Happy Don’t Be A Dick Day!

When I gave my 2007 PAX Prime Keynote, I said

Arcades were more than just magnificent geek Shangri-Las, filled with all sorts of video games and pinball machines. They were a vital part of my generation’s social development. If I beat another kid in a two player game and taunted him mercilessly, with explicit references to his mother's sex life and my role in it, the way some online gamers do today, he would have justifiably kicked the everliving shit out of me. So I learned – in arcades – the importance of good sportsmanship. Because arcades were real places, staffed by real people, we had to worry about much more than getting kicked off a server if we were complete idiots in a game. I guess this is a double-edged sword, and I’m feeling like a cranky old man by even mentioning it, but would you all do me a favor? When you’re playing online, have fun, and don’t be a dick, okay?

I hoped that it would catch on, and that people would spread it around, live it, and eventually make online gaming fun again. 

I got lucky, and it did catch on. Within a few days, people were using it as their forum signature. The Enforcers at PAX called it Wheaton's Law, and used it as a sort of Prime Directive. Maybe it's the blue car syndrome, but since 2007, I have seen and heard people referencing those four words all over the place, and I hope that they're taking it to heart. I sincerely hope that it will spread throughout our culture, and it will give our fellow geeks/nerds/gamers/humans/muggles a sort of mantra, so we'll all be kind to each other.

So, yesterday morning, CB on Twitter showed me a picture of their calendar, which had my birthday and NASA's birthday marked down for today. The calendar said, "In his honor, don't be a dick!"* 

I thought that was cute and awesome, but my brain positively lost its shit about it.


"Okay, first of all, it's technically our birthday. Also, I don't think we can just pick a day and decide that it's a thing."

"Are you kidding us? It's fun and it's silly and what else are you going to do today anyway? Upvote more cat pictures on Reddit?"

"Well, I was… but now I think I'll be upvoting all the scumbag brain pictures in solidarity."

"You're adorable," my brain said, "let's see you do that… without control of your central nervous system!"

I shit myself, then. It wasn't my fault.

"Okay," I said, "You've made your point. I'll get to work on it."

I registered a domain, put my incredibly impressive* graphic design and HTML skills** to work, and about 45 minutes later, Don't Be A Dick Day was born. 

I'm not gonna lie, Marge: I really hope this becomes A Thing.

A few notes, and a story, about this whole idea:

First of all, epic thanks goes to Jemina, who made that beautiful artwork I ended up using as the centerpiece of the thing.  

A non-zero number of people have suggested that every day should be Don't Be A Dick Day. I agree, but we should start with baby steps, right?

Most of the Internet took this in the spirit it was intended. Sadly, some folks decided that I was being arrogant by suggesting a day I made up should be a thing, and some other folks decided that I was doing this because I want attention. I'm very sorry that those people missed the point. 

The FAQ for Don't Be A Dick Day is simple by design, but for those wondering how specifically to not be a dick, and why this is something I talk about, I offer the following story.

When I was in my early 30s, I had major sinus surgery to correct a severely deviated septum and to remove so many polyps I could hardly breathe through my nose. In the pre-operation phase of the surgery, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork, including something called an Advance Directive, which told the hospital what my wishes were in the event something went wrong.

As I filled out that form, instructing the hospital to pull the plug if I something happened that was going to leave me in a persistent vegetative state and give all of my organs to people who needed them, for the first time in my life, I had to really think very clearly and honestly about the possibility that I may go to sleep and never wake up, leaving Anne without a husband and our kids without a father.

I can see it so clearly now, years later: I'm sitting in my office. The ceiling fan is on low. My dog, Riley, is sleeping near my feet. I'm listening to New Order on iTunes. It's late afternoon, so the blinds are closed to keep the hot sun out of the room, and they glow brightly around the edges like there's a spotlight on the other side of them. From the living room, I can hear Nolan playing Call of Duty on the Xbox. My chair creaks as I lean back in it and before I know what I'm doing, I'm on my feet, walking into the living room.

"I need to talk to you for a second," I tell him.

"Hold on," he says, without looking away from the screen.

I wait. I really hate this game, and I don't understand the culture of dickishness that seems integral to its multiplayer experience. Through the headphones he's wearing, I can hear barely-pubescent voices curse each other in a myriad of colorful ways.

I wish Nolan enjoyed the RPGs I enjoy, so we had something more in common. He's either 15 or 16, and everything I like, everything I do, every breath I take is so lame. I've pretty much lost him to the Teenage Years. I don't know that I'll get him back when he's 20, and though I know not to take it personally, I still do.

The screen changes. Based on the squawking in his headphones, one team was victorious because the losing team was too busy fucking the winners' mothers.

He puts the controller down and sets the headphones on the couch next to him. He looks at me. I sit on the coffee table and face him.

"I'm having major surgery tomorrow morning," I say, gently.

He barely nods.

At least he didn't roll his eyes, I think.

"And it's very unlikely that anything will go wrong… but just in case, I have something I have to tell you."

I look at him, really look at him, and hope that my words are getting through. I realize that I'm dangerously close to tearing up, which I know will make him tune me out. I take a slow, deep breath to steady myself.

