Up For Debate - Gaming etiquette and the unwritten rules of playing online

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Aug 24, 2019 4:27 PM

There have been efforts to police how we play online, but for the most part we’re left to do whatever’s possible within the ruleset of a game. Teabagging isn’t in Rainbow Six Siege by design but crouching is a gameplay feature which some have simply bent to their will.

We see this sort of attitude everywhere though, from the relatively innocent concept of camping through to spawn killing. If there’s a way to get one-up on the system, as people we’re generally inclined to find it and use it. But, as a means to counter-act this, we’ve built these systems of etiquette. Just as with all etiquette in reality, it's designed to grease the wheels of people socialising and playing together.

To stick to Siege for a moment, a player who goes lone wolf, who doesn’t help to build a cohesive squad of Operators, and ignores any requests for help is going to be a detriment to both their team and to the health of the match. Throw in some poor gaming etiquette and toxicity probably follows this person around like a bad smell.

I'm in danger of diverting course from poor etiquette to toxicity here, although the two are inextricably entwined. There’s that distinction between bad etiquette and ‘bm’ing (bad manners). It’s not good etiquette to not BM, that’s just called not being a bellend. It’s bad etiquette to camp, but it’s not necessarily bad manners.

This process is trying to keep everyone getting along has seen games evolve over the years. Etiquette systems have flourished in unique directions for each genre or, in some cases, given way to a default of toxicity. MMOs obviously have some monstrously complex social systems at play, although because of this depth they also tend to be some of the most welcoming and understanding. But elsewhere we’ve also built up layers of etiquette, such as a simple ‘gl hf’ (good luck, have fun) before a match or a gracious ‘gg’ at the end. On a per-game basis we also see individual rulesets sprout up. In a lot of games it would be considered poor form to quit halfway through, while in Starcraft 2 it’s considered bad manners to continue playing after it’s become obvious you’ll lose.

I’m not entirely sure if it isn’t my rose-tinted spectacles coming into play but, as an example, first-person shooters used to be a lot more social and a whole lot less about trolling your unwitting opponent. Being rude to someone for no reason says a whole lot about someone's character. That bellend I talked about earlier? That's them. 

A lot of it probably comes down to the rise of matchmaking, to be honest. I used to hang out in a handful of regular CS 1.6 servers and you’d see a bunch of familiar faces, day in, day out. This kind of necessitated you didn’t treat each other like shit. With all this faceless matchmaking and 15 other players you’ll never see again, there’s little accountability and less of a community. It used to be easy for people to agree on custom rulesets and just generally mess around. For instance, we’d sometimes have a quick knives-only match to break up the flow. 

We had a tipping point somewhere though, probably around the time we graduated from a simple ‘gg’ to ‘gg ez’. In that moment we slipped from basic manners to a default of being a wind-up merchant. In this sense, a ton of gaming etiquette has slipped away, particularly when looking at MOBAs or shooters.

Games used to be more friendly, there's no doubt about it. They used to be full of helpful people who'd be willing to lend a hand. New players could learn the ropes from the pros, being a noob wasn't a mark of shame but an admittance that help would be much appreciated.

A kneejerk reaction to this topic could boil down to ‘if it’s the game, then I don’t see a problem with doing it’. This doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny though, and is a failing on the part of developers if they haven’t designed their game in such a way that the likes of griefing is either impossible or extremely discouraged.

But this is quite a granular take, there are bigger forces at work here. In serious racing games, for example, there’s some clear etiquette regarding what is and isn’t acceptable. Generally, overly-aggressive driving is frowned upon. You know, t-boning someone on the first corner. I love it, but the serious racers seem to hate it. The problem is, most racing games don’t really do much to deter my playing style at all, aside from ghosting someone who goes to the extreme of racing backward around the track.

