How to Not Be an Awful Scumbag in Online Video Games

titanfall online gaming

Titanfall | Source: Electronic Arts

Online video games offer some of the most engaging experiences in gaming (though there is something to be said for couch co-op games). Playing solo can be a lot of fun, too, and there are plenty of games that prove amazing without ever dipping even a toe into the Internet, but something about getting online and sharing the gaming experiences with other players from all around the world is truly magical — that is, until some scumbag comes along and ruins it.

If you’re here, it’s (hopefully) because you want to make sure you’re not being that scumbag. Fortunately, there’s almost only one point you have to keep in mind, and that’s to make sure that you’re not “griefing” in your games. If you’re not sure of what griefing is, we’re going to break that down so you can be sure you’re not doing it. On the other hand, you might be a troll and just be here to see if there’s any way to grief that you haven’t thought of, which brings us to our first point.

Don’t be a troll

We’ve all encountered trolls. They know all the right ways to push our buttons. They pretend to make serious arguments and no matter how much they’re challenged, they’ll keep up their same line. Their goal is to frustrate and irritate. If you’re picking fights with people just to see them get worked up, you might be a troll. If you’re pretending to be ignorant just so you can cause others trouble, you might be a troll. If you’re the last person left on your team in Counter-Strike and you pretend like you don’t know how to defuse the bomb and let your team lose, you’re definitely a troll. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t feed trolls or griefers

There aren’t a lot of ways to stop a troll. But probably the best one is to ignore them. If you can, mute them. If you can’t, just do your best to ignore them. If you don’t, they will only get worse. If they get positive response, they thrive. If they get negative response, they thrive. If they get no response, they’ll most likely get bored and give up. Even if you’re not being a troll, you will be partially responsible for any troll whose game you play into. Trolls may always be an inevitable experience in online games, but the sooner everyone stops interacting with trolls, the sooner everyone will stop having to deal with them. The same goes for griefers in general. If griefers are trying to get their way and people cave for them, they’re just going to learn that griefing is effective and do it again when something isn’t going their way.

In extreme cases where there’s nothing you can do to stop a troll or griefer, take the opportunity to capture whatever it is they’re doing and report them.

Don’t rage quit (or just bail on important matches)

rage quit gaming

Smashing your computer isn’t going to help you win the game | Source: Thinkstock

If you’re playing a game that isn’t team-based, quit whenever you want. But if you’re working with a team and they depend on your for anything, even just to run in first and get killed, you should make sure you hang around to the end of the match. Don’t get upset if things aren’t going your way in one match and just bail outright. You may be doing it to defend your stats because you don’t want your win-loss or kill-death ratio to take a hit, but ditching your team mid-match is selfish. If you ditch, your team may be outnumbered, and all of their stats are that much more at risk. The scumbag level of rage quitting increases with the level of game you’re quitting from. Quitting out of a non-ranked casual match is lame, but not a heinous crime. Bailing on a competitive, ranked match and leaving your team a player down or stuck with a bot is a total scumbag move.

Don’t vote kick players for bad reasons

Some video games allow players to call for a vote to kick another player out of the game. This is a great feature when used right. It lets us good, honest, non-scumbags get scumbags out of the game so we can go on enjoying our online experience. Sadly, this tool can get abused by griefers. Occasionally you’ll see a vote called to kick a player who’s doing really well. If the accused has twice the score of anyone else in the game, they might just be doing awesome and you shouldn’t kick them out of envy. If they’ve almost won the game moments after it begun, then maybe you can think about kicking them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people try to kick players who aren’t doing very well. There will always be people better and worse than us, and they have a right to enjoy the game. Help them learn to play better. No one will get good if they’re constantly kicked from games for being a weak player. If someone has a high rank but is acting like they don’t play well, that’s when you can go for the kick.

Don’t abuse your mic

screaming gaming

No one wants to hear about your life in the middle of a gunfight | Source: Thinkstock

Mic abuse is one of the most obvious traits of a griefer. Maybe they’re not skilled enough to mess with you in the game. Maybe they’re not clever enough to troll you. But it doesn’t take a lot to turn on a mic and be really, really loud for a really, really long time. If you’re screaming or shouting into your mic, you’re being an Internet scumbag. If you’re talking incessantly such that no one else can get a word in, you’re being a scumbag. To go a step further, maybe you’re just talking casually, not intending to annoy people, but someone asks you to be quiet for a little bit — what do you do? You should be considerate, and quiet down for a time. While they’re busy listening to you, they might also be trying to listen for enemies or concentrate. If you want to chat with a friend throughout a game, get an external voice client, like Skype, running so no one else has to listen the whole time.

