When I first started playing video games I didn’t think of people raging beyond my brother’s efforts when he played Call of Duty.
The amount of console controllers that met their demise are innumerable, along with the rants that were laced with colorful language as my parents banged their feet on the floor as a reminder to him who lived in the basement that others occupied the home as well.
It wasn’t until I began to play League of Legends that I saw a similar amount and frequency of anger and the experience gave me the opportunity to consider why raging happens, how it worsens your performance, and most importantly, how to fix it.
As I began to find perspective one place I thought about is when clients yell at me during therapy and how I look for ways to understand where that response is coming from.
Maybe the person is having a bad day or I remind them of someone they don’t like. Or it could be that the way I presented my information was not thought out and I unintentionally offended my client.
I take time to try and understand where that person is coming from and then attempt to repair any damage that I unintentionally created. Or I recognize that the anger had nothing to do with me and focus on helping that individual process their emotions.
That’s what I do at work.
That’s not what happens in solo queue.
Have you ever seen someone trying to help another person when they are upset in game?
I have seen it occasionally and often it leads to the person who is trying to help becoming the new target for anger.
This led me to the idea that online games such as League of Legends, and specifically solo queue, can be an easy place to unleash emotions that have been built up throughout a day.
I personally will use Diablo 3 as a way to de-stress and release unwanted emotions as there are no repercussions from annihilating hoards of demons as I will often play on my own and because of this will not have an impact on others gameplay and will also not be triggered to rage at others because of how they play the game.
In a team based game such as League of Legends the same technique that I use of releasing difficult emotions that have built up throughout the day when I play Diablo 3 will not be viable due to relying on others gameplay for success and the triggers that can occur when teammates play poorly, rage at you or leave the game before its completion.
This is when your baggage of emotions that you accumulate throughout the day can influence your gameplay and cause you to lose as the location (solo queue) that you are trying to release the unwanted emotions is not a healthy choice.
The emotions develop when you have interactions with someone such as a teacher, boss, parent or peer and you do not feel comfortable sharing what is bothering you with that individual face to face.
When you take those feelings such as anger or fear and take it out on another person in a place such as solo queue you are using an unhealthy defense mechanism that is known as displacement.
I am going to show you the reasons how and why displacement is a reason that rage happens along with how to reduce the chances that you engage in it.
With this understanding you will be able to identify times that you have raged because of displacement and how to change your behavior for a healthier choice.
The reason for the need to change is simple… RAGE IS COSTING YOU GAMES!
Anger is an emotion that I discuss in therapy all of the time and my analogy for it is this.
Think of anger like a mask that you wear since it is the emotion that people see but just as the mask is not your real face anger it is not your primary emotion.
Instead the emotion that is fueling your anger is hurt, shame, disappointment, rejection, guilt, fear to name a few.
Those emotions are more difficult to express than anger as it leaves a person vulnerable whereas anger is often able to give a person power and respect as they attempt to control the situation through the use of anger.
This dynamic is what happens to you in solo queue when you do not want to deal with the emotions of failure, fear of not being as good as you thought, etc. and it leads to anger expressed towards others.
So instead of dealing with the primary emotions you take those emotions out on others in an effort to not deal with them which leads to a short term effect of feeling better about yourself.
Unleashing anger onto others may feel good for that moment, but it is making you worse at playing League of Legends as you focus on typing instead of csing or thinking of your next angry response.
This limits your potential as you find a scapegoat for your own poor play and can become blind to ways that you impact your losses.
It also does nothing to assist you in working through the reasons for your anger which allows for a continuous cycle of raging behavior.
That’s because solo queue is not a healthy place to unleash anger onto others.
By displacing your anger you are losing games and not reaching your goals as you are impacting not just your own performance when you focus on your anger but also the performance of teammates.
To change this you must adopt new coping strategies and I will show you how to do this.
Turn your emotions into motivating energy
Professional athletes are able to focus their emotions into positive action when they use it as fuel to motivate their behavior.
Michael Jordan would become focused by looking for opportunities to allow what others did or said to fuel his competitive drive.
An example was a story told by Doug Collins who was one of Jordan’s coaches and said that there was a game where a fan yelled at Jordan to “pick on someone his own size” after he dunked over John Stockton.
