Monday, March 7, 2011


If you've ever played an online multiplayer game, you know what I'm talking about. That 7-year-old who screams the whole game long because somebody else got the sniper rifle before he could. That trashtalker who gets killed 13 times in the first 5 minutes and rage-quits. You when you're having an off-day and can't seem to land any headshots/criticals. Nerdrage is a unique phenomenon, and I think it warrants some examination...

I know that I, personally, am afflicted with a propensity towards nerdrage. It's a constant struggle for me when I'm playing online to not let every bullshit occurrence tick me off. I am working on this, but as I said, it's a struggle. As I fight this tendency, I've noticed a number of things I'd like to share.

What causes nerdrage? In the simplest form, nerdrage is simply frustration at the outcome of a scenario. This applies when one gets upset at losing a game, or missing that headshot. In some cases, such as when a game is supremely laggy, this is a very valid definition. In most cases, however, I would argue that nerdrage goes deeper than that. It's not so much frustration at the outcome, but rather frustration with one's own ability. You're not upset you missed the headshot, you're upset you couldn't land it. You're not upset the other team won, you're upset that you were unable to beat them. It's not the other team's camping with a power weapon you're angry with, but rather your own inability to counter that strategy.

So, if nerdrage is caused by ourselves, why can't we just stop? Why can't we just tell ourselves "It's just a game, it's no big deal?" Well, with effort and time, we can learn to turn it off, but typically people just live with it. They do this because to them, it's not apparent why they're nerdraging. They take the explanation on the surface that they're upset because something happened. They feel it is outside of their control, and so they just accept it as part of the experience.

So what happens when we nerdrage? For one thing, we play worse. We get angry and nervous and anxious as nerdrage builds up, and that causes us to over-compensate when we aim, or jump, or whatever. This causes us to fail at things that would typically be routine for us, which in turn fuels our nerdrage. It is a self-sustaining monster in that regard. Other side-effects include sweating, tightening of the chest, reduced visual focus, reduced awareness, and in extreme cases, broken controllers/televisions/game consoles.

Nerdrage can be manipulated for psychological warfare. Every time an opponent "teabags" or punches your corpse after you've been defeated, they're trying to get under your skin and in your head. They're trying to force you to play worse by getting a rise out of you. This is the same reason for trash-talk before a game begins (trash-talk after a game is an entirely separate beast).

Finally, I think it's vital to note that nerdrage has nothing to do with what game we're playing. We can get just as upset in a sports game as we do in a first-person shooter. This is the reason we don't stop playing the games that make us nerdrage. If a game is good, we're going to play it. We're going to nerdrage at it, threaten to quit it, but ultimately we go back because the game itself is good and we enjoy it. Which is another interesting thing to note, no matter how much we nerdrage whilst playing a game, we almost invariably enjoy the experience.

So tell me, what are your thoughts about nerdrage? Have any favorite stories involving nerdrage? Share them with me!

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