Play Nice: Why the League of Legends Video Isn’t Working

I've seen this dance and heard this song before. It's not gonna work, guys...
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We’re at a point where we actually have to tell people that being a jerk to other people is not okay. We have to actually tell gamers that belittling, insulting, threatening and telling teammates to “uninstall the game and go die in a fire”…. we have to tell people this isn’t cool. Riot had to actually make a video telling their own players “don’t be so toxic” and that “teamwork is cool.” We have to actually TELL people this.

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Where… do I… begin…

To be honest, I don’t know.  The video above was released by the folks at Riot trying to make “teamwork” and “not being a jerk” a cool thing to do.  They cite statistics (which are not backed up with any references) to persuade players to not act like jerks to their teammates.  According to them, friendly players win more.  Could have fooled me, there’s a lot of jerks with YouTube channels and Twitch streams that beg to differ.

I see this as almost an admission by Riot that the problem of “toxic players” (or “Trolls”, or just “jerk users”) has gotten out of their control. They seem to have thrown up their hands and said the problem is too big for them to handle, so they’re pleading with the players to “please stop it.” They made a video to beg their players to “play nice”. Wow. Call me a cynical bastard, but I can tell you from experience it won’t work.

The whole LoL video reminded me of high school. I see the same thing today with “anti-bullying” campaigns, but I’ll tell you what happened in my generation.  Every year, the powers that be would get it in their heads that the best way to tell us Gen-X teenagers to not do drugs or drink alcohol was to hold a week-long event where we’d learn to “get high on self-esteem.” They played us “feelgood” videos, made us sing songs, brought in motivational speakers to talk about how cool it was to be drug and alcohol free, held “drug free” fun nights for extra credit…

It didn’t work. In my graduating class we had one fatality and another girl end up in a wheelchair due to their own drunk driving.  Hard lesson learned, talking only works for so long. Try it first, I suppose, but it has “teach a pig to sing” levels of futility.  As long as behavior is ultimately rewarded with wins, YouTube hits or prize money in contests, people will continue to be self-centered jerks.

What does work is direct consequence. My solutions are considered extreme. It involves naming and shaming, putting “BANNED ON XX/XX/XXXX FOR TOS VIOLATIONS” on their publicly accessible info sheets, and making perma-bans stick among other things. When I say this, however, it’s seen as draconian at best. Godwin’s Law invoking at worst.

The reason?

Gamers want everyone to be included. Nobody left out, even if they act like jerks they’re still gamers! Or more correctly from a business standpoint, every player is a customer, and nobody wants to throw money out the door. But I’ll say this: The reputation that games like League of Legends or EVE Online have concerning their player base is the main reason I’ve never, EVER, played those games. Is it worth taking $15 a month from a player who drives away $150+ a month in possible new players?

Apparently, it is. Enough so that it’s worth the time, effort and money to make a video begging existing players to “play nice” with each other. It’s not working. Need proof? Read through the comments left by players on the video itself. The video is only serving as a “good laugh” for those it’s for. So well done on making something that is, ultimately, hollow and meaningless. At least someone made some money animating and voice acting in a video.

If we’re seriously at the point where we need to TELL people this is bad behavior, something has gone horribly wrong somewhere.  Where?  I don’t know.  Have players been allowed to do “anything they want” for too long?  Do we blame society (again)?  Are we going to fall back on stereotypes of “man-children basement dwellers” again?  Do we find some other scapegoat to blame this on?  Or do we take a hard look at ourselves and say “we have a problem” and, more importantly “we need solutions that work”?

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I'm a gamer. I'm a reality junkie. I'm a cynic. I'm a dinosaur. I'm a writer. I'm so much more than a paragraph can say. You want more? Ok. I started a video game show on the internet some time ago. See, I've played video games since Intellivision and Atari 2600 and PONG back in the day. Retro-gaming doesn't really fire me up as much as seeing how the community ticks. And after seeing way too many "I'm too young to have played this game when it first came out but it MAKES ME SO ANGRY" reviewers who would happily eviscerate my childhood for lulz... yeah I tossed my hat into the ring. the quickly scooped it back up, I'm told I have a bald spot that needs covering. Outside of gaming... yes I go outside shut up... I like to play paintball when I can. I snowboard a lot, when I can. I go mountain biking, when I can... seeing a trend yet? I prefer reality to video games, but at 4 AM it's hard to find a paintball game going on. Lately I livestream a lot, playing video games for an audience.