For their part, Gran Turismo developer Polyphony Digital has tried educating its players with a series of racing etiquette videos. You have to watch a couple of 3-minute videos on racing etiquette in order to be granted a sportsmanship certificate and access the online lobbies. Your sportsmanship rating then goes up or down depending on how you behave in races, matchmaking based on your rule-breaking. It’s a weirdly heavy-handed way to try and fix a problem with simulation racers and kind of sucks the joy out, but it’s efficient enough that we’re surprised other games don’t try similar methods.

As far as gaming etiquette goes though, behaving on the race track is actually quite high brow. It pales next to quitters, insult hurlers, elitism, spamming, and just generally being a good sport. Developers try to put in systems to combat all of these problems but it's an uphill battle against a mudslide of toxicity that does the rounds these days. 

So I'll put a cap on my meandering thoughts for now, but what do you think of gaming etiquette? Do you try to get on with your teammates or are you quick to criticise? What are favourite bits of gaming etiquette which you often fall back on? Let us know below!

Our favourite comments:

Jumping is an universal peace sign.

dino131

The only unwritten rule in online gaming is this: Typing ez at the end of the match when you're on the bottom of the scoreboard on your team

STEFANICA111

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05:41 Aug-27-2019

You ****ing noobs !. Whole team is noob. Idiots. Motheruckers. Vulgar Abusing in Native language. (RANK - LAST) (KILL - 2) (DEATH-18)

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14:13 Aug-27-2019

Nah it's more annoying when it's a kill stealing scrub that follows people just to pick their kills and then when we lose even though he has a good score, we all(the entire team) know that he didn't do sh!t to deserve it, but he is salty at us...

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11:03 Aug-26-2019

For the LAST BLOODY TIME seeing another driver in lead doesn't mean you bump him as a sign of respect !!!!!

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13:30 Aug-26-2019

Never heard of the bumping thing before.


Tho I haven't played a racing game in ages so I might be out of the loop.

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07:39 Aug-27-2019

essentially in sim racing ramming another car is a big no no especially right into a braking zone where you give them a slight bump/slight touch on the rear causing them to spin out completly or lose the turn causing the ingame rules to giv

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07:39 Aug-27-2019

give them a 3-5 second penalty

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08:43 Aug-27-2019

Thx for the explanation.

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12:18 Aug-27-2019

Absolutely agreed.


Also it's not only people, tell that to Forza Horizon 4s brain dead AI and I know it's not a sim, but that's what I've been playing recently in terms of racers. XD


F1 also doesn't have very bright AI

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16:04 Aug-27-2019

F1 has very mediocre Ai you can easily scare and bully them off the track though depending on the difficulty they are fast and break much much later but Assetto Corsa holy $h)T its think its the worse implementation of Ai ever trust me its

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16:06 Aug-27-2019

common to see a 7-15 car pile up for the first 3 laps no matter what. then again to be honest the game is designed with hotlapping at its core not really racing so cant really blame the devs

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08:20 Aug-26-2019

i was part of robocraft in the pre-alpha stages. back then gg was good etiquette. there were obviously tons of issues and the community was fairly large but forgiven. if they saw you just sitting there not moving, they knew it was a server or connection issue and would just leave you alone. teams talked to each other and helped people in game and with builds.
now its just a bunch of kids buying to win and complaining, no talking and lots of solo work.


i only play d3 and the division with friends. everyone else wants to be leroy jenkins and i dont have time for that.

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16:34 Aug-25-2019

Etiquette works best when it can be enforced by the playerbase/community imo. For example in GW2 open world PVP you have certain spots the community designated for duelers and their spectators. If you run up and interrupt a duel or hit a spectator, in most cases you'll get swarmed by everyone watching. Allies around will most likely will not help you fight.

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16:37 Aug-25-2019

In the actual duels etiquette also applies. You bow to signal being ready to start, and once one of the duelers is down he is not finshed off but is allowed to ress himself or his allies to pick him up (saves time walking back from spawn if a rematch is desired by either party). Stomping (finishing) a player will usually cause all his allied spectators to jump in and down + stomp the offender.

