By – Corey Lenack and Sean Freeark

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The gaming world, particularly the multiplayer hemisphere, is rife with diverse moralities that run the gamut from zealous, near-self-sacrificial restraint to über-Darwinian brutality that would make even the Zerg proud.  We all know someone who would rather finish a round 0-27 than succumb to using “cheap” tactics or an overpowered weapon.  On the other hand, we all know that one guy who would strap C4 to his grandmother and send her to the enemy HQ with a plate of freshly-baked cookies just to maximize the body count.  The striking range of our beliefs about the proper way to behave in gaming warrants a discussion: what do we make of “honor codes” among gamers?

Let us begin by establishing a working definition for “honor” that will serve our purposes here.  To say that one has “honor,” we mean that someone has developed acceptable standards of conduct while playing a game, and players maintain their honor only as long as they abide by such standards.  Violations of these honor codes can evoke a number of reactions.  The two most common are: (a) an individual is appalled that another player violated personal and/or communal values, to which the offender is not bound by any authority…except the righteousness of the victim’s vengeful wrath, and (b) an entire server or community erupts in protest when a player or wave of players break(s) the generally-agreed-upon but unwritten rules of fair play.  Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t also give a shout-out to every noob who dies once and floods general chat with “[expletive] hacker.”

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There are numerous examples of tactics that are almost universally frowned upon by gamers.  For example, in multiplayer FPS, four of the fastest ways to lose respect are to, in no particular order, spawn camp, dolphin-dive (Battlefield games), bunny-hop, and circle-strafe – a special thank you to Counter-Strike for immortalizing the last two.  These actions are especially reviled if the game in which they are used does not implement some sort of combat trade-off for using them (i.e. lower accuracy while hopping/circling or a firing delay while diving).  Granted, the presence of such trade-offs usually relegates these tactics to ineffective panic-button reactions.  There is some debate as to the merits of these tactics and others, as more than a few people claim it takes considerable skill to be effective with them.  If you’d like to Hadouken those individuals, please take a number.

Let us consider the competing arguments.  One side claims that there is no compelling reason NOT to use such tactics – the developers put them in the game, and until they are removed, all is fair in love and war.  Furthermore, they will make the point that “it’s just a game, so why does it matter?”  The other side, however, asserts that just because certain behaviors are possible doesn’t mean they are permissible, and that how you play really does matter – particularly because it can drastically affect the experience of others.  Who is right?  Neither?  Both?  Could the answer depend on context?

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There have been numerous instances in which a community reaction is so severe, widespread, and persistent that developers release a patch that nullifies or removes the contested item or behavior.  In that respect, it could be argued that the misbehavior of a few actually led to an improvement of the game, an improvement that may not have happened if the spotlight had not been shown on the behavior.  Do you abide by an honor code when playing multiplayer games?  If so, when and why?  If not, why not?  How do you react when another player violates your, or the community’s, honor code?

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  • David Queener

    Kinda surreal spotting some of my own screenshots in this…

    Dolphin-dive is a thing in CoD as well, a reviled tactic. As for bunny hopping and circlestrafing in Counter-Strike, do you mean it immortalized their being reviled in that? I’ve been playing with both tactics as part of my gaming world longer than CS was a thing…

    Personally though, I tend to be Honorable to a fault. I used the MW3 pump/level action shotguns exclusively, who cares that they were nerfed to the point that you could get hitmarkers within 5 feet on a stationary target, just so long as you weren’t using that Striker. Don’t get me started on Akimbo…

    • Adam Ames

      It was a lot easier to pull from our existing stash of shots than trying to take from others.

      As most know, I do not play MP games, but the article was interesting to read. Cheating is everywhere and it is a shame these actions ruin the game for many players following the rules.

      • David Queener

        Understandable, just surprised me.

        The thing is, none of these actions are cheating. Other than bunnyhopping, the actions are typically logical. Dolphin diving is an odd sounding term, but it really just means you hit the deck while firing.

        • Adam Ames

          I just meant attempting to cheat in general. I was not referring to the terms directly.

        • Jerkzilla

          Dolphin diving, as far as I know, was a glitch since the hit-box updated instantly to the prone stance while everyone else saw you as if you were still falling to the deck. Mind you, I’m referring to Battlefield 2 here, I don’t know the specifics of it in CoD.

          • David Queener

            I think the hitbox transition is fairly graceful in CoD, but it happens so fast and is so jarring, without having any consequence to the user’s aim, that it is just regarded as annoying.

  • Steven S

    What, exactly, is wrong with Circle Strafing? I do it all the time in just about every game I play. I never realized it was considered “cheating” until someone got mad at me for it, then suddenly a whole server was on me about it, but nobody would tell me what was so awful about it. It was the same whenever I used an RPG/Rocket Launcher like weapon. I always aim at either the ground or wall right in front of the person so that they are more likely to either walk right into the path of my projectile or be close enough to the point of impact that it still hurts them. I thought that this was part of the game. Especially when my character spawns 3 feet from a rocket launcher and ammo at the very beginning, but no, instead I’m criticized for using the “Noob Tube.”

