Smurfing–some gamers hate it, but there’s a positive side

Intentionally thwarting a games match-making system to play with less skilled players is generally frowned upon, but it has legitimate, non-toxic uses.

I join a match with my low level friends, getting ready to frag out knowing we were gonna queue up against players just as bad as us. Halfway into the match, we realized we were wrong. One particular player was killing us every single time. He was so good, at first we thought he was hacking. Then we realized it. He’s definitely smurfing.

Smurfing is the term used to describe a highly experienced player using a low-ranked account to play against less experienced or competitive players in the lower ranks. Most of those players are abusing the power of smurfing and just want to ruin other player’s gameplay, while enjoying the thrill of dominating others.

Smurfing is hated by the gaming community. ViktorTheOne (a Overwatch player) said, “Smurfing is bad and there is nothing you can say that will change that, it is an issue in Overwatch and it needs to be fixed. Just make it bannable.”

Blizzard, the developer of Overwatch, does not see smurfing as a problem, as long as the user does not break the rules. For example, if a smurf throws every match to deliberately play against low ranked players or to boost their friends to higher ranks, this goes against Blizzard’s terms.

There are many videos of professional players and YouTubers using a smurf account to play in ranked matches. Most professional players use a smurf account to hide their identity, meaning that they want to take a break from being recognized in their games or they got bored playing in the same rank level. For example, Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen uploaded a couple of videos of showing him using smurf accounts for ranked or scrim games because he does not want to get recognized or ruin his main stats. He mostly get comments on his video like “smurfing ruins the game” or “Rip the ranked kids that got destroyed by Mr. Unranked aka Pengu”. Fans are divided about how whether or not this is acceptable gaming behaviour.

There are some ways that smurfing should be acceptable. Using a smurf account to learn new characters and strategies by yourself or with your team is a great way to improve. Discussing and practicing strategies can lead to many wins. It’s less stressful to play with lower ranks than going against higher skilled players. You can use a smurf account to practice and learn new characters instead of being asked to play your main character every time when you’re using your main account. It could also be used for practicing with your team so you can improve your team chemistry. Regular or pro players do often use smurfs accounts for scrims because they do not want to ruin their stats on the main account. Some players might find this annoying as they do not know how to counter the opposing team strategies.

Smurfing can also be a way to avoid long queue times to play with other players in the higher ranks. For example, League of Legends had a 1-hour peak queue time. Long queue times are common in the high ranks as there aren’t that many players within that rank or when early in the season most people didn’t get a rank yet.

Players uses a smurf account to avoid losing their rank while practicing or improving the current meta. Meta (“most effective tactics available”) is whatever strategy that is recognized as most effective to beat the opposing team. “Going a few ELO steps down to experience the ‘off-meta’ or lower ranked meta surely won’t hurt and can be learned from in multiple games,” Pengu said. “Often at the highest ranks, it’s a very strict meta (with players) being forced to do certain things simpler is way better.” This means that it’s less stressful to try a huge variety of strategies in the game without being forced by your teammates to do a certain thing. 

The director of Overwatch, Jeff Kaplan, does not have a problem with smurfing as long as they do not intentionally create new accounts to abuse inexperienced players. Jeff Kaplan posted a comment in the Overwatch forum about his opinions on smurfing. He said “Smurfing, and I know this isn’t what you want to hear, isn’t really a big issue. I know there is a very bad reception of smurfing. But the reality is, skilled players, are moved rapidly out of lower skill situations.” 

Smurfing is not a problem that needs to be solved. There are many reasons why people smurf and most of them don’t affect other people’s gameplay. It is alright to smurf as long as you don’t abuse it.

Image credit: Riot Games

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