Team communication

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In-game communication

In-game communication differs dramatically from out-of-game communication because time is limited. Communication here must be efficient. There’s no time to argue in the middle of games.

Be efficient

Efficient communication means two key things:

If something can’t be said under those constraints, it’s probably not worth saying. Explaining a complicated plan on the spot and expecting anyone to execute it properly is foolish. Even worse, it’s likely to be counter-productive.

Keep it short. Keep it simple.

That isn’t to say you can’t devise a complicated plan on the spot, but it must be communicated simply.

For example, if you’re playing offlane, it’s normally your job to defend towers because you’re resilient and can punish over-commitment. Say there’s a tower that needs defending, but you’re currently hunting someone so you decide that your support can defend it instead. This would seem strange to them since, being a support, they’d usually be killed too quickly if they tried defending. But in this case, because the guy you’re hunting isn’t there, and because he can’t stop you from teleporting, they can’t commit for that kill, because if they did they’d be playing into a 4v5 under the tower.

If you were to try and explain all that in-game, it’s not gonna work. Aside from taking too long to say all the words, the chance your teammate will understand and act on it is pretty low. And then aside from that they might not even be able to execute the plan. They might not be able to teleport, or they might be busy with something more important.

On the other hand, if you say, “Blue, can you defend the tower?” they’ll say either yes or no. If they say no, then your plan isn’t going to work, and you should defend the tower instead. If they say yes and do it, then the complicated explanation isn’t necessary.

If they say yes but don’t do it, then it’s a little awkward. This can happen because there’s not a simple way in English to say, “I’m both asking if you’re capable of doing this and requesting that you do it if you are.” The word “can” does mean both of those things, and it should be understood to mean that in game, but the miscommunication can happen regardless. In this case, you can say, “Go defend top,” and if they still don’t do it, then again the plan isn’t going to work and you should just abandon it.

Focus on the future

If someone makes a mistake, the only comment you should make—if you must make one at all—is one that diffuses the tension. Make a joke, or keep it to yourself.

The tower’s already dead. Crying isn’t gonna bring it back.

Highlighting information

Highlighting information helps your team focus on what’s important. Even though they can see everything you see, they can’t pay attention to everything at once. In games where your teammates can’t see everything you see, this is even more important.

This type of communication is the peak of efficiency, not because of what it is, but what it isn’t.

When you highlight information, it doesn’t demand a response. Teammates can register what’s said and consider it for their plans, but it doesn’t itself dictate any plan.

In other words, in addition to being efficient to communicate, this is efficient to process. There’s no downside.

The vast majority of your communication should be of this nature.

Communication that demands a response

If at all possible, you should turn communication that does demand a response into one that doesn’t. Communication which demands a response adds a toll on the team, even when it’s efficient, so if done poorly can do more harm than good.

For example, “Don’t chase Pink. I’ve got him,” demands a response, because you’ve told Pink what to do. Whereas “I’ve got Pink,” can be responded to, but doesn’t have to be. You may think the former is better because it’s saying more, but the extra thing being said can make things worse. What if you misjudge your ability to secure the kill? What if they’re worried someone is nearby to intercept the chase? What if they want to be where you’re chasing Pink to anyway? What if they need the bounty for a key item? Suddenly they don’t just have to worry about what you’re missing, but also how to respond to you.

Telling them what you know—that you can handle it—helps them figure out what to do, but going a step further and also telling them what they should do can make things worse. You don’t want to play the game for them.

Still, there are times where merely saying what you know isn’t enough. Communication that does demand a response is sometimes necessary.


Questions demand a response, but the response they demand is often simple, so this is still mostly safe.

Be weary of open-ended questions, since the response they demand is more complicated.


Suggestions demand a response, and this response is simple (“Okay” or “I’m doing {something else}”), so in that respect they are safe.

However, suggestions are still dangerous. If the person you make a suggestion to disagrees with it, they might not want to say why because that could lead to an argument. This can be frustrating because not getting a response could also mean they simply didn’t hear the suggestion. Normally to avoid that problem you can repeat yourself, but if you do that and they did hear you the first time, it can get ugly real quick.

It’s best to respond with “Copy that”, which says the suggestion has been heard but not how you’ll act on it. This avoids the danger while keeping communication clear and efficient.