Why People Rage Quit Games

Illustration for article titled Why People Rage Quit Games

Last night, after a grueling episode of Game of Thrones, a good number of people swore they would never watch the show again. Take a look at the retweets on this Twitter account, which chronicles the extreme reaction to the Rains of Castamere episode, to see what I mean. (Don't visit the link if you're trying to avoid spoilers!) You might say they "rage quit" Game of Thrones.

While not unique to multiplayer games—there's the Game of Thrones example, and I've definitely rage quit single-player games—chances are that if you play online games, you're well-acquainted with rage-quitters. These are the people who end up leaving a match mid-progress instead of waiting for the game to end. Maybe they were losing. Maybe the match was annoying because they kept teleporting everywhere—bad connection. Maybe they're a bad sport. Maybe the same person kept killing them again and again just 30 seconds after they'd spawn.

The reason doesn't matter so much as the act of leaving in frustration does. Hence, you know, the rage part of rage quitting. But it's not always as simple as being pushed to the brink of your tolerance. While quitting mid-match can be seen as 'rage-quitting,' there are a lot of different scenarios that will illicit a similar response.


It sounds silly—and it is—but it's still a huge part of multiplayer games. People rage quit all the time, to the point that some games have measures or achievements associated with the practice. Some games might give you a penalty of some sort: if you leave a match early, you don't get any experience in your next game. That's a common measure. Sometimes, games like to have more fun with the practice—Team Fortress 2's "BarbeQueQ" achievement comes to mind, which Pyros can get if the player they "dominate" leaves the server.

On the whole, rage-quitting is seen as an act of bad sportsmanship, although troll-culture makes it so that a rage quit isn't necessarily an undesired outcome. Sure, it sucks if you have someone on your team leave a game before it ends—but on the flipside, it can also feel gratifying to think you are the specific reason someone feels angry. The fact there's an entire culture around this should not be understated: there are forums, websites and more dedicated to presenting people with irritating material, posing that if you let it affect you, you've lost.

Only the stoic can win—or, put another way, you rage you lose! Of course there's such a big problem with bullying online when that's the case. Hazing breeds hazing, and only those able to keep it together even when under immense, possibly unfair pressure, are worthy of respect.


Seen in that light, there's always a bigger 'game' going on when you play against someone. You can lose the video game, but you can still win the more important 'game.' You can still be the better man and leave with your head held high, so to speak—or at least you can make it look that way.

You can lose the video game, but you can still win the more important 'game.'

Appearances and dignity are a huge part of rage quitting, after all—and so the feeling of frustration is not the whole picture here. Remember, we've got stats and leaderboards to consider as well. A match that doesn't go in your favor is not a thing you can hide when most games keep track of information like win/loss ratio or kill/death ratio. As a result, many people are willing to take a loss by disconnecting from a game if it means they can keep their precious statistics intact. They might not necessarily be raging because they're losing: they might simply leave because it's a way to save face.


It's just as (arguably) scummy of a reason, but there's technically no "rage" happening in that rage quit. Which is to say, the reasons that someone leaves a match might be more complex than losing a game, or even just because "they mad." A recent look into the practice in DOTA 2 by Valve reveals the following:

The outcome of matches doesn’t correlate at all to the likelihood of quitting. Losing a bunch of Dota 2 games doesn’t seem to cause people to quit.


Instead, one of the primary reasons why people left matches was because of unpleasant communication between players. The things that make people rage quit, then, may not be related to the immediate game at all.

This makes me curious about other people's rage-quitting habits—because let's be real, many of us have probably left a match before it was over. I've definitely left a match before I got too pissed off to be able to have any fun or contribute meaningfully to the team's effort. In the case where my repeated death can have consequences for the entire team, leaving seems like an imperative. I don't want to be fodder for someone to repeatedly get a kill streak, or make it so that the team's life pool becomes endangered because I can't keep my shit together. In that case, leaving might even be a boon for the team.


That's a whole lot of justification for a kind of shitty act, but hey, these things happen. I find that more often than not, I see rage-quitting as an opportunity to prove myself—situations where my team wins despite being a man down feel that much more rewarding. I'll stay in these matches just to prove a point.


But that's enough about me. I'm curious about you guys. Do you have hard rules about when you can leave a game? Do you care about how it might affect others at all, or do you put your own enjoyment of the game before sportsmanship? And if you don't really play online games, have you ever found yourself rage-quitting media—like Game of Thrones? What does it take to push you to the brink such that you give something up, be that a match or a show?

The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games. It runs every Monday at 6PM ET.


Image credit: Shutterstock.

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I once swore I wouldn't get involved with the universe anymore.