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 League of Legends : Changing bad player behavior with neuroscience
League of Legends: Changing bad player behavior with neuroscience Exclusive
December 5, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

December 5, 2012 | By Christian Nutt
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    64 comments
More: Social/Online, Design, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



League of Legends has become well known for at least two things: proving the power of the free-to-play model in the West, and a vicious player community.

The former is nothing the company wants to change, but lead producer Travis George knows that the latter is hurting the game's reputation and hemming in its potential to grow.

"Nobody wants to play a game with somebody who's mean," he says.

While he recognizes that "a decent amount" of trash talking is okay, "because that exists in every competitive event, sport, game ever," he also knows it's time to clean up player behavior.

"There's a line, and that line generally is people being mean for the sake of being mean -- telling you what to do, telling you how bad you are. And I think we can actually fix a lot of that," he says.

But how?

"We actually have built a team around this, to address it," George says. "We call it, lovingly, the PB&J Team, which stands for Player Behavior and Justice Team. And there's a lot of really talented folks on that team, including two PhDs. One's a cognitive neuroscientist and one's a behavioral psychologist."

The company is using a mixture of high-level expertise (the academics with the fancy degrees) and its community expertise to figure out how to deliver a better player experience.

"We've actually developed specific trends, and our own set of metrics that we look at for measuring what percentage of times we think that players will encounter a negative experience in a game, and how severe that negative experience is," says George. "And then we have to build things or be responsive or message the community in a particular way to address those things."

"This is going to be a major focus for us," says George.

"One of the things that makes us want to do it most is we think we actually have a really great community," he says. "And sometimes it only takes one person to ruin a game or create a really negative experience for a lot of other people."

The company's "Tribunal", in which offending players get penalized, has gotten a lot of ink, including on Gamasutra. But George and the PB&J team think that's just one half of the answer.

"It's not only Tribunal and removing players," says George. The PB&J Team's goal is also "incentivizing positive behavior, and thinking about why people are upset in those games. So, trying to fix those and address those root problems."

When the team started researching problematic player behavior, says George, it came from a sentiment at Riot of "we don't like players being jerks in games," says George. "We've experienced it all ourselves. But then, we actually sat down and said, 'How do we actually more tangibly understand how bad the impact is, or what the impact is, or understand the problem more?'

"And that's where you've got guys who are PhD researchers who can help develop those models, and we have, actually, those models for how we track and trend what we call 'player behavior,'" George says.

"You can apply really good research and science techniques to almost anything," he says. "The trick is just finding what you want to actually spend the time on, and that's where the sentiment for players comes in as a huge guiding factor to that."

The team decided to put real effort into it when global player sentiment surveys unveiled that player behavior was a "worldwide problem" for League of Legends. "We see it talked about everywhere. And so, those are the type of things that we generally gravitate towards," George says.

"We think it's a great addition to the team, and that team is actually cross-discipline, so it's got the PhD guys, game designers, engineers, production support all working together from a variety of perspectives. You'd be surprised how much the game design intermingles with the PhD research."


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Comments


Joe McGinn
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Riot Games is a great leader in this field, I have a lot of admiration for what they are doing here. Thanks for sharing.

Freek Hoekstra
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agreed, I was waiting for this article ever I first saw the Honor Initiative.

as we have been doing in gameplay for ages now, reward and penalty must both be used to control and shape our customer base, and as usual rewarding good behaviour often works better then penalizing alone, and both in conjucntion work extremely well.

I have noticed a steep drop in the amount of flaming in League of Legends and hope this drop will persist. props to Riot for taking a very sour community and taking a lot of the edge with such elegant measures.

Michael Joseph
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How about when the client detects an abusive line of chat, instead of filtering it or in addition to, have a little MS Clippy style character appear and ask the player if he had a difficult childhood? In other words, make the abusive player concious of how he may be being perceived by others.

The player will know that the other players know he's getting "scolded" by the Clippy thing and that will also limit retaliation perhaps.

anyway, just an idea that falls on the side of education mixed with psychology over just kicks\bans... Treat the adult acting players like adults, treat the child-like ones as children with the promise of better treatment when they graduate to adult style play. Keeping them in the game but in a penalty box allows for refined behavior modification, simply kicking them off after some max threshold of disruptive behavior has been reached does not. Make it part of the game.

For all we know this sort of thing is already patented... lol.

Maria Jayne
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I remember the first time I logged into Warcraft 3 multiplayer 2v2, within the first few seconds my "teammate" said 'leave" being a stubborn bitch I said no of course. I was promptly taken apart by both opponents while he did nothing to assist me. I think the intention was if I dropped from the game before dying he would have gotten a better score or something.

I think stats tend to ruin online games, for all their value at allowing people to see them, they create a nasty mindset of cheating, exploiting and doing whatever it takes to raise them up. I still find it contradictory to have any form of scoring or statistical analysis between players on the same team. How can comparing yourself to your team mates ever work out well for the team? I suppose if your idea of being a team is weeding out the lower scoring players it helps...but that's really not what being part of a "team" is about is it?

