Zerg Rush is an online gaming term used to describe an overwhelming scale of attack carried out by one player against another in real time strategy (RTS) games. The term originates from the popular RTS game Starcraft, in which the “Zerg” race is notoriously known for its ability to mass-produce offensive units within a short time frame, thus allowing the player to overpower the opponent by sheer number.
Similar to You must construct additional pylons! and In Ur Base, Zerg Rush came from StarCraft, a military science real time strategy game originally released on March 31st, 1998. In the game, each player can choose to play as one of the three species: Terran (humans), Protoss (humanoids) or Zerg (insectoids).
In the real time strategy genre, “rush” is a type of fast-attack strategy that involves mass mobilizing one or a combination of different unit types as rapidly as possible in order to overrun the opponent’s base and inflict most serious damage. This strategy is especially conducive to StarCraft’s Zerg players, whose average unit build time is significantly shorter in comparison to the other two species. As a result, it became common for players to set “no rush in x minutes” rules in online matches.
The meme in itself stems from a multiplayer match played by Koreans, who represent a significant portion of Starcraft’s international fanbase. During the match, one of the Korean players launched an early Zergling rush attack against an opponent player, who exclaimed “OMG ZERG RUSH.” In response, the Zerg player replied “KEKEKE,” a popular Korean phrase that is comparable to “lolololol” in English. This conversation has been frequently cited as the origin, however, no visual evidence has been found to support the anecdote. While the romanized Korean expression “KEKEKE” (ㅋㅋㅋ) usually conveys a mischievous snicker, it also perfectly embodied the sound of Zerglings (Zerg’s basic infantry unit) in attack mode. Due to the prevalence of Korean players who are extremely skilled in this tactic and lack of Korean input support in multiplayer until February 2005, “KEKEKE” quickly became associated with Zerg rush among English-speaking players.
On YTMND, the earliest instance of “Zerg Rush” reference was created by thecombatwombat on May 17th, 2004. Although the site remained in latency with less than 10,000 total views, another site was created by CheezWhizWario a month later, which became the viral instance of the “Zerg Rush” series on YTMND. It eventually led to more than 40 YTMND variations based on similar themes, the most popular instance being LOLZergRushby GoldBean, a derivative from LOL Internet dating from 2006 with more than 50,000 views.
The first definition of “Zerg Rush” was registered via Urban Dictionary on December 25th, 2004. The encyclopedic resource site Encyclopedia Dramatica.
On April 27th, 2012, Google enabled an Easter egg for the search query “zerg rush”, which would launch a playable game with small “o” characters that destroy search results if they are not clicked with the mouse pointer.