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I like to play a certain video game competitively and I've met a lot of friends by doing so. We usually have the same groups at local tournaments, so I've gotten to know these people enough to call them friends.

One in particular though--let's call him Bob--has severe anger issues. He knows he has a problem and is apparently trying to fix it, but it can be difficult to engage with him when little things can set him off.

For example, just last night we were over at someone's house playing for fun (so the stakes were low) and in the middle of a match Bob paused and quit the game, threw down his controller and cursed out one of the other players since that player kept using the same move and it kept working. He later said that the profanities and him quitting the game are ways for him to cope so he doesn't "have to turn around and punch" the other player.

When the player offered to stop using that character, Bob said that would make him even more upset. It seems he doesn't want to feel like people have to treat him differently, so he definitely doesn't want any special treatment.

Bob is actually a cool person when he's not upset and he's a lot of fun to play with. Not to mention he's an active member in the community for this game, so I'll definitely see him and play with him often. So simply avoiding him isn't an option. That being said...

When Bob starts to get visibly upset, how can I deescalate the situation and calm him down?

  • At the time can be difficult as the game is active. – paparazzo Nov 12 '18 at 18:41
  • @paparazzo a game lasts 2-5 minutes. Most of this anger happens after a game or--in the case I talked about--after the game has been quit partway through. – scohe001 Nov 12 '18 at 19:22
  • You said "middle of a match". If his temper is disrupting play then yikes. But I don't have a good answer. – paparazzo Nov 12 '18 at 19:27
  • @paparazzo editing to clarify--he quit the match, and then proceeded to throw the controller, etc...Regardless, I'm not asking how to play during the match, that's not something I'm going to change. I'm asking in between matches when I see him getting upset or I'm watching him play with someone else and he begins to get upset, how can I deescalate before things come to blows (which they haven't yet thank goodness) – scohe001 Nov 12 '18 at 19:31
  • Can only hope "have to turn around and punch" is venting steam. Have you even seen him in a fight? – paparazzo Nov 12 '18 at 19:36
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I also have a friend like this. Whilst it is not in the competitive gaming sphere, it is when gaming, and the behavior is identical.

Friend gets mad about someone or something in the game

You or another offers to fix it

The original person gets stroppy and tries to play it off like its fine.

In my experience the last part where they do not wish for special treatment and try to play it off like it is fine (Though it clearly is not) Is them realising the pettyness / how unreasonable they are being.

It is not something that I have found a "Solution" to and as far as I can tell there is not a line to walk with them that results in diffusion of the situation.

[This next part has some statements where I say "they" this should be read with an "In my experience as I cannot know for sure it is the same as what is happening to you]

The best path forward is to not engage originally. In the first 'act' where they get angry about something, they are usually looking for a fight. It is a challenge and they need someone to disagree in order to validate that they are right. I find the fastest path is to ignore them. As childish as it may seem the silent treatment is the best move I have found here. Remove their anger bullet by ignoring them.

Now this is not an all in one solution, because after they feel ignored, their anger switches to that fact and generally dissipates towards the original issue.

Following this, you now respond to the original claim and offer the resolution, which they will most likely say no to (as they do not want special treatment).

All this process has done is re framed the situation from them being competitive and demanding to being offered charity (The lowest on the pecking order - those that need it)

This will most often result in them shutting up and fuming to themselves whilst they slowly realize how petty they've been.

In summary, I do not know of a way to stop the behavior, just a manipulation and re-frame that flips said frame from them being angry and in control, to them being petty and needing charity. And in my personal experience, this is the most effecting way though this situation.

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I have seen similar behavior in several gaming situations, especially cards and poker. The player has a short fuse and no recourse when it has been lit and he has lost his temper.

It is clear to both you and them that your assistance is not useful which means it is not welcome. At that point their happiness in the gaming world is well beyond your responsibility.

Their happiness was their own business from the start and they have mismanaged it, repeatedly. You have attempted to interfere for good and been told to keep out, repeatedly. It's too bad they cannot be reached but despite their value to the game or your group you should tell them to have a seat and stay quiet, you're still playing and they are not.

You can let them know that you will be open to letting them try to manage their anger the next time you meet but today is not that day. Thank you for playing. I think you will find they prefer if everyone stopped playing. Do not do this. Let them enjoy the consequences of their actions. And NEVER tolerate anyone throwing a controller anywhere.

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