Manners Matter: A Guide to Video Game Etiquette

That player. Most of us dread that player. Hopefully, none of you are that player.

One bad apple may not always ruin the bunch, but one bad teammate almost always ruins your game. They seem to have no idea that etiquette exists. Sometimes they’re too green to know better, and sometimes they just hate fun. Either way, it’s never a good experience to play with someone who doesn’t pay attention to etiquette. 

As the title says, manners matter. Especially when you’re trying to be part of a team. There are certain unwritten rules and norms for multiplayer games. Violating these norms will not only (probably) lose you the game, it’ll also alienate and anger your teammates. If you don’t behave well, you won’t get very far.

Here at Gamer Launch, we’re all about teams. Our livelihood is almost entirely predicated on teams and team-building. So we take etiquette seriously. We don’t want any of you to become that player, so we’re putting the unwritten rules in print. Let’s start with the most obvious one.

Yes we do! [Source]

1. Cheating is never acceptable.

There are no exceptions here. This is non-negotiable. What comprises cheating may vary from game to game, but it’s unacceptable behavior in all its forms. Exploiting a glitch to get ahead in your PvP encounter? That’s cheating. Screen watching in an LAN party? That’s cheating. Camping in CoD? Some might call that cheating, too.

Don’t do it. At all. Ever. Unless you want to make sure no one ever plays with you again.

2. Harassment is Bad, Mmkay?

This is probably the biggest issue in multiplayer games right now. Even professional players have considered dropping out of tournaments due to harassment. Jabs between consenting friends might be fine, but that’s the only exception.

Whether it’s gendered insults, noob-bashing, or trash talk gone wrong, harassment happens a lot. And it creates toxic communities – which doesn’t benefit anyone. Some developers, like Riot, have tried taking steps to discourage this sort of behavior, but it isn’t enough.

We as players have to take responsibility for the things we say to others. From time to time we may lose our cool and lash out at a teammate or competitor, but we should always reconcile when the heat of the moment has passed.

Harassment is not something to be taken lightly. The other person doesn’t need to “grow a thicker skin”. Hateful and hurtful comments about someone’s race, gender, orientation, or experience level are never okay. “Git gud, n00b” and rape jokes don’t contribute anything to the community or to your play experience. They’re detrimental and discourage players from returning. If you don’t have something useful or nice to say, keep it to yourself.

And if you see harassment happening, speak up. Peer pressure is a powerful force, and it could quiet down a mean teammate.

Harassment makes pands sad. We don’t want sad pandas, do we? [Source]

3. No One Likes a Bad Sport

You’re in the middle of a match, and it isn’t going well. You’re trying to rally your team and turn things around, but someone is throwing a tantrum because you’re losing. Instead of helping, they hulk out and start ruining everything. Sore losers are the worst.

Losing sucks. We all know that. But throwing out the etiquette book to get ahead isn’t the solution. If you charge without warning into a horde of enemies because of your blind rage, your team isn’t going to be behind you. You don’t get to go rogue just because things aren’t going your way.

Kill-stealing and rage-quitting are go-to tactics for bad sports. But they only make a bad situation worse. If you turn on your team or abandon them entirely, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Not only have you put yourself at fault for the ensuing loss, but you’re also ostracizing yourself. If you behave this way, your team isn’t going to want to support you. They may give up the win just to get away from you.

4. Cooperation is Key

Teamwork is required to make a team, you know, work. If you’re not willing to cooperate with others, don’t queue up.

Cooperation means participating (civilly) in chat, helping plan and execute strategies, listening to team leaders (when applicable), pulling your own weight, and supporting your teammates.

To put it simply, cooperation requires putting your team before yourself. There’s nothing wrong with striving to have the best KDA numbers, or with hoping you’ll land this rare item or that big kill. But when you pursue those things at the cost of your teammates, you aren’t cooperating. And when you aren’t cooperating, no one wins.

