Author: MMOsite Writer Alexander Hinkley
With literally tens of millions of players logging in every single day, there is no question League of Legends is one of the most successful PC games of all-time. It is also notorious in the gaming community for being infested with so-called “toxic” players, perhaps known more commonly as trolls. New players constantly complain about jerks when just starting out and more than a few people have quit playing altogether because of the community. Even internet-hardened veterans have been known to throw up their hands and abandon the game in part because of how frequently they encounter menacing trolls. In this article, I will take a look at some of the reasons why I believe trolls seem to be even more prevalent in this game than others.
Cross-team chat is enabled all game long
League of Legends allows players from different teams to communicate at any time in the game via the all-chat feature. This is fairly unusual for video games and obviously serves to promote things like taunting the other team throughout the course of a match. What other reason would you ever have to communicate with the other team during the game? Let’s be real, nobody says things like “good play” or “nice kill.”
In most first-person shooters, for example, the only time you are able to interact with the other team is in the pre and post game lobbies. Some shooters also allow you to briefly hear the other person right after you kill a player or a player kills you. But you can’t just constantly hear the other team talking all game – that would not only be disruptive but also counter intuitive to that team trying to communicate with one another and carry out coordinated in-game tactics.
League of Legends isn’t like this. You can type a message to the other team anytime you want. This leads to considerably more toxicity than there needs to be because there is a lot more opportunity for toxic behavior. In the FPS games mentioned above, you do hear trash talking in the lobbies and after kills. That is to be expected. In League of Legends it’s not only possible to trash talk the other team during these times, but also all game long as well. So in a nutshell, one reason why there seems to be more trolls in this game as opposed to others is because they have more opportunity to perform this negative behavior.
In criminology there is something called the “crime opportunity theory” which basically states that most criminals are rational and will only commit crimes they consider are easy to pull off and unlikely to be caught doing. So for example, if you left the door to your house wide open while you were away, this would inspire criminals to burglarize your place when otherwise they wouldn’t have even thought about it. This is why people “harden” their homes by locking windows and doors and installing motion detecting floodlights. These things aren’t going to keep out every intruder – any lock can be bypassed or windows can be broken – but it significantly cuts down on the number of criminals willing to go to such lengths to get in your home when they could pick a much easier, softer target in someone else. You are taking away their opportunity. League of Legends’ all-chat is like leaving the door to your house wide open all night. All it does is invite trouble.
Riot’s disciplinary actions inadvertently encourage trolling
Riot Games has tried to crack down on toxic behavior in all the wrong ways. They focus too much on things being said as opposed to actual in-game trolling like intentional feeding and standing around at the fountain. Riot has cast such a wide net in their attempt to quell verbal trolling that they have actually punished lots of people who probably did not deserve it. For example, I know someone that once got suspended for several days for simply saying things like “don’t chase” and “learn from that” after killing an opponent. This is not toxic behavior. There is no insult in these statements, there’s no profanity. The reason this player was reported for saying these things is obviously because the person whom he had just killed was upset and wanted to “get back at him” by abusing the report feature. As I wrote in a previous article titled “How to Fix Toxicity in League of Legends,” there isn’t any punishment for abusing the report feature so players frequently report others simply to feel better about themselves and not because of any actual behavioral infraction.
This creates toxicity in two ways. First, the player who is punished despite not violating any rules will feel unfairly persecuted. They will become disillusioned with and disrespected by the community and thus be even more likely to actually troll in future games. Second, it enables players to troll others THROUGH the report button. Reporting other players has unfortunately become nothing more than yet another means toxic players can negatively affect other people albeit in a delayed way. This is especially true of pre-made teams that can collude with friends to report someone unfairly. Riot has long since done away with the player judged Tribunal and replaced it with an automated system that triggers punishments after a certain frequency of reports is exceeded, apparently not even taking into consideration the validity of said reports. Chat banning tons of players isn’t good for the game (see: How Chat Restrictions Hurt League of Legends).
Another problem is that Riot’s “Summoner’s Code” is way too vague. There are no concrete rules of things you can’t say. While it basically just says “don’t be a jerk,” which some Riot employees have argued should be common sense, what constitutes as “being a jerk” is left up in the air. Is saying “don’t chase” being a jerk? Some people might not think so but apparently others do since it got that player temporarily suspended. One of the Summoner’s Code guidelines even says “Drive Constructive Feedback.” Who is to say “don’t chase” isn’t constructive feedback? Laws in the real world have to be precise for a reason. How can you expect someone to follow a rule they don’t even know exists? Perhaps if Riot actually spelled out some real rules instead of leaving it so ambiguous, there wouldn’t be so much toxic behavior?
MOBAs simply attract trolls
It is no secret that certain genres of video games attract more trolls than others. First person shooters, especially Halo and Call of Duty, are infamous for having legions of trolls. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) seem to be one of these genres. League of Legends is not the only MOBA with a reputation of toxicity. Dota 2, for example, is said to be even worse than League in this regard. Although it is usually debated by fanboys on gaming forums which community is definitively worse, obviously both are quite repugnant.
One potential reason for this is that MOBAs are highly competitive (there are massive e-Sports tournaments all the time) and very team oriented. This mixture can be a breeding ground for toxic behavior – even among the pros. When a player thinks that he is really good at the game, this can ultimately cause him to become vile when that belief is challenged and he does poorly. If he thinks that he is better than his teammates, then he will likely blame them for losses and/or deaths. Raging at a teammate for “letting you die” only serves to demoralize them and disrupt future teamwork thus leading to an increased likelihood of a game loss – and the player will then blame his teammates for THAT too. Some players just don’t want to admit that other players might be better than them and will look for any excuse under the sun to rationalize why they are getting owned. Unfortunately for them, this attitude alone actually causes them to lose more often. There is even statistical evidence to back this up. In a video released back in 2013 called “Teamwork OP,” Riot explained that more sportsmanlike players win more games than those who behave poorly.
The game is slow-paced
Another reason why I believe there seems to be more trolling in League of Legends and MOBAs in general is the slow pacing of these games. Going back to criminology’s “crime opportunity theory,” the slow pacing of League of Legends matches provides ample opportunity for people to trash talk during laning phase or while waiting for their respawn timer to reach zero. There can be a lot of downtime in League of Legends games, especially on Summoner’s Rift. Taunting your opponent from underneath the perceived safety of your lane turret is unlikely to result in any negative in-game consequences like dying while typing. There doesn’t seem to be as much trolling in Dominion on the other hand because people just don’t have the time to type during fights – they are always in team fights because there is no laning phase and respawn timers are also much shorter.