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Nerf (video gaming)

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Title: Nerf (video gaming)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Twinking, Competitive video game terminology, MUDs, Zone (video games), Consider (MUD)
Collection: Competitive Video Game Terminology, Competitive Video Gaming, Mud Terminology, Video Game Terminology
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Nerf (video gaming)

In video gaming, a nerf is a change to a game that makes something less effective or desirable. The word can be used as a verb to describe that change.[1][2] The opposite of nerf is buff or revamp.


  • Origin and context 1
  • Rationale 2
  • Player response 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5

Origin and context

The term originated with Ultima Online and refers to the Nerf brand of toys which are soft and not likely to cause serious injury.[1][3][4] It is used in the context of virtual worlds such as MMORPGs (like UO) and MUDs,[1] but has become a part of the general vocabulary of gamer slang and can be found in various places where adjustment of power levels from one version of a game to the next is relevant.


Among game developers, MMORPG designers are especially likely to nerf aspects of a game in order to maintain game balance. Occasionally, a new feature (such as an item, class, or skill) may be made too powerful, unfair, or too easily obtained to the extent that it unbalances the game system. This is sometimes due to an unforeseen bug or method of using or acquiring the object that was not considered by the developers.[3][5] The frequency of nerfing and the scale of nerfing vary widely from game to game but almost all massively multiplayer games have engaged in nerfing at some point.[5]

Game developers have been known to promise to "tweak" games rather than specifically "nerf" aspects of them, in order to appease critics and fans alike. This was notably the case with the 2014 MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online, when the game's developer Zenimax Online Studios responded to criticism about one class of playable character being much more powerful than competing classes.[6]

Player response

Nerfs in various online games have spurred in-world protests.[4] Since many items in virtual worlds are sold or traded among players, a nerf may have an outsized impact on the virtual economy. As players respond, the nerf may cause prices to fluctuate before settling down in a different equilibrium. This impact on the economy, along with the original impact of the nerf, can cause large player resentment for even a small change.[4][5] In particular, in the case of items or abilities which have been nerfed players can become upset over the perceived wasted efforts in their obtaining the now nerfed features.[4][5] For games where avatars and items represent significant economic value, this may bring up legal issues over the lost value.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c  
  2. ^ Kaelin, Mark (3 May 2006). "Playing a MMORPG is not all fun and games, you better have the right vocabulary". Tech Republic. CBS Interactive, Inc. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ a b c d Schiesel, Seth (10 October 2002). "In a Multiplayer Universe, Gods Bow to the Masses".  
  5. ^ a b c d Burke, Timothy. "Rubicite Breastplate Priced to Move, Cheap" (PDF). 1-3. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  6. ^ "Developer". 
  7. ^ "Owned: Finding a Place for Virtual-World Property Rights" (PDF). Michigan State Law Review ( 
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