Studies show that when playing multiplayer video games, people tend to replicate behavior they exhibit in the physical world. For instance, in the game Second Life, players were shown to maintain interpersonal distance and eye contact relative to how they would act in physical space. This idea can run further than that. Not only do people replicate physical posture, but they also develop rules for social behavior in games. For Honor provides a perfect example of this. The For Honor community shows that multiplayer games facilitate the development of social norms and expectations just like the physical world does, albeit with socialization and deviances unique to the internet.
Brawl Mode, in particular, has an interesting set of social rules. This is ostensibly a 2v2 mode, but players tend to treat it more like two separate duels. If a person wins their duel and the other two combatants have not finished, they will typically not interrupt proceedings. Furthermore, environmental kills and use of Revenge Mode are both frowned upon. Interestingly, this social construct was built independently of the developer’s intentions. There are no mechanics dictating these norms, and AI opponents will act totally heedless of them. Fittingly, these rules seem to have sprung up for, well… for honor (I’m so sorry).
More than being a mere quirk of the community, however, these norms have tangible impacts on the fun of the experience. I was exposed to these rules because I played Brawl Mode with an experienced friend. After I learned that it was taboo to use Revenge Mode, I was far more annoyed that someone used it to kill me than I would have been otherwise. This emotional enhancement goes the other way, too. Deviant behavior is unexpected, and often that means that it’s kind of funny. Much more so when you’re the one indulging in the deviant behavior. But the most satisfying are the times when the enemy resorts to bad manners and still can’t defeat you. The game is undoubtedly colored by its socialization process.
However, while games certainly have the capacity to mimic the physical world, the internet comes with a culture all its own. Spamming emotes so that your character twitches and convulses is a typical response to victory; this will surprise no one familiar with the longstanding tradition in online gaming of using animations for unintended humor (see the invention of the T Bag). For those with simpler tastes, it’s also common for partners to whack one another after a victory. Furthermore, online gaming as a medium has different implications when compared to the real world. After all, it’s easier to engage in deviant behavior like backstabbing people when one is anonymous and immune to tangible consequences (particularly if it’s the last kill of the game, dammit).
In conclusion, it can be interesting and illuminating to examine multiplayer games with an eye for culture and socialization. Some readers may have noticed that this article repeatedly refers to the “physical” world, as opposed to the “real” world. This is by design, obviously. It can be misleading to delineate between video games and the “real” world because it implies that video games are trivial in nature. And while they certainly exist in fictional settings, the communities that accompany multiplayer games are quite real, bringing with them certain norms and expectations, just like any community defined by proximity or nationality. Certainly, as internet usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it’s worth asking how mediums like video games affect the formation of social groups, customs, and deviant behavior.