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10:43 Aug-25-2019

Guess the Game :D (PC)


Unwritten "friendly" sign:
Q E Q E Q E Q E Q E Q E Q E Q E Q E

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14:19 Aug-25-2019

any fps game that can lean

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20:35 Aug-27-2019

Discount Bf4

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07:20 Aug-25-2019

Mostly play solo so I don't have those concerns.


BTW great article pic for the topic.

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03:08 Aug-25-2019

my days gaming online have long since passed, but I miss the days of actual pleasantry of gamers online. mostly from the various guilds I joined in the fantasy MMO scene.

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11:06 Aug-26-2019

try destiny great community that will welcome you with open arms and explain alot of convulated stuff. on the other hand avoid division everyone just wants to kill you except for THE DEAD MANS RANGER that guy is Super Dope and will save you

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23:49 Aug-24-2019

The only true unwritten rule is - there are no rules :d thats why i dont play online games anymore...

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20:18 Aug-24-2019

I play Counter Strike: Global Offensive almost to the exclusion of all other games, until CyberPunk 2077 comes out. For the most part, I've been lucky in getting good teammates, even though I solo queue exclusively.
My favorite game etiquette is never using an auto sniper. Even though it's a perfectly legal weapon in the game, it's a no no to actually use. Many do not care, but sometimes a player will use one & his own teammates will frag him.

However, once a player on the other team uses one & his/her temmates are fine with it, then it's fine for every player on the opposing team to use one in retaliation. That can make for some interesting rounds

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19:40 Aug-24-2019

I remember back in the day when me and my friends played Star Wars: JK2 a lot online there was this thing, especially during duels, where you'd close your lightsaber, crouch and point the mouse down as a form of a bow down before a fight. Used to enjoy that.


Truth be told, I don't do much online gaming anymore as I can't stand the constant updating and changes. When you have time to play a game at random times - picking up from where you left off in 2 weeks and have it not be change to ME is appreciated...

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19:44 Aug-24-2019

As for the whole "toxicity" thing... I really personally never cared. I never played anything with audio chat on, unless it was with friends over VoIP, so I never really heard 13-y-os screaming abuse into the mic (which is usually hilariously funny, given their pipsqueek voices!) while a bunch of letters somewhere in a chatbox don't really offend me either. A bit of locker-room talk never hurt nobody sane, IMO, anyway.

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19:36 Aug-24-2019

I landed on a random paragraph and found typos.


"Games used to be more friendly, there's no about about it. They used to be full of helpful people who'd be willing to lend a hand. New players could learn the ropes the pros, being a noob wasn't a mark of shame but an admittance that help would be muchappreciated."

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22:04 Aug-24-2019

I too wish it was 1998, but then again, I wouldn't be alive if it was :D

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22:05 Aug-24-2019

That's why I enjoy when something has a small cult-like community as usually they fall into what you described above.

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19:13 Aug-24-2019

While this really depends on the game, I sum it up with two things. Don't be a dick, bit of trolling is fine, just don't be asshole. And, if it game heavily relies on team, try to be beneficial for the team. But granted this is much harder to find in a world of random matchmaking, since you are grouped with randoms you will never see again and there is no responsibility or consequences.

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19:13 Aug-24-2019

Unlike before, where you had dedicated servers or fully separate realms and people knew each other, which meant you would get bad reputation and there would be some social pressure. Unlike today, where everything that can kill you is overpowered, anyone who is good cheats, loss is fault of teammates, lag is always an issue,... and all other excuses, just as long you don't have to admit you suck.

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19:13 Aug-24-2019

Not saying I am perfect example or anything, but it is really funny how often people who rage the most or behave the worst, are also ones who play terrible and don't like you, because they expect you are there to carry them. Then you get this whole attitude of "you should learn how to play, just not in my game". But that is what you get, when you play with complete randoms.

