Unwinnable Rewind -Statistics are Making Us Into Assholes: A Modest Proposal to Reform League of Legends

Originally published at Unwinnable.


League of Legends is the most-played video game in the world, boasting over 12 million players daily and a professional e-sports league with a $2 million prize pool.

It is also, on many occasions, a toxic cesspool of shitty behavior.

The League of Legends community has become somewhat notorious for high incidents of trolling and harassment. It’s creator, Riot Games, has been working for years on various strategies to try to stem the tide of abuse, from implementing in-game rewards for players who keep their noses clean to forming a community-run Tribunal to punish frequent offenders (although it is currently down and undergoing a re-vamp). They’ve even experimented with altering small details likechanging the colors of fonts on in-game messages.

According to Riot’s statistics, these changes have helped reduce the number of toxic incidents in the game. But I’d like to propose a radical experiment that I think would help even more:

I suggest that League of Legends reduce or eliminate players’ access to individual statistics during game play during solo queue games.

I suspect this idea will be met with derision if not outrage. After all, in-game statistics provide important data that teams use to make decisions and to create strategies. However, I argue that in solo queue games (games in which five strangers are randomly thrown together to do battle against five other strangers), the negatives of the wealth of statistics the game currently provides—everything from kills, deaths, and assists to the number of individual creeps a player has farmed— vastly outweigh the positives.

Firstly, the ready availability of these statistics incentivizes players to prioritize individual accomplishments over those of the team, particularly when none of the team members have played together before. For example, we have all found ourselves on the losing end of a match with a teammate who went 20-1-15 but refused to group up with the team to take objectives, and threw the game when they got caught trying to assassinate someone or to steal the Baron buff.LeagueSS2

These players will inevitably point to their statistics to prove that the loss was not their fault. But League of Legends is not a game that is won or lost on kills. If a player goes 99-0-99 but the enemy team destroys their nexus, they will still have lost. Removing individual stats from the in-game heads up display might help re-orient players in more productive, team-oriented directions.

Secondly, in my experience, the primary use of statistics during game play is to justify the decision to troll one’s teammates. If a player isn’t doing particularly well, their teammates will often throw their statistics back in their faces to “prove” that they somehow objectively deserve to be mocked.

True, these statistics can also be used to judge the relative strength of your team’s characters in relation to their opponents, but this information could just as easily be conveyed via the items that character bought or their attack damage and ability power scores. There is little use, on the other hand, to knowing the number of deaths a teammate has endured unless you want to mock them with the information.

If players want to learn from the data provided by in-game statistics, Riot could let them pour over the post-game breakdown or provide them with replays featuring robust data feeds on everything from farming and KDA to ward placement. But if cutting down on in-game statistics helped to make League of Legends a friendlier, less abusive space, then wouldn’t it be worth it?



2 thoughts on “Unwinnable Rewind -Statistics are Making Us Into Assholes: A Modest Proposal to Reform League of Legends

  1. I have to disagree. Honestly, what you are suggesting, even in the context of an experiment, would just be illogical. Players would still end up keeping track of the score in some way. At the end of the day, people need the score to reflect what is going on, regardless if it is positive or negative.

    • See, I don’t know if that is necessarily true. In a game like League of Legends, a player’s individual score isn’t necessarily the most important thing that they contribute to the team. You don’t win the game by having more kills or less deaths than the other team. You win by capturing territory. In fact, many champions are designed to be played in such a way that their individual score might average or even poor even as their contribution to the team’s overall strategy is huge. Think: tanks and supports dying to buy time for their carries to do damage, assassins who gladly trade a kill for a death, or split-pushers who complete suicide missions to take out towers and distract or draw away multiple opponents at the expense of their own lives. I’ve played many games where my team is down in kills but wins because we are able to apply map pressure in the right place at the right time and the other team is too slow to respond. Therefore, I argue that data streams other than K/D/A scores can (should!) be used to make tactical decisions.

      For example, the most important data stream is the state of the map itself: which structures are in tact and which have been destroyed, where does the team have vision and where is there nothing but fog of war? The mini-map is pretty much the most important area of the screen, way more important thant the individual score card.

      See: http://www.getbetteratleagueoflegends.com/guide/the-mini-map-the-rear-view-mirror-of-league-of-legends/

      In terms of the strengths of individual champions (aka: who is getting fed and thus needs to be taken out or avoided), you can already look at things like items bought, gold accumulated, etc. Looking at this kind of info instead of at a K/D/A ratio puts the focus on how well certain champions are doing and takes it away from how poorly your teammates might have done. I believe that this subtle shift would have an effect on how much trolling and flaming takes place in a game. Hell, things as simple as the color in which messages are presented have a measurable effect! So something like this, I think, could also work.

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