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The Art of the “gg”: Civility and Sporting Behavior

I have wanted to write on this topic for awhile now as it is something that continues to perturb some players and has been a source of frustration  that can precipitate tilt or rivalry within Hex. The community has changed quite a bit from where we were in May 2013. We went from a group of highly motivated players, that had the disposable income to back a probabilistic kickstarter, to one that is getting new players by the day. The new players joining us exist on a continuum from free-to-play to hardcore TCG/PVP types. Once the game got out of ninja beta and HexEnt promoted it more openly, we began to see a large influx of free-to-play players in the game, though, their share of the player growth has dwindled a bit due to the 100k tournament series. Players from other competitive TCGs, both defunct and active, are coming to Hex to compete for a share of that $100,000 prize. Our formerly small, tightly-knit community is expanding. Many of the norms that we have started are either going to persevere or wither as we attempt to reinforce old ones and invent new ones. For this post, I am going to talk about one of those norms and its subjective meaning to different groups of people and how, perhaps, we need to reclaim the ubiquitous “gg”. That is, the customary sign off at the end of the match for good game.

As I went through my primary school education, one consistent behavior in my extra-curricular sporting ventures, was the end of game high-five and recitation of “good game” to each and every player from the opposing team. This did not matter if you disliked the behavior of one player, thought that a player did not deserve to be congratulated for their performance, or thought the entire team was filled with poor sports. Naturally, some players who would buck the norm and try to be clever, but their behavior ultimately did not change the ritual besides leaving a bad impression of that individual. Likewise, when I engaged in co-curricular activities, such as competitive debate in high school and college, after each intense 2-hour match where ideas and arguments were on the line, you still walked over and shook the hands of the opposing teams. Debate arguments are often extensions of the competitors and can represent very personal ideas offered under intense scrutiny and attack. Despite this, the norm is to congratulate the other team, tell them “good job” or “good debate” and wait to find out if victory was yours or theirs. Our decks represent our efforts at creation in the game, whether in draft, sealed, or constructed, and are often extensions of our ideas, thoughts, and dreams. When they fail it can feel like a personal failing. Naturally, the card pool and confines of the format limits our creative space, but it is still our creation (even if we are just doing minor tweaks to a known meta-deck). A “gg” at the end of a match provides some validation that our or our oppnent’s creation was in some way worthy of respect.

The history of the “gg” in gaming has evolved over time. In some subcultures, it is the default exchange at the end of the match regardless of whether the game was truly good or terrible for one or both teams. The departure phrase is customary in games like Starcraft where “gg” in the Korean scene is assumed behavior and to deviate and not to say it builds a bad reputation for the offending players. In League of Legends, a game known for its problematic playerbase, you still get a flood of “gg”s at the end of that are often peppered with some “bg” or the occasional “vgg” or “vbg” for “very” good or bad game.

In our competitive arena of choice, we have developed some rules that are likely holdovers from arenas like Magic online. Instead of both players saying it simultaneously when the game is certainly over, it is up for the losing player to end the match as they often have last priority and they can either just end the game or offer the “gg”. From conversations I have participated in, if the winner offers the “gg”, it is thought to be rude and players see it as as a line of disrespect. This infraction is even worse if there are still options left for the losing player and the “gg” is either premature or the winning player is just assuming the match is over (even when it is). This haughty “gg” interpretation is an interesting issue as it requires some level of inference from the loser of the match to impute intentions of the winner. Ultimately, I think projecting ill-will onto your opponent, even if they are the type to offer the conceited “gg”, is a mistake. A couple situations where this may arise:

  1. Not everyone has “grown up” within our community and may not understand, adopt, or even accept the norms of who gets to initiate the “gg” within the match. Most other games, perhaps due to their real time nature, give both victor and vanquish the responsibility to initiate the parting exchange.
  2. Those who win do wish to say good game when a game was actually a tough match, showed cleverness by either party, or the winner just wants to express goodwill to the other player.
  3. The winning player often has to prematurely say good game if they want to express the sentiment. They do not get the last priority or concede option, so saying it early allows them to express their gratitude to the opposing player.
  4. Sometimes the good game is early and uncalled for. I have done this by mistake when I didn’t see an option open and wanted to wish the other player well. If your opponent makes a mistake, it does not profit you to assume ill intent.
  5. Even if the player wants to rub the victory into the loser’s face, treating it as such only means that they have won on a second dimension; they have gotten into your head. Even if you know the other player to be rude or conceited, allowing their inappropriate “gg” allows them to get what they wanted out of the exchange in addition to the material victory.

