Why Gaming Communities Go Toxic

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I am a very experienced gamer, having played for years and diving deeply into nearly every genre.  Over the last few years I have noticed a steady decline in the amount of fun, kind, or even courteous players I’ve encountered while playing online.  Instead there is now rage, flaming, and the harassment of players in nearly every game.  The gaming community as a whole is becoming a toxic environment and I doubt that it can change without major overhauls.  What is it that made a community of passionate gamers descend into a group of inconsiderate bullies?

I believe that these same principles apply to many gaming communities.  I know first hand how the experience of playing Dota, Call of Duty, or WoW can be filled with players who are a bad influence in the community.  However, for this example we’ll take a deeper look into the state of League of Legends.

One clear reason for the shift is the change in the amount of summoners.  According to the infographic published by Riot Games back in 2011, there had been 32 million accounts created and played on world-wide.  Last year’s report indicated that there is now over 70 million accounts (these numbers of course count all accounts including smurfs).  With a user expansion of over 100% in the course of one year a community can expect some rifts to be made.  But an increase in people doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in toxic players.

toxic mundo

Another factor of the downward spiral League of Legends currently finds itself in is the popularization of competitive LoL.  Over 1.5 million viewers tuned into DreamHack in 2011 to watch the best players in the world battle it out on Summoner’s Rift.  This last year, more than 8.2 million viewers watched as Taipei Assassins win the Season 2 World Championship.  That increase in audience is staggering, and caused for a reform of the NA and EU competitive scenes, causing the formation of the League Championship Series (LCS).

The Riot-owned LCS is played out in a season format, similar to that of professional sports, but with a break in the middle where new teams can win a spot by defeating a team currently in the LCS.  The LCS format makes for live-streamed events four days a week (two days NA, two days EU) with each broadcast garnering tens of thousands of unique viewers.  Riot has gone to great lengths to make LCS matches a good starting point for those new to League of Legends through simplified shout casting and pre and post game analysis.  This is one tool that will, once again, make the community grow in leaps and bounds.  Aside from adding more people into the mix, the popularity of League as an eliseeSport has added what I believe to be the largest contributor to the negative epidemic, competition.

Competition in gaming has been happening since the beginning.  Introduce a group of people to anything and they will naturally want to be the best.  We’ve all heard before that “competition breeds success,” but in the case of League of Legends competition has bred malice.  The professional players in League are held on pedestals by most of the community.  They have rightfully earned their spots at the top through gameplay and proving over and over again that they have the skills necessary to be the best.  Summoners look at those pro players and assume that with hard work, and some luck, they will be able to make a comfortable living by playing a game they love too.

Don’t get me wrong, amateur players can become professionals, but for a lot of summoners that desire is what keeps their drive going.  If a player is in the game only to make a name for themselves/become a pro they are most likely going to be a bad influence on their fellow players.  In extreme cases, players are willing to berate and threaten their own teammates, not to mention the other team’s summoners, in every game.  In normal, average, everyday cases, players read name calling, raging, and flaming in nearly every game of League of Legends they play.  This is the poison that pulls our community down.

If you came to this article looking for answers, I don’t have any (sorry Riot).  I truly don’t think there is any way to reverse the damage that has been done.  I wish there was because I hate to see a game that I love so much have its players be harassed and threatened for not taking every round competition-style serious.  Even pro players, the ambassadors of the game and idols of many young players, are now getting banned for their own negative behavior.  Figure out how to at least lessen the amount of bad influences in the community, Riot Pls.

How do you think we can bring the League of Legends community back towards the baseline?

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14 thoughts on “Why Gaming Communities Go Toxic

  1. twohp2few says:

    Sometimes, in my weaker moments, I think that dealing with the toxic players is almost a lost cause. I think that doing things like restricting their chat will help, but it will never make the problem stop. Instead, I would like to see Riot work on protecting/rewarding players who do play fair and behave themselves.

    Que players in good standing together. Give us rewards for staying positive and making the community a better place. Basically, make it attractive to be nice to others.

    They also need to keep at the pros who are setting a bad example. So many of them, even if they aren’t directly doing horrible things, approach their fellow players with such an arrogant attitude that it’s a wonder any five summoners have ever been able to work together. Instead of seeing guys like Iwilldominate allowed back into the game and being left to worship guys like doublelift who consider everyone else to be trash, it would be nice if Riot promoted guys like Guardsman Bob who actually help and teach others.

    Sorry for the long post, as you can see this is near and dear to me. Liked the article a lot and I hope it promotes some solid conversation on this topic.

  2. When it comes down to it, the game has strict roles that most be followed in order to have a successful and fun game. There are people that follow it strictly, and there are those who don’t mind being silly or losing a game to unorthodox champion roles.

    So, let’s say this. League of Legends has a very strict role system for it’s champions. Imagine how much less grief would occur if Riot were to reduce the hysteria over lane choices? Imagine if you could pick the champion you want to play and not have to worry about somebody else wanting your role you’re vying for? These can be 20-60+ minute investments of time, so, this is a great cause of drama in games.

    And then? I think the Summoner’s Code is ridiculous. I think the ease with which someone can report another player/outright threaten them with a report is obscene. You’re playing a game, oops, you make a bad decision and you die once or twice, bam, you have teammates crawling down your neck about your performance and hurling around a bunch of accusations at you, stressing you out, and just causing a complete deterioration of the fun factor in playing League of Legends.

