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An Open Letter to Riot

July 7, 2013

Dear 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.

Thank you,

Stubborn (account name Cripplemronion)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Samus permalink
    July 8, 2013 3:46 am

    I know it’s just more anecdotal evidence, and not real science, but I have had the same experience. League of Legends has just become so unbelievably toxic. I can’t remember the last normal or ranked game I lost that didn’t break down into excessive verbal abuse, usually from the first indication that the game might not be going our way. And since it’s rare that absolutely everything will be going our way the whole game, I’d say maybe a third of the games I WIN still involve substantial verbal abuse.

    And the real problem is, I recognize that none of it is behavior that I think the Tribunal would do anything about. That is why I have no faith that the community will get better. This is the level of civility that is expected of League of Legends players. You are allowed to be a jerk and tell people they suck, and to berate them for the duration of a game.

    What I would really like would be an option that you select for whether or not such negativity is acceptable. You pick either “criticizing/insulting other players is acceptable” (the current standard) or you can pick “criticizing/insulting other players is NOT ALLOWED.” Being a toxic jerk would get you banned not from the game, but from the civil community. You are relegated to playing with other trolls, like yourself. If you think a teammate is doing something wrong, you must find a positive way to inform them, or be banned.

  2. July 8, 2013 9:08 am

    I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t see this coming. Most of us blast Blizzard for not policing WoW, and it is well deserved, but the sad truth is that WoW is just a larger and more obvious example of the current norm. Over the last year I’ve been in WoW, Eve, Rift, GW2, LotRO, and a few smaller games. None of them had what you would consider a clean community. In each the game was at its worst in the competitive areas. Even WoW is basically ok if you avoid places where people are in contention for mobs or need to use an NPC who can be covered by a dragon or mammoth. Go into a BG or LFG/LFR and you are asking for problems. Not always of course, but often enough to set the tone – and BGs are the worst by far.

    LoL is just BGs. Far too many people cover their own mistakes (a normal part of any activity but now forbidden by the internet) by blaming the rest of the team. It’s also important to remember that for most PvPers on these sort of games the ideal isn’t a tight, hard-fought win. They want a blow-out where there was never any question that the other side could challenge their mastery. Let anything start to go wrong and the blamestorming begins. That, I would argue, is the mild type of idiot. Games are also infested with people who ‘win’ by griefing others. Much easier than actually trying to learn a game and develop some skills. This way even if you lose, you win – because you were able to upset other people and that’s all you really wanted.

    In any case, given what passes for sportsmanship in the rest of the society is it unexpected that people act that way in an anonymous, consequence-free, game?

  3. July 8, 2013 12:56 pm

    I think Rimecat makes an excellent point about people wanting a blow-out. Anything short of decimating the opposing team out the door will probably result in hostility and criticism since you’ll find something to yell at your teammates about (regardless of whether they actually did something wrong).

    And, of course, if you’re getting decimated you’ll insult your team for beings “n00bs,” “bads,”, etc. Which means every game is ripe for this kind of negative behavior.

  4. July 11, 2013 2:11 pm

    The problem with the LoL community is actually simple, even if its difficult or complex to address: toxicity is ALLOWED.

    We can talk all the trash we want about tribunal but how it works in practice is that judges allow some things to slide. Those “slides” add up. If there was a zero tolerance policy, a policy that said “any negative word play which attacks a players person will get a temp ban” you would see strong results. But that all begins with a zero tolerance policy.

    We all, the players, tend to believe in a sliding scale of toxicity, where at the low end we think its more acceptable and at the high we think we should finally do something about it. Get rid of this scale of evil mentality and youll see a more positive, sportsmanlike community. Until then, when we accept a little bit of evil we get the community we deserve.

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