MMO Family: Mind your massively multiplayer manners

MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family, from tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate online games for everyone in the family.

Kids are like sponges, sure -- old saying is old. But are online manners something you really want to leave to chance? Are the interactions your kids so intently follow online the manners you want them soaking up and using themselves? As parents, we know that the habits and attitudes that kids pick up today are what we'll find coming right back at us tomorrow. Teens who are used to trolling in games and forums will have a hard time modulating to a less strident tone in a business meeting. Kids who excuse a lack of scruples with "whatever -- it's only the internet" are due for a big surprise when a thoughtless instant message or careless lack of response to an email slams doors in their faces later in life.

As parents who game, we all have hot buttons that set us off: the guy who always shows up late to raids, beggars, you name it. The point is: Have you talked to your kids yet about these behaviors? Are you explicitly (by both word and example) helping them not to grow up to be That Guy?

I'm pretty sure we don't need a primer in online etiquette here at Massively, but I don't think it would hurt to share some of the things we wish Those Other Parents had taught their kids before turning them loose in our games. I'll share my dirty dozen after the break -- won't you share your own in the comments?

The Dirty Dozen: MMO manners for young gamers at my house

  1. Save the real-life socializing for later. It's one thing when the main healer has to go AFK for five minutes to take an urgent phone call from work; it's altogether different when the tank can't focus because the guys just stopped by to see what he was doing -- and they're not leaving. There's nothing the least bit attractive about a text- and cell-addicted junkie who can't keep his thumbs off the touchscreen long enough to deal with what's right in front of him. If you're playing with other people online, those people should be the subject of your undivided attention -- not whoever's on the phone or hanging out on the couch.
  2. Take care of business before you get involved. When Mom calls for dinnertime right as the group reaches the quest territory or Dad insists the trash must go out right this very minute, we all know that someone hasn't taken care of business before logging in. Make it happen.
  3. Guild resources are for guild members. Don't assume the guild's Vent server is a free-for-all destination for all your gaming buddies. Your guild pays for that bandwidth; don't be a freeloader.
  4. Go the distance with your group. Accepting a group invitation when you know you have to leave early is thoughtless and impolite. Pickup groups are not fall-back or filler content; they're a social commitment, and you need to respect that the other players are expecting group play time. If you don't have time to finish the activity before dinner, take a rain check and wait until later.
  5. Don't be a ninja. Anything that could possibly be described as ninja-anything -- ninja looting, ninja group-inviting, ninja guild-charter-signing, whatever -- just don't do it. Talking with other players before slamming an automated accept/deny window onto their screens is the polite way to do it.
  6. Don't troll; in fact, don't even troll the trolls. Sure, everyone knows trolling public chat channels and forums is not cool. But even if you're simply trying to "teach that guy a lesson," once you take it upon yourself to hop into the fray, you become part of the problem. In this case, if you try to beat 'em, you join 'em. Don't.
  7. Use Vent and voice communication correctly. Don't be the person your guildmates cringe to hear when you come online. Find out how to normalize your settings. Never assume that just because nobody has said anything (yet) about foul language, everyone's cool with cursing. Don't chatter before or during boss fights. Don't play music into the channels. Use push-to-talk if there's background noise in the room where you're playing. Move to a private channel for individual groups or private conversations. Don't barge into individual channels, where other players may be concentrating on their own events.
  8. Don't beg.
  9. Own up to your mistakes. Nobody wants to play with the weasel who takes no responsibility for his mistakes -- or worse, the clueless fluff-head who can't spot a problem when it's staring her in the face. Admitting your shortcomings lets your teammates know that you see and understand the problem and you're working to prevent it from happening again.
  10. Respond to unavoidable interruptions responsibly. What to say when a parent pops in to remind you about that list of chores? "Sure, Mom, but I'm doing some quests with a group of people right now, and this will interrupt our progress. How long should I tell them I'll need to be gone?"
  11. Beware the lulz. Beware of the hidden dangers of "LOL," which can just as easily be taken to mean you are laughing at someone instead of with him.
  12. Goodbyes still matter. Leaving (a group, a guild, whatever) with no notice and without a word is a slap in the face, no matter how innocent your intentions. Take the time to type, "Gotta run. Thanks, all -- see you later!"
All of these ideas are bottom-line manners to me that I don't want to risk my kids not catching onto on their own. If they're old enough to game in situations where these things matter, trust that we'll be making these rules clear before they log in, not after.

What are the biggies at your house? What do you wish Those Other Parents had told their kids before giving them the green light to log in? What didn't I include on my list that you'd always include on yours?
This article was originally published on Massively.