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League Of Legends: What It's Like Working With Toxic Players

I post a lot about companies working to manage or reduce toxicity in online multiplayer games because I think it’s a really important thing and I really do love seeing people actively trying to improve the quality of our online interactions instead of throwing up their hands and saying “it’s the responsibility of the individuals/the law/anyone who isn’t me”.

With that in mind I wanted to post a snippet from the latest League of Legends “Ask Riot” column where people from player support were asked what it’s like dealing with toxic players on a daily basis. Mostly I want to post it because right now there’s not a good or positive atmosphere here in the UK and I liked reading this for something positive – people involved with building communities/creating a nicer atmosphere on the internet.

The answer reminds me a lot of when I worked on the customer service desk of an art store. The majority of the time I was helping people find what they were looking for or finding practical solutions for projects people were working on, but the bits that resonated were the bits where I was dealing with complaints, or telling people something they didn’t want to hear. Sometimes people just wanted to vent. It wasn’t fair and it was rarely ever anything I had any control over but as the messenger and as the company representative part of my job was to listen and sort of absorb their frustrations (up to a point), to try and find a way to reach them and create a positive outcome.

Obviously the two situations aren’t the same – I wasn’t tasked with telling anyone that their behaviour was racist or homophobic or anything (although I was accused of trying to ruin someone’s wedding because people get curiously impassioned about paper dye lots). I’m also not saying that the Riot system is perfect or that I have entirely positive experiences when it comes to playing LoL. But it was nice to read the response and to hear that it still feels like a worthwhile endeavour to the people manning it:

It’s most difficult when a player is so furious at you, at the system, at their teammates, that it feels like there’s no getting through to them on why what they did was wrong. The conversation becomes a tricky situation where someone is upset at you, blaming others for every outcome, ignoring what role they played in things. No matter what happened, you and only you are responsible for your reactions to the circumstances, regardless of how unpleasant they can be. Nobody wins a flame war, and if someone can’t accept responsibility for a pattern of negativity, it’s hard to go from there. I try to remember that sometimes, people just need to vent. And it’s very rewarding when you do connect with someone and help them find a plan to succeed.

What’s both fascinating and concerning to me is how relatable the frustration can be. Nobody is immune to tilt from flamers, feeders, or AFKs, and recognizing that truth is important when telling someone not to fight fire with fire. Turning those real, raw emotions into something positive that doesn’t harm the experience for nine others is a strange, and awesome daily perk.

League is a competitive game, which means it can also be stressful. We’re aware of that stress and recognize it’s part of the experience. That’s why we continuously try to improve it. But we also know letting that stress give way to negativity, verbal abuse, flaming… win or lose, it’s never OK. I’ve personally stopped playing games I loved because of their communities, and so have very good friends of mine, and that just sucks. Rioters love gaming, and we all love League. We don’t want to say “Oh, that’s just gaming culture, get a thick skin.” We are part of the community, and we want to see it thrive; we want to log in and have an incredible time with everyone else.

And that’s why we come to work and tackle the sometimes complicated and emotionally draining experience of dealing with negative behavior. Every time we see the “(I’m a reformed player)” achievement unlock, just like you mentioned in your question, I want to yell: F*$# YEAH! Because even though, as I’ve mentioned, we don’t want this to be part of the experience, we know that it happens anyway. And when someone is reformed, it means another player will still be able to enjoy the game they’re passionate about, and we’re building an even more awesome community.

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Philippa Warr

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