DIGC302 Project Critique – Toxicity in League of Legends

Although I myself have never played League of Legends (LOL), as a longtime female gamer, and researching something similar, I have personal experience in the toxic environment of mass multiplayer online games, and by extension the entire gaming culture. Sustained by decades of stagnant attitudes, toxic behaviour within the gaming community has escalated, high jacking activist movements and turning them into a tool perpetuating sexism, racism, and homophobia. As I understand it this project aims to reverse the toxic nature of players within the LOL universe by advocating a ‘positive gaming attitude’ to increase game performance in the form of personal blogs describing Brandon’s success/failure in his attempts.

I do believe that social activism is one of the only practical ways to combat this kind of negative behaviour not only in LOL but throughout the gaming culture, however, the closed off nature of gamers, particularly male, to outside influence, means that changing attitudes must start at the top and trickle down. As Brandon did not present a Beta, I am critiquing solely based on his Pitch presentation, which is inherently limiting. First of all I will start by saying that by choosing to focusing on one game Brandon has set an achievable goal and allowed himself to dedicate more time and effort into getting reliable and useful results. He has outlined a clear solution, however, throughout his presentation Brandon failed to identify why he chose this method above others and overall failed to identify what exactly ‘positive gaming attitude’ was and how he was going to go about achieving it.

By choosing to only include his own experience he is fundamentally excluding other accounts and general research on the topic that would be extremely useful in further clarifying how best to approach his project. He has essentially limited himself to one method administered by one person in one game, which is not only restrictive but repetitive. The efforts of academic studies on this topic, not only help develop discourse within the gaming community but outside of it as well, providing valuable support for Brandon’s project and without it, the claims of successful use of ‘positive gaming attitude’ are ambiguous and extremely subjective. Believing that one person/player can influence an almost ingrained mentality in the gaming industry is a little naïve and unrealistic, however, clearer definition of ‘positive gaming attitude’ and the exact methods used to utilize it might aid in encouraging others to take up social activism in an attempt to purge the community of toxicity. I believe that developers of games are equally to blame for the toxic environment of the gaming industry and need to stop placating those players threatened by ‘invading forces’. This only adds to the vicious circle of toxic behaviour, and instead developers need to abandon the ideology that games are made by heterosexual males, for heterosexual males in order for players to abandon that idea.

League of Legends has been waging a war on player toxicity for years, searching for effective methods of squashing widespread misbehavior including a system that Brandon mentioned in his presentation. The application itself, referred to as an obstacle by Brandon, was the in-game judicial system known as ‘The Tribunal’, which has been used to handle all reports made by players to initiate minor infractions such as chat restrictions, and ranked restrictions. This system, just like Brandon, aimed to encourage positive behaviour; perhaps more effectively, even with its flaws, and therefore, posed a threat or challenge to the projects success and perhaps more importantly its relevance. Instead of treating this system as a competing entity, I believe Brandon should have incorporated this into his project, taking advantage of the company’s lead designer of social systems, Jeffrey “Lyte” Lin, looking for volunteers to be regarded as ‘positive players’. He states, “for all players, we need systems that focus on positive reinforcement. We need to show players what it means to be a positive member of the community, and we need to give players more reasons to be good. We need to make ‘being good teammate’ the easiest choice in every situation. We need to create tools for these players to shape the community for the better, and help cast out the negative players who contribute to the negative perceptions.” This mentality seems to line up with Brandon’s and so would have been a solid foundation on which to establish the artefact.

However, if Brandon felt it was in his best interest to stand against ’The Tribunal’ he should have taken it a step further and explored the faults, outlining why it didn’t work and perhaps giving some suggestions as to how to enhance it. I feel that more engagement with the in-game systems and actual players would have been more effective in supporting Brandon’s claims of success and would have added another level of research and therefore weight to the project. Even allowing players to interact with other players via the artefact to share their experiences, and demonstrate the level of ‘positive attitude’ that Brandon was trying to achieve. I believe that overall Brandon set up a focused, achievable set of guidelines for himself to create a potentially very useful digital artefact, however, the only elements I had to critique were purely theoretical and in its early stages of conception. Without a Beta presentation and with no blogs to show, the progress on his project has been staggered and inconsistent leading me to question the actual application of Brandon’s methodology and so I have no gauge for how successful he has actually been.

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