Does Riot Games Tacitly Encourage Trolling in League of Legends?

Author: MMOsite Writer Alexander Hinkley

lol

Earlier this week I received my first chat restriction on League of Legends in years. My account was temporarily restricted in the very first game I played since the 5.21 patch was released which allegedly “fixed” the reporting system to punish false reports. In the game, I dominated the enemy team, going 7/0/14 with 10 captures and 6 neutralizations in Dominion as Jarvan. I had the best KDA, most captures, the highest score on my team, and perhaps most importantly zero deaths. During the actual game, players on the enemy team were insulting me saying how much I sucked and constantly swearing at me, dropping multiple F-bombs. They were noticeably frustrated they couldn’t kill me, despite winning. After the game, one of them can be seen in the lobby colluding to “report him to get him banned.” I immediately received a notification that I had been reported for “offensive language.” Here are my chat logs from the game in their entirety:

flashing for a kill?

that isnt how you play this mode

3 of you arent enough?

god im a beast

r wont save you

good thing ez takes no skill

infinite flash

3 pokes

global ult

mad eh

got exposed

pure skill

3 bot for me?

die typing

yeah ur not mad

wins in dom are random

they arent earned

if they were the 4/0 would win

double flash?

takes skill

yes leave teammates to die

ill just cap that point

ezreal just double flashed

thinks its skill

yes chase me into death

yes ult me

that helps u

im 6/0/14

most caps

mad/

should be grateful

insults?

yeah ur not mad

3/5 thinks he earned win

7/0 is sucking?

LOL

say anything

reporting out of anger

thats bannable offense

it said so in 5.21 patch notes

read it

it literally said that

how so?

insults?

you're the one insulting

and using profanity

not me

how so?

As you can see, no reasonable person would look at these logs and argue I said anything “offensive.” I did not insult anybody. I never called anybody any names, claimed they were bad, or said they had no skill – the worst thing I did was state that Ezreal as a champion takes no skill which on Dominion he doesn’t (that is why he ranks highly on the Top 10 Most Broken Dominion Champions List). Is pointing out that the champion someone is playing is broken now considered an insult to that player personally? So if you were to say Darius is broken to a Darius player, you can now be banned for such an utterance? The notion that you could be potentially banned for “insulting” a champion is like saying you could be banned for using a champion’s in-game taunt. It’s ridiculous.

It is worth mentioning that playful trash talk is part of anything competitive. What I was saying in this game is equivalent to a defensive end in football saying something akin to, “this is my turf” after sacking the opposing quarterback. He would NEVER be penalized for such an innocent taunt. Nothing I said in this game was particularly harmful or malicious to the other players personally. It all had to do with the actual game itself.

For example, at another point in the chat I mention that Dominion wins are random and not earned. This has also been factually proven in the article LoL Review: Dominion Is a Slot Machine. Not an insult or commentary on the players themselves – it’s a comment about the game mode. In other words, if you’re playing Summoner’s Rift and you say Summoner’s Rift takes no skill, you can be banned for it? Being punished for denigrating a game mode is even more absurd than getting banned for hating on a champion.

Unfortunately, the other players’ chat is no longer visible on the so-called “reform cards” but you can see me responding to them saying I suck by saying, “7/0 is sucking?” and them insulting me and using profanity with my statements near the end. So you can tell the other players were obviously being toxic trolls. They reported me out of anger, not because of anything I said being against the Summoner’s Code. Sure, maybe I came off as somewhat abrasive with phrases like “chase me into death” but if you could see the profanity-laced filth being spewed by the other players you might understand why. My statements are mild-mannered prods at worst. Not to mention the fact that back in 2013 Riot Pendragon (aka Steve Mescon) had expressed on Twitter you probably won’t be punished for saying you’re a beast or taunting enemies for chasing.

lol

Simply making use of the All Chat feature should not be a bannable offense if you aren’t actively breaking any rules, otherwise why would All Chat even be included in the game if you can get punished for using it regardless of what you say? Something as innocuous as, “yes leave teammates to die, I’ll just cap that point” shouldn’t get anybody punished. Ever.

