Video games are more culturally relevant today than they’ve ever been before. I know a lot of people who became friends because they played the same multiplayer game, like Halo or Smash Bros or Pokemon, but then their friendships evolved beyond that. I know a lot of people who had the wonderful shared experience of clearing all 9 worlds of New Super Mario Brothers with their girlfriend or boyfriend. In fact, my mother met my half-brother’s father through a co-operative online multiplayer card game.
Multiplayer gaming is definitely a legitimate cultural construct, and as such, it can be easily spoiled by some awkward faux pas. Let’s look at some behaviors that should be avoided.
Don’t be that guy who preys on noobs:
This one should be pretty obvious. If you normally play with the same group, and someone brings in their non-gamer girlfriend or boyfriend for one session, don’t use their inexperience as an excuse to beef up your kill ratio. Even if the person is your own friend, preying on them is just going to keep them from having a good time. They’re going out on a limb to hang out with you in your nerd cave, don’t snap that limb. The general rule of thumb is to only ‘go after’ players who are at the same skill level as you, and only attack the new player in self defense or if they’ve clearly gotten a handle of the controls and strategy but still left themselves wide open.
Don’t be that guy who centralizes gameplay:
A lot of multiplayer games have a wide variety of characters and strategies to choose from. Often times, there will be ‘top tier’ characters or strategies that easily beat most other options. If you’re playing with the same group of people all the time, try not to get too competitive and locked into an arms race; everyone will end up using the same three characters and playing on the same level and obsessing over a tiny portion of the game. This isn’t bad in and of itself, but centralizes the gameplay and makes all matches feel the same. Take one for the team to relieve tension; if everyone is Brawling with Meta Knight and Falco, try to kick their ass with Princess Peach for a few rounds.
Don’t be that guy who de-centralizes gameplay:
Sometimes games will have mechanics that are meant to centralize the gameplay on purpose, so that people of varying skill level are forced to interact more closely. For example, a lot of Mario Kart games will award better items to players in last place and aim more devastating attacks, like Blue Shells and Bullet Bills at people closer to first place. This serves to keep the gameplay from being too entirely skill based and boring. A lot of times when I’m playing with a group, there will be one or two guys who insist on disabling items, or any gimmicks with similar skill-muddling impacts. Don’t be that guy. Games are usually most fun to play at their default setting, when you focus on winning and get caught up in tiers, skill, and competitive behavior, you’ll often insist on stripping away the elements that make the game fun in the first place.
Don’t be that guy who loses their cool:
This should go without saying, but don’t get angry when you lose. And don’t gloat when you win. And especially don’t use racial slurs or hate speech in online multiplayer. I mean, if you’re the kind of person who does that, you probably shouldn’t even be reading this website. You should probably close your browser and throw your computer out the window and burn your house to the ground.
Don’t be that guy who keeps role playing by themselves:
This is more for your own benefit than anyone else’s, but don’t be the only one speaking from an in-universe perspective. Notice as to whether or not the other players refer to their character as themselves or as the names of the characters they’re controlling; follow suit. You don’t want to be the only one role playing when everyone else is just hanging out. Immersion and investment is cool, especially in single player, but keep it under wraps if no one else is going along with it. Or things can get really uncomfortable really fast.
Don’t be that guy who practices alone:
Don’t be the guy who plays Rock Band by himself several times a month so that he can “show off” at a party twice a year. It’s gross.
Don’t be that guy who makes things unfun:
This is probably the underlying message to all these guidelines: Don’t make the game unfun. When asked the objective of a Halo round, you might say it’s to get the best kill-death ratio, but the real objective is actually to enjoy the social interaction with the other players. The idea of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ is a component meant to facilitate the having of fun; don’t let it get in the way of that. Aside from souring the experience for yourself, you’re going to make everyone in your group reconsider inviting you next time. And then your kill-death ratio will be stuck at zero forever.