How professional gamers say ‘f*** you’ in front of thousands of fans
Watch any professional-level video game for any length of time and you'll start noticing that occasionally players will do things that don't make a lot of sense. In fact, they might do the exact opposite of what a smart player ought to be doing.
It might seem like the pros aren't as good as they're cracked up to be, but in some cases, what they're really doing is waving a big middle finger in their opponent's face. This phenomenon can be found in every pro-level video game, and we chatted with experts to learn the biggest insults of some of the biggest titles.
League of Legends
League of Legends features a fairly large amount of showboating and taunting simply because the game is relatively long and comparatively slow. There are often brief opportunities to take a moment to psychologically abuse your opponent.
“The game has 4 different commands: taunt, joke, dance, and laugh,” said Tom 'Optimus Tom' Searfoss, a LoL commentator. “A lot of players spam those when winning. Dyrus was known to spam laugh at his opponents all game as the character Singed in Season 2.”
“The standard method though, is as the minions are killing your opponent's base, you dive the summoner platform (spawn point) and suicide yourself - showing no heed to their chances of winning as if saying 'you'll lose this one to the minions,'” he said. “I know some players also sell all their items to buy random things - Froggen has been know to recall & sell all his items for 5-6 of something useless.”
In LoL, the recurring theme seems to be doing something funny or reckless to show that you aren't really taking your opponent seriously. In StarCraft, the theme is more based around flexing your muscle and showing that you can beat your opponent at a disadvantage.
The most common form of showboating is the “Manner M.U.L.E”. Terran players have a tool at their disposal called the M.U.L.E. which mines resources very quickly, and it's essential to use to build an army quickly.
When used, M.U.L.E.s drop from the sky in a landing pod, so when a player has a large lead they'll drop their M.U.L.E.s onto their opponent's base. Saying, in essence, I'll beat you without the most important tool I have. Or 'you're so far behind that I'll let you catch up.' More often than not, you'll see it at the end of a game as one player signals to their opponent that they need to give up.
Another common technique is to build a command center/hatchery/nexus inside of your opponent's base during a battle. To do this you need to bring a worker unit along for the battle, so it's showing your opponent that you knew the battle was won before it started, and that you're willing to waste resources on a useless expense because you're not concerned about losing the game anymore.
Example at 16:40.
PAR's photographer and resident Dota 2 expert, Dabe Alan, said that some of the same taunts from League of Legends are used in Dota 2 as well, particularly suicide-rushing into the opposing team's spawn area to be auto-killed. The Dota 2 community has put their own spin on it.
“There is an item that makes you immune to physical damage for 4 seconds called Ghost Scepter and people will occasionally purchase it from the opposing team's base and dive into the fountain (spawn area) and activate it at the last second so they don't die to the built-in turret,” he said.
He noted though that at the pro level in Dota you ordinarily see the opposing team forfeit before too many hijinks ensue.
“Sometimes lame strats like 'fountain hooking' start to be used if a game is an obvious slaughter, but that strategy actually won Na'Vi a game at The International so it's no longer really deemed a dick move,” he said.
“Fountain Hooking is a sort-of-bug in the game where a certain hero can hook someone to themselves (Pudge) and is then simultaneously warped to the home base (a popular support hero Chen's ability), resulting in hooking the victim all the way back into the fountain where they usually instantly die,” he said.
Call of Duty
“In-game, there are two things that Call of Duty players do to send a message,” said Alex Rubens, editor of eSports site GankReport.com, and a Black Ops enthusiast. “The main one is shooting the dead body of their opponent. If they kill someone, they'll run over and empty clips into the dead body.”
“It opens them up for attack, but they use it to send a message of 'you don't belong here,'” said Rubens.
“The second is them just putting down the controller, which is far less common, but something that happens every once in a while,” he explained.
The latter example was seen in the now-famous clip of Call of Duty players screaming at each other during a match. At 2:45 in the clip above the player mentions that he's not even playing the game anymore, and later his teammate stops playing as well.
“So, when people are trash talking that heavily, they often just set the controller on a knee or the table in front of them while doing that,” said Rubens. “You'll see that one of the other dudes has time to pull out his phone and load up the Chase app to show the other dude his bank account.”
Super Street Fighter IV
In the old days, the big insult for Street Fighter fans was choosing the character Dan, who was deliberately underpowered by Capcom and was created as a mockery of rival SNK characters from the Art of Fighting series.
These days in professional competition things are a bit more nuanced though. “A lot of the time it comes down to trying to win with a specific move,” said James Chen, fighting game commentator and co-host of the popular UltraChen fighting game live stream show.
“There was one game in the NorCal Regionals where Kineda killed the opponent the first round with a Raging Demon (an Akuma special move.) He killed him in the second round with a Raging Demon. So then in the next one he got him with a Raging Demon, and you could tell that in the fourth game all he wanted to do was kill him with a Raging Demon. So much so that he dropped a round so that he could try again in the next round.”
“The other way that people will do it is if they rush you down and get a dizzy (players are stunned for a few seconds in Street Fighter if they take too much damage without retaliating) and they'll try to land super stylish, but super low-damage combos.”
In Street Fighter, in particular, these sorts of taunts might be completely imperceptible to the average onlooker, but to those in the know it's clear as day.
It's an integral part of the culture of each game, and it's fascinating to see how players are able to use the game itself as an insult.
If you've got a particular insult you love in a video game we'd love to hear about it. But seriously, we're not going to be talking about tea bagging. Let's draw the line there.