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"Honor PLS" or why Riot's behaviour policing techniques don't really work

I'm talking about why the League of Legends honor system doesn't really work as good as Riot claims. The contents of this entry come from my personal experience as a LoL player and I acknowledge that things may be different on other servers than EU: NE.

Gawel Ciepielewski, Blogger

February 4, 2013

3 Min Read

Online gaming sees a lot of trash talk. Quips and insults fly around a lot, partially due to their competitive nature, partially because getting your opponent off their game is as good a tactic as shooting them in the face in most games.

Then there's League of Legends, the carefully designed MOBA by Riot, which has a player base notorious for its downright hateful behaviour.

You see, apparently according to some unwritten laws, it is a crime of the highest magnitude to be a less skilled player than your opponent. Should you dare to be beaten in the early laning phase of the match you are very likely to get one or more of the following messages:

"OMG, stop feeding", "Noob", "Idiot", "Retard", F*cking feeder", "Refund champ", "Refund skin", "Uninstall LoL", "Kill yourself".

Yes, according to some people, being weaker than your initial opponent is reason enough to tell you to commit suicide.

Riot is aware of their player base and have hired a team of psychologists to combat this behaviour. They put in place two tools to do this: reports and honor. After playing a match  if you feel your teammate or opponent was behaving negatively you can report him for the offense, and add a short comment describing your grievance. Sufficient reports against a single player are sent to the tribunal - a player-run jury of several thousands, if not tens of thousands, which decides whether to punish or pardon an individual. If the Tribunal decides to Punish, the mods decide what the punishment should be and enact it.

Alternatively, you have the option to honor your teammate for exemplary behaviour, great sportsmanship, friendliness, excellent teamwork or being an honorable opponent. A player who gets honor of a specific flavor enough times will have their account marked as such and be recognizable to other players.

Riot takes great pride in the system, presenting statistics that show, that since the implementation of the honor system the report rate has sharply declined, assuming that this meant players have actually bettered themselves.

Sorry, Riot Games, this is not the case.

Honor is something the particularily hateful players will hold hostage. "Honor me, or I'll report you" is not uncommon. Some players will, after an entire match of nothing but harassment, tell you that they'll honor you if you honor them, completely shamelessly. Asking the opponents to report a teammate you didn't like in exchange for honor is also a recurring practice. People who did nothing remarkable will write "Honor pls" at the end of a match, and often get what they "pls" for. Additionally, a lot of LoL users have such low standards of sportsmanship, that they will honor opponents for merely being civil, rendering the "Honorable Opponent" badge worthless, because it translates to "Isn't a jerk to the other team".

The problem with the system isn't that it's badly designed, it's actually pretty good in theory. But it's only that - a system - and players who are absolutely vile, recognize it as such, and proceed to twist it to their ends.

I have no idea how much actual, presonal experience Riots psych team has with the community, but they seem to operate from some kind of "safe place", completely out of touch with the bile in the League of Legends community, only glancing at it through two-way mirrors, or maybe seeing pictures of it, but not immersing themselves. I don't claim to have an answer to the problem with vitriol in the LoL community, but anyone who wants to, should actually get in and play the game, experiencing first-hand the harrassment that this game is home to.

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