Absolutely nothing is the short answer (as well as the next line in the song you just sang in your head), but that would make for a pretty weak blog post. This is a topic that has been lurking in the deep, dark cellars in the back of my mind for some time now. This is mainly due to the fact that, like most gamers, I experience a Bruce Banner like reaction to rage and anger on occasion. Fortunately for me (and any inanimate objects that might be surrounding me at any given time), those occasions are far less frequent and violent than they used to be. Still, it’s something I’ve always wanted to explore a little more. The adverse effects of anger are well documented, and therefore all that raging can’t be good for you. Yet we can’t seem to keep ourselves in check when things go wrong.


What is it that turns even the sweetest kid into a white hot pulsating mass of rage? Is it videogames themselves, or is there some deeper reason why controller manufacturers have ample job security? With the goal of figuring out the answers to these questions, I scoured the internet (no one goes to libraries anymore, don’t give me that look) in an attempt to piece together an answer. Here’s my takeaway on the subject, and even some suggestions for keeping the mean green beast within in check.


First off, “gamer rage” is merely your normal, everyday brand of rage packaged neatly together with our favorite hobby. Unless, that is, you believe Urban Dictionary’s crude (and hilarious) definition separate from normal rage (*WARNING* don’t click if you’re offended by foul language).  So in order to understand gamer rage we need to look into what rage is. According to the fine people at Dartmouth who are actually paid to do this sort of research (and might be better suited to explain this than I am), “Rage is the accumulation of unexpressed anger and perceived disrespectful transactions that after multiple “stuffings” finally flow to the surface.” In gamer terms, the more you feel slighted by the game or a particular opponent (another player or crazy difficult enemy, perhaps) the more your anger builds until you finally want to punch through his/her face.

According to research, the reason anger doesn’t initially cause you to make a trip to Lowes for a drywall patch is that your brain produces a chemical called acetylcholine, a hormone which tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline. You die in a game, re-spawn, and a happy camper ends your short visit back into the action. Seven times in a row. While your brain was able to quell your desire to fly into a fit of gamer rage the first six times (the “stuffing” mentioned above), your repressed feelings of anger just can’t be held back any longer for lucky number seven. Controllers break (you’re welcome, Nyko), your vocabulary shrinks to only the curse words that you know, and what started as a fun endeavor turns to a bleak affair. But why are we getting so angry in the first place?

Ignorant claims (no bias here) have been made that indicate violence in games may be the trigger. “Bull***” says researchers at Brock University (I paraphrase).  Their 2011 study indicated that the most influential factor in video game rage is the level of competition involved. According to this study, two groups of gamers were given competitive games, one group violent and the other non-violent in nature. Absolutely no difference in behavior was observed between the two groups as they played. Instead, they found that as ante was upped in a competitive atmosphere, so did gamers’ adverse reactions to losing. This isn’t to say a competitive drive is inherently a bad thing.

Where those competitive juices get us into trouble is when we get personally involved in what we’re doing. Videogames are easy to get caught up in. With today’s level of customization and personalization of many aspects of your character, car, etc. it’s easy to form an attachment to what you’re playing. After all, you put some time and thought into it, adding a bit of yourself into the mix. When your digital representation in the game gets its hind end handed to it on a shiny silver platter, you’re forced to swallow a bit of that pride you took in its creation. Even if you didn’t have a hand in creating said game representative, it’s still easy to project its failures as a reflection of you.

However, being the imperfect humans we are, we’re never to blame for our own faults. Instead of saying “golly, this game is tough” or “gee whiz, that player is really good,” we tend to place blame on anything under the stars. The game is obviously flawed, that player is cheating, your controller is faulty (probably due to many rapid trips across your room), and having to deal with distractions around you tend to be the excuses why you failed. Instead of realizing that losing is inevitable sometimes in life, we prefer to lose our cool in addition to our game.

Even if we’re capable of accepting defeat, sometimes our buttons are pushed in other ways. While I cannot personally attest to having to hear some twit on the other end of the interwebs (online multiplayer), I have run across a multitude of examples of the awful (and downright spiteful) things that are said behind the shield of anonymity. Surely it’s not your fault if some bag one might use on a summer's breeze ill mannered individual decides to take shots at you. This punk rude person needs to be put in his/her place. Not to mention losing save files and/or not saving hours into a game then suddenly dying or having your game crash. Heck, there are numerous reasons for gamers to lose it. So what’s the big deal? Aren’t we all entitled to blow off a little steam?

