Riot Games is disabling League of Legends' "/All Chat" feature--the chat system that let players from two opposing teams interact with each other over text during a match.
In a blog post, game director Andrei Van Roon and lead gameplay producer Jeremy Lee discussed the reasoning behind the change. Cross-team chat has been a feature of League of Legends for over a decade, and its removal is a significant indicator of changing attitudes at the company on how it should be curbing toxicity.
"While most of our focus around behavioral systems in 2021 has been on gameplay-based behaviors like AFKing and inting, we've heard from you that verbal abuse has been a rising problem this year, too," the pair wrote. "While /all chat can be the source of fun social interaction between teams, as well as some good-hearted banter, right now negative interactions outweigh the positives."
The change only applies to publicly matchmade games. Players setting up custom games with their friends will still be able to converse across teams.
Van Roon and Lee did note that this change isn't expected to be a silver bullet that ends all toxic chat. They acknowledged that verbal abuse occurs in team chat as well, but disabling that feature would interfere with a core tool for communication and coordination in the team-based multiplayer game.
League of Legends' All Chat system has been opt-in for a number of years now, meaning players would not encounter it by default when first starting the game. It would appear this was not sufficient to curb negative player behavior.
Riot's move here feels like a big moment in understanding how large game companies are handling toxic player interactions. For years, the notion of "more speech is good speech" dominated social interaction design in a number of games. But a growing recognition that such systems can reward negative behavior more than positive has led to interesting innovations and major policy changes at large companies.