Home » INDUSTRY » What is smurfing in online video games?
Video Game Smurf surrendering with his hands up after being caught smurfing

Nope, I am not talking about those fluffy blue cartoon characters that we all know and love. Nope, this time around we are going to be focusing on smurfing, a term connected to virtually all competitive eSports games and gaming in general. I’m sure the majority of you will agree with me on this one – smurfing is annoying! No matter your skill level, there’s a chance you were a victim of smurfing once in your life. But, before digging deeper into the topic, first we need to take a step back and find out what is smurfing in the first place!

What is smurfing - Smurf Explanation

The definition of smurfing – What is smurfing?

Let’s take a closer look at the definition of a smurf in online video games:

SmurfUsually an experienced gamer who poses as a newbie by creating a new account under an alternate name. The purpose behind this is to play against less skilled players with the ultimate result being bringing humiliation to the less skilled players. In layman’s terms, smurfing is tantamount to taking candy from a baby. It’s as simple as that if you ask me!



Now that you all know what is smurfing, it’s time to check out whether or not it’s actually illegal. In other words, do games (and their makers) possess some sort of anti-smurfing systems that can detect and prevent smurfing in the first place.

Related: How to Become a Pro Player?

Is smurfing allowed in online games?

gray area

Smurfing is what we call a ‘gray area’. The rules don’t necessarily define smurfing so well

Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat – smurfing is actually not illegal in most online video games. Yes, it’s unethical, rude and unsportsmanlike… but it’s not illegal in all games. Different games have different approaches to what is smurfing. If players just want to play with their friends in a more noob-friendly environment, some game makers say it’s ok. However, in certain games, smurfing (and especially boosting) can get you permanently banned.

Some companies are trying to end smurfing

Some companies hate smurfers more than others. For this example, we are going to take a closer look at some of the most popular eSports franchises and see how their companies are trying to combat smurfers. So, without any further adue let’s kick things off with the first one:

  • Smurfing in CS:GO

    What is smurfing in CS:GO, some may wonder? Well, FPS games have always been prone to this phenomenon, even though MOBA and MMORPGs were leading the charge from the very start. Still, the amount of smurfing in CS:GO is climbing at a rapid rate. Plus, there’s no real effort from Valve to stop it. What’s even worse – players who play eSports for cash are smurfing too (and streaming their smurfing endeavors on Twitch) without facing any repercussions.

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  • Smurfing in Dota 2

    Dota 2, as one of the most popular MOBA games out there, has serious issues related to smurfing. Luckily, their makers have finally made a breakthrough last year. Back in May 2017, Valve has finally taken steps in the right direction as far as Dota 2 smurfing is concerned. Years and years went by before this approach and smurfing in Dota 2 wasn’t brought to their attention. Players were complaining all the time but with no real results in sight. Now, finally, Valve requires players to add a phone number before queueing for ranked matches. Virtual phone numbers found on various shady websites don’t work, no worries…

  • Smurfing in LoL

    The makers of League of Legends, Riot Games, have gone out of their way and stated multiple times that they do not encourage or endorse smurfing in their game. However, they also stated that tackling the issue is much more complicated than the average users tend to think. Due to the sheer number of players (read accounts) worldwide, it is difficult for their systems to track individual matches to distinguish smurfers from talented players. But, what they are able to do is detect a portion of smurfer accounts and then put them in the same bracket with others of their kind, resulting in smurfers playing vs smurfers from the very early levels.

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The eSports betting industry had its say on smurfing too. They believe it’s condemnable and can be a real issue for the integrity of eSports as an influential new age industry. I for one totally agree with this point of view and strongly believe all forms of smurfing and smurfers don’t belong in the online gaming community. It’s just a personal opinion that I think many of you reading this will agree with.

The history of this gaming phenomenon

There’s a lot of speculations on when exactly the term smurfing became associated with online gaming. The oldest sources I managed to find date all the way back to 1996. The oldest one dates back to 8th March of 1996. That’s more than 22 years ago. Back then, I was still having troubles with walking, talking, peeing… you get the idea.

poster with Warcraft II with an overlay of text

Smurfing in online gaming first began in Warcraft II

But there were these 2 guys that went by the nicknames Shlonglor and Warp who managed to singlehandedly create smurfing in online video games. Of course, if they hadn’t done it back then, I’m sure someone else would’ve created it later on… probably not with the same name though.

So, these guys back in the 90’s were playing the good old Warcraft II game when they had a genius idea to change their names to PapaSmurf and Smurfette, lead people into believing they’re outright noobs… and then beat them up and humiliate them afterward. That’s how smurfing in online video games started – with Warcraft II. Here is a more detailed look into the first smurfing match in online video gaming history.

There are many types of smurfing…

After taking a closer look at the definition of smurfing, now we’re going to dig slightly deeper into the topic. I’m sure some of you are familiar with the term boosting. It’s often connected to smurfing and rightly so – they’re basically the same thing. But, other than boosting, did you guys know there are 2 other easily distinguishable types of smurfing? So, for all of you wanting to better understand what is smurfing, let me be your personal guide through the most notable smurfing types:

Boosting

This is another very problematic issue in today’s competitive nature of eSports. ELO ranking systems are a great solution for differentiating differently skilled players from each other. However, they also open the door for problematic behavior such as boosting and smurfing. These 2 terms go hand to hand since they’re basically the same thing, with the addition of monetary transactions with boosting. Boosting basically refers to highly skilled smurfers who get paid to raise ELO ranking of other people’s account. It’s a vile practice, no doubt about it… but a profitable one as well. Many game makers have been trying to battle boosting and smurfing. Unfortunately, the process is complicated and doesn’t really work as it’s initially intended.

Playing for “fun”

Boosting and smurfing for fun are, at least in my honest opinion, both equally bad. Players who boost get money for their effort while players who smurf for fun are outright vile. Just imagine a Diamond 1 LoL player making a new profile, deliberately losing those placement matches and then being queued with silvers. I mean, come on… there’s only one way this can result in – absolute chaos. Unless there’s another smurfer in the opposing team, our PapaSmurf will end up with 40 kills at the end of the match. Needless to say, these types of matches are a pain in the butt for everyone involved. Everyone except the smurf, that is…

Playing with friends

what is smurfing

This is the only somewhat reasonable type of smurfing out there. Smurfers don’t take any personal glory from it. They don’t get cash for boosting other people’s accounts with their skills. All they get from this type of smurfing is playing with their friends. As you all know, competitive eSports franchises such as CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota 2 all have ELO based ranking systems.

Alongside that, there are also ELO based limitations for group queuing. In other words, if you’re a highly skilled player of, for example, CS:GO and you finally managed to get your newbie friend to start playing… I’m afraid I have bad news for you. You guys won’t be able to play since your ELO ranking difference is too big. In order to bypass this rule, all you would need to do is create a brand-new account for the game and viola – you’re good to go!

Related: How to Earn a Living as a Pro Gamer in 5 Steps

Whichever type of smurfing we’re talking about, one thing is for sure, it’s unethical and unsportsmanlike… and in some games, outright illegal too. With that being said, smurfing can get you banned in certain games. Unfortunately, not in all of them.

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Remi Fujisawa
3 years ago

It is allowed and it is ruined lower rank players HAHA

Serenity Foster
3 years ago

Smurfing in Dota 2 isn’t just an ordinary smurf. They smurf and get paid they boost accounts so the owner of the accounts can finally achieved the rank that he wants to.

Alber Nucci
3 years ago

Those players are actually sucks. They are no match on their current rank that’s why they are trying to own lower ranks. How pathetic! #NoobSmurfs


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