Nerf Rage

Jesse Singal, on the scientific significance of Diablo III's preternaturally demanding fanbase: "The game has unleashed a torrent of nerdrage. White-hot, screeching nerdrage. Nerdrage about how the game is balanced, about technical issues, about the non-responsiveness of Blizzard’s customer service. And I propose that the nerdrage sparked by Diablo 3 can help us unravel a mystery that has long eluded scientist and sociologist alike (not really): What causes nerdrage? What are the factors that determine its intensity, its duration, and its contagiousness?" [Awl]



  1. From the headline, I was wondering how dangerous “nerf” rage could be. I would take my chances. :)

    1. i was assuming that “nerf rage” must be a possible manifestation of “nerdrage”.  the latter for some reason often splits phonetically as “ner-drage”.  like the closely related, yet distinct, ‘gee-krage’ or ‘dwee-brage’

  2. How can you write this article without mentioning, even in passing, that because of the existence of a real-money auction house, everything in the game has a market value in dollars to its players, and so real money is on the line for all of these fans when it comes to every game balance and technical issue? Isn’t that an immense oversight?

    1. Because no-one cares about them. No-one will cry for people trying to make “real money” from a private, rigged, opaque in-game market with no rules, where commodities can be generated fiat sux by the proprietor to control supply and demand as it pleases.

      1.  But if you are trying to examine why fans are getting so unusually upset about this game, isn’t that the first thing that should leap to mind? Or least worth mentioning?

      2. i don’t think that “nobody cares about them” – it’s just that they are a small percentage of the actual player base.

  3. I thought that  Nerf rage was the anger experienced when you stay up all night painting and weathering a Nerf Maverick only to have your efforts snubbed by a Steampunk in a brown leather and brass corset the following afternoon.

  4. I think the answer to the question is a lot simpler than the article suggests.  Speaking as someone working in the industry, I think I’m being completely fair and reasonable in saying that the issues arise entirely out of “gamer culture” having a very high proportion of childish assholes with serious entitlement issues.

      1. Yes, absolutely, I was being hyperbolic in attributing it to only to gamers being self-entitled children, although that bit’s true. ;)
        There are certain things that set off gamers, and with D3 there was a (not entirely unreasonable) feeling of betrayal with the “always on” element before the game even released, for example.  Blizzard was unconvincing in their denials, but it was transparently implemented primarily as an unbreakable form of DRM, and people recognized that the functionality of the game was being limited to increase sales.

  5. I’m going to rage about how this guy missed the point entirely about what people are upset about. D3 vs. D2 v1.13 is sub-par game play at high levels, and the fans that still playing D2 when that patch was released (2010 – a decade after release) saw this as what D3 was going to include.

    Here’s the legit gripes about D3:

    – Inferno was extremely easy and they had to nerf the monk, the wizard, the demon hunter, attack speed buffs, life gain buffs, magic find buffs, gold find buffs, and misc. things to make it artificially harder. They also patched in nerfs based on difficulty level. In fact, the game is much easier than D2.
    – Legendary equipment has randomized stats, which makes most legendary equipment strictly worse than rare equipment that you can create. The idea of unique level items being worse than mid to high range rares of the same level is bad design.
    – D2’s skill tree had a distinct advantage to customize not just by the skill tree points, but by equipment improving those skill points. That means your equipment was not about finding the highest DPS for your build, it was about trying to maximize your build through equipment. Again, this makes magical and rare armor much better than it would be – especially at range where you don’t need vitality as much.

    I could go on, but the article proves it’s point even with my gripes about his D3 specific content. I want to be addicted to it to the level of D2, but D3 will never have the same staying power to last years with me because the high-level content doesn’t even come close to D2. There’s no extraordinarily hard bosses, no PvP, and there’s not even basic things like voice chat to make group play easier to dick around in.

    It’s no betrayal on Ultima’s level but it’s still disappointing.

    1.  A minor point regarding making the difficulty artificially harder…

      It’s a videogame – everything about it is artificial.

  6. Reading the article I noticed that he pointed out that most people nerdraging at people who are still playing the game.  It turns out that for the most part game companies should not listen to complaints in their forums because the only people who post in forums are people who are so hopelessly devoted to the game that they are certainly going to keep playing anyway.

    I was very disappointed with the game and I’ve actually stopped playing it.  I didn’t “ragequit” I just noticed that I hadn’t played it in a week and that I didn’t miss it at all.  I think the incredible level of nerdrage surrounding Diablo 3 comes from the fact that it actually is quite a let down from a company that has consistently put out high quality games.  Still, the whole question of what part of the human psyche creates nerdrage is an interesting one.

