Riot Games means business. League of Legends is not exempt from the perception that MOBA games in general have of having extremely negative and unpleasant communities. It’s a well-deserved perception, too. It doesn’t take very long playing to recognize the attitudes being thrown around, even just in games against AI bots or custom games that literally count for nothing.
Riot has been trying to combat this for a long time, fully aware that having such a toxic community is a huge turn-off for new players or players who have been away from the game for a while, which means lost profit for the company running the game even aside from the negative effect it has on their reputation.
The Tribunal was their first major step to improve their community, giving players the ability to not only report caustic, trollish, or hateful behavior in their fellow Summoners but also granting them the ability to pass judgment on those players themselves. While there are still players who swear that the Tribunal does nothing but give players the illusion that they are contributing, there are plenty of others who talk about having been banned by Tribunal and even more who can often be goaded into improving their behavior over the course of a single game by threatening to report them to the player-run jury.
More recently implemented was League of Legends’s Honor system. With a punishment system in place, Riot decided to give players the ability to reward each other for exemplary behavior. Now players can tell their opponents that they are friendly or an honorable foe in a way that (if the behavior is consistent enough) other players can see.
Then come the bans
In the last couple of years, League of Legends has grown. It’s grown hugely. Now the game has possibly the largest playerbase on the planet, with its World Championship Finals being streamed in America and Europe to tens of thousands of players and being on television in China and Korea.
That much attention also means that when players behave badly, it gets noticed by a lot of people. The scandal of various players looking at the spectator screen during the Finals series had people crying foul on forums, streams, and social media sites. Riot’s response was to levy penalties, with the heaviest being a $30,000 fine to the most blatant example.
Riot has decided to start taking policing its top players seriously, starting with expecting their professionals to… act professional. They’ve banned six ‘professional’ players from competing this season, with two of those six bans not just being from competing, but from playing the game at all. They deserve it, too.
Baby steps, big leaps
These steps all point at two things. First, Riot wants people to take its game seriously, and recognizes that from a business standpoint, no one takes that sort of unacceptable behavior with any degree of seriousness except to shake their heads and sigh, if not become outright angry and offended.
Second, Riot wants the game to be pleasant, both for players and spectators. The first half of that is pretty straight-forward. The second half isn’t so much. There is a certain amount of rage that it can actually be a lot of fun to watch. Sometimes it can be fun to see someone flip their shit, and sometimes we can empathize enough with a particularly bad or unlucky circumstance to feel closer to a competitor who shows frustration or disappointment.
In the end, however, this is a game for most of the world, and a way of life for a small part of it, and many of the players in that small part of it don’t seem to realize that. It is one thing for a random player to rage and scream and curse at their teammates, it is quite another for a person to do that at work, whether at coworkers or at customers or even at total strangers who just happen to have been in their proximity at the time.
A certain level of professionalism is expected from any professional, and it’s about time that Riot started enforcing that in its League of Legends ‘professionals’.
There are plenty of highly-skilled players out there, we don’t need the worst of the lot to keep top-level play interesting or competitive. I think I speak for everyone who has voted in the League of Legends Tribunal when I say… Good riddance.