What all gamers can learn from what’s wrong with the League of Legends community

When you’ve played League of Legends for as long as I have, you end up seeing a lot of stuff. People telling people to kill themselves, people threatening to kill other people, homophobic slurs, racial slurs it’s all there. In the midst of it all, you always kind of find yourself wondering “I know this is bad, but what is it that sets it apart from other games/sports whatever in terms of how toxic the community is?” Then, today, it finally hit me. It’s the victim blaming.

Let’s say you’re walking down a street and you see an elderly lady getting mugged. The unwritten rules of our society basically state you should probably try to help the old lady. Failing that, we’re kind of ok with you at least trying to get her help. We’re not so keen on you walking away, but if the situation looks dangerous enough we’ll even excuse that.

Video games kind of have the same unwritten code for when you see someone getting bullied or harassed. If you see it, we’re pretty cool with you trying to stand up for the person. We’re still pretty cool if you don’t say anything but perhaps offer some comforting words or a report after the game. And you know what, in many games I’ve played a lot of people will do just that. If you see a troll on the other team or it becomes clear that someone else is getting verbally abused or what not, most gamers will at least empathize with their situation. “Sorry friend, that sucks, I’ll send a report.” We know we can’t necessarily stop the harassment but at least we try and minimize the damage and give the person a bit of comfort.

Enter the League community. In this community, what the rest of society and the gaming community might considered an acceptable response to bullying and harassment gets thrown out the window.  You’re happy when the people around you stay silent when you are being harassed because more often than not everyone else in the game (both teammates and opponents alike) will join in against the person being abused. Instead of offering comforting words to a new player who is being abused, the average league player seems to feel the need to join in the ridiculing of that player. Going back to my old lady being mugged analogy, the League of Legends community would be the person who saw the mugging happening and decided it would be fun to go and give the old lady a kick for themselves. Yup, it can get that bad.

Honestly, I’m really not sure why it has come to this. Why people seem more likely to attack someone who is already being victimized than to attempt to come to their defence or offer some kind words. Is it really that hard to stick up for someone or at least try and minimize the damage done by the actions of some other dick?

Fellow gamers, the one thing I ask of you is to not let your game’s community reach this level. Stand up for those being bullied, abused, harassed. Make it so that the trolls/bullies are the ones who feel isolated and alone, not the players who are already being attacked. When we started playing games, I like to believe that this was the norm. That may be naive, and that’s fine, but i still believe it’s something worth striving for and in games not called League of Legends I believe it’s still something that can be attained.


Are You Having a Bad Day?


While I am always trying to figure out ideas for new posts, I can never resist writing about new developments in my favorite League of Legends topic – player behavior. LoL can be a nasty, brutish affair. So I hope you understand why I like to keep up to date on what Riot is doing to try and make us act better.

Riot’s latest effort at improving player behavior just hit the beta environment. If you want to read the post from Riot Lyte, and you should because the man writes a nice post, you can do so here. The basic gist of the change is that Riot is working on developing an automated system of “Behavioral Alerts” that will notify you when you are misbehaving. The logic behind this feature is that letting players know they are being bad apparently increases the chances of them changing their ways by about 7.8%. Riot figures that if they provide feedback faster, in the form of automated notifications, that rate will hopefully increase.

I do not believe this is the worst idea. My general expectation of people has always been that they know what it means to behave badly, and so if they continue to do wrong, they must be doing it intentionally. LoL has taught me that this view is only somewhat correct. There are certainly people who misbehave for the fun of it, but there are also a lot of people (young and old alike) who actually have no idea that their behavior is less than acceptable. Viewed in this light, I think being quicker to let people know that they are being bad will probably make a difference, to the tune of similar numbers to what Riot has been seeing from the Report Cards.

My problem with the report cards has always been that some people, despite seeing a report card full of evidence, still do not appreciate why they were reported and punished. The brief notification that you can see above provides even less supporting evidence to convince a player that they were actually in the wrong. If a report card can’t convince them to behave, a message that is roughly the size of two tweets probably won’t encourage them to change their ways either.

