The look on this guy’s face says it all. Credit: Credit: Mashable Composite: Yeti studio / Joey Chung / Studio_May / Rido / Dean Drobot / Shutterstock
Video games can be a great social activity, but unfortunately some people just don’t know how to behave online.
This is clear when it’s a Friday night and you’re sitting down for a game of Fortnite. Whether you’re playing with a full team of randos or filling out the last slot in a squad with a stranger, you’re guaranteed to occasionally run into someone who’s blasting music or crunching on Cheetos next to their microphone. In a perfect world, we’d vet players before they got to use microphones in online games. I’m talking about a rigorous testing process with annual license renewals and everything. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so instead I have to write out this list to set things straight.
Don’t be that person who everyone on the team rushes to mute at the start of the match. Follow these basic guidelines and the next time you log into Halo Infinite, Battlefield 2042, or another online game of your choosing, your teammates will love and respect you more than ever.
Children are our future. Everyone agrees on this (and there’s even a song about it!). Sadly, I have to throw them under the bus for a minute here because babies and online gaming really don’t mix.
Simply put, if there’s a crying baby anywhere in your vicinity, you gotta mute the mic or live without it completely until the situation is resolved (with a pacifier or whatever fancy modern baby tech parents use these days). I know that parenting a newborn is one of life’s most daunting challenges and opportunities to game can be few and far between, but the sound of wailing is as unpleasant to the people in your party as it is to you. To be honest, single-player games might be your best bet in general until the kid grows out of the crying phase.
Before moving on, I want to emphasize that I am not one of these “I hate babies” people. They’re adorable! It’s just that the crying part isn’t especially adorable, particularly when trying to line up a perfect shot and the piercing noise of a child’s wailing throws off your aim.
You might have to sweat
This one is for my homies in cities like New York where central air conditioning isn’t a given in any building. It’s also a rule I, myself, have to follow every time I game with friends. (Don’t say I never sacrificed anything for the ones I love.)
You have to turn off that noisy air conditioner (or fan) while you play online games. I don’t care how expensive your headset was — yes, I’m talking about the ones that can supposedly block out ambient noise. It’s almost certainly going to pick up at least some of that white noise, making your little voice chat icon pop up constantly while you aren’t even talking.
I know, I know. Trust me, I really know: The summer months can be brutal without AC and turning it off for even a couple of hours while you play Halo can be uncomfortable. But your squadmates will thank you, even if it means your roommates will be able to smell you after the session is over.
Turn those speakers down
You would think “mute any other source of artificial noise in the room” would be obvious advice for online gaming, but my experiences over the years have run counter to that.
Please don’t listen to music with a microphone on. Just don’t do it! I don’t mind if you like Pearl Jam, but I don’t. And even if I did, I wouldn’t want to hear it that way. At best, you’re ruining a song someone else likes. At worst, you’re subjecting someone to music they hate and making it sound terrible in the process.
This also goes for muting your TV speakers. Game consoles have gotten better about automatically muting game audio through the TV if you have a mic plugged in, but I know at least the Xbox can forget to do that by default. If game audio is coming through your TV speakers, your teammates may hear themselves echoed as they talk. That’s super annoying and should be avoided at all costs.
Have a quick mute finger
Speaking of hitting mute buttons, your headset most likely has one on it somewhere. Find it. If you’re having trouble, consult the owner’s manual. Once you know where the mute button is, practice hitting it quickly while wearing the headset, perhaps even dozens of times until you get the routine down. Become one with the headset. You’ll be unstoppable.
Why do this? Because sometimes sudden sources of noise can appear and you need to mute that sucker as quickly as possible. Maybe it’s someone knocking on your door, a dog barking at someone in the street, or a significant other wishing you’d spend time with them instead of playing video games. (They’re right, by the way.) Most often for me, it’s because I have to sneeze. If you can nail the mute button motion and commit it to muscle memory, you will be the most polite gamer in like 90 percent of games you play online.
Take the call to another room
Another reason to hit the mute button quickly is a phone call. I know you don’t want your personal business beaming out to a bunch of strangers playing Overwatch, and trust me, they don’t want to hear it either. However, this section isn’t just about phone calls meant for you; it’s about phone calls meant for people you live with, too.
There are few things less considerate than having a loud phone conversation in the same room as a housemate while they’re trying to do anything that requires noise. This counts for everything from watching TV to playing online games. If someone in the same room as you is on the phone while you play, you need to politely shuffle them to another room. Lots of people will do this by themselves, but not everyone has exceptional social graces.
Don’t be a jerk about it, but find a way to let them know that phone call isn’t welcome when you’re trying to flank the last squad left in an Apex Legends match for ultimate glory.
Mind your mouth
My next gaming etiquette suggestion is, sadly, not very funny when someone violates it. I’m talking, of course, about language.
I wish this could go unsaid, but because it can’t, I’ll say it here: Don’t use slurs or other offensive words when talking to strangers online. Maybe I sound like a scold, but I don’t really care. It’s not cool and it doesn’t make you edgy if you say something that was considered risqué in an episode of South Park 20 years ago. If you wouldn’t say it to your parents, don’t say it to your teammates.
Are we clear? Great! Let’s get back to the fun stuff.
Doritos are great, but they can wait
My last piece of gaming etiquette is perhaps the most obvious of all, addressing the most annoying (and yet somehow very common) gamer habit of all: Eating chips on mic.
This counts for eating any kind of food, but that distinctive crunch of a potato chip (usually Doritos because, let’s be real, they’re great) has echoed through many a gamer’s headset across the decades. If I had to guess, it took about five minutes after the invention of online voice chat before someone decided to position their chip-filled mouth next to a microphone.
I don’t understand why people do this. I think chips are great, too, but they don’t make the most pleasant of noises. I don’t log into Fortnite to listen to ASMR content. I just want to have fun with friends and not have my eardrums annihilated, whether it’s by chips, a crying baby, or an intensely personal phone call that’s frankly none of my business.