As games evolve and bring us different genres, the communities that surround them tend to evolve as well and bring new forms. League of Legends is arguably one of the best MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games out there, but certainly the most popular one today. That’s why it’s fitting for the first of a possible trending series – Neighborhood Watch – where we take a look at a different gaming community. This week we take a glimpse at League of Legends and try and figure out why one of the best games of its kind has one of the worst communities in gaming history.
With much exaggeration, this writer will claim that League of Legends has one of the most vile, hate-filled communities in a video game to date. It’s not that difficult to prove either – just join a game with random players and do something they don’t like. Many a time players will join a match and instantly be egged on by their own teammates just for playing a character the community considers weak. Opponents spend the entire game harassing you – calling you a noob for making a costly mistake, making several comments about your mother better left unsaid – or raging at your ability to positively hamper their game. Why is that? Well, let’s start by taking a look at the game as a whole.
League of Legends has a simple goal – destroy the other team’s nexus before they can destroy yours. In your way are several turrets, relentless hordes of minions, and (obviously) the enemy team. There are dozens of champions to choose from, but you can only have five on your team – three if you’re playing on a different map. There are three lanes to “push” with five people to clear, which optimally means two to a lane with one lane occupied by a single player. Seems simple enough, right?
This is where the trouble really starts. The entry level is pretty low, but the learning curve can get pretty steep. There are several items you can purchase to enhance your character’s abilities in lanes – and you level up as you play a match, causing you to make decisions about what direction to build your character. Also, different characters work better in some areas rather than others. Some are really effective in the early game, but fall off towards the end. Some are really mediocre unless partnered up correctly – or unless their opponent is poorly matched against them. There are tons of micro-decisions that affect the game… some of which happen before you even start the match.
League of Legends is full of a lot of people with a lot of different play-styles. This means a game with a wide variety of entertainment, but it also means a game with a wide variety in decision making skills. The mechanics of LoL are fairly simple to grasp – some aspects a bit more complicated than others – but by and large the strength of the competitive play comes from having good decision making skills. Having a teammate with a poor grasp on decision making could mean an easy victory for their team. What a lot of players have a difficult time understanding is that a different approach to how you make decisions does not necessarily mean a bad approach. Teammates are quick to judge you on this quality immediately – and sometimes that means giving up on you before the game even started.
A match in League of Legends can last anywhere from 20 minutes to a full hour if you’re doing well. That’s a big time investment for a lot of people, and after being burned enough, players can spot “problem areas” in other teammates. Quite a lot of people don’t want to waste their time playing a losing match. However, nine times out of ten it seems like they never heard of the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” (which totally isn’t true, flies freaking love vinegar) and they’ll resort to insults and derision. Don’t forget – if your opponent’s catch you in a mistake, they may call you out on it as well. If your allies are willing to say nasty things about you, just wait until your enemies have a word to say.
So how can you fix a problem like that? Well, the established meta-game is both a wondrous and terrible solution for this. By having a set of decisions already made for you before the game even starts, this gives others a guideline for your ability to make a good choice. The problem here is that if you stray from the meta, even in the slightest, it can be a quick judge on your character. You don’t have to do much either – purchase an item slightly out of build, forsake a summoner spell in favor of one you like – and your allies will start to get offensive. Sticking to the meta is a good almost solution as long as you are not only willing to stick to it, but know enough about it to fill any blank your team needs.
If you want to go outside the meta-game, make sure you communicate that to your team during champion selection. Most players will respond to your decisions – some less positively than others – but it should be fine if you can stick to your convictions. You may have to prove yourself early in the game in order to win favor, but from personal experience most players will be content with the fact that you spoke up in the beginning.
The best solution, though, is to find friends to play with. League of Legends is free to play so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince a group of friends to start up with you. If you are having trouble finding a group of friends to play with, strangers on the internet have the potential to be pretty awesome. Befriend a teammate who played as a good sport, even if they didn’t do the greatest. The most important thing is just finding a group of people that you can reliably play with and communicate honestly. Afterall, it is a team game. Having a group of people that you know the playstyles of back and forth – with a team composition that works for you – is a valuable thing a lot of players take for granted.
If I’ve made it seem like this happens every single game, don’t fret. It doesn’t. It happens - more often than it should – but by and large people are generally decent people. You won’t have to actively prevent people from raging at you and virtually hockey punching you every single game. When it does happen – and it will – just give a sigh of disappointment and try your best to remedy the situation. As a last resort, you can always put them on ignore, although that means you lose that potential for communication. In a game where team communication can greatly assist you, this could be a cripple, but if all they want to talk about is the various things they’ve done to your mother, it probably isn’t assisting you that much, is it?