Collins said he could see Jordan latch on to that statement and shortly after Jordan dunked over Mel Turpin who was over seven feet tall and Jordan looked at the fan and asked if that player was big enough.
Just as a player as iconic as Michael Jordan can use emotion to enhance his game, so too can you use this technique to harness anger and other emotions that fuel it to create a positive outcome in your gameplay through the use of these three coping strategies.
Without understanding what emotion is underneath the mask of anger it will be difficult to know how to proceed.
That is why gaining insight into what you are going through is important so that you can choose coping skills that are designed to help with that emotion.
This is the needed first step because without consciously catching your emotions you will not be able to change your previous response of raging into a more effective alternative since that has become your unconscious response.
One way to do this is to consider what is happening in your life that could be contributing to your emotional response so you can determine if you are using the unhealthy defense mechanism of displacement.
When that is established you will have a better opportunity to allow your emotions to be a tool to use as motivation towards your goal instead of something that is limiting your effectiveness.
If you are not sure if your behavior would be considered raging at others ask a friend or family member their opinion as it may provide information and insight that is difficult to have without their input.
Once you are able to consciously identify the emotion that you are experiencing and why you are experiencing it you can begin the process of funneling those feelings into your gameplay in a healthy way.
The way to ensure that you are putting the emotion into a positive place is to use mindfulness to remove any judgment about whether your situation is “good” or “bad” and instead focusing on what it is that you actually can control, which is your own gameplay.
The contrast to this would be when you place that energy into others through raging about their mistakes or responding in kind to others flaming you which is an unhealthy way to cope.
So practice removing judgement about whether the situation you are in during the game is “good” or “bad” and remind yourself that you are in that game and that you can focus on what you are able to control in order to get closer to your desired outcome.
Note: This mindfulness section was designed for coping with your emotions in game and not for healing from difficult emotions in your life as that is best suited for a setting such as mental health therapy.
#3 Radical Acceptance
Another technique that goes hand in hand with mindfulness is called radical acceptance which is when you accept the situation for what it is and not resisting the parts of it that you cannot change.
It is a powerful tool that has the ability to help you remove judgement about whether your situation is “good” or “bad” and instead continuing to use your ability to be mindful and re-centering on the present.
So when can you use radical acceptance?
When someone tells you how bad of a player you are, radical acceptance.
Your jungler ganks your lane and gives your opponent double buffs, radical acceptance.
You have a misclick that turns a teamfight in favor of the opponent, radical acceptance.
By letting go and not trying to change the past you will be able to place your focus on what you have control over: the present.
This will help you win games as your mental energy will not be spent on whether you can have the best sarcastic comeback (although I am a sucker for good sarcasm myself) but instead you will have more impact on what matters, the actual gameplay.
Not only your own gameplay, but that of your teammates as well since they will no longer be the target of your anger and instead will be able to have more focus on what they are doing and not on how they can defend themselves in chat.
Radical acceptance can be so powerful that is can be used in more than solo queue, it can be helpful in every area of your life.
An example of a professional athlete who has found radical acceptance to be a useful for his life is Brandon Marshall who is a wide receiver in the NFL who is very open about his need for the use of this coping skill when dealing with his own life experiences.
How bad do you want it?
Now ask yourself, do you want to change?
There are reasons why you could answer that question with a “no” since rage can allow you to feel better about yourself or release unwanted emotions that you are not ready to deal with.
Those things can feel good in the moment, which in the past is likely the reason why you have chosen to rage.
If you decide you want to change you will need to recognize and accept that the immediacy of the good feelings you have received when you have placed your rage onto others will no longer be there.
Instead you will have coping skills that are designed for long lasting mental fortitude and resiliency as you will be able to tackle the emotions and unwanted situations that solo queue can create and win in spite of them.
So make your choice.
Choosing to stay with the easy, instantaneous and self gratifying approach that raging provides is an option.
The alternative is to apply, practice and master your understanding of why you are experiencing your emotions, coupled with using mindfulness and radical acceptance when in your solo queue games to create a focus that you have not had before.
A focus that allows you to channel your emotions and circumstances into focus and gameplay that will leave both teammates and opponents in awe.