An Open Letter to Riot
I want first to applaud you for doing anything about your community. The measures you’ve enacted are far better than we see in most “sporting” events, “e-” or otherwise. That you would permanently ban accounts attached to some of your highest profile players speaks of your willingness to solve problems of bad behavior among your player base, and for that you should be awarded.
However, I would like to encourage you to do more. My reasons are simple. I’m a 33 year old college professor who’s played your game for about a year. In that time, I’ve gone from consistently praising the community to consistently criticizing it. Part of my revelation came during PAX East, when you graciously held a forum on what could be done about the community. The first gentleman to speak was a hostile and bothersome person, but the point he made illuminated a great problem with your community management design. He asked why one could not leave a game without potential punishment. He made points about teaching kids to walk away from bullies or leave harassing situations. You explained, rightly, that leaving could negatively affect the experience of other players on your team. All of these points – on both sides – are true.
But it’s not enough just to be right, because what I’ve witnessed over the past year is that slow decline of the community even from when I started so late into the game. People often characterize your issues as “having a problem with trolls,” but I don’t like that term. It’s too simplistic and forgiving. Troll, as you well know, implies a person who’s behaving negatively to bait others into becoming upset. This is not your problem. Your game is full of vandals, not trolls. You have people who are actively destroying the very core of your product – a game based on teamwork – through behavior that is intentionally vicious. You have people who are spiritually spreading feces on the wall of your game, who are morally desecrating the gravestones of other players, who are tagging the chat with their vitriolic abuse. It’s not so simple as trolling.
I’ve uninstalled League of Legends for the time being. I’ve never done that before; I sometimes put the game on hold or took a break after a particularly vicious encounter, but finally enough was enough. I used to take part in the tribunal, too, but stopped after having lost faith in the system for which I so strongly campaigned. After this past week, in which I played perhaps 7 matches outside of beginner AI (those for my wife to try new characters), I decided that the bile I had to endure in every single one of those other matches was simply not worth it. In ARAM we had people intentionally helping the other team. In intermediate AI we had a top and jungler who were verbally abusing the other players. In a normal game we had a spiteful jungler refusing to help mid and accusing mid of feeding, telling people on his team and the other to report him. Enough was enough.
Perhaps it’s because it’s summer and there’s more kids playing. Perhaps I just had bad luck to repeatedly run into a nasty vandals ruining your product. Perhaps it’s neither, though, in which case something needs to be done. I applaud you for having a lot of successful features after matches, but good players need a way to defend themselves during a match rather than after. Having to endure 30 or 45 minutes of vandal abuse cannot be made up for with a report feature. That arrangement gives power to the vandals as they have a captive audience to torture while the victims have no solace but a mute that’s the technological equivalent of the ostrich’s famous defense.
I am not advocating for a drop feature. I agree that quitting is not really an option in a team game. However, there have been many games, particularly in this last week, where I would have rather gone 4 on 5 than put up with the vandal. Please design some capability to defend oneself during a game. Otherwise the same revelation I’ve had – that it’s simply not worth it – will continue to be had by others, and slowly but surely, the good people will leave your game. They’ll be replaced by others, of course; your business model is wildly successful so I don’t mean to imply that any fiscal harm will come to you, but those replacements will be some good, and some vandals. As the churn proceeds, your game will slowly fall in standing and appeal.
I applaud you for what you’ve done. Please continue the trend and do more. Find a way for good people to defend themselves without breaking the Summoner’s Code or having to rely on a famously stupid head-in-the-sand escape.
Stubborn (account name Cripplemronion)