Feeling Salty

The competitive gaming community is the large community of people who play competitive games. This usually means that they either play MOBA (multilayer online battle arena) or fighting games online against other players. While this community has no physical location, they communicate and form their culture through online message boards and forums. Due to these forums, the competitive gaming community is able to foster a culture and communicate with one another without actually being in the same physical place. Some notable competitive gaming websites are Smashboards.com, Nadota.com, Joindota.com and Gosugamers.com.

In the competitive game community people often play against each other to compete and determine who is the better player. While this happens frequently at the larger level in the form of gaming tournaments it also happens in smaller groups of people who simply get together to play their game of choice for fun. While there does not have to be money on the line, all of these games foster a competitiveness that is integral to the experience. Because of this, players at any level often get very frustrated when the are not performing as well as they feel they should. However, losing in such a way is not solely a personal disappointment. My informant is a avid competitive game player and has been in this community for quite some time now. On this topic he said that “when you lose a match, especially one you feel like you should have won, it is impossible to hide it. Because of this the people you know and the people watching will always heckle you when you lose to someone much worse than you. When you see someone you know lose like this, you are almost obligated to call the losing player ‘salty’. This means that they are angry or frustrated with their performance.” He went on to talk about the various salt based phrases people will use to heckle the losing player or team. For example, he said that it was common to say “the salt is real” or “oh what delicious salt” when someone you particularly dislike loses in an embarrassing fashion. On the topic of the origin, he stated that he did not know where it comes from but he did know that the word “salt” was a reference to the salt in the losing player’s tears.

This is referenced in VGBootcamp’s “Salty Suite” which is a series of Super Smash Melee (a fighting game) matches where opponents who historically dislike losing to each other play a best of five to determine who is the better player and who is “just salty.”


This is very interesting as it is used to heckle friends and enemies alike. In this community, no matter your allegiance to the losing player, you are expected to call them out in this specific way after an embarrassing loss. This is likely used as a way to express that you are aware that they messed up or played poorly without having to specifically say what went wrong. By simply saying “I can feel the salt” or something along those lines you can heckle without getting too personal or offensive.