The History Of Teabagging In Video Games

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Teabagging

If you’ve ever played competitive video games online and wound up on the losing end of a conflict, chances are you’ve experienced teabagging. As your digitized avatar lays insensate on the ground, your opponent runs up and starts frantically crouching over your head, rubbing their cyber-crotch on your face in the ultimate display of disrespect.

How did this happen? How did teabagging become the de facto method of trolling other players across dozens of games? Let’s dive deep into gaming history to explore the world of teabagging – if you have the balls for it.

First, let’s get into a little digression as to the origins of “teabagging” as a concept. First brought to the public eye by movie director John Waters, a man who knows a deviant sexual act when he sees it, teabagging is the act of a man bouncing his scrotum on another man’s body – typically his forehead. Waters says in a 2009 interview that he saw it in the wild at a male strip club called the Atlantis in Baltimore, where the dancers would strip off their underpants and teabag patrons for tips. Waters would then include a teabagging scene in his 1998 movie Pecker.

So that’s teabagging. Now to explore how it crossed the border from gay strip clubs into the world of video games.

In the early days of gaming, multiplayer experiences were primarily in arcades, where you couldn’t talk too much trash or you might have to face real physical consequences. However, as online connectivity became a more important part of the experience, your opponent could now be hundreds of miles away and you’d never know their real name. This ushered in a new era of disrespect in electronic gaming, as anybody who’s ever strapped on an Xbox headset can tell you.

The second essential ingredient for the rise of teabagging came with the release of Halo. Bungie’s incredibly influential Xbox shooter brought the console demographic into the world of online first-person shooting. This typically younger and less technologically savvy group brought a level of immaturity to the battlefield.

It’s apocryphal who the first person was to teabag in games. Crouching in a first-person shooter is typically a pretty fast process – in a firefight, it’s important to be able to take cover quickly, and animating a realistic crouch would just get players killed. From a first-person perspective, you can’t really see your transition from standing to crouching. Looking at another player do it, though, you’ll see that the animation happens much faster than reality. In Halo, you can bob up and down several times a second, which looks funny anyways.

By the time Halo 2 came out, teabagging was here to stay. When you were killed, the game took several seconds lingering over your dead body before respawning you. Knowing that players couldn’t look away, the victors started running over and rapidly crouching and standing up over their victims’ heads. After a brief dalliance with the term “corpse-humping,” gamers settled on a name.

Developers did nothing to discourage the behavior, either. By Halo 3, Bungie had even coded in a “dead reflex” that would make the head of the teabagee bob up and down to the rhythm of the crouching. Many other games started picking up on it as well. What’s interesting is that different communities treat teabagging differently. More casual games like Call of Duty are rife with it, but games with an older play base don’t cotton as much to teabagging, with players getting kicked or reported for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In addition, teabagging crossed back over from the virtual world to the real one. In 2008, an elementary school in Asbury Park, New Jersey had to write a new bullying policy after kids started teabagging each other on the playground. And an Alabama man was sentenced to two years in jail for teabagging another man in a restaurant against his will.

In the modern era, teabagging is just recognized as part of the culture around playing games online. A commercial for Call Of Duty: Ghosts even poked fun at it, with an office employee dipping a real teabag into a mug over and over to the chagrin of his coworker.

By the time Microsoft released Halo 4, they had second thoughts on teabagging. Developer 343 Studios introduced a feature that would allow players to skip the post-death refractory period and respawn instantly at the touch of a button. Obviously, this had repercussions on the teabagger’s art (or, as 343 developer David Ellis called it, “the victory crouch”), but it marked a change of thought on the practice.

Other games embraced teabagging as part of the genre – Call Of Duty: Ghosts included special Field Orders objectives, one of which involved humiliating downed opponents by teabagging their corpses. When completed, the game rewards you with ammo and equipment. Reviewers were less than kind about this feature, calling it “catering to the lowest common denominator.”

As gamers mature, many think teabagging is a childish and inappropriate thing to do. It’s interesting to think about how the practice has spread over the years. Obviously games don’t come with a tutorial in how to teabag, so players must be exposed to the process from each other. You’ll probably be the victim of teabagging more when you’re first getting started with a new game, so when you are finally skilled enough to turn the tables, you’ve built up a fair amount of testicular frustration. It’s only natural to want to pass that down the line to the people you’re beating. And at this point it’s such a well-known part of gamer culture that it was used as a joke on The Simpsons.

Some pro players even use teabagging as a form of psychological warfare. Check out this video from 2014’s EVO tournament, the biggest event in the fighting game scene. Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez is one of the scene’s most despised players, his massive skill only eclipsed by his utter disrespect for other players. In this match, he’s fighting for his tournament life against Christopher “Chris G” Gonzalez, one of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3‘s most dominant players. Chris has been known for his emotional reactions to losing, so when Champ gets the advantage and takes out a character, he punctuates it with a teabag on the corpse. Champ would end up losing the series after a few painful mistakes, but it’s interesting to watch him bring teabagging to the big stage.

What’s in the future for teabagging?

Microsoft’s fighting game Killer Instinct recently introduced a Shadow Mode, which allows you to set an AI routine to monitor your playing style and develop a computer-controlled fighter that does what you do through adaptive learning. Early experimenters discovered that its fealty extended to taunting as well, and it wasn’t long before they taught it to teabag. Destiny, Bungie’s ambitious new game, has an active teabagging culture. As long as first-person shooters let you ogle corpses before respawn, there will be teabaggers.

Now that machines are dipping their virtual balls on our faces, is anyone truly safe? Or will next-gen games find even more oblique and bizarre ways for us to disrespect each other?

  • Thomas Fitzpatrick

    naive to think Halo started online fps tea-bagging. I can recall it being a thing in 1999-2000 in rogue spear.

  • Yermom

    Teabagging started in Quake 2, which was the first online FPS with actual crouch mechanics. Literally as soon as the game launched, teabagging became a pretty common thing.