Riot Games Cannot Address Toxicity, Because They Create It
A central theme at Riot seems to be addressing toxicity. Riot often releases blog posts on the subject of how they are reducing toxicity through new measures that are implemented or in the planning process. According to a November 2020 blog post, they were able to make significant reductions in reducing toxicity.
Specifically, our leaver detection and penalties, alongside our second iteration of intentional feeding detection, are showing surges in detection accuracy. As our detection accuracy increases, so does the application of the modified penalties we established back in August. We’ve seen results that indicate that, with these improvements in place, there has been a responsive 30% decrease to recurring disruptive behavior.
While the 30% metric is a bit hard to believe, it is likely that their changes to game systems can have a slight impact on removing toxicity. However, changes like these will never be able to address toxicity on a large scale. The reason being is that toxicity doesn’t necessarily come about from having the wrong game systems, the reason that there is toxicity is because League of Legends is in its nature a competitive game in the first place.
League of Legends at its core will always be toxic because the game arbitrarily pits people against each other in an environment where worth is determined solely by rank and statistics. Even the non-Ranked modes such as ARAM and Blind Pick are equally as toxic despite not having the ranked value attached to them, simply because people are already placed in an environment where winners and losers must be created.
People that could get along with each other in most other settings can easily turn on each other in competitive games because of how they are designed. At the start of each League of Legends game, five players already have to be viewed as the enemy in some sense. Winning or losing the lane can result in large gains or setbacks, encouraging demoralizing psychological behavior against the other team as a way to distract them or demonstrate superiority. Furthermore, not only do players face potential harassment from the enemies, they may face it from their four teammates as well. Performing poorly is likely to lead to degradation and sabotage by teammates who want to punish a player for their performance, and a player who sees their teammates perform poorly may want to do the same to them in turn.
The issues present in League of Legends games are compounded by the fact that games are much longer than other competitive games. When players dislike each other, their anger may be exacerbated because of the amount of time they must spend together. A common problem that can arise is that some teammates may want to continue a game while others may want to purposefully end it to continue to the next one. These ideas can only clash, and as a result players will resent each other for feeling that their time is being wasted.
Some players cite that playing in a duo or as a team is a solution, but even then disagreements can often tear friends apart, whether due to gaps in skills or arguments over strategies or in-game decisions.
Riot may have departments for lore, music, and art, but no matter how much they build their world, the fundamental nature of their game will remain one that is toxic because it is based on a 5v5 game mode. I do think there is a very high quality of content put out by the creative teams, but unfortunately it all serves as a funnel to get players engaged in continuing to be on Summoner’s Rift, where they will likely experience extreme toxicity. Some former players now choose to only consume the music and art of the game but to not play, which I actually think is a good idea and an act that can develop an appreciation for the more important things.
Although League of Legends game is so destructive to the lifestyles of many people, Riot Games cannot be expected to pull the game, because competitive games like League of Legends and Valorant are their main source of revenue, and will likely continue do be for the next decades and onward. As a result, it’s up to individual players to see through the marketing efforts systems and understand that the experience is one that is highly detrimental.
I remember when I was still playing League of Legends, and I would talk to players who had tried the game but then left after only a short time because they had experienced so much toxicity. While I understood them, I simply laughed it off at first because I was so accustomed to the toxicity already. But nowadays, I think this is the real danger, when we become exposed to this type of toxicity so often and become used to it, we can have lower standards for ourselves of what should actually be proper. This can prevent us from leaving an environment that is bad for our growth because we believe it is the standard now.
An idea that is often promoted by some players is the idea of muting all other players in the game while playing, but this is even more reason to stop playing. Muting all players is logically inconsistent with the nature of multiplayer gaming, because it’s essentially wanting to play a game in a 5v5 setting where playing with others is a reality, but at the same time wanting to mute them all because the idea that this experience with other players is overly negative. At this point, the easier option seems to just be playing single player games instead. Recently, someone from r/stopgaming made a post that really resonated with me.
In our standard day to day settings, we rarely face the toxicity present in competitive games. In fact, I can’t think of any setting at all where we just want to suddenly ignore everyone, but it’s a commonly done thing in League of Legends to justify playing with toxic players or preventing oneself from being toxic. In League of Legends, we can often see more toxicity in a few games than we may see in a year of our daily lives.
Many organizations are also now considering the effects of gender-based toxicity, and questioning how to make eSports and competitive games a safer environment for women. However, I feel that these meta analysis don’t really address the root issue at hand. If the environments are so toxic in the first place, and we know that these types of competition only breeds these issues, why do we need women, or men, or anyone for that matter to be in eSports in the first place? These activities certainly aren’t required to live and function, and often times only places additional stress in people’s lives. While I agree that there are potentially-gender related issues that are worth addressing in society, I don’t feel that it is extremely difficult for men and women to get along in the career or other settings. The issue of toxicity mainly arises once you bring them into an environment like League of Legends, where the experience for men is in my opinion equally as toxic. When people are in an environment where they are constantly angry and in opposition to other players, race, gender, and appearance are just things to easily take apart and attack. That doesn’t make it right, but at the same time we have to realize that promoting more inclusion in an improper environment is just fostering more division instead of elevating our relationships as humanity. If the games are the causes of so much toxicity, racism, and sexism, why don’t we bring people out of them instead of trying to place more people into them?
What we have to understand, is that any developer that creates a competitive game is profiting off of toxicity. This is true whether it is League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Fortnite, or Call of Duty. The developers may mean well when they want to address toxicity, but the nature of their games promotes it in the first place. These developers have an interest in keeping people in these toxic environments as long as possible, because they generate revenue on the sales of cosmetics, champions, or other items. They do not profit when you perform well in your school or career. From understanding this, we should look to ourselves and not the developers to address in-game toxicity. The easiest way to do this is by quitting the games.