Let’s say your teammate is in a tight spot and needs a hand. You’re close by and able to help, but doing so would mean leaving a skirmish between you and that enemy player who’s been hounding you all game. You finally have the upper hand, but your teammate really needs you. What do you do?

If you call it quits to save them, that’s cooperation done right. It may not feel good, but it’s for the good of the team. If you stay and see the skirmish through while your teammate gets eaten by Nunu’s yeti…you’re doing it wrong.

Your teammates deserve so much better than this. [Source]

5. Be Nice to Newbies (And Everyone Else)

This one is often easier said than done. Most of us know better than to harass other players, but sometimes we just get really frustrated. Maybe someone isn’t pulling their own weight, or maybe they’re just green. Whatever the case, we sometimes forget to be friendly. A quick GL;HF can set the tone for your whole match. So can a GG, whether you win or lose.

It may sound like silly or elementary advice, but it’s important to be nice to other players. Not only are you more likely to foster cooperation and respect when you have a good attitude, but being nice (with positive results) often encourages others to do the same. Basic kindness and decency is key to building a community. And that’s what we want, right? A community that’s competitive, but not toxic, to play in.

Whether a noob or a veteran, people make mistakes. If someone is struggling, berating them isn’t going to make them any better. It might even make them give up on the match altogether. It’s okay to point out mistakes or correct someone, but don’t be mean. Offering helpful advice or a little encouragement can go a long way.

6. Don’t Abuse the Chat

There are so many things that can go wrong in chat. We’ve already mentioned harassment, but that isn’t the only issue. There are all kinds of way to misuse the chat function, whether you’re typing or talking.

Trash talk is the most obvious one. A little is fine, and fosters a healthy sense of competition. But too much is off-putting, and can border on harassment.

Excessive language falls under this rule, too. We all curse, especially in a high-stress competitive situation. But if that’s all you have to say, you’re probably better off not saying anything. Moderation is key.

And speaking of moderation, keep your finger off that Caps Lock button. No matter how tempting it is, or how much emphasis you want, it’s impolite to yell at people. The same is true for voice chat. Keep your volume in check.

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Last but not least, don’t spam the chat. Saying the same thing over and over probably isn’t going to do anything other than flood the channel and annoy everyone else. And use dedicated channels for their intended purpose. Got an item you want to sell? Don’t advertise it a hundred times a minute in the main zone channel. Head over to the trade channel and peddle your wares there.

7. Don’t Feed the Trolls

This is a hard one. Trolls openly reject most (or all) gaming etiquette just to get a rise out of other players. Being a dick is an integral part of their gaming personality. Trolls can (and often do) ruin matches and make you feel bad about yourself.

It’s easy to get angry and lash out – but that’s really all the troll wants. As passive as it may feel, just ignore it. Trolls can’t thrive if they don’t have anger or resentment to feed on. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll have to wander elsewhere. Unless a troll is outright harassing someone, it’s best not to say anything at all. When someone starts getting under your skin, remember: it’s only for one game.

8. Remember to Have Fun

Repeat this to yourself: it’s only a game. A lot of gamers scoff at this trivializing statement, but it’s true. At the end of the day, games were designed to be a fun and enjoyable experience for those that play them. Taking them too seriously can ruin your fun more than any troll. Try to enjoy them, and even the losing matches won’t seem so bad. As a GameSkinny correspondent once put it: “‘Gitting gud’ is a fortunate side effect of having fun, not the reason to play.”

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Etiquette rules vary from game to game, but these are some hard-and-fast guidelines that will apply to just about any multiplayer situation. In addition to these rules, make sure you’re also respecting the standards and norms of individual games you play. What may be acceptable behavior in one game could be considered disrespectful in another.

Lead by example, gamers. At the end of the day, we’re all here for the same reason: we love to play games. So let’s put on our happy faces and do what we do best. We’ll all be better for it in the end.