"If something happens to me and I'm not here to continue raising you, I want you to remember these things: I want you to live your life honestly, honorably, with kindness, compassion and generosity."

A cloud passes across his face and briefly disturbs the mask of indifference he's been wearing for a year or more.

"So please, please, if you don't remember anything else I've said to you, please: be honest, be honorable, be kind, be compassionate, and work hard."

His expression doesn't change at all. "Okay," he says.

He has the headphones back on and the controller in his hands before I've stood up.

"Okay. I love you."

"I love you too." He says it by rote, like a kid reciting the pledge of allegiance. Just words he know's he's expected to recite. My heart aches a little bit.

I hope I got through to him, I think, regardless of what happens to me tomorrow.

I've been closing my talks at conventions with a version of that story, and leaving a similar wish with the people who are there. I don't mean to be preachy or anything, but I figure that if people are going to listen to me talk, I should at least have something meaningful to say.

So if you're still reading, I hope you'll join me in the celebration of Don't Be A Dick Day, I hope that you'll take it in the spirit that it's intended, and I hope that you'll:

  • Be honest.
  • Be kind.
  • Be honorable.
  • Work hard.
  • And always be awesome.



*Actually not impressive at all, even by 1999 standards.

*** Well, I guess it's slightly impressive that my code validates.

72 thoughts on “Happy Don’t Be A Dick Day!”

  1. I try (and even succeed sometimes) to live my my life by the teachings of two great men.
    1) Don’t be a dick.
    2) Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.
    I hope you have a Happy birthday Mr. Wheaton. :)

  2. Welcome to the 40’s, Wil. Just think, in 2 years you’ll be the answer to life, the universe and everything. 😉
    I practice not being a dick every day. Doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it, after all, I’m still practicing. It’s just sad that things like the internet have put up a barrier of anonymity, which makes it easier for many of us humans to be unfeeling/jerky to each other.
    Big hug and THANK YOU for being an awesome guy.

  3. While true dicks will ever remain dicks, I think Wheaton’s Law helps all of us decent people suppress our inner dicks when they’re considering dickish outbursts. Thanks for condensing all the fundamental rules of human decency into a catchy 4-word phrase, easy to remember, and easy to apply. Happy birthday, Wil.

  4. It’s totally a thing. And even though tomorrow and the 363 days following won’t officially be Don’t be a Dick Day, let’s hope many or even most of us will strive to be honest, kind, honorable, hard working, and just plain awesome.
    Happy Birthday!

  5. “Be honest.
    Be kind.
    Be honorable.
    Work hard.
    And always be awesome.”
    A good mantra for anyone.
    Hope you have a terrific Birthday too! At my age, 62, 40 seems like a long time ago.
    Trying not to be a Dick

  6. Happy Birthday, Wil, and Happy Don’t Be a Dick Day, to us all.
    This was a wonderful story, and reminded me so much, not of something my Dad told me, but of what he showed me every day i knew him, and what I told him about a week before he passed away (he couldn’t speak, lung cancer, oxygen mask, big mess of nasty). But my Mom had told me that he didn’t think he had been a good dad, away so much when we were young, with his work in the army. So my last conversation, more or less at him, was what a great dad he had been, how proud I was of him, because of just the things you listed above.
    Living them day to day makes the most impact of all, but sometimes it’s important to say the words.

  7. So, until recently my XBox Live motto was “Don’t be a d*ck” (with the asterisk), but after reporting someone who sent me a racist homophobic message b/c I was too busy to play them a rematch of Carcassone (so this is not limited to first-person shooters), I had *MY* account suspended b/c my motto was considered inappropriate.
    I wish more was done to actually foster an environment of minimized dickishness.

  8. A very Happy Birthday to you! Hope it’s a special day and a wonderful year ahead.
    I, too, wonder if Nolan “heard” you – have you had any follow-up conversations you wish to share? (Hope I’m not being too nosy!)
    I hope, too, that this isn’t being a dick, but there are two typos in your post, both in the same paragraph:
    “As I filled out that form, instructing the hospital to pull the plug if I something happened that was going to leave me in a persistent vegitative state and give all of my organs to people who needed them, or the first time in my life, I had to really think very clearly and honestly about the possibility that I may go to sleep and never wake up, leaving Anne without a husband and our kids without a father.”
    Two little things: “vegitative” is spelled “vegetative”, and I think you meant to say “for the first time in my life”, rather than “or the first time in my life”.
    Hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way – I’m cursed with seeing stuff like this (although even I never see it all; there are always plenty of typos in my writing as well).
    I so admire you and wish you well – enjoy your day!

  9. Happy birthday, Wil, from a fellow Leo, and Happy DBAD Day as well. We’ve never met, but coming to your blog always puts a smile in my day, or a provocative thought in my head – sometimes both.

  10. The biggest problem I see with DBADD & the domain is that I cannot post that in my bio on XBL due to it’s language filter. Maybe you need a forwarding URL too.