It always ends up with the higher scoring player believing they were of more value than their team. At that point all you need is for that higher scoring player to be arrogant and not know/respect the people they are playing with, to form a negative opinion of their team mates. It's only a matter of time before resentment creeps in and they start blaming losses on low scoring team mates and believing in their own score as a measure of their quality.

I never played another match and it's that Warcraft 3 experience that puts me off trying LoL.

Paul Marzagalli
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Maria, that is a great observation. I am not the most versed online player in the world, but from Starcraft through Mass Effect 3 (last online mode I had anything to do with), any time I was personally attacked seemed driven by some negative impact I was having on another player's stats or stat-driven goals. I tend not to play MP mainly because I prefer playing with friends than strangers and sadly I am at an age where getting more than a couple of us together is a Herculean effort! :-D

Oddly enough, I am most curious to see how LoL's troll culture adapts - the ways they adapt like a virus to survive the new medicine! This is an interesting effort, one I didn't know about before today, and I look forward to follow-up stories.

Maria Jayne
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@Paul "Oddly enough, I am most curious to see how LoL's troll culture adapts - the ways they adapt like a virus to survive the new medicine!"

I think this >

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-12-05-riot-permanently-ban
s-league-of-legends-pro-for-persistent-toxic-behaviour

Is more likely the way it will go. No so much adapt as simply become extinct in favor of other games or new free accounts.

Alexis Prayez
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The real issue is, imo, that all stat/ranking systems are based only on the Win/Lose result of a game. You are not rewarded for playing well, you are rewarded for winning. This encourages players to win no matter what.

In games like LoL, HoN, DotA 1/2, you can be the best player ever, if your teammates sucks you'll go down with them (not talking about me, I'm quite bad). And most player will feel they are paying for others mistakes. But evaluating skill is quite impossible...
In DotA 2 you can see, per champion, how well do you play him compared to players of your level, independently of your win/lose ratio. I don't know how the calculations are done but it seems quite random...

Michael Rooney
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@Alexis: I agree totally. I've brought this up on LoL forums before that they should weight your stat gain/loss with how you contribute to your team. People seem to think that it would be impossible to balance with the different roles (AD carry gets lots of kills, support gets none, etc), but tbh you can easily weight any number of actions and it would still help a lot. Weighting assists near as much for kills, for example, and then normalizing the result. It would especially help for people who have an ELO far away from their true ELO high or low.

Michael Rooney
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@Christian Philippe Guay: Halo actually weights good team play a lot heavier than almost every other game (assists are weighted heavily, you get points for saving teammates, etc.). The one exception being free for all, but I don't know why you'd expect good team play to exist in a game mode with no teams.

Jeremie Sinic
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@Michael and Christian:
Indeed, it was about stealing in the first Halo titles, but Halo 4 does a great job at rewarding assists (with medals and points that count towards the total of your team), as well as saving your friends by killing their attackers or distracting enemies that are then killed by your teammates, or even simply being the driver of a vehicule while passengers kill enemies.
I didn't play Battlefield 3 but I heard they have a pretty good similar system which Halo 4 may have been inspired by.

David Lowe
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Personally, I'd like to see repercussions for "poor sportsmanship"/bad behavior hit the player right were it counts, either demoting stats (an obvious demotion), up to and including limiting online performance during the game the infraction occurred in (aiming becomes more difficult, or moves slower, or gun jams more, etc.). At some point, a negative player's financial contribution to the online world matters less than the bad vibes they're also sending out.

Paul Marzagalli
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They would have to have significant checks and balances in place, as I have also seen instances of people unfairly reporting a player/trashing his status for no good reason. That being said, I would love to hear more from others who have discussed or tried this idea before.

Maria Jayne
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The problem with "poor sportsmanship" is that it is subjective.

For example vote kicking, I remember having a truly fantastic game as a sniper in the original Call of Duty Modern Warfare, I was dropping enemies all over the map. I remember it because it's the only time I ever had a good match with a sniper rifle. I was picking guys off as they ran across the road in front of me.

It so happens after I dropped one of these players they initiated a vote kick on me, accused me of spawn camping. I wasn't, I couldn't even see where they spawned but that didn't stop the majority of players seeing that accusation and choosing to kick me anyway.

Justice doesn't work when evidence is based on perception, it just becomes another tool to be an asshole.

David Lowe
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@Paul, yes, my suggestion is something that would only work when actually planned into the system, or a LOT of time is spent thinking through all of the edge cases to ensure fairness.

@Maria, it would be up to the company who owns the game, and the servers, etc., to decide what is considered an offense or not. Again, with proper safeguards in place, a complaint can be lodged, and corporate simply either views the game in-progress (for highly visible tournaments) or views a replay of the game. Only then could decisions be made as to whether there was an offense. Players who continually falsely accuse better players of cheating would eventually get a bad rep, and no one will play with them.

Simon Ludgate
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"While he recognizes that "a decent amount" of trash talking is okay" - I disagree.

