Ah, multiplayer voice chat. Friends use it, jerk faces abuse it, and the pros master it. Love it or hate it, effective in-game communication can make the difference between a frustrating session and a great one. That being said, here are some tips for increasing your communication, teamwork, and leadership skills while wearing a gaming headset.
Communication: Equal Parts Gear and Manners
Let’s start with the basics—equipment and etiquette.
Make sure you’re wearing a headset that fits comfortably and uses a high-quality microphone. Position the mic about an inch away from your mouth and off to the side to avoid becoming the dreaded “mouth breather” in-game. If you adjust your mic but still hear yourself breathing a lot (or if people complain), lapel/headset mic windscreens usually do the trick and are available online for super cheap.
Microphones with background noise cancellation are also helpful, especially if your roommate/significant other is watching TV in the same room.
We can’t always choose our teammates, but we can control how much we annoy them straight out of the gate. Speak clearly and mute yourself if you have to do something loud like taking a bite of food or answering your phone. I can’t tell you how many phone conversations I’ve had to sit through in a game. No, please. Argue with your mom while we cover you.
Teamwork: Playing to Your Strengths
When it comes to communication styles, everyone is different and more often than not, you will probably be chatting with total strangers in a game. Maybe you love to talk and make jokes in chat or perhaps you’d rather sit quietly and hope no one finds out you’re an introvert...or worse yet, a girl.
Regardless of your communication style, it’s important to play to your strengths. There’s no sense trying to take over as leader if someone else is doing it well or if you don’t feel comfortable. When that’s the case, follow that person’s lead and take advantage of their proposed strategy. Compliment them when the game is done. A simple “Great leadership, [gamertag],” will do, unless the atmosphere is more talkative.
If you’re a gamer with no patience for tomfoolery or a person of few words, you can keep chat to a minimum while still contributing effectively. In fact, professional esports teams often streamline their chat by using codewords and giving each map area a number. Try it with your friends or clan!
In lieu of code words, you might say something brief like “Sniper in the tower” or “Headed your way.” Your directions could inspire others to do the same. If they do, try suggesting strategies like, “Cover mid” or “We could use a sniper at [area name],” etc.
Hate to talk in-game? Apex Legends has been praised for its tagging system that lets players communicate without ever turning on the mic. Considering its explosive popularity (and developers’ tendency to copy one another), we could see similar systems popping up in other games.
Handling Difficult Teammates
We all know that matchmaking lobbies have their fair share of pleasant gamers and others that make you want to weep for humanity. When dealing with the latter, here are a few ways to handle it.
Mute them - unless they are throwing out amazing tactical leadership and you really want to win, save yourself some anxiety and don’t listen. And even then, it might worth a mute anyway. You don’t need toxicity in your life.
Call them out - if someone is being rude to another player that goes beyond smack talk, you’d be surprised what can happen if a few others tell them it’s not cool. Do so calmly and with caution. If that doesn’t work, refer to tip number one.
Encourage them - sometimes players just get discouraged, which can lead to outbursts or “tilting,” i.e. when a gamer is so frustrated that they can’t make clear decisions anymore.
Team Dignitas offers the following advice for handling a teammate that begins to tilt in CS:GO, but this applies to any game:
“You could help that person by keeping him an integral part of your game. If you do not let him get into the action, chances are that he will tilt even further. If you want to keep him from tilting, you need to use positive reinforcement when he does things right.”
Oftentimes, you can make someone’s game better by showing compassion. If not, try not to let it get you down. We know you’re awesome—keep it up!