Smurfs. “What’s smurfing on here?” Not those smurfs, the other kind.
(Stream) But also kind of both? Smurfing is a common term in esports and gaming for when high-level players use a secondary account to play against weaker opponents. (Stream) There are a lot of opinions on whether or not you should do this and we’ll get into that, but first: where did this term come from? To find out, we’ve got to go back in time to the glorious, hope-filled days of 1996.
What did I tell you last episode? You can’t tell me what the f*ck to do! “And together, we will build that bridge, to the 21st Century.” “You can go in and basically check out all the features, from DVDs.” “It’s probably the best thing about DVDs” “Your sound card works perfectly.”
In 1996, a relatively small but incredibly dedicated group of Warcraft II players were playing the game online. The game did not support online multiplayer out of the box, so players had to install and configure a program called Kali, which basically let you use TCP/IP to emulate a LAN environment. There was no match-making, so you had to find a lobby the old fashioned way.
Two of these dedicated fans, Geoff “Shlongor” Fraizer…. Yes Miles, this is where you cut to a Wiener? joke. Anyway, Geoff “Shlongor” Fraizer and Greg “Warp” Boyko, were so good at Warcraft 2 that many players avoided them completely.
And, in order to actually find opposition, the two created alternate accounts under the names of “Papa Smurf” and “Smurfette.” Yes, that’s right. They assumed the identities of two strange, tiny blue forest-dwelling humanoids – who live in mushroom houses within a predominantly male, egalitarian society functioning without any apparent form of commerce. “Your greed is your undoing.”
Anyways, back to Warcraft II. The only record of played games that we have are literal written accounts of them since, replays didn’t exist yet and no one recorded video. It was in these accounts that Shlongor chronicled the joys of smurfing. “Warp and I enjoy making up names and playing people at war2.
We make them think we really suck and then beat them up. We have lots of fun playing as smurfs. We talk in smurf. We smurf us some ass at war 2. I guess that is totally childish, but it sure is fun.” Things were going pretty well for Shlongor and Warp, but people suspected that something was up, and eventually the two smurfs found themselves in a game against a newcomer named “Spider-man.” Little did Shlongor and Warp know, at the time, but the mysterious web-crawler was actually another smurf account. Zima, the leader of a rival clan.
“I’m smurfing undercover!” And while Spider-man did manage to knock Shlongor out of the game early, Warp was able to finish the job for the smurfing duo. In time, smurfing would spread beyond Warcraft 2, especially as automated matchmaking systems became more common.
And today it’s more prevalent than ever… (Stream) Regardless of whether the smurfs are doing this for the fun of stomping noobs, or trying to play with friends who aren’t as skilled – the practice is controversial. And plenty of people from various gaming communities have weighed in on the issue. Riot Games admitted that while they don’t endorse smurfing, it’s a complicated issue. And that people smurfing to play with friends, or to try out unconventional strategies on a different account, shouldn’t be treated the same way as people just intent on griefing new players.
Blizzard Entertainment’s Jeff Kaplan also addressed rising concerns that smurfing was becoming an epidemic in Overwatch, but downplayed its overall impact on the match-making ladder. It’s a tricky problem though. Developers want you to play their game, because if you aren’t, there’s a lot of other things you aren’t doing as well: like spending money, or spreading the word. But smurfing has the potential to ruin the game for lower-ranked players. Getting crushed by someone you shouldn’t even be playing with isn’t fun.
After all, matchmaking is there for a reason. (Stream) While pro players often smurf to hide their identities, it’s not uncommon for these accounts to become well-known through appearing on their streams. The usage of the term smurf is so widespread in esports and gaming that some have even started using it sarcastically. The idea is that the highest level of League of Legends competition for each respective region, is actually far below the skill level of the player who is “smurfing.” It can also be used as a mark of regional pride: a Korean player who is playing for an NA team could be described as “smurfing” in NA.
So there you have it – smurfing. A fateful decision over made 20 years ago, by two Warcraft 2 players – one of whom had the word “schlong” in his name — has forever changed the way we view suspiciously good accounts in competitive gaming. And as long as matchmaking remains, you can bet there are going to be players who take on the persona of tiny blue people to smash noobs.
No, why? Uhh that’s definitely not me. [coughs] Smurfs. What!? How can a cough be cringe?
What!? It was like I was clearing my throat… [HaHAA cough] Like a Gollum kind of situation? Smurfs. Smurfs.
Jesus. Anyways… It was good, but it was cringe?