Maybe I live in some ivory tower of gaming nirvana, but I don't see any need for nor have any desire to be exposed to any trash talking at all.

I think one of the big problems is that people can't explicitly specify the level of behavior they're comfortable with when playing League of Legends. There's no slider in the options that lets you pick between "no trash talk, some trash talk, lots of trash talk". People can chose to be matched with like-minded players.

When players in the "no trash" bracket get reported for trash talk, they are automatically relegated down to "some" if they accumulate fifteen votes. They can survive in the "some" bracket and it'll give them something to think about if that many people are complaining about their behavior. If the tribunal process clears them, they can go back up to the "no" bracket, but otherwise they're stuck in "some"...

Getting out of the "some" bracket? Well, it's a social problem, so maybe there should be a social remedy. The player is required to write an apology letter that's sent to every player that complained about their behavior. If the majority forgive, they're back up in the no trash talk, otherwise they're stuck waiting on an appeal from Riot's PB&J team.

Same process can bump someone from the "some" bracket down to the "lots" bracket.

The point is that if you want to effectively shape social behavior you have to use social interventions: you have to force players to take social actions, like choosing a social tier or making social gestures like writing apology letters. Having to write an apology is actually quite powerful. Especially if the in-game letter-writing interface prevents any kind of copy/pasting of text, so each letter has to be painfully hammered out.

In regards to the abuses of the system, if the tribunal finds "not guilty" against people you accused, or you too frequently make accusations against people who have no other accusations, you could be suspended from making accusations for a period of time. Simple.

Paul Marzagalli
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I am not sure it is *that* simple, but you've echoed an idea that I have heard for years and agree with: of offering more options that allow folks to game with like-minded people. Allowing for that will probably go a long way to curbing the problem and, more importantly, make the matter one that is primarily self-policed in the community, minimizing the amount of resources that a dev has to spend on oversight.

I really like the idea and am surprised that no one has tried implementing it yet.

Michael Rooney
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Xbox live has a setting for this in it's matchmaking. You select your outlook on games sort of, and it's supposed to incorporate into matchmaking somehow. Not sure how, but I know the option is there.

Anyway, I think what he means by "a decent amount of trash talking" is more like playful banter than disrespect. I agree any legitimate disrespect is always bad, but playful banter makes the game better imo.

Adam Bishop
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"Maybe I live in some ivory tower of gaming nirvana, but I don't see any need for nor have any desire to be exposed to any trash talking at all."

I play in a rec basketball league, and there's not a lot of trash talking. Things occasionally get a bit heated if players on one team or another are acting like jerks, but most people recognise that we're all there to have a fun time and it's more fun for everyone if you show good sportsmanship.

I'm fine with some trash talking as long as it's good natured joking around, but I have better things to do with my time than listen to people brag about how much cooler they think they are.

Curtiss Murphy
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@Simon - There is no need for a system like that. Riot doesn't want abusive behavior - so that's what they ban. The Code states what you can and can't be punished for and Riot is quite clever.

Example? Players cannot be punished for 'poor skills', but the system let's you report players for exactly that. This gives an escape valve for people to vent frustration, and let's Riot collect data, but has no actual impact. You can never be banned for poor skills - and eventually, the system will lower your hidden-ELO until you are playing equally bad players.

That's why they brought in the big guns ... Smart.

Sigurd Bernhardsen
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In my experience (specifically in League of Legends) people use punishments as weapons during games. The word "reported" carries no weight, because everyone is reporting everyone for everything. The same applies to other online games I've played, and it always seems like punishments end up feeding the trolls with more systems to abuse.

The one thing that seems to have worked very well so far was the "honoring" system. People generally seemed to act better for a while, hoping for an "Honorable Opponent" or "Teamwork" commendation. This has slowly turned into people acting like they want for the match, then saying "honor for all" at the end, hoping for reciprocation. Still, I feel like there are now more friendly players around (if not less abusive players). I'd suggest taking this further, maybe by reducing the base IP gain, and increasing it based on how many commendations a player gets (1 commendation = 1% more IP, up to a max of 200%). Then there would have to be upkeep, to make sure players continue behaving well.

As is clear, I'm supporting the carrot rather than the stick -- but I really believe this is the best way to reward friendly players. Let the stick be watching the friendly players rack up more IP.

Matthew Williamson
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Great article.

Repercussions are fine for unsportsmanlike behavior, but I'm glad Riot is taking other steps to stem the communities behavior.

The honor system, for example, was very successful in its first few weeks. The community improved and there was a significant drop in cursing, etc. you actually had friendly matches! There were almost no angry players in games, people weren't cursing at other players and offering advice, and negative attitudes were kept in check. The problem was these players were being positive in hopes for a reward from the honor system. Once the rewards were known and considered trivial, most players reverted to their old habits. Had there been better rewards, such as skin points which could be collected through honor to purchase skins for champions, the behavior may have continued.