    And it goes on and on and on. League of Legends is far from a decent community. I’ve never had so much grief given by any group of people until I started playing LoL. And you know what? The community isn’t gonna get worked on because it’s too large of a problem and probably too involved for Riot to fix. And I’m just not interested in playing anymore. @_@

  3. Nhan-Fiction says:

    Reblogged this on Nhan-Fiction and commented:
    >^..^<

  4. hailskerrean says:

    Oh boy. I about lost you after you essentially said there’s a lot of jerks, but I definitely hear ya. Amen, brother, I stopped playing online because of jerks who yell and get too intense.
    Dude. It’s a game. Chill.

  5. hrosez says:

    I am also a gamer, and I also dive deeply into any game I play. I am competitive, but not a sore loser. It’s about having fun. My husband is the opposite. He is one of the ‘toxic’ people. He swears at other players, yells at his computer, has broken countless sets of expensive headsets because he throws them when he loses.

    I don’t play online or with other people anymore. I still have my XBOX live account, but I don’t play with other people… ever. Because it’s just not fun. I get on, and a 13 year old kid is swearing and yelling at me about how much I suck. It’s just… not fun anymore.

  6. Lízi-chan says:

    Reading this article, i just can think of one world: excellent. Im a gamer for as long as i can count and since i started playing online (with 15 years old) i have encountered toxis behavior everywhere, but league of legends and it’s high success makes people go literally…crazy about beeing the best, get on the spot light.

    I take my games serious because my time is not to throw on the trash, but i don’t became an overlord of harassment, mostly because…it’s bad for your health and not gonna make people play better.

    I would like to translate this article of yours to portuguese and show arround on brazilians foruns and on my blog, i will surely credit you and i hope you accept this translation. I will wait for your reply.

    Thank you for your attention.

  7. […] Oi gente, hoje estou trazendo um artigo de outro wordpress que achei extremamente interessante de se ler e pra que ninguém tenha desculpa, vou disponibilizar a informação em português! Lembrando claro que não fui eu que escrevi este artigo e todos os créditos ficam com o (a) responsável por ele. Se tu quer ver o original, dê uma olhada aqui: http://tieattack.net/2013/02/26/why-is-the-league-of-legends-community-toxic/ […]

  8. Agreed, this is a very good article, my thinking is this

  9. I completely agree w/what hrosez is saying about it not being fun anymore. Is Lol f2p or sub based? I don’t or have any disire to play Lol because of the toxic community. Unless your a masochist? Why endure that pain, I live with p.t.s.d so you can imagine why I don’t play games like these. DCUO:[ is another example of a toxic community and that’s from personal experience.
    I was recently asked on Twitter to previw the game Nosgoth, and that’s when I learned first hand. The so called mod or admins were “volunteers” well not really what i would call volunteers when they’re paid off w/ in games items.
    What can you honestly do in a toxic community , when you know that the mods are just as toxic as the community? As a matter of fact i wrote 2 Square Enix via Twitter and asked if they could do something? They basically told me I was imagining the whole thing. Very dissapointed at Square Enix and im struggling with what to do with this whole previw? I never wanted in the 1st place, but i made the commitment. Do I withold truth or tell it like it is? See when it comes to MY opinion about gaming it’s often the hard and brutally truth. And i know pisses off the fanboy community, i am not doing it on purpose, i am being “REAL” what i find both sad and amusing is the fact it’s a Game aka a work of fantasy or fiction. It’s not real, now i could understand if was a person. But it’s a thing “smh” but these fanboys have this constant delusion like they’re that created a particular game. Their thinking is IF im a devoted fan somehow said game company will reward me? It’s the same thinking that if im a gamer and i have “a page” all of sudden I am some gaming expert. I have news, for all these fanboys It’s not how it works. For me It’s been a 20+ long passion w/gaming and i have earned that right to call myself a HARDCORE gamer or Expert. I worked at it and this was all before the Internet.

    Sorry about the long post, but that’s the passion talking.

  10. But at the same time, i still don’t know everything when it comes to gaming but I read everty game magazine I could get my hands on, i was asking game companies like Nintendo and Sega those hard qestions? Plus at 20, being asked by a game company if other gamers could directly call me and ask questions and tips? I think it comes down to that these “toxic gamers ” think that they’re owed something for being jerks.

  11. And for the record, i don’t think i am “all that” OK? In fact due 2my anxious issues and being cyberbullied it took me a very long time 2 come-out on Twitter saying that i was an expert knowing all about how Toxic the internet is in general after recentlcy got cyberstalked on gaming webpage. And for the read I am the one who got banned for “defending myself” i didn’t make any threats, i kept my calm and tried reasoning which is absoluteily pointless in this day and age:[ Try and reason with a bully cyber or in Rl and see where u get? Sincerly, Annihilation Gaming;)

  12. The damage has been done, 2 this very day it’s hard to look at anything DC comic realted w/out thinking about that “toxic” DCUO:[ game. I wouldn’t wish that game on my worst enemy. Probably onethe worst games since ET the game, and both Superman and Aquaman 64. I am talking both game and community. My hope is that ESO doesn’t become like both these games and i am concerned since it will be my summer gaming i hope they never go f2p cause as long as you have that monthly fee, for the most part will stop it from becoming another gaming cesspool? And that’s what the difference between f2p and a montly fee. I really don’t seeing toxic gamers “paying” for the privilege of being a-holes but who really knows.

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