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00:41 Aug-25-2019

The true freedom to be a dick needs to be there to show your real character, so that when you're a man of character it's really appreciated. I never really played much online until recently when Apex Legends came out, and noticed how much people appreciated me being just a normal friendly team player. I also had some other folks tell me never to play it again because I sucked compared to them, lol. Guess they took it all too seriously.

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02:01 Aug-25-2019

Well, if they get too bad you can always just "pour some fuel on the fire"... :-D But in any case, I don't really mind it that badly, I have been around without any filters for long enough. Plus if they are busy being pissed at me, they aren't paying full attention to what they are doing. :-D

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17:22 Aug-24-2019

lots of etiquette in r6 xd you'll be tk and t-bag'ed for choosing new op or for other nonsense reasons

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17:17 Aug-24-2019

Unwritten rules of the top of my head:
Don't use OP items.
Don't play cheesy
Don't screw over your teammates
Don't troll
Don't grief
If you are not going to play with your teammates as a team, then at least don't get in the way, but also don't expect anything from them.
Communicate
Don't rage
Don't quit
Don't give up
Don't go AFK

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17:40 Aug-24-2019

Does these rules apply for a person who is playing offline?

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17:56 Aug-24-2019

Well then it's highly personal, but sure they can for sure.

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18:44 Aug-24-2019

Don't use OP items - if i can i do


Don't play cheesy - idk what does that even mean


Don't screw over your teammates and Don't troll - i kind do this in For Honor i choose the zone where will i go and be thry whole game even if i know that there are opponents waiting for me and its sure death, idk i find it funny to constantly coming to the same guys and dying against them over and over


Don't grief - also not sure what exactly what griefing is but i think that i do its much better to spam chat then to scream to my self


If you are not going to play with your teammates as a team, then at least don't get in the way, but also don't expect anything from them - just becouse i dont expect nothing from team mates is why i dont play with them as a team, its imposible if you dont play with friends


Communicate - i dont and i dont see reason to, exception if i find some normal people talking to each other so i join in


Don't rage - i have to


Don't quit - i dont quit as i dont gain anything by doing so


Don't give up - i do some time but i dont try hard enouth so that i can give up in the first place


Don't go AFK - i do some times as i browse memes while game starts so i forget about it


did i pass?

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18:54 Aug-24-2019

using OP items is no different than using cheats, because both give you an unfair advantage and everybody can use both.


I said cheesy because it's different for every genere and game. For example in shooters camping is cheesy so is using explosives on infantry other than hand grenades, for rts games it's rush tactics, turttling, etc, etc, for fighters is to spam some annoying move or punch, etc, etc.


griefing is in games that can be griefed, but yeah no reason to do so.


I've countless times found random great teams be it in squads, or whole teams.


if you don't communicate do NOT play games where they are team based.


if you rage, then stop playing, you are missing the point.


you don't have to try to give up, you just have to be playing

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18:54 Aug-24-2019

going afk when the game is loading and such doesn't count.


do you pass? Don't know, you tell me.

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19:15 Aug-24-2019

I became good at some point at sniping people in BF5 with the rifle grenade and RPG.

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19:51 Aug-24-2019

You sir deserve to be aimbotted against XD

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20:19 Aug-24-2019

if you don't communicate do NOT play games where they are team based - well for honor dosnt offer anything outside of multiplayer, i suck in duels so only way to beat someone for me is to gank as for rage its normal for For Honor player as who ever you want that is playing the game and everyone will tell you that game is trash and that its their favourite game, we all hate the game but we all love it

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20:32 Aug-24-2019

No my point is that if a game makes you rage then you are missing the point, because the game is meant to be for enjoyment and not get you angry.


Also IDK why you think For Honor is trash, I thinks it's fantastic, but too bad it died so quickly. :/


Also in for honor you can 1v2 if I remember correctly, so it's not a team based game in a sense that you literally can't win unless you have teammates, like for instance RPGs or MOBAs.