The problem is trying to keep it at a little steam. When researching this topic, I stumbled upon an old blog written by GI staffer Jeff Akervik back in 2010 (which you can read here). His recounting of what that “little bit of steam” tends to look like is quite amusing and yet telling at the same time. You see, by the time anger morphs into rage, your response is less likely to be the whistling of a tea kettle and more like an eruption from Mount Vesuvius. If you’re unable to control your anger, why would you think controlling your reaction to rage would be any easier? Is there even a way to control your rage?

The biggest consensus on this matter is to avoid suppressing your anger when you initially feel it start to well up inside. Acknowledging your anger from the start is the best and most effective way to prevent cranial explosions. One problem with this is that is that it’s not always easy to identify when we start to become angry. Another is knowing just how long you have from initial feelings of anger until the results of gamma radiation start to take effect. Since this varies from person to person, no chart exists that can help you to recognize when a total meltdown is about to take place. You’re pretty much on your own for figuring out when the countdown begins.

Once you can manage to figure out exactly when that vain in your forehead first starts to twitch, there are several steps you can take to nip anger in the bud. Sure, you can turn to message boards for the answer but when you do, the answers aren’t always so helpful (examples here and here). And while I may not possess a PhD (insert cheesy Holiday Inn Express joke here) I have used a combination of research and experience to come up with a list of suggestions to help you avoid going bananas.

When you feel the demons rising up, pour ice down your pants- Sure, this seems silly, but do this and then try to be angry. I dare you. You’ll be so concerned with how freaking cold your nether-regions are that you’ll forget all about the fact that your game crashed after three hours of game play…since your last save.

Make a bacon sandwich- If you can eat a bacon sandwich and still be upset, there’s a good chance you were sent by Skynet to kill Sara Connor.

Purchase an actual punching bag- While some experts believe than reacting violently to anger is not a healthy approach, others believe an outward, physical expression of your anger can help you to let go of it much easier. While punching your friends and family might land you in a little hot water, a punching bag will never snitch if you sucker punch it in anger two or twenty times. For those without the capitol to buy a punching bag (they can be pricy), you can get some cheap pillows and duct tape and make your own.

Take a drive, walk, or bike ride- Getting out and taking in some fresh air (and perhaps getting a little exercise) can pay dividends in the long run for both your mental and physical health. You may even see some great things to take your mind off that jackass person who erroneously accused you of performing various unsavory acts of an intimate nature during your last COD multiplayer session.

Try yoga, meditation, or other hippie activities- Once again, these are for bettering your mind and body. There are actually games and apps that will help you with these, so you can better yourself and still game at the same time (sort of…stop laughing).

Learn to play the ukulele- Have you ever seen someone play a ukulele when suddenly, a mosh pit breaks out? Can you imagine Metallica releasing a ukulele version of Kill ‘em All (wait, that’s almost absurd enough for them to try)? The reason this has never happened is because when this ridiculous little guitar is played, this is what happens. Since this couldn’t be the sound track to your rage fest, it’s the instrument of choice for soothing the savage beast inside.

Type “groin shots” in the YouTube search field- Do you really need me to explain why?

Learn a new word- This is helpful on a couple fronts, as it both broadens your mind and vocabulary. If you do manage to slip into gamer rage after a few trips to the dictionary (that ancient tome containing words and their meanings) you will be able to utter less abrasive words. Trust me, not many people will know how to respond if you call them a gelding (you're looking it up now, aren't you?).


Play an old favorite- This is probably pretty obvious, but taking a break from a game that’s frustrating you and playing an older game that you have always enjoyed is a great way to calm the nerves. It’s familiar, you know you enjoy it, and more importantly it’s easy to recall that sense of accomplishment you felt the first time you conquered it.

The recurring theme here is that stepping back for a bit is usually the best measure. Whether you take my suggestions or prefer the advice of professionals (as if), getting control over gamer rage is greatly beneficial to you. Not only can you improve your social interactions when it comes to gaming, but the list of the side effects of anger and rage aren’t pleasant to deal with. This isn’t to say I think we should all hold hands and sing Kumbaya (in fact, that would creep me out). Some trash talk during gaming can be fun. The trick is to remove anger from the equation. When anger is the fuel for game banter, lines get crossed, tempers flare, and things can get ugly quickly.

 I can’t think of anyone who got into gaming because they wanted to be stressed out by it. Try to remember that gaming is supposed to be fun. Take yourself back to when you first knew gaming was for you. I doubt you were red-faced, covered in sweat, and muttering curse words under your breath. If it was, you chose the wrong hobby.

Seriously though, why hasn’t Nerf jumped all over making a gamer rage proof controller?