    In my mind any weapon or mechanic intentionally put into the game is valid. It doesn’t bother me at all how others play. If I see someone Dolphin Diving I’m going to first laugh at how stupid they look, then concentrate fire on the spot where they are about to land. My favorite players were those who were camping, because that meant they were stationery targets. Just for good measure I used to fire off a few rockets at any decent camping spots I saw, regardless if I saw there was someone in them or not.

    But none of you have to worry about seeing me on your favorite server, I quit multiplayer gaming years ago. I was afraid that sooner or later someone would label me a cheater for using the scope on my sniper rifle to get a head shot.

    • David Queener

      I find nothing wrong with circle strafing myself, and it baffles me that it is frowned upon anywhere.

      Regarding the noob tube comment, it is interesting that you encounter it in games where explosives are a pick-up. I understand it in CoD or such where you spawn with a loadout, so you can play recklessly with explosives, die, and have more ammo.

      And yeah, in Quake, I fired rockets at corners, particularly in FFA.

      • Cliff Halasz

        Its not frowned upon by anybody, circle strafing is integral to every FPS ever made. Author was confused. Circle strafing is not an exploit.

    • John Hild

      I’ve been accused of “hacks” more then once on TF2 due to my habit of lobbing rockets into corners I know cloaked spies like to use.

    • Cliff Halasz

      There’s nothing wrong with circle-strafing, the aruthor was confused on that one and mixed it in with exploits.

  • RavenValor95

    The only code of honour that I follow are the server rules.
    Everything else is fair game, to get mad at other people for following rules put in place because they made some imaginary rules up for *themselves*, is honestly quite ridiculous.

  • bastiat

    Only game I’ve ever really had a code of honour in was Jedi Knight 2. Bow before your duel, congratulate your opponent on their win or loss, and swiftly execute those that don’t follow these two conditions. There never really was an issue with spawn camping, any game exploits, whatever, they were all considered fair game. Should be the same in every game. Respect your opponents, exploit all game mechanics.

    • Adam Ames

      If only it were that easy. Respect is a word thrown around these days and I am sure a ton of folks have no idea what it means.

    • pakap

      Dark Souls still kind of has that sort of things in MP. A sizeable number of players will bow before a duel, refrain from using healing items or overpowered magic, etc.

      • Cliff Halasz

        I wonder if Dark Souls’ multiplayer being entirely immersive and fit-into the single player experience without any sort of overt “multiplayer mode” menu might have something to do with the different player behavior?

        • pakap

          I don’t really think so – you still have to make the conscious choice of going online, especially on PC where invasions are relatively rare so MP is almost always a choice (and relatively hard to come by).

          I think it’s because the fanbase is small enough and close-knit enough that cultural memes of that sort can develop and be heeded.

          • Cliff Halasz

            That’s true, Dark Souls has a smaller, closer community, and that helps. There’s the impression everybody’s in it together because of the messaging system, and you have to prove yourself to get further. So those who are as far as you are have your respect. Unlike say, Call of Duty where everybody just shoots everybody and there’s no real progression.

            Praise the sun.

          • pakap

            Praise the sun! See you some day for some jolly co-operation.

            [T]/

    • David Queener

      I’ve nothing to contribute other than an admiration for your user name and the coinciding avatar.

      • http://www.facebook.com/frakkingcylon Mike Rees

        Heh, the avatar was coincidence – as you can see from it not letting me switch back to my bastiat account, my current profile picture is the classic British “I’m drinking and my friends are prats” one.

  • Guest

    Circle-strafe, really? I knew Counter Strike was full of morons but I had no idea it extended to that level.

    • Guest

      I’ve logged more than 250 hours in Counter Strike, and I’ve never seen anyone complain about circle strafing.

    • Cliff Halasz

      Its not, the author is mistaken.

  • wazups2x

    Bunny-hopping, and circle-strafing? Seriously? There is nothing wrong with doing either of those. Have you never heard of Quake or Unreal Tournament? The entire point of those games was perfecting your movements.

    Also, dolphin diving was fixed a very long time ago with a patch to Battlefield 2.

  • Sean Freeark

    Hello everyone. Thank you for reading and commenting. I would just like to briefly respond to some of your input below.

    First, at no point in this piece did we advocate for or against an honor code of any kind. This piece was intended to provide a basic overview of a topic and generate discussion, which it appears to have done to a certain extent.

    Second, with regard to the four behaviors mentioned above, these are the four most-commonly-complained-about tactics we’ve encountered in our many years of multiplayer FPS experience. If you disagree with the inclusion of one or more of these in this context, that is fine. We chose them because we believed readers would be generally familiar with them, as we have seen countless players and servers condemn their use. If you have never heard complaints about them, then it is understandable that you wouldn’t agree with their being listed here.

