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.
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 eSport 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?