Etiquette and Protocol

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Good behavior is essential in any social activity, but sadly many people have convinced themselves that good behavior on the internet is not required. In this article, we'll talk somewhat in depth on why good behavior on the internet is important, and specifically what constitutes good behavior in an internet game of Armagetron Advanced.

Why it's important

Some of you reading this might think that we take this game too seriously. Perhaps you should consider what is considered acceptable in a friendly basketball game at the park. If you were to punch one of your teammates in the nose, would that be considered acceptable behavior? Humans build social structures and search for ways to socialize with one another and the internet is no exception to this. There are only two differences in internet gaming and face-to-face gaming:

  • Anonymity - You are anonymous until you choose not to be. Some degree of anonymity can be achieved in face-to-face gaming, but the internet provides more inherent protections of identity.
  • No physical contact - While there is no physical contact or interaction, there is an avatar of your presence. This avatar, a light cycle, is endowed with movement and senses that you control and use and is capable of receiving injury. I suspect that when the psychologists get around to studying it, they will find that the emotional damage of a virtual punch in the nose in an internet game is identical to the emotional damage of a face-to-face punch in the nose.

These two differences and the fact that it is "just a game" are often cited as reasons people can and should misbehave. Let's go into this in a little more detail.

Just a Game

It is just a game, and in the end you can disconnect from the server and go pursue other activities if you don't like what's going on. But it is a falsehood to think that there is nothing serious in a game. Humans game, it is a fact of life. Scientists have observed play behavior in most mammals that extends well into their adult years, including humans. Philosophers explore the importance of gaming every day, but it doesn't take a PhD in anything to understand a few basic facts of gaming.

First of all, games develop real life skills. Even internet games! Armagetron Advanced is a great way to practice and build assertiveness. In order to be successful, you must be assertive. It is unique in this regard, especially compared to the likes of CounterStrike and some other internet games. In those games, it is possible to hide somewhere and pick people off from a distance, accumulating points in the process and ultimately winning. In Armagetron Advanced, this is just not possible. The mechanics of the game prevent you from "camping" and picking off players. To get points, you have to go out and earn them, which requires the ability to be assertive.

Another real life skill that is developed by Armagetron Advanced is the ability to think quickly. The ability to think quickly requires being able to analyze few bits of information (possibly insufficient bits of information), make a decision, and act on it. A decisive player will inevitably defeat an indecisive player.

Self-confidence, while not being a skill, is a trait that is developed as well. The more you play well, do well, and win, the more confidence is built. When you leave the game feeling confident, assertive, and decisive, you leave the game a better person than you started.

The ability to play on a team is a crucial life skill. Some of us work on development teams, groups of geeks working together to create programs. Others will go on to be on management teams or scientific teams. All players will eventually or have already penetrated fields that require them to be able to function as a member of a team. As a matter of fact, playing on a team server in Armagetron Advanced emphasizes team play.

When you put all of this together in an environment that is fun and competitive, you wind up with a game that is more than just a game, and people will quite naturally take it seriously. Most players find that the combination of real life skills and traits that are required to be a good player and the level of competitiveness found on most servers make for a very fun and enjoyable experience. This is not to be taken lightly! The fact that it's "just a game" that takes place on the internet is irrelevant. If you play basketball at the YMCA, you will be doing exactly the same things as you are doing here.

Good Etiquette

Generally, good behavior consists of good sportsmanship. There is a certain amount of trash talking that is considered acceptable after you have earned it. There is no amount of trash talking considered acceptable for first-time players. Personal attacks are never considered acceptable, while self-deprecating humor is generally well-received. You might be quite surprised the first time you see a well-respected player say "You suck" to another well-respected player. You might be inclined to follow through with "You both suck". It would be unfortunate, they will probably target you for it. This is somewhat expected, however. The two players talking trash know each other and have likely been playing together for some time, so the insult means something different between them. This is normal, expected human behavior. After playing awhile, you might notice that the player who said "You suck" to one player doesn't say it to many players. There are those on the grid who deliver insults that are actually compliments in the grand tradition of tough love. And like the grand tradition of tough love, a certain familiarity with the person is required before you can enter into it.

The above paragraph is actually the exception, and not the rule. Generally, people are very well-behaved. If you see someone do something that was very good, say so! If you see someone do something that's not so good, it's usually ok to comment on it in a humorous manner. These are real people who make real mistakes and like to laugh it off, respawn, and go kick some ass.

It's easier to talk about what behavior is generally unacceptable than it is to talk about what is acceptable, because most unacceptable behaviors are acceptable in certain circumstances and at certain times. It might strike you as being hypocritical, but it's really very natural. The golden rule will be enforced, so you need to follow it.

Good sportsmanship is a requirement of all players, however. You don't have to say "Good match" after every match, but it's generally not a good idea to say "Bad match" after any match. You should acknowledge that the other players have played their best and be respectful of that fact, even if you do so in a humorous light. For example, there is someone who says, after losing a match, "Grrrrrr....ats!". That is humorous, and respectful, and expressive of the fact that the guy lost and he's not happy about it. But if you said "Fuck you you noob you're not good enough to win", expect a kick vote to go against you.

A kick vote should be interpreted as "Let's all kick this guy's ass" and is comparable to the other players in the park ganging up physically and violently on one person to make him leave. This is a double-edged sword. The person who initiates a kick vote needs to be pretty certain that a successful vote will make the environment better, by kicking someone who's chat-spamming, or teamkilling, or something like that. If you do it just because you don't like someone, well tough cookie nookie. As one person says, the kick menu is not a toy.

If you're generally polite, and even your cut-downs are fun and of a friendly nature, you will be accepted. While this is a pretty tight and small community, we're not an exclusive lot. We want new people to come in and enjoy the game. We want new challenges. We also want more points. So invite yourself in, have some fun with us, and we'd like to have you around. Just remember that just because we're playing an internet game is no reason to be an ass. Unless you're just an ass and there's no hope for you, but we'll straighten you out.

This game appeals to people of all ages. The youngest player I've personally encountered was 8, while the oldest was in his 60s. There are a lot of players hovering around 30 years old. Maturity levels differ, in some cases quite dramatically, but since we all realize we're here to have fun and be competitive, this is not usually an issue. Be reasonably tolerant of others, and they'll be reasonably tolerant of you.

It's just the golden rule, isn't it?

What To Do

The internet is anonymous, and there are many jerks in the world. Unfortunately, they have access to computers. If one plays enough Armagetron, there will invariably be an instance in which someone

  • curses at you
  • threatens you
  • is generally abusive.

What should a player do in these circumstances?

Well, there are different ways of handling a problem like this. If you have enough people siding with you, start a kick vote. But what if its one on one? The easiest thing to do is to realize that whoever is being abusive doesn't actually know you. He is most likely a troll. Most trolls will shut up if you don't pay attention to them. Easiest way to do this is to silence them, via the player police menu. Most likely what will happen, unfortunately, is that you will engage them. This is generally the wrong thing to do, unless you have to stomach for some serious insults and bashing. I recommend not to do this.

What if the person is not a troll, and he seems serious?

First thing, don't be scared. People seem to think they can physically threaten people over the internet. Well, don't be freaked out if they do. Apologize if you think you have done anything wrong, and if you don't feel comfortable, leave the room. Or, if you want to keep playing, silence him. I (Raoul Duke) have only seen one death threat in my experience.