The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
Purchase an actual punching
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
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.
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
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.
though, why hasn’t Nerf jumped all over making a gamer rage proof controller?