Toxic behavior is a large issue facing the gaming community. In one of the industry’s most popular multiplayer online battle arena games, League of Legends, it is a particularly large problem. Most online video games still have some form of Toxic player base but arguably none is as poor as that of League of Legends. Toxic behavior can be defined as trolling, uncooperative, or simply a negative or otherwise unproductive attitude. This behavior has a number of adverse effects on the community. We’ll discuss the impact on the community that it inspires, how the benefits of cooperative and positive gameplay can be the best deterrent against toxic behavior, and how companies like Blizzard and Riot games often put in place initiatives to prevent this plague on their product. The solution comes within each of us.
Most will agree that the majority of players that display toxic behavior aren’t always negative. I suggest that all players of competitive games have toxic tendencies. Whether they choose to display these tendencies in a game depends on several things we won’t be discussing. The truth is though we could all use a reminder as to why we continue to play cooperatively rather than push the limits of our teammates with insults. Proof of this can be seen through both experience and data. The main method of toxic outlet in League of Legends is through in-game chat. League of Legends used to have a player run tribunal on negative behavior that allowed them to vote to determine if a peer should be punished. This put chat logs in the hands of players to determine punishment or not. Researchers Jeremy Blackburn and Haewoon Kwak through analytical analysis of these chat logs determined there is a strong likelihood that a negative attitude often develops as a game progresses.
> “in Figure 1 we plot the density of chat messages written by toxic and typical players as a function of the normalized time during a match... This provides us with a rough idea of how toxic players might behave and think over time: initially they have a similar mindset as typical players, but, as the game plays out contrary to their desires, they grow increasingly aggressive, eventually lashing out with purely abusive language.”
This is different than the belief of some that a player with join a match already “tilted” aka fuming with anger or frustration inside. Much of toxic behavior shows during the second half of the game according to this researched. It’s not likely that a player will enter a game ready to give in or rage but rather something triggers this behavior thus the common term “triggered”. All players of a competitive game are responsible to keep level headed, we’re all potential toxic players. It helps to be reminded of the negative impact of toxicity as well as the benefits of curbing our toxic tendencies.
According to the same researches about a quarter or 25% of all complaint calls made to Riot games, makers of League of Legends, are complaints about griefing also known as negative behavior. This costs the company money as well as making quite evident the impact that toxic players have on the rest of the player base. Gamers may choose to quit playing a game rather than be subject to such negative attitudes. Games with toxic players in them can cause extra stress and anxiety to the affected gamers taking away from the fun of the game and possibly causing potential health risks. Toxic players can take away from the competitive nature of the game by giving the opposing team an advantage. This nullifies the hard work and strife of the other players to play at the level they do. According to Kataku.com back in November of 2014, 95% of active players had never received a punishment of any kind, meaning 5% of active players had received a punishment during the year for toxic behavior. If that number holds true up to today, then with 100 million players logging on monthly 5% makes 5 million toxic players. It’s no wonder it’s so easy to come across toxic behavior in a game of League of Legends considering 1/20 players will potentially exhibit toxic behavior and you meet 9 new players every game you play alone. That’s nearly every other game. Needless to say, Toxic behavior has a huge impact on the League of Legends player base and the company that made it. Luckily for us many of these companies recognize the money and lost players it costs them. Most major gaming companies put in place initiatives to help prevent toxic behavior. These are benefits cooperative players stand to take advantage of if they keep level headed.
According to League of Legends loading screens, “Players who cooperate with their team win 31% more games.”, “Team composition matters! A well-rounded team increases your chance of winning.” Is the tip that Overwatch players get while they wait for the game to load. “Positive reinforcement can go a long way toward victory.” Is one tip you see while waiting for Dota2 to load. There are innate benefits of playing cooperatively and being positive. Being courteous leads to more won games but on top of that a positive attitude and teamplay rewards players of team based competitive games. League of legends gives out free skins and champions simply for going unpunished for bad behavior. After each game you have a chance to honor your teammates, earning honor from your peers for good gameplay leads to more of these skins and champion unlocks. One initiative of Blizzard’s Overwatch is a very simple method of allowing you to play with the same players you enjoyed playing with last game if they click the same button. This gives you a chance to continue playing with people you enjoy playing with rather than risk new toxic players. Initiatives crop up and change often. Remember these benefits when playing, often games have behind the scenes algorithms that put positive players together as well, so if you want to play with pros then be the pro.
I haven’t come across a fix all solution to handling toxic players or to managing toxic tendencies in oneself but I have found a number of solutions that might help. I’m not convinced there is a solution that will work for everyone. One very popular solution is to remember that a game is a game. Like Goi Nasu once said, “an entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship.” Illustrating that if we don’t let it get to us then we can’t be affected. They suggest the acronym RIM for Report, Ignore, Mute. This is a common sentiment for which there are few exceptions. One other common way I have seen to play unaffected is to use pings, and in game visual communication to cooperate refusing to let anger have an outlet in the chat. This can also be used to irritate other players but for the most part it’s easier to be cooperative as visual communication is limited to strategic indicators like I’m on my way, warning, or group up. There are many ways to manage a negative attitude and to interact with others of a negative nature to get a positive turn.
I hope that as a gamer and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena enthusiast that I can influence some to consider the benefits of positive play and take a second look at their own tendencies toward toxic behavior to improve the game for everyone. My ultimate goal in writing this essay is to bring reform to players before they can become toxic players in need of punishment to be reformed. The benefits of a better game are yours to take if you can remember these initiatives and methods in that moment of most frustration.
1. Blackburn, J., & Kwak, H. (2014, October 20). Linguistic Analysis of Toxic Behavior in an Online Video Game. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.5185.pdf
2. Blackburn, J., & Kwak, H. (2014, April 23). STFU NOOB! Predicting Crowdsourced Decisions on Toxic Behavior in Online Games. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1404.5905.pdf
3. Grayson, N. (2014, November 13). Stats Suggest Most League Of Legends Players Actually Aren't Jerks. Retrieved October 1, 2017, from https://kotaku.com/stats-suggest-most-league-of-legends-players-actually-a-1658605394
4. Tassi, P. (2016, September 13). Riot Games Reveals 'League of Legends' Has 100 Million Monthly Players. Retrieved October 1, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/09/13/riot-games-reveals-league-of-legends-has-100-million-monthly-players/#7cc8cf1c5aa8
I know it's long, thanks for reading please post your thoughts on how we can help our community be more accommodating and cooperative.