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.

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Dear Vayne (and other ADC’s)

Dear Vayne,

I want to say that it was fun playing with you, I really do. Sure things were kind of rough, but it wasn’t going great for our team as a whole and I was willing to just write the game off and move on. Then you had to go and repeatedly state in all chat, team chat, and the after game chat that my Janna was awful and useless. So now I feel like I have to say a few things to you.

Firstly, I wish you better understood the champ you were playing and the match up we were fighting against. We were a Janna Vayne fighting against a Draven Xin Zhao. Yes, in retrospect, picking Janna was not the best thing for that lane, but I had my reasons for doing it. The other team had an Udyr, a Xin and a Maokai, three champions who want to get on our team and stick to us. In late game team fights our survival would depend on our ability to get those champs off of you, Vayne. I was hoping that a Janna would keep your late game Vayne alive and get us the victory.

But you are a Vayne player, and I forgot that you don’t always think about late game, you think about getting kills. I have always loved this about some Vayne players. You have one of the best late game champs in League of Legends, and despite that, all  most of you seem to worry about are early game kills. Perhaps you have never seen Doublelift play Vayne, but I feel like you probably have because his late game heroics inspire a lot of people to play Vayne. Regardless, the beauty of what pros do with Vayne is that they don’t worry about early game kills. They know Vayne isn’t really an early game champion. If you farm her up well, which the pros do, and manage to stay alive then you will become a late game power house that few can deal with.

But Vayne, that wasn’t your game. You farmed…not well considering we were able to exist in a position where you could farm fairly safely, but you were itching to pick a fight and I didn’t deliver you any. So you got frustrated and called me names. But Vayne, I also am not sure you were keeping our opponents in mind. A Janna Vayne is not going to be able to do much against a Draven Xin combo, especially in the early game. Draven alone probably has enough damage to kill both of us and Xin just helps makes his job that much easier. Truth be told, I didn’t really want to fight them. I wanted to keep you alive, get you farmed and let you go to town on them in the late game where it would be you doing the two shotting and Xin, without farm, would be much more useless. We got you into a situation where you could farm, and I thought that was enough. I guess I was wrong, I guess I was useless.

And I am sorry, Vayne, because I clearly forgot that this is solo que. I forgot that games are often decided in the laning phase and people are only happy when they have a ton of kills. I was thinking of the late game and you were concerned with the early game, and the early game didn’t go so great. I forgot that support champs like Janna and Soraka are great at keeping their TEAMs alive, but solo que isn’t really a team game, not the way that most people approach it.

When everything is said and done, Vayne, I still don’t really think I deserved what you said to me. I was mad at the time, but that’s ok because it inspired me to write this. I always hate it when people call other people trash, regardless of their performance. No one goes into a LoL match with the intention of not playing well (some do but those people are a whole other story), and I really don’t see what you gain by calling them on their bad game.

In the case of our game, it bugs me even more because you clearly had given no thought to either our team’s late game or your own champion’s late game. I guess I just wish that more ADC’s would remember that it’s a team game, that you can’t always be focused on getting the kill and that sometimes you win your lane by just staying alive and getting farmed. I know not all ADC’s are like this, but Vayne, you are a perfect example of the ADC’s I hate to work with.

I wrote this letter specifically to you, Vayne, but it really sums up my feelings on a lot of players in LoL. Yes, getting kills is fantastic. You get gold, you get XP and you feel like you’re just awesome. Of course the flip side is that sometimes you will not get kills. When that happens I wish you would take a second, calm down, focus on living and focus on farming. You may think the game is over but there’s a good chance it really isn’t. That’s the beauty of solo que. If you keep a game going there really is a chance that anything can happen, especially when you have a solid late game champion like Vayne.

Oh, and here’s one last thought. Instead of calling others names and blaming them for your own lack of results how about you actually take the time to figure out what you need to do to help get the win. You may not realize this but it looks pretty darn lazy when all you are capable of doing is harassing others and not actually making the changes needed to win the game. You can still win a game with a crummy KDA, I promise. It just might require you to build different items, be less aggressive etc.

Actually, you know what, I hope you keep harassing people and don’t change your game because I want to see you keep losing games while the rest of us actually learn from our mistakes and head onwards towards success. That’s what good players do, Vayne, and you, and the others like you, are not good players.

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.