The cynic in me is also convinced that this message will be used by those who are negative just for the sake of being negative to help avoid punishment. If, after a delightful game of verbally abusing my teammates, I received a notification telling me that I am being bad and might be close to getting in trouble I would probably tone it down for a game or two. Then, I would be right back to my old ways or, perhaps, I would even return with an added vengeance to make up for the previous games where I actually had to pretend to be a decent human being.

This system will never actually change the behavior of the truly negative or toxic players. Instead, it is a band aid designed to help turn a few players, who truly do not understand common decency, away from the dark side. Honestly, if Riot wants to focus on those players who don’t know that being negative is bad, I would rather that they try and tackle this problem preemptively and not wait for the player to rack up reports first.

If the LCS (professional League of Legends) has taught us anything it’s that Riot can put together some pretty awesome videos and written materials when they want to. Could you imagine if they invested that same effort into creating a campaign to encourage players to be nicer gamers?  There are so many cool things they could do to encourage people to be good, and I bet the returns would be at least equal to what they’re getting from the Report Cards and Behavioral Alerts – with the added bonus that the player wouldn’t need to be reported a bunch first. Think of it as kind of being like Yoda and Obi Wan teaching Luke why the Light Side of the Force was the way to go long before Luke even thought about heading to the Dark Side. Awkward Star Wars analogy: Check.

It does kind of make you wonder if pro players would agree to take part in such a campaign or if a lot of them are actually textbook offenders who can’t be bothered to promote anything other than winning and pwning noobs. Maybe the problem is that no one ever told them they could be like Yoda or Obi Wan.

I do love that Riot is willing to try new things to make this game better, and I do believe that Behavioral Alerts will have some positive impact. What I am tired of is Riot giving us the standard line that most players are good and neutral and a lot of the negativity we get is from people who are just having a bad day. I understand that in a game with millions of players you are much more likely to run into someone who is having a bad day, but I am not entirely convinced that is the only reason why I feel like I am constantly being exposed to negativity.

So what I want to do is run my own little social experiment, and I would appreciate it if all of you would help me. The next time someone rages at you in game, I want you to ask them if they are having a bad day. Here, let me even provide you with a line you can use:

“Hey, Riot says that most negativity in LoL comes from people who are having a bad day. (Insert player name), are you having a bad day?”

Optional additional question only to be used if you want to add troll value and ruin the validity of the whole experiment:

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I am not entirely sure what to expect from actually asking ragers if they are having a bad day. My guess is that most people will say something along the lines of “I was having a good day until I had to play with you, you ####,” but maybe that’s just me. My plan is to actually keep track of the number and composition of responses. I doubt that either Riot or myself will be able to use the results to prove, conclusively, that we are right, but at the very least, I expect to get a few hilarious responses that will be worth sharing.

It is  reassuring that Riot is continuing to work on developing better player behavior in League of Legends. While I do believe that the new Behavioral Alerts system will have some impact, I would really like to see Riot do more than simply find another way of letting negative players know they are negative. Whether they know they are negative or not, we are still the ones that have to play this game with them. Until Riot comes up with a way to get negative players out of OUR games, or reward us for being in THEIR games, nothing Riot puts out to deal with negative players will truly satisfy me. At least now I have a question to ask my fellow LoL’ers while I wait for change to come.


Dear Riot

Dear Riot. I am writing you today because I am curious what the correct response is to the following end to a League of Legends match. Our team fell behind quite hard and the other team snowballed to victory. As our team called out the first round of gg’s, a gentleman on the other team responded with “GG? don’t gg them, they don’t deserve it. They’re ####ing awful.” How do I respond to that?

My first thought was to turn the other cheek, send my report and move on, but where is my incentive to do that? I have spent a year playing this game, living by the Summoner’s Code, treating others with respect, saying my gg’s no matter what I might think of the other team, and what has that gotten me? I’m still just as exposed to abuse and negativity as I ever was.