That being said, there are many games negative that are due to champion select. I.e when multiple players fight over the same position, do not agree with the team composition, believe you're going to lose from the outset, etc. These negative attitudes flow right into the first few minutes of the game and if anything goes bad, the bad language starts flowing. These problems are caused by the role players want to play. The fighting over top lane, middle lane, ADC, jungle and the majority of players not wanting to support. A possible fix to this would be enabling players to toggle their preferred lane(s) and matching a team in solo queue together that way. This also would provide an incentive to learn support, as your queues would be much shorter.

Ultimately this attitude problem is not unique to League of Legends. It extends to all MOBAs.

Mitchell Fujino
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I don't think I agree that most players reverted to old habits. I'd have to see actual numbers on that. (My anecdotal experience differs.)

The positive effect is completely from drawing attention to the desired behaviour. People tend to optimize anything that's measured. (Reddit Karma is a good example of people caring about worthless points.)
The points don't matter, and if they did, it would simply encourage exploiting.

I agree with your points on champion/position preference. Locking In should be removed in public queues, and maybe even add a time extension button, to give time to talk about conflicted positions. (Also, fix the bug about people connecting late and not seeing people calling a particular position in chat.)
I wish there was also a toggle for "This is my first time with this Champion, so give me an easier matchup", but that could be easily abused. This effect encourages me avoid buying new champions. (Similarly, it's hard to train without bothering other players. Introverts get a crappy deal with this game.)

I think a large part of the problem comes from players not being taught how to play the game. League of Legends is a game where you literally cannot learn how to play from within the game itself.
There are also no skill gates, thus you can easily be matched at level 30 with a player that doesn't know what "pushing a lane" is, or that last hitting gives gold. Most of the raging I see is when the bulk of the team disagrees with a particular teammate's mental model of how the game works.

Felix Adam
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Selecting a role before queuing would be problematic. People could pick support for faster queue and claim another role. This also prevent some experimentation (2 tops, roamers etc). You can't have the role selection lock champions either because again this prevents experimentation (Was once destroyed by a 'support' Corki :( )...

It pretty much comes back to the problem WoW had with tanks and healers when the dungeon finder was added.

Michael Rooney
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@"Once the rewards were known and considered trivial, most players reverted to their old habits."

Disagree totally. I'd say there's still a high percent chance of having any assholes in your game, but the overall number of assholes is much much lower in my experience.

@Felix: I agree about the role thing.

One thing I would like is being able to select where you show up in the picking order. I would much prefer to pick last always. I totally hate picking first.

Matthew Williamson
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I agree with you Mitchell about the learning curve. New players are thrown into the fire and have to stomach it. MOBAs have a high learning curve and the players are not friendly towards inexperience. That's the genre mentality.

However, even in ranked where you're matched with "equally" skilled players you get people playing new roles and suddenly they're noobs. My hope is to have players select multiple roles they are comfortable and willing to play, not just one specific role. My experience is mainly with ranked, and I think most people playing ranked are willing to wait 3-4 mins longer to get a role they are comfortable with. When you're in a position you haven't played, you feel like you're rolling the dice for a win.

Often frustration stems just from the fact a player calls when he's last pick and the first pick is going to select that position. Why not bring this communication to the queue in a neutral manner. Display each summoners choice below their name once champion select starts. Keeping each players choice very visible to all the other summoners on your team would keep the communication for positions neutral. You already know what the guy above you is going to pick, so you can work with him. You can also see what your team has below you. If only one person selects support, well they will be expected to fill that support function.

Obviously you can't limit champion select because there are some players who support very well with oddball heroes. 4not Zekent is a great example of a pro player that plays oddball supports.

The most problematic queue should probably be fixed first and rather than focusing on all queues at once. I'm sure the difference in verbal taunts, etc. between Custom ARAM's and ranked games is quite extreme.

Michael Rooney
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@Matthew: Displaying user preferences wouldn't be that bad. Having something like a quick summary for players in the pre-game screen would be good. Once you start matching people based on team comp though you start reinforcing the meta and reducing creativity.

Some cheese strategies can work very well (5 teleport, single target burst, aoe comp, etc). Teams that can realize an oppotunity for it and coordinate to pull it off should be encouraged; not discouraged by forcing the standard AD-Carry/Support/SoloMid/SoloTop/Jungler meta.

Dom Kovell
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"League of Legends has become well known for at least two things: proving the power of the free-to-play model in the West, and a vicious player community. "

The former has been proven with soaring sales, record-breaking log-ins, and record-breaking views of LoL tourneys. The latter, on the other hand, is never proven and is never provided with evidence beyond personal anecdotes.

I do not understand why the LoL community is supposed to be somehow worse than other online communities. This article's characterization of the community as "vicious" would lead readers to believe that other online communities are somehow better. Rather, the article is citing a long-held belief that many LoL players recite on the forums.

What is not properly grasped here is that the sheer volume of these complaints is likely a result from the high amount of players. Last time I checked, LoL has surpassed WoW in player profiles. What is often overlooked is that the number of complaints is most likely an acceptable percentage of total player experiences. The Tribunal has been active long enough that by now, it has created an even more positive experience than other games without a similar troll-hunting system.

