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The Code

With respect to video games, I’m in something of a social monoculture. This is largely due to the fact that I’ve been playing different games with the same people for more than five years now. There have been interlopers, and their success at cooperating and getting along with us has been based very closely on their adherence to our monocultural focus on honor in gaming.

For example, take a game of Team Fortress 2, fought between the Builders League United (BLU) and Reliable Excavation & Demolition (RED). If you are on red, red has a one-man advantage over blue — say, 12 versus 11 — and red is doing noticeably better than blue, honor dictates that, in the spirit of fair play, one red player should switch to blue to even the fight.

This is a concept that some find very challenging, like telling them that the trick to winning is to lose. In fact, this may be exactly how some see my above proposition. But the key here, which so many people lose sight of, is that, in non-competitive play, the point is to have fun, not to win. This brings us to the first point:

1. A mirthless victory makes losers of us all
A victory gained by depriving the enemy of a fair chance to fight back, such as by spawn camping, or simply by crushing them under a powerful blitz early in the round, should be avoided at all costs. For this reason, in small-team games, before a large crowd has gathered to play, I often advocate for vacating an enemy’s base on the eve of victory, in order to give them a chance to rebuild and push back. It may seem initially rewarding to seize the easy victory, but it must be considered how demoralizing and un-enjoyable it is to be ground into the dirt repeatedly.

Why repeatedly? Because if one team can quickly sweep through the defenses of the other in one round, assuming no changes to the player line-up in the next round, it is almost certain that the performance will be repeated until the limit for victories is met and a new game begun.

2. Originality should be viewed with reverence instead of derision
Too many players, sure in their own all-reaching knowledge and skill, close their mind to new play styles, new victories, and new strategies. Returning again to TF2, let us examine the Engineer class. This class has a moderate armament of conventional weapons, between a shotgun and a pistol. However, his specialty is building things to aid his team. One of these is the sentry gun, a deployable turret that guards the area within its range from all enemies.

Naturally, this gives rise to a number of very common sentry gun placements, such that, in a typical maximum-capacity game, it can be relied upon that there will be certain sentries in certain places. But, of course, the strategic value of the sentry is hugely diminished when the enemy knows (or can guess) its location. And yet, some derivative players never change positions or strategy, and look down upon sentries set up in locations not among the most popular (for example, here‘s a heat map showing a dot for each sentry deployed). And yet surprising your enemy with a new and innovative position can be remarkably effective. But because it is outside the norm, it is looked down upon.

Take another use of the Engineer: to deploy a matching set of teleporters: an entrance and an exit. If a blue player goes through a blue teleporter, he will have a sort of blue aura around him for a short time thereafter. But if a blue spy, disguising himself as a red player, were to use the blue teleporter, in times past would have also gotten the same blue glow, which would have been a dead giveaway of his true loyalty.

And yet in the most recent patch, this was removed, so that he could use the teleporter and immediately be convincing as a member of the other team. But those players who were so smug in their knowledge of the game, and who did not read the patch notes, utterly railed against how idiotic these players must be to not know such a basic tenet of the game. They were corrected, and usually rather politely, but the underlying attitude is still unacceptable.

3. Victory as a team is more important than success as an individual
Let’s say you’re an engineer, with your sentry set up defending your base. Your team is constantly on the defensive, so you’re constantly getting kills with your sentry, as well as points for teleporting teammates. And yet, your team never manages to push out, and is eventually blitzed and defeated. You’re on the top of the scoreboard, but your team was defeated. You succeeded, but your team failed. In the face of good team play, this can be seen as nothing but a Pyrrhic victory.

The latest patch for TF2 brought with it a great amount of content for the Medic class, unlockable by completing tasks such as saving a teammate from falling to their death by healing them. So naturally, everyone has been wanting to play Medic, to unlock these new weapons and complete the tasks. But while 1 or 2 Medics on a team of 12 are invaluable, having 4 of 12 be a support class can cripple any team. And yet, over the past weeks, I’ve seen it happen again and again. A player chooses that he would rather attempt to gather achievements than help his team, and in the end does neither.

4. Act with honor
In all other cases, take the high road, fight a clean fight, and act fairly. Sure, there are custom servers dedicated to “grinding through” all 39 of the new tasks for a Medic to complete, but to use them is, to my eye, dishonest to the core of the game.

I pick on these Medic achievements and TF2 a lot here because it is what I’ve been playing the most of recently, but the principles apply to all games. Take an ability in Call of Duty 4 multiplayer that allows you to magically drop a grenade with a short fuse on your body when you die, without any preparation such as pulling the pin or holding the grenade in one hand. It is a much-reviled ability and often considered unsporting. I agree, and have never used it myself, despite having something to gain by doing so.

There is no honor in it.

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