Gaming & Anger

Nerd Rage, Rage Quitting, and Angry Gamers


Nerd rage. Rage quitting.

If you have a gamer in your life, or are a gamer, you've most definitely come across game rage at least once. So, what exactly is it? The top definition on Urban Dictionary is: "to stop playing out of anger." There are additional components that make rage an appropriate word for this behavior. 

Sometimes the rage is accompanied with screaming, breaking things, physical aggression, and heightened emotionality. Losing not only once, but numerous times, being harassed online, or having difficulties with a game can lead to rage quitting.

Before some commentary on this behavior is shared, here is a video of what can commonly occur when a gamer experiences rage quitting. This is one of countless recordings available online. 

Now, this video was shared not to ridicule or shame gamers. It was shown to illustrate the seriousness of this problem. Around the world, there are millions of homes where gaming is part of everyday life. That means around the world, it can be fairly common to have a gamer get angry or a family member argue about bed times and spending time off the computer or console. This means that gaming and anger in the family is a normal thing, and yet games are being blamed. 

Is gaming really the problem?

Sometimes gaming is the problem. Sometimes it's part of the problem. Sometimes it's the solution for a chaotic life filled with problems. It really depends on context, and individual circumstances. In general, gaming can be the last part of the puzzle where a person who has limited coping skills finally has an outlet to channel anger and other strong emotions. In regards to many men and boys getting angry, there is something curious to consider:

Socially acceptable emotions for men and boys.

Expanding on traditional gender roles and emotional expression has changed within a generation. Even so, there are remnants of the "boys will be boys" and "boys don't cry" mentalities in the minds of many men and boys we know. Millennials, Gen Y, and Gen X gamers can come from a burdened culture where they are not allowed to express feminine emotions. This can be very draining, and misdirect every other emotion into anger. 

Underneath this rage that can "appropriately" be expressed from gaming and being competitive (because it's masculine and acceptable behavior) is lots of pain, unresolved losses, and vulnerability. Men and boys may be less likely to share directly about painful emotions unless it's a result of competition or gaming. This leaves males with a smaller window of opportunity to express normal emotions that females generally share throughout the day. 

What does this build up of emotion do to the human body? Emotions and intense energy builds up, and needs a release. If it isn't released in small bursts, well, you get rages.

Emotions are like air filling up in a balloon. There is only so much that can fill before it bursts. 

Females also get angry. 

Around half of all gamers are female. This leads to expanding on more traditional gender stereotypes or assumptions with female. Females can and do play all types of games, and can also experience nerd rage. Gaming can be an outlet for women where in general, the greater culture may not accept female anger or aggression as openly as when males do. 

Females may be pressured to maintain harmony in groups, and suppress feelings of anger to please others. This is not always the case, of course, yet there are socializing agents that may heavily shape a female's range of expressing negative emotions; the same way men are not nurtured to acknowledge more vulnerable types of emotions. According to an article on gender and anger, men tend to be more physical and aggressive with their anger, while females tend to be more passive aggressive (GOSSIPING).

Gaming may be used as a safer negative emotional outlet for some. It may be healthier to release anger while yelling and killing creeps in a videogame than picking a fight with a random person who bumped into you. In addition to all the positive aspects gaming offers its players, some may use it solely for an emotional outlet; others, not so much. Context is important. 

Context for anger

For many gamers, life can be difficult and overwhelming. People may not always be the kindest, and social support might be minimal. Being misunderstood, and not being able to connect with others may add context to why some gamers have angry outbursts when they play. Having a childlike heart, or being labeled as immature, or lazy by loved others can also be disheartening. Countless stereotypes on being a gamer can make it even more difficult to connect with non-gamers. Adult children affected by the recession, Millennials, also have an added layer of difficulty to finding work and finishing school while some of their peers may be more "successful." 

How nerd rage affects family & relationships

Gaming and anger can become a focus within the family system or relationship. This intense focus on anger can cause arguing, break ups, and additional anger from others. The entire experience can be frustrating, overwhelming, and tiring. Lots of people may start giving ultimatums for the gamer to quit playing "or else" something will be taken away. Parents of adult gamers may feel guilty for permitting the behavior to get to this excessive state, as well as disappointed and upset their child is not thriving. Gamers can feel misunderstood for their love of gaming, annoyed that others want to take something that brings them joy away, and guilty or stuck for not pleasing others. It's a lot of emotions, a lot of perspectives, and a lot of relationship dynamics to consider. 

