I once played a game that's very similar to League of Legends for seven hours, and that makes me Rock, Paper, Shotgun's resident lane-pushing expert. So when news comes along that changes are coming to that game's League system, which is presumably very important because it's in the name, then it only makes sense that I be the one to tell you about it.
In a Reddit post, Riot Games' Socrates explains that they're going to be tweaking the game's LP and league ranking system next week, after the end of season three.
First, players who win matches should receive LP in greater amounts. LP stands for League Points, and is the method by which League of Legends players advance through the game's different competitive tiers. The new system should provide more positive feedback to players who are doing well.
The tiers themselves are also changing, as you'll now be able to be demoted downwards if you consistently lose matches. Socrates explains in the post: "When we investigated player performance over the season we found that a small but not insubstantial group of players would reach division V of a tier and then consistently become more toxic and start to lose more frequently. Though tier immunity was originally intended to combat ladder anxiety we feel that complete immunity creates poor incentives and leads to abuse of the system."
Even if you don't play League of Legends, the way Riot approach the game and their community is interesting. In a talk at this year's GDC, Riot's Lead Designer of Social Systems Jeffrey Lin spoke at length about the methods they use to curb bad behaviour among the game's players. The idea of "toxicity" came up a lot: that players who lost their temper and screamed at other players weren't regular trolls, but a normal player having a bad day, and that they would often trigger other regular players to have their own bad day.
Their experiments with shaping that behaviour includes using Priming, in which player performance can be shaped by showing them specific messages or colours beforehand. For example, seeing the colour red can impair your performance in a test you sit right afterwards. This is a real thing. So it's interesting any time Riot talk about a game change they're making not in terms of "gameplay balance", or the more standard language of patches, but in terms of pressure, anxiety, toxicity and other elements of player psychology.