The phenomenon I described above is largely "negative bias". Riot's own Lyte, who is referenced in your article as one of the PhDs, has posted many times on the forums about the importance of understanding negative bias, and the implication is to trust hard logic and real numbers and metrics instead.

Here are some facts that I'm going to combat the "vicious" comment with. The Tribunal's judges are the community; thus, LoL's "viciousness" is only as bad as the community allows it to be. Riot has reported that only an extremely low amount of players actually end up in the Tribunal, and most of those players end up in the Tribunal only once, having learned their lesson. The amount of false positives is above par with medical mistakes that lead to deaths in hospitals. The Tribunal works, and these facts would lead me to believe that the LoL community is therefore BETTER than other communities.

Blaming the "vicious" community is akin to blaming a city for a terrible incident.

I just read an article where a tabloid photographer took a picture of a man about to be hit by a subway train, rather than help the man. The man died. Terrible as the incident was, I'm not going to judge the whole community of New York by the story. Rather, I look into psychology 101 and learn about how crowds of people diffuse responsibility, and thus crowds often (sadly) neglect to provide aid.

In a similar fashion, the mob mentality allows for anonymous actions. The internet is a wonderful and interesting place, but it's a high-tech mob. With the power to ruin someone's day and avoid the consequences, trolling is going to happen. This is known, and Penny Arcade's long-celebrated Dickwad Theory lends it truth.

Riot is attempting to curb, not cure, the negative side effects of online anonymity. However, I feel that reinforcing the stereotype that LoL's community is somehow worse, hurts these efforts.

Ian Morrison
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There's a certainly a problem there unique to LoL (and similar games, I've anecdotally heard that LoL is better than HoN or DotA). I stopped playing the game precisely because the community felt more hostile to me than any other game I've played. I don't think it's fair to say the stigma is unearned or somehow a fiction within that community.

I don't mean to say that the individuals who comprise the community are any better or worse than your typical gamers (I have no data for that), but the basic setup of the game both encourages problematic behaviour AND increases the impact it has on the experience of other people.

Consider some aspects of a league of legends match:
* It's long, typically in the 30-60 minute range
* Leaving mid match cripples your team. This means that a single person leaving can ruin a team's chances for a match, and many players who would otherwise just leave an unpleasant game refuse to do so because of the stigma involved in doing so.
* You are highly dependent on the play of others. You're relying on the rest of your team knowing their job to see any success for yourself.
* LoL game flow is built around the idea of snowballing. Consequentially, every failure on one player's part strengthens the opposing team and hurts his teammates.

This whole combination of factors results in a game where a single player who is unskilled, having a bad day, or is just unlucky will actively sabotage the efforts of their teammates. This is understandably frustrating and demoralizing for everyone involved, especially someone loses their temper and starts being a jerk as a result. It also means that someone who wants to troll your team can not only cause a lot of damage, but basically has a captive audience for the next 20 minutes or more unless the affected players are willing to have quitting the match on their record. The same elements that make MOBA games compelling are also what generate their hostile, unforgiving communities.

From what I can see, the measures that Riot takes are basically just an attempt at counteracting the unavoidable negative consequences of their game's genre and game mechanics.

Robert Alvord
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You can disagree, but in my 30+ years of gaming, I've never seen a worse community for "visiousness."

It doesn't matter if you do well in a game and help your team...what happens, often, is that someone doesn't agree with your champion pick for whatever reason and harps all over you for it, and then reports you for throwing the game, despite how well you did and even if you were the best on the team across the board, statistically speaking. If Riot truly cared about stats, they could see that clearly in a lot of cases.

I've even seen people throw a game because of your champion or spell picks to "prove" that you caused them to lose.

That said, Riot decided to put the fate of everyone in the hands of the players, who are often not objective enough or mature enough to make proper judgments. The fact that LOL has cultivated such a community (and yes I played since closed beta for a few years) and it hasn't gotten better states what I would consider to be obvious. Their system and their approach to gamer feedback needs a lot of work.

TC Weidner
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you dont need fancy degrees and teams to study this, the way to fix it is very easy. Make people have to use their real names. There problem solved. Now wasnt that easy.

Matthew Williamson
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TC, I'm not sure that would solve too much. Take my name for example. There are thousands of Matt Williamsons in the US and the world. Using my real name would not help solve this problem.

TC Weidner
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people dont think like that, plus via a person's communication, you can easily narrow down a person, especially via facebook/google search etc. very quickly. I mean I could do some searching and accurate pin you to a real person, address, etc etc. ( of course I wont out of respect for your privacy)

Using real names makes this forum very civil, so I respectfully disagree that it wouldnt have the same effect elsewhere

James Wright
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I thought this was facetious allusion to the 2010 blizzard real id debacle. Apparently not.

Michael Joseph
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Play video games and your health insurance premiums go up because you fit a certain high risk profile.

