If someone on your video game team calls an enemy a smurf, chances are you’ll lose pretty hard.
Smurfing in video games is the act of intentionally playing within a skill range below a player’s actual rank. People who do this are called Smurfs. The idea is that playing against less skilled players can be a good source of training or a way to bolster an injured ego.
It’s also one of the biggest problems with modern gaming across all genres. The Smurf Battle is a four-way arms race between smurfs, developers, account vendors, and the average gamer.
The Smurfs ruin the game for several reasons. They create unfair situations for normal players who want to play against those of a similar skill level. Smurfs also tend to be more poisonous. The consequences don’t affect their main account, so they don’t care as much.
It’s up to video game developers to find ways to detect and deal with Smurfs. Dota 2, for example, pits suspected Smurfs until the algorithm bans them or verifies their authenticity. Developers often ask their player base for help with these issues by reporting suspected smurfs in their matches.
On the other side of the equation is a booming economy of bought and sold smurf accounts. Ranked ready accounts for free games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends can be purchased for less than the price of a sandwich.
Why do people smurf in video games?
Although smurfing seems like an obviously terrible thing to do, almost everyone who does it has justified it in their mind.
For some, smurfing is a way to practice new things without affecting their main account. Others think their opponents should be grateful to play against top players. Almost everyone has played against a smurf before, so why shouldn’t they have fun? Why people smurf in video games is a hotly debated topic, but it usually comes down to one of three reasons.
The first is to boost their ego. They might lose a few matches on their real account and use their smurf to beat the lower ranked players. These video game smurfs use it as a confidence booster. Sometimes they excuse their behavior by playing with less skilled friends. Games like Valorant and CSGO restrict party matchmaking if the ranks are too far apart.
Another common reason for smurfing is to train. These players buy or create accounts to learn new roles or strategies without affecting their main account. Some players take their win rate or records very seriously, and learning new things could affect those stats. It also puts them in a lower skill bracket, which the smurf considers fair because he’s not playing as usual.
Finally, there are even “ethical smurfs” who try to do it as a challenge. For example, some players try to achieve a high rank in CSGO using only bad weapons like the P250 pistol or the MP-9 submachine gun. League of Legends players can normally play jungle but purchase a second account to learn a different role.
Some big names even try to smurf for educational videos or content creation. Even though these smurfs do less harm than stomping on new players, it’s still a violation of the spirit of video games. The Ethical Smurfs always ruin the matches of the other nine players in the lobby.