MMO Family: Mind your massively multiplayer manners revisited

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In this week's MMO Family column, I want to dig deeper into something that came up as a result of the last edition, and that's the perception of younger gamers as generally being too immature, being too flighty, and lacking the social skills to be fun groupmates and guildmates in our MMOs. There were some great points all around, with some arguing that kids aren't good guildmates because of their age and others even arguing that some kids are more mature than adults.

Let's look at things a little differently this week. Suppose you are guilded or grouped with your son/daughter/little brother/niece/nephew/best friend's kid/etc. You can't blow him off because of your relationship to him or her, so what do you do to make sure he or she isn't that kid who drives everyone crazy in-game? I'm revisiting one of Lisa Poisso's past articles to see what rules of age etiquette we can come up with in this crazy age of gaming.

Ask permission

Call me old-fashioned, but I grew up calling my friends' parents by their proper names, not their first names, and I think my kids should do the same. That respectful distance should carry over to video games to some extent as well, although it gets a bit more complicated. We tend to think of video games as a "kid activity," so there's a general lack of decorum when it comes to adult and child interaction. But kids should learn to interact with adults in game the same way they would out of game. If you aren't sure about something, ask first, but it's best to approach an adult the same way you would in real life.

Don't wander

We used to have this kid in my guild, and I knew he was a kid because he would do exactly what kids do all day long when they aren't properly supervised. Every other step we'd take down a dungeon or in a raid zone, he'd dash out of sight. Part of it was probably his natural inclination to explore and his lack of restraint in thinking of how he hindered his groupmates. Part of it most certainly was his desire to grab whatever he could before the rest of us got to it. But whatever the reason, it got so bad that I had a running joke to see whether I could get him to do ridiculous things, and it always ended up working. I was still new to guild leading and was a lot more tolerant back then, so I let him hang around much longer than I probably should have. "Going rogue" is something that drives people crazy, and it's something that I reinforce to my kids. They're not allowed to wander off in a department store or parking lot, so they shouldn't wander off in a dungeon with their groupmates either.

Watch your footprint

A few years ago, the notion of "carbon footprints" was all the rage, and people were very conscious of what their activities left behind on the environment. But it's my internet footprint that I'm concerned about here, and it's something I'm actively teaching my kids. Everything I say, do, and post is out there for everyone to see, and you have to assume that everyone will see it at some point or another, especially if it's potentially embarrassing. So if you act like a total creep in game or you mouth off to someone in guild for no good reason, those are things that can come back to haunt you.

Be aware of time

Right now, my children are still a little young, so they need a bit of guidance when it comes to managing time, but this is actually very important when it comes to gaming (and it's arguably something that adults lose track of too). We try to set time parameters beforehand, and I explain to them that they need to be mindful of the clock when they're planning what they're going to do in game. They aren't old enough to group on their own yet, but they've learned that whether it's a building project they're working on or a quest or a travel destination, they need to figure in how much time they'll need and match it with the time they're given. They're getting better at it, and I hear fewer "I didn't get enough time to do anything fun" protests lately. Older kids who understand the clock will be better able to gauge whether or not they'll have enough time to group or raid, and hopefully they will plan accordingly.

It's OK if you have to leave early, but say something to the group

If something does come up, it's understandable that you'd have to leave early. But what drives people crazy is the ninja AFKer and the sudden /quitter. The ninja AFKer is a kid who might have to do a quick chore or task, so he'll try to have his cake and eat it too by sneaking away from the keyboard and hoping his group won't notice in time. The /quitter is even worse because she just flat out disappears. These kids have to go, but they don't bother saying goodbye or giving the group a heads up. Both are annoying practices, and part of the problem is because...

Kids are just people

I think most kids are aware of this, but there still seems to be an attitude to treat an MMO the same way as a single-player game. When you're bored or tired or frustrated, you just shut the game off. The only problem is that if you're doing an activity with others, you're affecting their gameplay by doing that. It's OK to do that if you're out soloing, but kids need to learn that it's not OK when you're in contact with others.

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No touchdown dances

There's not much to say about this one except that you should act like a good sport. This is important in our family, and it's something that applies both on the field and on the "virtual" field.

TMI

I always get a little squeamish when a kid in a PUG will start talking about himself because I really don't want to know and because a random adult stranger shouldn't want to know. Kids and adults share the same games at times, but that doesn't mean we should share the same conversations. There are things that adults talk about and things that kids talk about, and they're often very different. So it's better to keep the small talk to pulling mobs and min/maxing stats.

The two-minute warning means exactly that

In football, the two-minute warning is usually just a cue for fans to get another batch of nachos because it's really going to be at least another 10-15 minutes of gameplay (barring overtime). In basketball, it's arguably worse because there are at least a half-dozen players on each team who are ready and able to foul each other to stop the clock. But when it comes to gaming, when Mom or Dad give the two-minute warning, it means say your goodbyes, get to town, and log the heck off. There's no protesting, no begging for extra minutes, and no tantrums.

These are just a few rules of etiquette that I think would help mold a good young gamer, but there are many great other tips in Lisa's original article as well. What rules would you have for young gamers that would help keep them from being "one of those" gamers? Share your thoughts below!

The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to karen@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.