    1. “companies should not listen to complaints in their forums”
      Game designers know this is true for multiple reasons.  The people posting on the forums not only represent a tiny fraction of the audience that’s passionate about the game, as you say, but the fraction that’s also feeling disgruntled (you don’t hear from the larger number of people who are happy with things as they are).  So by caving in to their demands, you risk alienating a much larger number of players.  The other thing is that people tend to complain about the wrong things.  Bits that are really broken are avoided (when possible) by players; it’s the bits that players frequently use that they’ll obsess about.  Player surveys have shown this to be true: when asked what skills they thought needed fixing for one game I worked on, everyone ignored bits that we knew didn’t work; no one was using them.  They all wanted to see changes in skills they were using, due to perceived imbalances that didn’t necessarily even exist.

  7. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this forums, but I’m a veteran of an obscure Christian fundamentalist late 70’s, early 80’s phenomenon called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, sometimes called the Bill Gothard Seminar. I mention this because despite the fact that at least a third of the seminar’s weird hybrid of Biblical literalist theology and early cognitive/behavioral psychology was total BS, like most graduates, there are really useful things I got out of it that I carry with me to this day, some of which it seems like almost nobody else ever heard of.

    And near the top of that list, for me, probably in the top three, is the something like 6 hour long lecture he gave on Anger. So let me sum up, briefly, 6 hours of really useful insights into anger as briefly as I can:

    All anger, and I mean all anger, derives from one source: a sense of entitlement. In all of human history, nothing else has made anybody angry. People (and even animals) get angry because they feel that they are entitled to something, and either don’t get it or, worse, have it taken away from them. It can be justifiable anger: you are entitled not to get murdered, which means you’re entitled to get angry when somebody tries to murder you. Some of it is completely unjustifiable anger: you feel entitled to have that one person over there, the one that you are currently attracted to, love you back, and you get murderously angry that they don’t.

    Leaving Gothard behind for a second, nerdrage is pretty simple to understand at this point, just knowing this. Nerd-culture producers, ESPECIALLY in the techically and financially fragile television and computer gaming industries, over-promise in hopes of attracting investors and sustaining interest during long development cycles; those who don’t, we seldom hear about, because they got choked of funding before they ever shipped. Because they know that what they’re trying to do is artistically and/or technically complicated, nerd-culture producers TRY to cover themselves by making their promises vague, in hopes that when they fail to deliver some of what they wanted to deliver, they can soothe people by saying, “Well, technically, we never did promise exactly what you thought we did.” This actually makes it worse, though, because when hungry consumers read or hear vague promises of future coolness, how they interpret that is by filling in the gaps mentally with what they HOPE to see.

    What to do about nerdrage? Back to Gothard, if I may: he pointed out that both the Bible and history are unambiguous when they say that no, frankly, you are not entitled to anything. No, really. Neither a hungry tiger nor a raging wildfire care a fig about your right to life; it goes downhill from there. Even when you think that you’re promised something, even if the person promising it isn’t lying, all you’ve really been promised is that they’ll try; you are not entitled to them succeeding.

    So when you’re angry, about ANYTHING, nerd culture or not, you have two choices. You can cling to your sense that you were entitled to not be disappointed or deprived, and you can stay angry, and you can accept the health and social consequences of being angry all the time. Or else you can give up on feeling entitled, and learn acceptance. You can either say, “I’m disappointed! I guess I let myself feel entitled to (fill in the blank), that was a mistake, next time I’ll try to remember not to expect that,” or else you can say, “I’m disappointed! They cheated me out of something I’m entitled to!” and make yourself sick (and unpleasant) with rage.

    If there is a third alternative, nobody has ever found it.

    1. Quite insightful, nice food for thought!
      As for OP… It’s a decietful article trying to dismiss legitimate user complaints as “nerdrage” as if computer game players are somehow inferior beasts, spoiled brats whose cries of anger should be ignored by the game developer aristocrats who “know better.”
      I’ve seen this arrogance happen many times. Hollywood in particular passed through several dark ages when the moneyed aging producers “knew better” than the uncouth great unwashed who were supposed to be watching their bloated musicals or warsies or whatever but instead decided to stay home and watch TV (the evil television was what “piracy” is today).  And it’s always the audience’s fault and never, EVER the producers who “know better” what the audience is supposed to enjoy than audience itself. It is not their fault that the audience doesn’t know what’s “good”… Until someone like Spielberg or Scorsese comes around.
      Current big players in game industry are pretty much all dinosaurs, living off their past glory and audience expectation, as evidenced by ridiculous number of sequels at E3, but with these recent flops such as SWTOR and, to a degree D3, they have all but ran out of credit.

  8. “Nerdrage” lol.
    How come it’s normal to get pissed off when someone sells you  faulty microwave, but when you spend the same amount of money on a faulty game then it’s childish “nerdrage” that can be easily dismissed and even laughed at?
    Imo this is a much more interesting question than the one posed by the article. Not what this nebulous buzz-word “nerdrage” means, but how is it so easy to dismiss complaints by simply labeling them so?

    1.  They paid their money, for something they were ‘promised’ (or thought they were promised) and then it changed or failed to live up to their expectations, legitimate ones or not. Of course they’re going to be angry.

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