  11. I’m driving home Friday, a van in front of me has words on their back window, yes they say ‘Don’t be a Dick’ :) I so wanted to take a picture to post for you, but alas I was still driving and didn’t want to get into an accident!
    I’m a big fan, this is the first time I’m actually posting a reply to your blog, not sure why I waited so long, it seems other people are way wittier than I would be, so I just read them…Hope you have a great birthday!

  12. That's so weird… I corrected those typos, and then… they still showed up when I hit publish.
    Well, I've corrected them again. Thank you!

  13. As for picking a day and making it a thing, if the guys who created Talk Like a Pirate Day could do it, I don’t see why you can’t. In any event, Happy Birthday.

  14. Happy birthday, Wil!
    I have to tell you that we often say, Don’t be a dick! in my household. And I always thought I was pretty great at being nice to others. My mom always tells people how sweet and loving I am when she introduces me to her friends. And then today I realized without ever thinking about it, in a time when it matters a lot I was being a huge DICK.
    You see many years ago I married a wonderful guy, but with him a long came not so wonderful parents. They are very bigoted folks who think class, money, and appearance above all else matter. Not a good combo for a woman who believes that kindness, respect, and someone’s actions are the most important things. Over the years they’ve gotten worse and worse with their hate and rudeness to my husband. So when they called today and asked us to meet them for lunch to pick up our kids who had spent three days camping with them, it was like a recipe for Instant DICK.
    As I got ready I realized that for years I’ve been a dick when ever we spoke of my in laws and that is what my kids hear. I thought I was being all coy about it, but we have smart kids and they’ve realized that their mom “hates” their grandparents. I feel like I’ve been teaching my kids that hey it’s okay if someone isn’t like you or isn’t nice for you to be a dick in secret.
    WOAH! I felt like I got slammed with a big bag of wake the fuck up. So today I went to lunch and I was nice. Not fake nice, but respectful, nice, and tried to not be rude even when they were very rude to my husband. Then when we got home I didn’t say stuff to my husband about how bad his parents were. I just let it go, because my kids don’t need to hear me trashing their grandparents. They know what they said was rude. And they know their dad is a great man and nothing his parents say will change that.
    Thank you, Wil. Amongst all the noise of life you reminded me that above all else it matters what kind of person I am to my kids, because they are little sponges who will go out into the world one day and I hope that they are the kind of folks who will not only not be dicks, but go out of their way to make others feel awesome.

  15. Happy Birthday, Mr. Wheaton, and of course, the dickery shall not stand unopposed on this day, by a vow renewed each and every June 29th.
    Oh, and language of grandiose and awesome nature aside, definitely a mantra bearing repeating, to one’s self, one’s children and the world at large. Like you, if my kids have gotten anything from me, I hope they will grow to be the kind of people who will go out of their way to be honest, kind, honorable, hard-working, and recognizing the whole point of life is bringing out the awesome in themselves, and sharing it with others.

  16. Wil, happy birthday! When I turned 40 I thought I was OLD. Then I snapped my fingers and I was 70. I try to be as honorable as Worf and as awesome as you. And nobody has ever called me a dick, so I guess I am succeeding in that as well. “Live long and prosper” \\ // _

  17. Happy Birthday Wil! I love that tody is “don’t be a dick” day. In fact I love t so much that for the first time I’m not letting the sign-in page be a barrier and I logged in with facebook! :)

  18. I coordinate artist contributions for the GenCon charity auction, basically getting artists to do dice bags and other items to be auctioned for Charity. I’ve been doing it for about 5 years and I have to say the response has always been tremendous: artists giving their time and talents to create some really unique articles to raise thousands of dollars for charity. But I have to admit, I sometimes run into the strangest of all dicks: The successful dick.
    I have one particular artist who is very well known and has had a lot of commercial success and he blows me off all the time. I one time confronted him and he knocked something out quick in front of his staff, but you could tell he really didn’t want to do it. His comment was basically I hope I didn’t lose a commission from someone else while doing this (3 minutes tops). This type of dickishness is just weird to me, you are successful, at the top of your game, people idolize you but you are apparently still a dick because you want more.
    I’m not surprised when someone is a dick when they aren’t doing well, no surprise, life is tough and sometimes it’s easy to be a dick when things are going rough, but I just don’t understand the successful dick.
    That being said, when you are at GenCon if you are trying to avoid dicks, stop by the artist area. I can say working with them that it’s an area filled with generosity and talent!
    …And hey, Happy Birthday and thanks for not being a successful dick, you are living the creed!

  19. Your blog is amazing. I've been reading you since … I think it was Scarstuff linked to you in like 2006 or something.

  20. Happy Birthday and Happy DBaD Day!
    I saw a young woman holding a “Wil Wheaton says Don’t Be a Dick” sign (with a grinning image of you next to it) at an anti-Phelps rally in Topeka, Kansas in April. So take heart — even the Prime Dick has been served his DBaD notice. :-)

  21. Hope you had a great day, Wil! You certainly deserve it!
    And @Russty: Great story, and I had a bit of a cathartic experience while reading it. We have to remember not be dicks in front of those we influence the most, and I sometimes forget that.
    Thanks for the reminder.

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