In all of these cases, treating the “gg” as anything but benign contributes to your own dissatisfaction and either betrays the intentions of the opposing player or gives them what they want in hopes of making your day worse. Take a “gg” as what it is meant to be: a courteous way to conclude a match. If I offer you a “gg” in game as a winner or a loser, my intention, like most other players, is genuine. Assuming otherwise does a disservice to us both. However, due to the norms of the community, I tend to only offer “gg” when losing to avoid miscommunication and fear of violating some taboo. I think I may begin to deviate from this norm and offer the “gg” in good times as well as bad and risk the misinterpretation for the sake of facilitating further relationships.



Michael Allen is a competitive HexTCG player, co-host of the 2 Turns Ahead podcast, and founder and moderator of the Hex Subreddit.

11 Comments on The Art of the “gg”: Civility and Sporting Behavior

  1. I really appreciate this article. As someone who has been involved in Hex from the Kickstarter days, even I was unaware of the subtle differences of the “gg” in different gaming scenes until I was admonished by someone for using it as the winner of a match. My intention was to let them know that I really appreciated the match as it was very exciting with no clear winner until the very end. Since discovering it was considered unsportsmanlike conduct to “gg” first as the winner I’ve stopped doing it, but I really like the idea of trying to change the culture. I really appreciate the generally positive community that we have fostered over these last few years so why should we be beholden to a mentality from another gaming scene. With that in mind, I think from now I’m going offer a “gg” as the winner, but maybe with a bit of a disclaimer.

  2. great article! I always though that an early “gg” from a winner is rude even if it’s honest and said with good intentions, but I never could say WHY does it feel like this. this article sums it up great, and I appreciate the message that it trying to send.

    however, I still believe that “gg” of courtesy should ALWAYS come from the looser first. if you’re winning you’re in the better position and in better mood then your opponent, so you have to be considerate of his feelings. it’s like in RL when you are trying not to laugh and praise yourself victorious in front of the opposing player and just humbly wait when he copes with his loss, scoop his cards and offer a handshake himself.

    and if you REALLY want to give shout outs to the worthy opponent after a tough and interesting game, you should never resort to simple “gg”, which will always be treated as a taunt or a mockery, but pause for a bit and start a meaningful conversation with a fellow player about how you think his deck was awesome, or how his plays were incredible and made the game fun and tough, or something like that. this way the loosing player will have a chance to see your good intentions, moreover this conversation will definitely smooth the pain of defeat and make him feel better…

    or he’ll just ragequit. either way, you did your best. 🙂

  3. I agree with noise – especially if it’s the last round of a tournament, feel free to discuss the game, what cards you both had and where either of you could improve. It’s mutually beneficial, as is civility in general. I don’t think you should read much into a simple “gg” (or the lack thereof) and it’s very easy to second-guess and insinuate that there’s ill feeling which wasn’t there, especially in a limited medium of communication.

  4. You forgot to mention the “gg rng” :p
    Also the best kind of “gg” is the one you shout by yourself right after winning a very hard/important match!

  5. gl is the one I dislike. I can feel you luck vampires trying to steal my luck.

  6. I go out of my way to wish every opponent a greeting and good luck at the beginning of the match, and I make sure to give my opponent a GG at the end of the match if I’ve lost. However, I generally refrain from a GG at the end of the match until my opponent offers it. I know how frustrating losing can be, so I certainly don’t want to piggyback onto an opponent’s negative experience by having them misinterpret a gg.

    Costs nothing to be cool to each other. 🙂

  7. I used to play a lot of sports, so my “glhf” and “gg” are purely out of courtesy. Having never played TCG’s before, I found it quite amusing when I read that a winner saying “gg” was considered bad form. I persevere with the ritual because I feel it’s the right thing to do. Previously, I used to try and accommodate the no-chat opponents by giving context if they didn’t reciprocate because I didn’t want to offend them, but sometimes even that didn’t garner a response. So now, I just stick with the basics unless they chat back. Great article Z 🙂

  8. I’m horribly salty and moody when losing so i throw out the occasional bg which is a bad habit that needs to stop. Then there is the either you got this or i do gg which i have a tendency to throw out, which is often mistaken by players who don’t have the answer i was ready as taunting. The problem with that is that for it to truly be a good game to me it has to come down to that last do you have it or not on one side, or have been drawn out and interesting.

    This obviously doesn’t mean i can’t just sack up and say gg regardless but its really how i feel.

  9. I LOATHE when opponents say GG. Absolutely HATE it. I wrote an article on my own website for another card game (therefore I’ll not be linking people) several years ago and went into great detail on the topic. To me it comes off as extremely condescending. The best thing to say when you win a game is nothing at all.

    “When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.”
    ― Wayne Gretzky

  10. I agree with Ryan S. There is no need to say anything at all. If you say GG with the greatest of intentions, you have to realise you may in fact be infuriating your opponent, so why take the risk.

  11. if you have enough time to write two letters for your opponent, don’t you have enough time to write two words? gg is false courtesy.

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