Multiplayer online games (MOGs) have become increasingly popular because of the opportunity they provide for collaboration, communication, and interaction. However, compared with ordinary human communication, MOG still has several limitations, especially in communication using facial expressions. Although detailed facial animation has already been achieved in a number of MOGs, players have to use text commands to control the expressions of avatars. In this paper, we propose an automatic expression recognition system that can be integrated into an MOG to control the facial expressions of avatars. To meet the specific requirements of such a system, a number of algorithms are studied, improved, and extended. In particular, Viola and Jones face-detection method is extended to detect small-scale key facial components; and fixed facial landmarks are used to reduce the computational load with little performance degradation in the recognition accuracy.