In the year 2020, the word ‘toxicity’ can be used to describe a ton of different things. People, environments, actions, and more can be hit with that bleak title, and suddenly it’s a beacon to let others know of the festering negativity you can expect from something. The dictionary definition of “toxic“, according to Webster, means poisonous. To someone who doesn’t have a background in video games, then the correlation between toxic and players may be missing. Luckily, Urban Dictionary pretty much has us covered. On their site, they define “toxic” as an adjective used to describe a very negative person that bit#hes about everything, spreads unnecessary hate, or just talks sh#t about others.
When it comes to a game like League, toxic behavior has always been prevalent within its player base for as long as I can remember. When I started my battle for the Rift in 2016, one of the greatest pieces of advice my friend Mirage gave me was to disable /all chat. One day my curiosity got the best of me. Unfortunately, my feeble little mind couldn’t handle the level of flame ignited under me because of my less than satisfactory play. Before I knew it, I was typing back. A visceral response was felt in me to defend myself because the person who flamed me was, by all accounts, doing worse than myself. A grand effort on my part, surely, to explain the logistics of why that team fight didn’t work; to explain what went wrong and how to correct it fell on deaf ears. We ff’d, and I was left with a sour taste in my mouth that left me feeling on edge for my next blind.
So, what happened? Well, for starters, toxicity can derive from two places. The first place comes from a feeling of superiority, while the other comes from a feeling of inferiority like my example from above. Superiority is relatively easy to explain.
If you’re doing well, exceptionally so or otherwise, you may feel the need to have a bit of banter or “trash talk” your opponent. On the other end of the spectrum, you will see toxicity stemming from a feeling of inferiority. If a person is less than happy with how their team or themselves are doing against an enemy team, they’re more likely to insult and belittle their teammates. But how do you deal with it if it’s directed towards you? How do you ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of initiating or responding to flame?
According to an article posted on Boosteria about flaming psychology, the answer is actually quite simple. They state that, logistically, flaming will only lower your team’s morale and make it more likely that you will lose. Instead of flaming them, provide helpful tips and advice. Analyze what went wrong and how to stop it from happening again.
Although it lowers morale, some people would argue that toxicity is now an ingrained part of the game itself. League does not do a good job in the tutorial phase of teaching players how to play well, but the main question is, how could they? The ins and outs of macro play, the ability to auto-reset, to push around objectives, and more can only come from experience. The ability to identify the win condition within the game comes from learning retention. League is as complex as it is toxic, and the best way for new players to learn will be from other players.
Their teammates are responsible for portraying what needs to be learned, which won’t always be a nice way. In an extensive piece covered by Kotaku, they include details of why what makes League toxic also makes it fun. It details that the oppressiveness of League is what creates the best players. Players that are able to take the verbal abuse become tilt-proof.
This unification and this belief that being tilted and getting flamed is just a normal part of the game creates some of League’s community’s best content. It’s seen all the time. Youtube content creators for League make some of their highest views when detailing how they were getting sh#t on by an enemy laner, yet these creators still win the game. It has become a form of clickbait which details to the world that the W against toxic players is so much more satisfying if you allow it to empower you than to let it ruin you. Especially now in this digital era of streaming where stream sniping is now a thing, and creators can make fun of those who stream snipe them and still lose.
However, this doesn’t mean that Riot as a company is okay with toxic behavior within their games. For Riot to be permissive in the act of flaming others, that means that they’re okay with turning away players who aren’t accustomed to the cutthroat nature of League. It would be an inherently lousy game design for Riot to exclude potential players who would enjoy their game and potentially spend money on it in the future. Though toxicity is noted to be more often seen in Ranked games, especially at higher elo, this doesn’t mean that casual players are exempt.
Toxicity in norms is just as much a part of life as getting hooked by a Blitzcrank. As much as you try, it’s going to get you eventually. But that doesn’t mean you can’t filter what’s being preached to you. You can mute players in champ select if they start flaming your picks. Riot has added the ability to mute your teammates and mute the /all chat as well. That way, you won’t get their spam pings or their messages in-game. Though you may be missing vital information about potential enemies or objectives, you also won’t have to listen to constant filth from your 0/11 Yasuo because he didn’t get a gank early. If you’re not really a fan of limiting the information you get or just finding tilt amusing to watch, you’re in luck. Riot, fortunately, has always had the report button, and it just got a revamp in how reporting players work in 2020. They’ve added harsher penalties and are on the lookout for typical toxic behavior now more than ever. In an article published by League Dev Meddler, he explains precisely what Riot is looking for. Players who intentionally die in the game, avoid team fights or objectives, and make it impossible for their team to win are under the most scrutiny here, so they wish to penalize players for bad behavior and reward the good behavior.
Riot also has its Honor system to thank the players for being a little bit better when it comes to holding back their flame. Formally introduced with rewards in 2018, the Honor system encourages players who Riot deems tilt proof by giving them rewards when they reach different honor levels.
Found here: https://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/featured/honor
The Honor system works very simply. At the end of a game, regardless of if you win or lose, you will be granted the ability to honor a teammate. You can honor them if they stayed calm, had great shot-calling, or simply give them a GG <3. However, you also have the option of not honoring anyone at all, but where’s the fun in that? The person with the most honors on your team and the enemy team will get a shoutout at the end of the match too in the player lobby, so it displays the person who deserved the most honors. This can help boost player morale and have them queuing up for their next game feeling all warm and fuzzy.
Even if you’re not a big fan of that warm and fuzzy feeling, you still have the incentive to earn free skins, key fragments, and more with the honor system. So, although it can be considered so “ingrained” in League’s community, it’s probably in you and your accounts best interest to avoid toxicity and be on your best behavior when you’re in Riot’s game.
The toxicity prevalent in the League’s community will be a constant battle for Riot because that player base will never go away. There’s no feasible way to stop them from playing and potentially ruining the game for others, and that’s okay. As players who enjoy the game, it’s up to us to figure out what works best for us. Does that mean having a sharp mind? Does it mean muting that Yasuo? It’s up to you to figure that out. The game is what you make of it, and whether you’re hardstuck in Gold or just someone who plays now and again, you have the comfort of knowing you have options. Toxicity is a part of League, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a part of you. So queue up, ban Yone and remember that the goal of playing League is to have a good time and enjoy the fantastic game Riot has given us. GG.