Play video games and company X doesn't hire you because you fit a certain profile of undesireable employees.

People using their real names here are at risk too for being too opinionated or loose lipped to employ.

In screwed up societies, individuals need their anonymity lest they be judged by accountants, risk assessors, the close minded, fascists, etc.

p.s. It's a bit backwards to say that people use their real names here and THAT is why they are civil. People are civil here because it's mostly a sight for insiders. And on these sorts of forums, real names matter - they can add weight or lend credibility to your argument. Professional forums all around the world are extremely civil compared to popular entertainment forums. Real names don't matter when you're playing a game.

Kenneth Blaney
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Which is why people are never jerks in real life?

Sorry to say, but "fancy degrees" tend to come with fancy skills that actually DO solve real world problems on a nigh constant basis.

TC Weidner
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people are no where near the jerks in real life as they are in forums and games. Not even close, and thats the point.

Go on a subway and say the crap that people say in a game and forum? they wouldnt dare, why? because there isnt anonymity and there is real recourse.

Again making my point, hiding behind fake names with no recourse allows for jerks to be jerks. Its not rocket science.

E Whiting
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This isn't feasible for a Free-to-Play game. Not to mention that this is a huge invasion of privacy that opens up a huge can of worms about stalking and violence in the real world. And would likely not resolve the problem. It would temporarily ameliorate it, but it's unlikely that a 9-10 year old is going to have the future time orientation to care that someone he insults on the internet will know his name.

Bjorn Hubert-Wallander
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I support Riot's efforts to improve the community and player behavior in League of Legends, but they way they're talking to the community/press, using words like neuroscience, about it really bothers me. I've been watching Riot's communication with the community and the public about their player behavior initiatives over the past year or so and I think I have a good handle on what they're doing. Let's talk about three related, but very different, fields of science.

Cognitive science/cognitive psychology/social psychology: These fields are concerned with studying human behavior and thought. How people act around others compared to when they're alone, how people solve word problems, how people respond to different types of feedback (e.g., reward vs. punishment). The vast majority of what Riot appears to be doing with player behavior is informed by these fields. They don't care about neurons or biology or the brain; they care about *behavior*. And rightfully so, since that's what actually matters to them.

Cognitive neuroscience: This relatively new field is concerned with studying how human behavior and thought is supported by the brain. For example, what parts of the brain appear to be involved when people are solving word problems, or math problems. People in this field might be interested in learning something about human behavior, but more important to them is learning about how behavior/thought is *linked to biology and the brain*. This is less relevant to Riot's work, since you certainly don't need to know anything about whether or not the left intraparietal sulcus (for example) is involved in self-control to improve self-control in people who play your game.

Neuroscience: This field is not related to Riot's work. Neuroscience is concerned with the biology and physiology and function of the nervous system. Not necessarily the human nervous system, and not even necessarily the brain. Neuroscientists study, among other things, how single neurons or small systems of neurons transmit information to other neurons, how certain neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine) affect neural function, or how small hair cells in the ear turn sound waves into neural signals. This field is entirely concerned with biology and hardcore information processing and not at all concerned with human social behavior. Again, from what I can tell about their new player behavior initiatives over the past year or so, this field does not inform Riot's work directly, and perhaps not even indirectly.

So now that we know these things, hopefully we can see how when Riot or the press use words like neuroscience to describe what they're doing, they're being irresponsible. I get that neuroscience is a very flashy, attractive word these days, but it's simply not true that it's involved in Riot's work. Unless they're keeping some big neuroscientific project or information from us, which is theoretically possible. What Riot is doing appears to be strongly informed by social psychology and cognitive psychology (which is great!), but it does *not* appear to be particularly informed by neuroscience.

And so at best Riot (or its public-facing people) is being lazy or ignorant about how their portray their work. And at worst, they're just being dishonest. I certainly expect that it's the former. Either way, I wish they would stop and be a little more responsible with their considerable public visibility.

Russ Menapace
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Once evil players are identified, why not invisibly nerf their stats, so they become feeder fish for the other players? That way the evil players are provided plenty of opportunity to be angry, and the other players can take great joy in smiting them.

One of the great joys of online gaming is smiting a trash talker.

Ian Morrison
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Have you ever played a MOBA? That'd be more a punishment for their teammates than for them... a "feeder" player--whose continual contributions to the enemy team's gold and XP cause a snowball effect that leaves their team struggling to catch up--is a large aspect of what drives a lot of the bile in LoL in the first place!

Robert Alvord
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There are those who get on to screw the game from the start. They die purposefully to "feed" the enemy team, such that the other team gains gold and in-game experience faster. The way the game is designed is one of the biggest reasons this discussion even started. It promotes bad behavior for those who will exhibit it. For those that state that Riot has a code, I know they do, but it is little adhered to.

Keith Burgun
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Compare the communities of Counter Strike with TF2. Same company made both games, they're the same genre. One community is constantly yelling racial slurs at you (CS), and one community is generally nice, works together and has a large female population (TF2).

