Wheaton’s Law is an internet axiom which states “don’t be a dick.” It was originally used in the context of sportsmanship in online gaming but its scope was eventually expanded to apply to life in general.
The axiom was coined by American actor and writer Richard William Wheaton III (Star Trek: TNG) during his keynote speech at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in August 2007. One of the core messages of Wheaton’s speech was the importance of sportsmanship in online gaming, which eventually became encapsulated in the phrase “Don’t be a dick.” While the actor’s PAX speech is attributed as the original iteration of the law, the colloquial phrase “Don’t be a dick” had been in widespread use prior to the event, since as early as 1999.
The keynote speech and his proposition were met by positive reception from the audience and the webcast viewers at home, as well as significant coverage from a number of well-known geek culture blogs like Ars Technica, 1UP, and Joystiq. The axiom was once again highlighted in Wheaton’s blog post about his PAX experience published on August 22nd:
One of the core messages of my speech was “don’t be a dick” when you play games online, and a lot of people told me how glad they were to hear that. I think I may just go ahead and make it my new motto:
Wil Says, “Don’t be a dick!”
. . . or something. I’m working on it.