The Fighting Game Scrub

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,, and The fighting game community is a subculture of the larger competitive gaming community.

The word “scrub” has a very unique and specific meaning in the fighting game community. The definition is a variation of the word’s meaning of a person of insignificant size or standing. It is commonly used as an insult and as a way of placing someone below the speaker. However in the Fighting Game Community, which includes all people who socially play “fighting games” such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and BlazBlue online, the word has much more specific definition. In this community, a “scrub” is who frequently loses matches (in the game of their choice) and instead of practicing to get better they take to the forum and complain about the game. In this community, a scrub is not just someone who is below you, but it is also someone who is unwilling to improve himself. This has lead to many commonly used phrases such as “get good scrub” to try and emphasise that the problem with the scrub isn’t his lack of ability but rather is his lack of improvement.

The Informant that I interviewed is a somewhat successful member of the Fighting Game Community and is well known on the forums for the games BlazBlue and Mortal Kombat. He in the past has been on the leader-boards of many of these games and is familiar with this community both through the online forums and the in-person events often hosted for these games. Throughout his years in this community, he has both been a “scrub” and an experienced player who tells “scrubs” to get better at the game. He admitted that the use of the word if “often derogatory and the more bad mannered things you can say to a competitor,” however he also revealed that “almost everyone uses the word frequently, both while playing and on the online forums.” When asked about the origin of this use of the term the admitted that he did not know where it originated, but that “it is very universal across all fighting game communities” and that “[he] [has] never been a part of an online fighting game community that did not use the expression.” Because this use of the term is so widespread and accepted, it is safe to assume that it has been accepted by the larger fighting game culture for quite some time now.

However, despite the origin, what is truly interesting about this term is what it specifically means. Unlike the original use of the word scrub, the fighting game’s variant of this work places heavy emphasis on the scrub’s unwillingness to practice and get better. This illustrates that in this community hard work and dedication are very desirable traits. The informant made it very clear that the worst part about “scrubs is their willingness to complain about how the game is broken before actually trying to get better at the game.” It would seem that in this community, which is highly competitive, the worst thing you can be is non-competitive. As such, the word “scrub” isn’t an insult because it implies that someone is bad, but rather it is an insult because it implies that someone is non-competitive.