A guy like you should wear a warning: The root of Toxicity in League of Legends

League’s question mark ping, picture credits to altchar.com

After writing several draft posts for my last blog, I have decided I might as well write it on League of Legends. This is the grave I have dug for myself, the hill I have chosen to die on, and I will take it in stride. With every new year, so too does a new season of League of Legends commence with major changes to the meta to keep the game dynamic. We’re currently in pre-season 13 and not only is the gameplay awful, Riot Games has decided it does not want League to be toxic anymore. An updated ping system to improve communication, chat-bans on “bad” words and action-based pop-ups. What could possibly go wrong?

The old state of the art

There is no force more unstoppable than a League player who is incredibly pissed off at a teammate and wants to make it known. Combine that with the League playerbase consisting of mostly-male mostly-straight either-white-or-korean and you get a creative scheme of toxicity that includes threats, slurs and the friendships we’ve made along the way. Typically, players will express their malcontent through the in-game chat and verbally express just how much they dislike you. However, after a certain amount of n-words and threats, you will get banned from the game. Players can also opt to run it down’,int, or grief, which are all different methods of playing terribly on purpose to make the enemy stronger and your team weaker, just because you want to make your allies’ day worse. This can be detected by Riot, and can get you banned. Without risking their own account or losing the game, players will then use the question-mark ping, traditionally used when an enemy’s location is unknown, to question-mark your bad plays. Spam-pinging someone is not only incredibly annoying due to the pop-up, it also expresses how impressed you are by their incredible gameplay, now with none of the slurs!

The new and improved toxicity

Riot has decided that the root of toxicity has to be that players cannot properly communicate in-game. It does not have a voice-chat like their game Valorant, and typing in chat the whole time keeps your hands off your attack-keys and mouse so you can’t play. Riot has now introduced a chat-ban, where players immediately get banned from using the game’s chat when they use a word that Riot has flagged as bad (such as slurs and sexual terms.) Not to worry, because the new bait ping is a hook… presumably tied to a rope… 

The new bait ping, picture credits to dexerto.com

Can’t call someone a slur and tell them what they should do with a rope and a stool? Riot games has got your back, now you have a fast and easy ping to express just that! Players have taken advantage of this and it’s so awful there is no choice but to laugh. I love this game. In fact, I’m interrupting writing this article to get on League. 

Three hours later

League players excelling at being toxic no matter the circumstances is an interesting online phenomenon. No matter the restrictions on the chat and explicit toxicity, players will find a way. It is an interesting subculture within the gaming community, one not celebrated but defining of a game and its player base nonetheless. It is painfully obvious that no amount of restrictions on toxic behaviour can hold it back, which makes it seem like toxic behaviour is not inherent to the game’s chatting and communication system or the general gameplay. The issue then inherently lies in the playerbase, the digital community that has created this culture. So, why are people so desperate to be toxic in League? While understandable that you get frustrated at certain scenarios, there is a difference between “Oh good heavens, this is awful” and:

Censored, League player expressing frustration over laning against character Caitlyn, photo credits to my friend

I also get tilted. I get gamer rage, but when I do, I mute the entire in-game chatting and pinging system, and after the game is done, I log off. Upon interviewing a friend about toxic behaviour, which he was a star at in the past, he expressed it is due to build-up anger. He expressed League as some kind of punching bag due to lack of having one in real life. 

Friendly advice, learn English, stop being a dumb *beep* and play the game instead of talking, you *beeping* dog

A censored statement by my friend in League’s in-game chat, one among many for which he got banned

The question that then arises is why such a substantial amount of young men do not seek help for their anger issues, but rather prefer taking it out online through verbal abuse and discrimination. Now, I don’t want to sound like a feminist because league of legends players hate feminism, but perhaps the toxicity in League is then an unexpected result of a patriachal society where men’s mental health is underrepresented. Recent years have shown an emergence of awareness on toxic masculinity, the idea that men are supposed to be dominant and aggressive. The idea that men are supposed to be strong, that men cannot show weakness or express emotions such as grief and sadness. Well, through anything other than aggression, because the patriarchal ideal shows a man strong, self-reliant and dominant. League toxicity ticks all the boxes for toxic masculinity and the problems in the game are thus (in)direct results of this. 

If this emotional repression due to not having a proper or healthy output for emotion is at the root of toxic gamer behaviour, then there is little Riot can do but promote mental health awareness. Despite league of legends players being described as perpetually online, offline society has cultivated this online society and toxic League players are not an isolated problem inherent to the game, a possibility I doubt has been considered by Riot Games. The entire phenomenon shows that online and offline society are intertwined and cannot be analysed independently, an interesting conclusion derived from the tragic phenomenon of **** ******** *****