Mere MINUTES later I received an email stating my account had been temporarily chat restricted for this game. Based on the short amount of time that had passed the chat logs were without a doubt NOT looked at by an actual person. The disciplinary system in the game, called the Instant Feedback System, works automatically nowadays. It punishes players automatically based on how many reports they receive. It apparently does not actually look at the content of the chat within the game. For example, how would an automated program determine someone saying “3 bot for me” is toxic? It can’t because it doesn’t have the ability to make such a contextualized judgment like a person would. Perhaps it could pick up on profanity or certain phrases like “get rekt” but nothing I said would fall into such a category. It clearly decided punishment just because a specific number of people reported me and I met its pre-set threshold. NOT due to my actual conduct. Is that healthy for the game? I would say no.

I’m not the only player this has affected. The Player Behavior & Moderation board on the official League of Legends website has been inundated with complaints about unfair restrictions since the 5.21 patch went live. The patch was supposed to make falsely reporting people get you punished but ironically it only made those false reports MORE effective. Clearly, then, this is a problem with the system itself.

I wrote an article last year titled How Chat Restrictions Hurt League of Legends and it still holds true today. Chat restrictions do not merely harm the player being restricted. It doesn’t teach them a lesson (the lesson I’ve learned here is that doing too well in a game gets you punished so you should TRY to die). Chat restrictions hurt that player’s teammates in subsequent games by matching them with a teammate who can’t coordinate with them as efficiently.

If you need any further proof that toxic players report you as a way of getting you back for doing too well, just look at the screenshot embedded above. In my next game after being restricted, I went 7/0/10 as Volibear. I said nothing to the enemy team all game (because I literally couldn’t seeing as how I was chat restricted). The only thing I said at all was the two short phrases you can see in the lobby praising my own performance. Yet I was once again reported for “Offensive Language” for some strange reason. I still can’t decide whether saying “god im a beast” or “best voli NA” is the offensive part. Shouldn’t you be allowed to praise yourself for a job well done? Considering the fact me going 7/0 in both games is the only commonality, I have to conclude THAT was what offended people. Reporting someone for doing too good shouldn’t get them punished, it should get YOU punished for being a jerk.

lol

The title of this article asks whether Riot Games silently encourages trolling in the game so let’s get to that point. The reason it seems Riot supports trolling is that they know chat restrictions hurt OTHER players, yet they ignore this and push chat restrictions as a form of discipline anyway. They claim you don’t need to chat to effectively communicate with teammates because you can ping, but anybody who has spent any measurable time playing this game knows that’s not true. League of Legends is a team game. Of course you need to talk with your teammates for it to work! The ping system, while useful, is very limited in what you can communicate and can’t effectively replace actual language.

Riot also gives toxic players a platform in which to troll people not just in the game they are matched in with, but also subsequent games. A troll can ruin matches for a legitimate player long after their game by falsely getting them chat restricted. Riot enables this type of behavior with their automatic disciplinary system that works based on number of reports and not the actual content of chat or conduct in the game.

An article from Fortune published earlier this year points out that League of Legends generated $1.3 billion in revenue from micro-transactions in 2014. Pulling in that kind of cheddar, you would think they could afford to hire a small platoon of actual humans to review in-game reports but Riot has done everything they could to keep from doing that. First they tried to make the players moderate themselves with the near-universally hated Tribunal and then when that failed Riot instituted this automatic detection system. I reached out to Riot about the incident described in this article in a ticket with the attached screenshots and they had no meaningful comment. The Riot representative simply replied to my ticket with a copied and pasted cookie cutter response that they must issue to anybody who complains about a punishment, saying they don’t reduce or remove restrictions and to modify my behavior in the future to avoid more reports. In other words, they are aware of the issue but refuse to rectify or even address it. A different Riot Player Behavior Support rep did ultimately confirm that punishment decisions are indeed determined by the automated “Instant Feedback System” and NOT a person.

One can only conclude, therefore, that Riot does encourage trolling, even if unintentionally. This would explain why League of Legends is notorious for being filled with countless legions of trolls and toxic players despite Riot’s seemingly best efforts to combat them – because these best efforts actually help the trolls become even more problematic.

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