    Third, we intentionally used quotation marks around the terms “cheap” and “honor” because we acknowledge that the use of such terms is highly subjective when discussing such a topic. As we stated in the article, some people consider certain behaviors inexcusable, while others have no qualms about said behaviors. We want to know where you stand.

    Finally, to those of you who mentioned specific titles (Quake, UT) as examples of why something like circle-strafing is perfectly legitimate, I ask this: does that mean that such a tactic is therefore universally legitimate for all titles? Does context matter? Is it more permissible to bunny-hop in TF2 because it’s a light-hearted cartoon shooter, as compared to an ultra-realistic military sim such as Arma?

    Again, we thank you for reading and for taking the time to provide your input. Game long and prosper.

    • Malibu Stacey

      Here’s the thing. You bring up terms like bunny-hopping & circle-strafing without any context nor any understanding of what they actually entail.

      The whole article reads like click-bait for which I am glad I run Adblock.

      • Adam Ames

        We do not run traditional ads on TPG so you are not blocking anything by using Adblock.

  • Cliff Halasz

    Author, Circle-strafing isn’t an exploit and no gamer ever has considered it such. Please do your research a little more thoroughly next time. Circle-strafing is integral to every FPS ever made, and is absolutely not cheating in any ways. EVERYBODY uses it, its the basic mechanic you’re required to learn to play.

    The rest of the article was good, but that detail (as you can tell from the other comments) is extremely inaccurate.

    • Corey Lenack

      HI Cliff,

      Thank you for your interest in the article and for your comments. As the co-author of this piece I would like to point out the word “exploit” was never used in the article and for good reason. Exploit is a very specific term regarding game-play aspects that were not intended by the developer, but are being utilized by players. A great example of this would be an area of a multiplayer map that was built be inaccessible, but players find a way there and use it to clip into another part of the map.
      So we agree circle-strafing and everything else we’ve mentioned is not an
      exploit.

      As a gamer I’ve been playing online games ever since there
      were online games. I’ve been around the block a number of times; I may have even circle-strafed the block. In my long experience I’ve heard gamers rage about being circle-strafed more times than I can count. Of course there is no way around the issue, strafing is part of the game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not complained about by members of the community. You would also be right to say that some games embrace constant strafing as part of its core game-play. All things are true in their respective context.

      So as authors I can assuredly tell you that we are not confused
      on the issue. We don’t think it’s an exploit and I can tell you from my
      experience there are those who (when playing tactical FPS games) create an “honor code” and refuse to do it.

      • Cliff Halasz

        Well, at least you’re aware. Its true you never called it an exploit per se, so that was wrong of me. However I still feel its crazy to toss circle-strafing in that category with those other ones.

        Spawn camping is something everybody complains about, I’ve heard hours and hours of complaints and I’ve seen rage posts. Same with rocketwhoring (something you left out :P ) or any other such tactic that is considered “cheap”.

        But I’ve never in my life hear somebody complain about you circle-strafing. You say it happens, but I’ve been a gamer all my life, I played Quake 1 competitively, I played countless hours of the original Team Fortress, even before the original Counter-strike existed. And I played CS and Halo and Battlefield, and I’ve never once in my ENTIRE LIFE heard somebody complain about circle-strafing. Seriously. Maybe I’ve just been blessed, but that seems absurd!

        You also failed to mention situations where certain characters could be considered “cheap” like in smash bros, or using a certain move over and over in a fighting or smash game is considered “cheap”, which is an interesting thing to note. Really good players should be able to get around “cheap” tactics, but for middle-skill players it is quite frustrating and effective. Or “cheap” weapons, like the “noobtube”.

        Is it then a flaw of the game’s design if you CAN be “cheap” ? Does that really mean that players aren’t mad at each other, but rather are mad because the developers allowed this unfairness? I think that’s something worth looking into.

        You guys only scratched the surface.

        • Corey Lenack

          I understand what you’re saying Cliff and I would agree
          there are many, MANY more items that could fall under “cheap” tactics. Each one could have an article written in length. However, addressing each and every issue was not at all the focus or point of the article. The point was to address the community for some self-reflection. If you call something “n00bt00b” do you then turn and use it yourself or do you refuse to partake? In Smash Bro’s do use the
          “cheap” characters (I always felt Pikachu was able to reset too quickly on his more powerful moves) or do you refrain from doing so? Maybe it depends on your opponent?

          My point is let’s not get forget the forest due to the
          trees. There are great discussions to be had on all these aspects and I can’t wait to get to them all, but we have to start somewhere. I think establishing that people do in fact create “honor codes” is interesting in itself and will
          lend to further discussion on the topic.