The Problem: Toxic Environment
"Go STFU and die!"
"Worst Fiddlesticks NA. Maybe you'll just get cancer."
These are but a few of the things I've seen on a Tribunal report and witnessed firsthand a couple of times in LoL. Riot has done an admirable job trying to clean up the community. At one point, it was unequivocally the most toxic environment in gaming. Now it's merely one of the worst. But why? The reasons are myriad and the solutions limited, unfortunately.
1) The anonymity of the Internet. Let's face it, the Internet has always had issues with "manners". The repercussions for bad behavior are generally pretty limited and you don't have to look these people in the face later. It also has to do with the reality that nerds are often people that had crap heaped on them all through school. Is it any wonder that when they finally get a chance to be the big swinging dick in the room, they run with it in the only way they know how?
2) The length of the games. Let's face it, compared to a standard game of Call of Duty: Black Ops, a game on Summoner's Rift that could go as much as an hour is a decent time investment. So it's not surprising that a bad player will put someone on tilt like this. That's not to say it's justified, merely that the motivation behind the rage is easily understood. There's a fairly noticeable difference in rage levels when you compare Summoner's Rift games to Dominion games with their 1/3rd the time investment.
3) The stats they affect matter. Elo is the primary persistent stat in League. Additionally, you get IPs, which allow you to buy more champions, from games as well. Both of these are bettered by wins and not affected one iota by your K/D ratio. Compare that to your typical first-person shooter. In those games, your win/loss ratio is pretty irrelevant. You get experience points (XP) for actions (kills, assists, caps, etc.) and so, even on a bad team, you can control your own fate to some degree. Being a lone wolf can work really well in those games, and you also can't really watch what your teammates are doing that's so stupid. All of these elements combine to make players care far more about the caliber of their LoL teammates than they do in most other games.
4) The lack of a persistent world. In Everquest, you'd occasionally get a really bad member of a group—a healer who didn't want to stare at their spellbook all day or an enchanter that rooted mobs right next to the tank. EVE has the same kind of thing with newer players using ridiculously fail-fitted ships. In a persistent world, you have an incentive to help that player improve and a disincentive to act like a complete ass. Contrast that to a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) with a multi-million player base. I can barely remember the online names of my friends there, let alone the random guy who flamed me so hard that one game. There's not a lot of reason to invest time, effort and positive emotion into a player I'll never see again. Instead, why not just vent my frustration since we're going to lose anyways. That's the typical mentality.
So what do you do to combat this?
1) Use the reporting system and, more importantly, be a member of the Tribunal. I think the Tribunal is a good experiment. It's certainly not perfect. I've seen cases where people got punished that I think clearly shouldn't have been. I've seen other cases where someone was obviously feeding (0/33/0) get pardoned. However, if more people take an active, honest role in participating, it can only make that system better. Also, when you report, don't just report when someone flames you. Make sure you report when anyone gets flamed.
2) Allow IP and experience to be earned off of actions, not just wins and losses. Before I get flamed, I'm not asking for a big deviation here. I think the emphasis for XP/IP variance should be based on winning and losing, but there needs to be some reward for the three players that buckled down and continued to fight for 20 minutes while Warwick went 0/33/0 or Veigar went 2/20 with triple wriggles (both of these came up in Tribunal cases). Similarly, having a teammate be AFK the whole game really ought to give a small reward—maybe their share of the IP—to the other team members. The rewards don't have to be huge. I don't want to encourage a "solo farm" mentality, but some little things like this would really take the sting out of losing due to a bad (or perceived bad) player on the team.
3) Be honest with people. If you tell people in champ select that you're a pretty bad ADC then at least the expectation is set. Don't be one of those guys that auto-locks something and then rages when other people suck. Maybe you took their best position. I think it's discourteous to play a champ for the first time against other players. I usually play at least one bot game to get a feel for the controls and build choices, but eventually there has to be a first time.
If you're playing a more complicated champ—think Jayce—for the first time against people, it's probably best to make sure everyone knows it's your first time. I find that people are generally pretty good about this or, if they really care, they'll offer to go top so you don't have to experiment with their time. I also find that Dominion games are good for getting mechanical skills honed against live opponents, so you may want to try that. As an added bonus, they're generally less than 20 minutes.
The LoL community isn't Sodom and Gomorrah, devoid of empathy and filled with baby-killing deviants. I've met some good people online and the vast majority of people either say nothing or are positive. Unfortunately, the trolls are what everyone remembers. They're memorable, frankly, because they're so far outside of the scope of normal human interaction that you can't help but remember them.
Next time you're on, just try to remember that you're playing for fun and to get better. That should be a goal you can achieve regardless of the skill level of your teammates.
Author's note: A special shout-out to the Low Elo community and podcast. They're out there preaching the gospel of staying classy and having fun. More people should be listening to them.