my a metric mile ^^

    Ofc it’s also miss used a lot by people who just don’t want to admit they were out classed >.>


  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – Actually, it was somewhat inspired by a long winded comment in the discussion about the post in his forum. I have the side bar “posts from other blogs” area when I simply want to feel good about linking to other posts. Not sure anybody clicks on it, but I did my part. (Hey, you’re even there some times!) Plus I linked to a couple of other posts along the way, including one of my own. (Always self-link, you occasionally get traffic back from sites that scrape your content!)


  13. Bhagpuss

    Nowadays Mrs Bhagpuss and I routinely use “gank” as a straight synonym for “kill”. The original meaning seems largely to have boiled out, but I always took it to mean “killed suddenly and/or unexpectedly”.

    The examples given above of being killed while AFK or by a character of very much higher level would be typical examples, but the classic one would be to have your character killed on logging or zoning in, often before you could even see, let alone control hwat you were doing.

    Pwning is a term I hardly ever use, but I always understood it to mean not just killed but humiliated. As in your soccer team being beaten in a 7 – 0 walkover rather than 1 – 0 in a close contest.

    As to wanting a fair fight, I think a lot of players want a fair fight *that they win* and while most enjoy handing out a pwning (if not a ganking) on occasion, many would prefer a fair fight that they lose to a win over a totally incompetent or uninterested opponent. Would you want to play tennis against someone who couldn’t even hit the ball back over the net?

    Me, I’ll settle for any win. I’m an enthusiastic but almost entirely unskilled PvPer. I’m ok at the tactical parts, and at support roles, but it all comes undone if anyone interrupts me in my clever schemes or notices what I’m doing and I have to do any actual close combat.


  14. Aillas

    To me, ganked means a specific type of PvP kill – one where you are significantly outleveled, outnumbered, or both. As in, I was questing in the mid level area (say… Stranglethorne Vale) and 2 chars level 65+ ganked me.

    It does NOT mean, I fought an equal matched opponent (or opponents in a group pvp battle situation) and they won. That’s just being beaten, not being ganked.

    It probably has lost meaning through misuse.


  15. SynCaine

    @TAGN: Haha, I just made that line because I was going to link to his post (it was good stuff), but could not find a way to do so other than “Lum said funny stuff”.


  16. Toldain

    There is a saying in EVE, “If you are in a fair fight, you’re doing it wrong.” To me, that captures ganking completely.

    To be ganked is to be the target of a successful predation. Predators gather food with the least amount of risk to themselves. The PVP predators don’t do it for food, but for killmails, loot, experience or jollies. Personally, I would consider only the last to be griefing, though which game you’re playing might matter.


  17. TheRemedy

    I have used the most reliable source on the internet to determine the true meaning of the word gank…

    Urban Dictionary defines gank as “to steal” which was introduced in 2001.


  18. Vrykerion

    When I played on a PvP server (way back when in the long long ago) I always had assumed ‘ganking’ to be a situational kill where the target did not have an equal opportunity to retaliate. This could be as level imbalance, AFK, outnumbered or waiting till the target had engaged several mobs before striking or a combination of which.

    However, I am reluctant to include ‘gear’ in that list, as a 1v1 duel between two 85s – one in PvE gear and one in PvP – there is still an opportunity to retaliate. Same with squaring off with a twink. It’s not impossible to snatch, though the chances are in favor of the player with better gear. Luck favors the prepared and all that.


  19. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @TheRemedy – I thought about including the definition of Gank from the Urban Dictionary, ever the answer to my “what in the hell does that mean?” questions. However, the multiple entries were not very satisfying.

    I did, however, love this definition of “ganking“:

    Incorrectly used word in warcraft (Dota, WoW). Noobs mistakingly think infinite form of gang=ganking. Some even use the word “gank” itself even though the word gank means either to steal or to hurt one’s feelings according to dictionary.com

    Because this is English and no word can have multiple meanings, right? And here on the Urban Dictionary, we defer to dictionary.com to determine the correct definition of words. And I always defer to authorities on the English language who think verbs have an “infinite” form (outside of political and diplomatic discourse).

    I think not.

    And one definition of Gank refers it back to Ultima Online, which puts the 2001 definition in some doubt, in my opinion, if we want to take the “only one meaning per word” and “whoever called it first wins” route. (Which I don’t, but somebody else started it!)

    Our language is ever a treasure.


  20. Shaw

    Ganking is killing sombody while they’re knee deep in adds. A frost mage tried to do this to my pally. But, I’m a pally. I bubbled, healed up, and killed him… Then he did it again at like half health lol.


  21. Gankalicious

    hmmmmmmmmmm….I think I’d have to agree with Stabs on this one ;)

    And thanks to Syncaine for bringing up the difference between griefing and ganking. I’ve ganked many but griefed few.


  22. bluelinebasher

    I agree with Aillas’ definition. I always thought it meant winning a dominant situation in PvP by either being superior in mere level or having sheer numbers as opposed to skill, either case it’s pretty much a no contest affair for the victim and both sides know it. Things like trying and duel someone and their buddies jump in anyway, or running around solo in a pvp area and a team comes and steamrolls, or any unsuspected gate camp in Eve. I don’t think gear alone qualifies and the risk/loss is accepted by the victim as within the rules of fair play.


  23. Shadow

    Getting ganked, in the traditional sense, is losing a fight where the victim has zero chance of success. As a PvP player, this it the optimal situation to put a target into, and being able to set up the situation to achieve that goal is a significant portion of what goes into PvP.

    I’ll take any kills I get, and do my damnedest to make it as easy as possible for me, to kill you. However, I expect you to do the same. When you do, and we meet, that’s where the most fun is had.


  24. Elumine

    I agree with what Shadow said.

    My personal experience with the term comes mostly from Aion, where ganking refers to one of two things:

    1. A very geared out player who lurks in the questing areas of players from the opposite faction, and jumps on weaker targets who have little to no chance of defending themselves.

    2. A group of (possibly geared) players who team up on solo characters questing in an area. (“Gank squad”)

    #2 is to be differentiated from zergs, which have higher numbers but are less coordinated and skill-dependent.


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