As long as I can remember, "rubberbanding" has been the way of the machine giving the computer an advantage when the player is leading in video games. For instance in Super Mario Kart, you are in the lead by half a lap when suddenly a computer character zooms past you as if you were connected by a rubber band. This is a form of dynamic game difficulty balancing.

Lately I have noticed an increase of using the term "rubberbanding" when talking about a type of "lag" where the player is returned to a place they were moment ago because of packet loss/server synchronization issues. First reference I could find was this log from a Ultima Online Expansion beta test from 1998.

Which leads me to my question: when/how was the term "rubberbanding" coined when talking about video games or computer technology in general?

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    Sadly, it's not an example of a stretched verb. May 8, 2014 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


You give two different uses there, which would likely (since one doesn't seem to be derived from the other) be of separate origin.

The etymology itself is clear, in that you describe the analogy yourself; it feels as if either you or your opponent was suddenly flung by a rubber band. Someone made that analogy and from that coined the term. Quite likely more than one person.

There is an earlier use of the term in computing, where it is used in a UI to show one or more lines from one or more fixed point, to a point that moves with the mouse pointer (or touchpad, lightpen, or other pointing input device), giving a preview of an action. Here movement of the line is being compared to a rubber band in its ability to stretch as the points move closer or further from each other.

Indeed, this is now so common in graphics programs, that users don't even need to name it that often (people writing the software to do it though, need to be a bit more explicit in what they are doing).

That would seem to be the case meant in this use in 1968 and certainly is in this use in 1975. A good few others can be found in the mid-late 70s.


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