Thursday, March 21, 2013

League of Legends and the Gamification of Politeness

League of Legends, an online action real-time strategy game, has a lackluster player community known for its harassment and bullying. I was hesitant to start playing for this reason. It didn’t help that II was unfamiliar with team-based strategy games. Once I got started, however, I found myself having a lot of fun defending team towers and reading up on the best strategies for my favorite characters. Even though I was having fun and trying my best, I was not good at the game. I was bullied for my poor skills and even reported by another player for “feeding”, intentionally dying to throw the game and spite your teammates. People called me a “noob”, people told me “u suck”, and people told me to “stop playing.” So I did.

Two players defend their team's tower against enemy minions.
That was two years ago and since then Riot Games, the developers behind LoL, have implemented strategies to reduce harassment and bullying. To foster a friendlier gaming community, Riot Games encourages players to abide by the "Summoner’s Code":

I. Support Your Team
II. Drive Constructive Feedback
III. Facilitate Civil Discussion
IV. Enjoy Yourself, But Not At Anyone Else’s Expense
V. Build Relationships
VI. Show Humility in Victory, and Grace in Defeat
VII. Be Resolute, Not Indignant
VIII. Leave No Newbie Behind!
IX. Lead By Example

To promote the tenants of the Summoner’s Code, Riot introduced the The Tribunal System. It enables the wider community to determine what kind of behavior is and isn’t appropriate. It “...identifies players who have been consistently reported by the community over a large number of games and builds a Tribunal case for them. These cases are presented to random community members who use the Tribunal who then review the case files and render a judgment—pardon or punish. Player Support then uses this information to help assign the right penalties to the right players.” The Summoner’s Code is suggested as a guideline to use when deciding cases.I recently tossed around the idea of playing LoL again but still worried about the player community. Voicing these concerns to my brother, a frequent player, he stated “Oh, the community is much better now. It’s like they gamified being polite.” In addition to reporting abusive players, people can now rank others for being a good team player, being helpful, and a variety of other positive characteristics. Players receive in-game awards for having a positive reputation. At the end of the game season all players with a certain reputation level receive a limited edition item, further incentivizing good behavior.

Riot is also not afraid to punish abusive high-profile, professional players. Recently, two pro players were temporarily banned from competing in competitions. When two people on a professional team are banned from competitions, this means the rest of their team can't compete because their down teammates. It shows that when one person misbehaves, multiple people are negatively impacted. This also serves as a public example to players that harassment and bullying is not tolerated. Hopefully, good sportsmanship amongst pro players will have a trickle down effect on the more casual ones.

While their the system Riot has implemented has its flaws, their efforts demonstrate that even the worst gaming communities can change if developers (and players) take the initiative to build a positive community.


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