Leave spawn sites alone

Camping a spawn site so you can get easy kills by catching freshly hatched enemies off guard is akin to vote kicking a player who’s simply not playing well. It doesn’t give a player the chance to get their bearings, get into the game, and actually do any playing. Fortunately, many newer games have gotten wise and made spawn sites a safe haven for players or will reward no points for taking out enemies there. Still, not every game does, so be kind and don’t take advantage of an unguarded spawn by killing every opponent the second they spawn. It’s not cool. One exception is if a player is trying to hide in their spawn site because they don’t want to be killed and just want to waste everyone’s time — in this case, they’re in the wrong, and you should definitely go after them.

For goodness’s sake, don’t screw with teammates

Counter-strike

The surest way to not make friends is to shoot your would-be friends in the back | Source: Valve

If you’re playing a team game online, the first thing you should realize is that your teammates aren’t your enemy. Don’t kill them, don’t injure them, don’t attack them at all (even if it does zero damage), and don’t obstruct them if the game allows that to happen. Those teammates are gamers who are hoping they can rely on you to have their back and help them stay alive. They don’t want you to screw them over, and the game developers probably weren’t hoping you would do so either. Maybe you’re a high-level player and think that gives you a right to mess with lower-level players, but it doesn’t.

Don’t brag about how good you are

This point falls partially under that category of spamming the mic, as speaking at length about how great you are at the game your playing is probably only annoying everyone listening. If you’re really good, that’s great. Plenty of players watching skiller players, seeing how they pull off insane moves and clever tactics. They want to know how you pull of the flick AWP shots in Counter-Strike or play with the harder characters in Heroes of the Storm. But they don’t want to hear you extolling your virtues while they’re playing a game with you. This point holds especially true for gamers who aren’t doing well. If you have to say you’re better than other players every time someone frags you, you might not actually be as good as you think you are, and you’re also being a online gaming scumbag. Instead, try commending other players for their sick skills. You might make some friends that way.

Don’t spoil people’s fun

Some games have very specific ways they’re meant to be played, and sometimes the majority of players in a server will either want to stick to that way, or deviate entirely. If you’re running around in an MMORPG, like World of Warcraft, where people enjoy taking the role-playing elements seriously and pretend they’re in the fantasy world, it’s a scumbag move to try to break down the fantasy by talking or behaving in a way that doesn’t fit in with the world. If everyone in a shooter decides they want to finish the match with only melee weapons (or even if just a few decide to have melee fights in a certain part of the level), don’t that guy who comes around with a machine gun and sprays down everyone trying to have a good time.

Don’t hack

hacker gaming

No one likes a hacker, unless their charming movie/TV hackers | Source: iStock

Hacking is basically the ultimate sin in online gaming. If you’re hacking, you’ve broken the rules. Hacking gives players unfair advantages, like the ability to auto target heads or see through walls in shooters, or to be all powerful and travel anywhere in MMOs. In any game, a hacker will be a nuisance. In a competitive game, hackers can be catastrophic, not only ruining the match, but potentially damaging players’ hard-won stats. If you’re hacking because you want an edge on opponents, try practicing more. If you’re hacking because you just want screw with other people, you’re being a scumbag.

Don’t be an awful human being

This one should go without saying, but we still see it in almost any online gaming community large enough. Being an actual, real-world scumbag translates pretty easily into being an online gaming scumbag. If you spend much time in online games swearing at people, spouting racist or sexist slurs and other discriminatory hate speech, you’re definitely being a scumbag. To top it off, that scumbag title doesn’t go away quite as quickly when you logoff. Anyone who is this kind of scumbag in online games is also racking up scumbag points in the real world, even if they’re not so quick to use the same kind of language face-to-face with people. If you fall into this category, it’s advisable to see a therapist.

Online gaming is an awesome way to play with friends, connect with fellow gamers, and compete in our favorite games. If you find yourself showing any of the aforementioned behavior, try to correct it. Let’s keep online gaming fun.

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