The difference is that TF2 was designed to appeal to someone other than adolescent males. LOL is only designed to appeal to adolescent males, so you shouldn't be surprised to see most of the community being jerks.

Christian Nutt
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Can't like button this comment enough times

Ardney Carter
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I don't play LoL as I prefer HoN in aesthetic and mechanics, so I don't have any particular attachment to Riot. That being said, do you have anything to back up your claim that "LOL is only designed to appeal to adolescent males"? Because I can't possibly imagine that being the case and haven't seen or read anything about it that supports that conclusion.

Mitchell Fujino
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@Ardney: Not necessarily designed for it, but the end result reported in their public stats is that League of Legends players skew significantly below average age for video game players, and overwhelmingly male. ("adolescent" is an exaggeration, though)

Source: http://na.leagueoflegends.com/news/league-legends-community-infog
raphic

Moving into more opinion territory, LoL gets some flack for their depiction of fantasy women, and combining that with the highly competitive nature of the game, there are easy hypotheses to make about how the demographic came to be that way.

Ardney Carter
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The demographic a product attracts does not always correlate to who it is DESIGNED for. The original Starcraft exploded in South Korea but you'd be hard pressed to say that Blizzard designed it for Koreans.

I'm not arguing with what the demographics are nor was I taking issue with the implication that a majority of the poor behavior comes from adolescent males. But I do feel it does the developers a disservice to make the claim that they designed their game to attract exclusively adolescent males when there's no evidence to back up that claim.

Mitchell Fujino
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I agree if we replace "designed for" with "intended for".

The demographic shows who the game is currently catering to (designed for), regardless of the designer's original intentions.

Perhaps they actually exclusively wanted 60 yr old women to play it, but if so, it turns out their design doesn't match their intentions. ;)

Michael DeFazio
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Having played neither, but knowing folks who are avid players of both,(one friend who has played CS religiously for years, and another who plays TF2) I might disagree with:

TF2 was designed to appeal to someone other than adolescent males
CounterStrike was designed to appeal to adolescent males

Admit I'm no expert, but you are saying that a gritty realistic shooter is "designed" to appeal to adolescent males?

And a silly tongue in cheek cartoonish-looking graphics game is "designed" to appeal to
adolescent males?

I can't speak to the quality of the community, but i'd imagine my friends (late 30's) who continue to play these games might take umbrage to a person saying that they play a game designed "for childish people"

Ardney Carter
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@Mitchell

Well I suppose we simply missed each other's meaning due to semantics. As far as I'm concerned design and intent are synonymous. If you are designing with a specific goal in mind the end results, at best, simply show how well (or poorly) you executed your design, they don't retroactively change the design/intent itself. Sometimes not even that as it's entirely possible for designs to have unintended consequences (see my Starcraft example).

From that perspective, I found Keith's remarks to be somewhat unfair to the developers at Riot. While it's perfectly possible (and acceptable) to design for a specific niche (which, incidentally, I feel they have done) I don't for a minute think that the LoL devs were trying to hit the adolescent male demographic exclusively. Hence my initial request for some corroboration.

Curtiss Murphy
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From the stats: 32 Million players per month; 90% Male; 85% between 16 and 30; 60% have completed some college. Target audience is clear: young-males who are at least slightly educated.

Mitchell Fujino
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@Ardney:
Yeah, it's definitely semantics. I'm thinking of "design" as a noun.. no matter how you intended to design it, the design is the actual thing you end up with at the end.

In this case, they ended up with young males as their market. If that wasn't their original intention, then they failed in retargeting their design after initial release. Since they've had ample time to redesign the game by now, I think it's fair to say they're at least somewhat okay with the current makeup of their audience.

Note I'm not adding any judgements about it, and Keith was definitely exaggerating when he said "only" and "adolescent".

Alan Youngblood
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As a LoL player I have felt the problem is often my own teammates insulting me and the rest of the team. It feels like a result of the "troll" being too competitive and not accepting a random mix of teammates.

If we go on Bartle's 4 player types, the killer/griefer is actually a valid player-type, yet unlike the others they actively make the other 3 have a worse experience. So it becomes a question of who is more valuable to you as an audience, and if you choose the achievers, socializers and explorers over the killers you've likely chosen the most critically acclaimed and lucrative, perhaps also most fulfilling as a developer.

For other developers I highly suggest what MechWarrrior Online has done: higher barriers to entry, skill over anything else (you have to perform well in game as well as cooperate to survive), niche marketing. If you don't attract "everyone or anyone" you don't run into the problems of having an overwhelming amount of griefer jerks playing your game.

Or take Journey for a good online gaming experience by design. It is impossible (or more difficult than is worth) to grief someone on that game. So what to players do? Help each other. Share experiences.

For LoL and those that already have big audiences this is certainly worth fighting for, although I think fighting in this case would be best served by doing "nothing" to griefers. That is, find ways to actively ignore them and effectively downvote them out of relevance (similar to reddit?). From a psychological standpoint the best way to stop this type of behavior is to starve them of the attention and effects they are seeking. LoL already has an ignore player/blacklist that I use as a player, but that may not be enough. Riot may need to encourage and teach the community to use it and have a system on the backend that counts blacklisting and at a certain point makes it harder for the offending player to be matched up with other players.