On good days, I often end up forgetting about this abuse, but even then the threat is always lingering. Is this how you envisioned it? Players crossing their fingers before each game, praying that this won’t be “one of those games.” Then, if you’re lucky and the game goes well, you keep on praying because it could be the next one, or the game after that, where you will be insulted, trolled or otherwise abused. Left with nothing but the expectation of more abuse to come, no clear indicator that my abuser has or will be punished, and no compensation for trying to be the honorable opponent, can I really be expected to keep turning the other cheek?

So maybe I should rage back. Maybe I should call this player all kinds of names, question the legitimacy of his parentage, threaten to kill him, etc. What’s the worst that could happen? His team might report me. It might make it to Tribunal, and I might get a few weeks off to think about what I’ve done. If pro players are an example to be followed, *cough* Iwilldominate *cough*, I’ll change my behavior just enough to avoid the Tribunal and keep on playing. Yes, some of the pro level players have been perma banned, but it seems like pretty much everyone who streams League of Legends claims to have been perma banned at least once or twice, so what does that say? I guess it says that if I am really good at the game, and make another account, I can pretty much do what I want.

Wow, when I think of it like that, continuing the cycle of rage actually seems a lot easier and more fun, for myself, than internalizing all the harassment and feeling miserable. I guess it might negatively impact a future teammate or enemy who I go off on…but then they can just go ahead and report me, right?

Oh, and here’s a follow up. What do I tell the friends I was playing with who are still fairly new to the game? Do I tell them that this kind of act is rare, that the majority of players are statistically considered to be neutral or good, and that my friend’s playing experience will hopefully be positive, most of the time? Do I tell them that you’re not safe unless you win, and even that will often be a painful experience? Should I discuss the fact that everything awesome in this game, and I’ve had quite a few great moments, can easily be erased by the abuse they take in one game from their opponents and or teammates?

If I told my friends the honest truth about this game, I feel like their only logical response would be to question why the heck I’m still playing it. That actually does happen, a lot. Usually, I come with all kinds of reasons to convince them why it is still worth it. After games like this one, I don’t have it in me.

I’m sorry Riot. Clearly I’ve had a rough game, I’m upset and a lot of my accusations are a little over the top. I’m sure you can understand that it happens. After all, that’s what you blame a lot of player’s bad behavior on, a bad day. I have taken some time to calm myself down and to consider if this is worth posting. As ever, when writing about video games, I find myself wondering if I have the right to expect better.

This is a video game. It is something that you do for fun, and there will  always be an expectation of some abuse any time you play something that features a great deal of anonymity and very little risk of real world consequences. Perhaps it is on me, if I’m really not enjoying myself or don’t want to deal with the harassment, to step away and stop playing the game. When I view it that way, I feel very silly about voicing my complaints, and I almost don’t bother.

Then, I remember why I expected better in the first place. You, Riot, told me that I COULD expect better. You have stated that you want to be different from other games and that you are going to try and reduce negativity in this game. You brought in the Tribunal and the Honor System and you hinted that more great things were on the way. You told us that you were going to change how people approach Moba’s, and I want to hold you to that.

I know that it will take time. I know that you are busy trying to make sure you come up with things that will actually make a difference, and I have nothing but respect for the work you have done. Riot Lyte is a great representative of the game, and what he and his team are undertaking to do is something that has never really been attempted before. I appreciate all of that, I really do.

I hope you don’t mind that I have chosen to vent my frustrations through harmless words on an out of the way blog instead of at my opponents or teammates. Now that I am calmer, I did wait a day to post this, I have decided that I simply want this, at times, melodramatic post to serve as a reminder that you told us positive change was coming.  A lot of us are waiting, Riot, for you to deliver on even just some of the ideas you put in our heads about a game that was going to be friendlier than others.

I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s hard not to get a little bit more anxious than I should be. I just really, really want some answers to my questions, Riot, and I would like to get them before I’ve become too jaded to care.