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22:05 Aug-24-2019

no i love for honor but i hate it as well, game is broken and frustrating some times, but i still play it

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23:48 Aug-24-2019

Dont use op weapons - if both teams have that same weapon then i dont see any problem using it, and it actually is funny when someone cries about it while they can use that same gun.

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00:06 Aug-25-2019

By that logic it's funny when someone cries that there is an aimbotter when that person can use an aimbot as well...
OP items are known as legal cheats, for a reason, the only difference between them and something like an aimbot is that you can't get banned for using them.

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01:33 Aug-25-2019

but cheating is using something that no one else can, as Gerulis20 sayed if everyone has it its not cheating, if everyone is using aim bot and cheat then no one cheat

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01:46 Aug-25-2019

everyone can use an aimbot...


The problem with Op weapons/items and the idea of everybody using them is that they literally delete the rest of the content...

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03:10 Aug-25-2019

thats true but thats not the players fault but devs

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03:15 Aug-25-2019

And that's why it's an unwritten rule...

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10:13 Aug-25-2019

Using external program to gain advantage in game is violation of of terms and conditions and that is not comparable. David988 is not exactly right, if both players use hacks then they both cheat.

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12:18 Aug-25-2019

and both players using op items means both players are cheating too, although legally, which is why they are called legal cheats...


Why is hacking/cheating bad? Because it gives the player who is using them an Automatic, Unfair Advantage against people who are not using cheats/hacks.


Guess what? Using OP items, gives the player Automatic, Unfair Advantage against people who are not using OP items. Literally the same concept.


And again both can use OP items and both can use cheats. And the only cheats that are in violation of the terms of service are the ones that get caught(sadly), because if your cheats don't get detected then you for all intents and purposes for the rest of the world aren't cheating, though I still wonder why people cheat in multiplayer games to begin with...

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12:43 Aug-25-2019

What logic is that? if i dont get caught cheating then i dont violate terms and conditions? of course i do... Getting caught cheating and banned is just consequence. How did you come to a conclusion that using op weapon that exist in game and designed by game developers is cheating? especially when both teams have it? That is not cheating...

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12:46 Aug-25-2019

Because the developers aren't some kind of gods and not everything they do is perfect...


Dice straight out admitted that they could NOT balance BF4 for example, after countless attempts... to me it was weird as all they had to do increase the bullet to kill on every weapon above 700rpm by 1 and it was done, which they did in future BF games and it worked, so kinda lost why they didn't. Oh and nerf shotguns.


R6 Siege? Balance both map and operator and weapon wise has never been good and they are constantly trying to fix it, so again, not perfect.


Why do people think developers knows 100% what they are doing and everything they do is right? Trust me it's not.

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12:50 Aug-25-2019

Though I used to have a theory that EA didn't allow them to tamper with BF4 anymore, but then I realized it was Dice LA that was doing all the post-launch/post-dlc work, so IDK really... what was so hard to balance.

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13:14 Aug-25-2019

but Psychoman cheating is advantage and you cant have advantage if everyone have the same weapon

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13:15 Aug-25-2019

you can't have an advantage if everyone is cheating too, what's your point?


Though if you are all using the same weapon then you delete the rest of the game's content, if you are all using cheats you might even get away with using more then one weapon.

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17:03 Aug-24-2019

Jumping is an universal peace sign.

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07:23 Aug-25-2019

First time I'm hearing about that.

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16:57 Aug-24-2019

Gaming etiquette lol

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16:38 Aug-24-2019

The only unwritten rule in online gaming is this: Typing ez at the end of the match when you're on the bottom of the scoreboard on your team

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16:43 Aug-24-2019

People that type EZ or GG when theyve fed theyre ass off in online games should be sent to the deepest parts of hell. X D

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17:39 Aug-24-2019

lol

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