Jeremie Sinic
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"As a LoL player I have felt the problem is often my own teammates insulting me and the rest of the team. It feels like a result of the "troll" being too competitive and not accepting a random mix of teammates."

I think this totally makes sense. When you play to win (which is alright) rather than just for fun, having a "noob" in your team can be frustrating and although it does not mean people should be rude, it is obviously the main reason why people who are good at a game act like jerks.
This is the reason why in Halo 4 I mostly play "Big Team Battle" (8vs8), whereas competitive players or people playing with friends might prefer modes like Team Slayer (4vs4) or Slayer PRO.

Justin Sawchuk
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Well I havent played LOL but dont they have some kind of ranking system so you arent stuck with noobs. I think once you really get into the competitive side of the game of course you are going to be furious if your teammate sucks which can really ruin a game.

Mitchell Fujino
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Yeah, they have comprehensive matchmaking. It doesn't solve many of the issues, however.

E.g.:
- There are many roles to play, so your skill level in each role can be different.
- There are many characters; your skill in each character can be different.
- There's a huge difference between being knowledgeable but unskilled at the game, and being ignorant to the strategies but mechanically better. Matchmaking can't tell the difference, but put the two on the same team and they'll hate each other.


There really needs to be some knowledge/skill gates in the game.

Alex Covic
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Being mean on the Internet reveals insecurity in real life.

"Fix the problem" or are you just filtering the symptom (out of your game)?

There's your real "project".

Mitchell Fujino
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I would argue that their latest experiments haven't increased bannings, yet have increased player satisfaction with the environment. So yes, they're attempting to fix the problem.

Hypothesis being, these problem players are rehabilitatable, but need to be shown what acceptable behaviour is.

They've never had reinforcement of any kind previously (reporting a player is secret), so the new Honor system is really just adding positive reinforcement to the game.

Matt Cratty
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The basic rule of thumb is this:

If a player is a **** once, he will be so again.

In 15 years of playing community-based games online, I've never seen that rule violated.

Mitchell Fujino
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I would suggest trying more quantitative research.
Over 50% of punished offenders in League of Legends never reoffend.

Source: http://na.leagueoflegends.com/news/tribunal-records-16-million-vo
tes

Michael Wenk
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So.. You have the tribunal and ban the player, and what does that really do? If the player likes LoL enough than that player will just register again. I bet the bad player looks at it as a cost of doing business for getting the "fun" that player wants.

Riot benefits somewhat because that player is forced to spend more money. But the community doesn't really benefit because the player in question isn't really removed.

The other things that they can ban by (CC, Name, IP Addr) are all relatively easy to work around.

So should they stop? No. It obviously works to a degree, and more importantly it makes the players feel like they are doing something, even if the doing something ends up being that the player has spun their wheels.

What does worry me is that Riot is starting to cement itself in a particular method or ideology. I would think more agility would be better in this sort of thing.

After all, the problem is really unsolvable because the problem's root cause is human nature. Unless you seriously think a person should be incarcerated for griefing in an online GAME, there's no way around this. And even then, the problem would just be mitigated, not entirely eliminated.

Curtiss Murphy
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Banning an account prevents players from using champions, skins, runes, and levels they have acquired. Assuming it takes 1-3 months to reach level 30, there are MUCH easier ways to call someone a jerk-wad-dork-face-sucky-player than spamming new accounts.

BTW - My son's friend got banned for quitting early - after just 2 games. The punishments are clearly tied to level and severity.

Robert Alvord
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Banning accounts doesn't actually work. Either because they were like this all along or because they were angry over being banned, etc....banned players will make new accounts over and over again to frustrate the community that serves to frustrate them or give them an outlet. I've seen it happen since closed beta and you can tell who's playing by their online "lingo," play style and the fact that they admit to making new accounts. They don't care.

Curtiss Murphy
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Kudos to Riot! Their business model is already changing the industry, but this takes the cake! I can't wait to see some of the publications.

Robert Alvord
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I'll state what I've already stated to Riot countless times, before I finally gave up on playing their game. The game is designed to promote bad behavior, as someone who wants to do poorly to hurt their team can do so without provocation. I played since closed beta for a couple of years, but the community that developed is one of incessant cyber bullying. Many of those who would not act that way eventually end up doing so out of frustration of constantly being bullied and harassed.

Riot has been going about this the wrong way the whole time, by trying to punish those who are doing poorly to hurt their team or troll, and using the player community to do it, which propagates the problem. Rewarding good behavior is a classic and proven method of dealing with situations like this, as exemplified by parents and bosses. Instead, there isn't enough punishment in the world for a player who wants to be difficult. Simply reward the good behavior to help players rise out of the "muck," and place those folks into a different pool of players that never have to face the others.


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