The developer behind League of Legends believes science can create a friendlier in-game experience.

League of Legends may be the most played videogame known to man, but that doesn’t mean it’s without drawbacks. Outside of its solid MOBA gameplay, LoL is also known for aggressive players that verbally abuse their peers, even at the professional level. It’s the sort of thing that discourages new players from joining, and developer Riot Games wants to do something about it. Instead of simply banning offenders however, Riot Games wants to reform them, and is conducting various experiments to see what works. As crazy as the idea sounds, Riot is already getting results, leading it to wonder if toxic players were really the problem in the first place.

“98 percent of our players are actually very good,” Riot’s Jeffrey Lin explains. “What we’re seeing is they all have bad days. That’s where your toxicity comes from. When you have a bad day at work, when you go home you have a higher frustration level before you even play a game. You also have lower tolerance levels for what happens in the game. As soon as something happens in the game, you snap. That person might not do it in a hundred games, but we just have so many players that those mental instances keep happening throughout many games.”

Riot has implemented various in-game tweaks to curb this aggressive behavior, most noticeably in the Tribunal. As a self-regulated system, the Tribunal allows anyone to report infractions that can be democratically reviewed by fellow players. Repeat offenders before the Tribunal are flagged, allowing them to be better identified and penalized. Beyond the Tribunal however, Riot is subtly conducting experiments on player behavior, including priming techniques to avoid hostile language. “We did an experiment with 217 unique conditions, where every single game we had a different in-game tip, and we also did stuff like changing the colors or varying the locations,” Lin said. “What we found is that one sentence can have massive effects on behavior; it can reduce verbal abuse by 10 percent.”

Perhaps the most encouraging result of Riot’s experiments wasn’t the decrease in aggression, but the increase of self-awareness. “A lot of these players wrote letters in to us,” Lin noted. “One player wrote, ‘I just didn’t realize how offensive the f-word was.’ He wrote in just to apologize; he didn’t realize how bad it was. He’s been using it in all these other games. There was another player, we showed him his logs, and this player said ‘I’m really disgusted by my own behavior. Can you guys give me a little guidance?'” That’s a far cry from the racist and sexist diatribes that most of us recognize as standard internet protocol. If all it takes to change is a few gentle reminders, maybe a world of friendly online games is easier to achieve than we thought.

Source: Games Industry International

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