What happens next?

If extreme anger and gaming are difficult to even initially address, seeking professional support may be a first step. Gaming can be an addiction. If behaviors become difficult, it's important to seek help; either for your own support, or for the family or relationship. Information is invaluable, and learning what gaming can offer a person can help increase connection and open communication. Sometimes arguments and anger can really be about gaming, and sometimes it really isn't about gaming in the first place. Everyone has a story, and every gamer has a history and reason for playing. Listening to understand can make a world of difference. If these initial stages are confusing or difficult to start, an awesomely compassionate and gaming affirmative therapist may be able to help start the healing process. 

Finding Safety to Feel Strong Emotions...

Words can hurt us. Feeling misunderstood can hurt us.

Photo credit: seb kim

Photo credit: seb kim

When the pain from the past creeps up, and we're met with the words, "You're still dealing with THAT?, it can feel like we're alone, and it can feel shameful. Our feelings and experiences are not being honored or validated at times because it seems like it is too much for others.

What are some reasons others would stop the sharing of painful things? Perhaps it is too much for others at the moment. It may bring up feelings of discomfort in others to see you in pain. It can be frustrations with not knowing what to do to make it better. Many times, people want to help, yet they are not prepared to do so. Instead of showing empathy, people can sometimes shut the emotions down because of this discomfort. 

It could also be societal norms that dictate which things are "more appropriate" to talk about in public. Stigma is very real, and it affects how many of us are allowed to share our personal experiences with others. 

So, what can you do to ensure you're able to process these feelings, and create a safe space?

Identify safe people.

Start with family or friends. Sometimes it will not be family, but people who have gone through similar things. Support groups, hotlines, or FaceBook groups might be a starting point.

Identify safe spaces.

Talking in loud, public places like the supermarket might not be the best places to share pains. Identify quiet, private places that you and the other person feel comfortable with having a conversation together. Think about confidentiality and if you want your information shared with people nearby.

Take a break to compose your words.

Take some deep breaths. Write your words down if it's easier to talk about how you are feeling, and what you need. Drinking tea, or a comforting beverage can help calm you down where you can write what's going on. It doesn't all have to be logical; the goal is to get the energy outside your body. Writing can help organize thoughts so when it is time to share, it can be easier to explain what you're going through, and what others can or can't do to help you during this process.

Develop boundaries.

It's okay to tell others how their behavior is treating you. Using "I-Messages", you can talk about how you're feeling when not given permission to share your experience.

"I felt disrespected/sad/(emotion) when [you said (x,y,z), you didn't listen...]

Offer opportunity for repair.

State what behavior you want, or how someone can show care. Lots of people do not know what to do to comfort someone in pain.

  • "When I am sad, and need to talk, I want you to [x, y, z]. It would make me feel (loved, understood, important) if you did this. 

NOTE: If you do not know what you want/need from a loved one when you are upset, it is unfair to ask of it from them. If this is the case, take time alone to figure out what helps you improve your mood, and what helps you sort through your thoughts and emotions.

Small amounts of time.

Sometimes new information is easier to swallow in tiny bits. People need time to process as much as you do. If a problem has affected you for a long time, that means you've had a long time to think about it. Offer others a little more time to understand what you're going through by talking about it briefly every now and then. (In the meantime, you can write about it, or make art about your experience.)

Maintain respect for others.

Sometimes the best you can do is offer others compassion when they cannot understand you. You can still interact with people who do not get you; just limit how much you share, knowing that they will not understand. There can be other things to talk about. If you do not feel safe with certain people, then it is at your discretion to interact or not interact with these people.

If you're unable to find safe people after several attempts, keep looking.

Online support groups might be an option. Talking with a therapist for a short while can also be an option. Journaling and reading books related to what you're going through is also an excellent option. 

How do you make sure your feelings are being respected by others? Where do you go to talk about things that have affected you for a long time?