Open Mic: Four Rules for Effective Communication
What is the fundamental purpose of VoIP in team games?
The purpose of VoIP is to efficiently convey information and coordinate actions.
VoIP: Voice over IP, commonly referred to as voice chat within a video game.
This guide is intended to facilitate such behavior, encourage players to adhere to this foundational statement, and ultimately aid players and teams in the fundamental construction of their own communication. The following guide is built around that statement in reflection of how to efficiently convey information and coordinate actions. Note that creating and executing strategies, coordinating map movement, and team formation or organization are not covered explicitly, but the concepts apply in doing so.
DO NOT POLLUTE THE CHANNEL
- As a general rule of thumb, keep all communication concise, relevant, and calm.
- Do not talk over your teammates unless what you have to say is significantly more paramount in that situation. Likewise, avoid excessive comms that can prove to be a distraction to your teammates.
- While keeping a steady flow of information is beneficial in most cases, this often can produce a steady stream of incomplete information. Given the perpetual voice output of a single player, it may actually discourage other players from speaking out and providing relevant information. Generally speaking, one person communicating more does not compensate for other players communicating less. In short, the entire team should communicate evenly for the most effective use of comms.
- Swearing about missed shots, complaining about hitreg/lag, your opponents, your team, and general banter that is irrelevant to the ongoing match is, strictly speaking, not harmful per se. However, they do have the potential to drown out more relevant communication and can induce some tilt in yourself and your teammates. Ultimately, one should not be distracting to their team so it is best to avoid such conduct entirely.
- Do not disparage teammates or discuss what went wrong during a match for any reason. Discussions such as these are better suited for after the match. Focus on the present – what is happening now? What should we do next? As an aside, disparaging teammates can and will be demoralizing to your own team, and it can often lead to a snowball effect where people are primarily insulting and not playing.
- Communication regarding map movement of either the enemy team or your own team (e.g alerting your team to take the high ground) is generally the most useful and most important, and should be treated as such.
PROVIDE COMPLETE INFORMATION
- Provide a location whenever possible, especially when calling low health targets. For example, stating that “player X is low” with no further qualifier is only useful to teammates who know where player X is, and thus probably know his health status already. Rather, say something along the lines of “player X/hero is low in the left alleyway”.
- Calls should be clear as to which players they are relevant to. Statements like “watch out!” or “behind you!” are only relevant to one player, but it is unclear which of the players in the channel that is. Calls that have a location included are implicitly clear as to who they are relevant to, as each player is expected to know where they are on the map.
- If you need to call for help (e.g. “Genji is diving me”), alert teams to a particular threat (e.g. “Reaper has Death Blossom ready, he’s in the top right room”), or organize a push (e.g. “let’s go left side with Lucio’s speed boost”), specify the strength of the force you need help against or the strength of the enemy’s attack, lest the team over or under react to the threat (calling out a single flanker does not necessarily need the response of your entire team, but a 4 person flank might). It can sometimes be better to simply call out numbers and location without a directive, then trust your team to react with what may be more complete information.
- Calling out team movement (on both sides, yours and the opponents’) is massively useful provided you call out where they are going specifically. This ties back to providing complete information to your team.
COMMUNICATE WITH TONE
- The urgency of your tone should reflect the urgency of the statement you are making. Calls that affect major objectives or the large majority of the team (usually these go hand in hand) should be stated forcefully and possibly repeated a few times, while micro calls like “player X is half at place” should be said much more passively.
- VoiP carries emotion with remarkable efficacy. Try to keep frustration out of the channel as much as possible, as it can do nothing but degrade the team’s focus.
- Speak in absolutes when delegating tasks around the map. Rather than posing a request to the team as a whole, issue specific orders to specific people. For example, instead of saying “someone should cap the point”, say “[Player], cap the point, I’ll push up to deny” or “I’m capping the point, you can push up ahead”. Saying “someone should…” or “how about you…” can be perceived as passive-aggressive and may only serve to aggravate your own team.
- Above all, be calm. Avoiding tilt is essential in being able to communicate effectively. Being a calming presence, especially in voice, can lend itself to calming your own team in an effort to focus (e.g. suggesting a switch rather than complaining until someone switches).
BE AWARE (OF YOUR ROLE)
- If you are not a shotcaller, do not try to usurp whoever the shotcaller is by speaking over him or her. This will only lead to confusion and disarray among your team. Follow the calls and discuss good and bad ones post-match.
- Understanding the role the hero you are playing is essential to being able to communicate the correct information. Understanding your hero’s abilities is a part of this. Calling out appropriately according to your own role and abilities (Zenyatta calling out Discord targets, Sombra calling out hacks, etc.) will help your team succeed because there is a higher assurance that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing because of the nature of your callouts.
- Being aware of your role means being aware of current communications. Always be listening (e.g. Ana calls out that she is being flanked, so therefore as a D.va, you reinforce your Ana to defend her). Make sure that you are not only listening, but responding to these calls through your actions.
- Make sure your callouts and subsequent actions match your role. If an enemy Tracer is low and you call it out (as a Reinhardt), should you, as Reinhardt, chase and secure the kill, or is better to call out the low enemy Tracer, and hope your Genji chases her down? Being mindful of the limitations of role should be paired with trust in your team to follow up after an appropriate callout. Of course, it is highly dependent on the situation at hand in terms of responding to calls, so it is important to develop prudent judgment in order to react accordingly.
YOU BUILT THE HOUSE, NOW WHAT?
The listed four concepts are merely part of a skeleton in regards to building effective communication hierarchy and etiquette. Using such structure and etiquette does not guarantee perfect strategy execution or team coordination and structure. It does, however, provide a baseline in which to build upon to keep comms clear and efficient. Fleshing out this skeleton requires a solid proficiency of mechanical skill as well as a developed spatial awareness and resource tracking. Good communication is not enough to result in skill progression. However, a combination of these traits should aid a player in becoming the consummate well-rounded player.