What is smurfing in gaming?

Most gamers have encountered a smurf in their lobbies.

Image via Riot Games

Playing against an experienced player while you are still fresh or new to a game is frustrating and often unfair. There are typically systems in place like ranked modes or skill-based matchmaking to prevent experienced players from dominating new players, but sometimes there are ways around these preventive measures.

One way players can face less-experienced players is with a smurf account, which allows them to “smurf” against easier opponents.

Smurfing is when a high-level player creates a new account to play against lower-ranked players. There are several reasons players might create a smurf account, like playing with lower-ranked friends and for a new experience. But many players smurf to play easier opponents, which allows them to dominate their matches.

The term smurfing was reportedly created by two Warcraft II players who made alternate accounts named PapaSmurf and Smurfette. The practice of creating new accounts to trick or play lesser skilled players quickly jumped to other games, and the issue is still relevant today.

Smurfing is a significant problem in multiplayer games, and developers have taken extensive measures to punish players who smurf or prevent them from smurfing altogether. For example, in VALORANT, players must win 10 unranked matches before they can play the ranked mode on an account. This prevents players from making a fresh account and immediately jumping into ranked modes and dominating lower-ranked players.

Despite these safeguards, smurfing is still an annoying issue in gaming. Smurfs can ruin the experience for new players and add an unfair advantage to their team. The best thing to do against a smurf is to report them and hope the account will be flagged for unfair behavior.