Here’s what “Buff” and “Nerf” Mean in Gaming

Here’s what “Buff” and “Nerf” Mean in Gaming

June 19, 2022 By Alex Balaniuc

When you start playing a video game, mainly a massive multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) one or even a shooter, you may feel quite disoriented initially. In fact, as a total beginner that never set foot in the gaming world before, the video game-specific language that’s used by other players might leave you confused.

Take the terms “buff” and “nerf“, for instance. They are elements of gaming slang that are used very frequently by players, along with other technical terms, acronyms and shorthands such as “noob”, “main”, “OP”, “AFK”, “rez”, and so forth.

In today’s article, though, we’re only focusing on what the terms “buff” and “nerf” mean in gaming.

What do buff and nerf mean in gaming?

In short, “buffing” refers to the act of improving and strengthening a certain aspect within a game. “Nerfing“, on the other hand, means the opposite, so an aspect of a game that has been devalued and weakened. The term “de-buffing” can replace “nerfing” sometimes.

These terms can be applied to describe the changes made to a character’s ability, statistic or weapon by the game’s developers. Let’s take a look at the League of Legends 12.11 patch, for instance: this recent update has buffed (increased) the passive lethality and attack speed of the champion Aphelios, while the burn damage caused by the champion Brand has been nerfed (decreased).

Apart from that, the terms also apply when the players themselves temporarily buff their characters and nerf their enemies through the use of items, abilities, etc. (in Pokémon you’re buffing your own little monster when you use a move that increases its Attack stat).

The origins of the terms buff and nerf

Now, where do the terms buff and nerf come from?

It’s possible that buff comes from the physical attribute of being very muscular, hence “buff”. Since muscles are a symbol of power and strength, the gaming sphere might have appropriated the term to describe an aspect of the game that has improved and better features.

Nerf has a more certain origin: it comes from the NERF brand that produces plastic toy weapons, mainly guns and shotguns. The darts used by said weapons are made of foam, which makes them safe and harmless (until you shoot someone in the face point-blank, that is). NERF blasters are a weakened version of real firearms, thus the term nerf became synonymous with downgrading certain characteristics in gaming.

What’s the point of buffing and nerfing?

But why do developers make these changes within their game? Well, because it’s a matter of balancing.

Generally, game development teams keep a close eye on the feedback they receive from the playerbase of their titles. For example, every now and then an avid Overwatch gamer might come out with the news that there’s a certain in-game trick that can be exploited to get a crazy, unfair advantage against your enemies. But if your character becomes too overpowered because of this secret feature, you would end up “breaking the game” and ruining the fun for the other participants.

Therefore, the developers will intervene to make the game balanced again. They would release an update that basically nerfs that specific character’s abilities to scale down their power and bring it to an acceptable level.

 

Well then, I hope this article helped you understand the meaning of buff and nerf!

 

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