Thursday, August 27, 2015

League of Legends: Toxicity and Excessive Punishment

Note: Lyte made a mistake and acknowledged it as such. I will talk about people defending Lyte's original statement, why the concept within the statement is an unreasonable approach to handling toxicity, and so on before he corrected it.
First of all, I wanted to apologize. I said I was going to try not to do any of these videos for a while, but I just had to talk about this one. WoW in Retrospect should be my next non-filler video if there's no more drama for another week or two.

When it comes to my stance on toxicity, I've shown that I'm generally against it, especially through my videos and articles. One may then ask "What would you do about it?" For a time, I will admit I had a bit of a "righteous" (but actually overzealous and possibly vengeful) streak and would've taken at least a little enjoyment in seeing misbehaving individuals get punished. However, this mentality has been tempered to one of seeking reform through criticism and the like.

Riot Games has also apparently been employing such methods (of reform) by their supposed tendency to infrequently permaban (citation needed), instead opting to give toxic players many, many chances to change. Unfortunately, some (somewhat recent) implementations make me question what Riot's idea of what reform is. One that was proposed by Lyte and supported by some until his revision was so egregious that it's comparable United States handles crime (very easy to find more sources through research): through heightened incarceration, excessive punishment, and criminal dehumanization (possibly to corral them into a life of crime). To put it another way, I was inclined to criticize the initially stated plans for being overzealous to the point of contradicting Riot's vision of reform.

Background and Other Points

Before going into the main topic of Lyte's statement, a few things:

Firstly, some disclosure (I really should do this anyways):
  • I have never, ever, ever had any punishments (not even a warning) on my main account. I will admit I'm not the perfect player (I used to play in the emote spam meta of S2 and S3 until I toned it down), but the Tribunal hasn't had to deal with any cases related to me.
    • My smurf has only received a warning as well. It probably doesn't help it's called "12yroldcodplayer."
    • Both accounts received a mystery skin reward, further proving that I haven't exactly been on the toxic side of the community despite having moments of weakness.
  • I play both League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, meaning I may end up biasing for or against League of Legends.
  • I generally take a stance against toxic behavior and have a history of getting self-righteous about it, as I've said before, which may color my opinion. This is coming from someone who's been on both sides of the line in terms of toxic behavior (outside of the League of Legends -bullied and was bullied, etc).
Second part. Earlier in the year, automated features rolled out to help combat toxicity. While the automation may end up working out okay, I have a couple issues with it:
  • If the excessive chat restrictions some people talk about are true, they may need to be toned down a bit.
    • This also applies to false positives, but I'm certain this will get fixed.
  • Ranked restrictions in my opinion are terrible reform-wise in its current state. At the moment players with this restriction cannot play ranked matches until they WIN enough normal matches. 
    • The problem is forcing players to win will probably be a frustrating task in itself that will cause stress, which in itself can cause players to be toxic, meaning the toxicity is produced by the actual system as opposed to something happening in the game (such as perceived underperformance). Alleviating this frustration will help from having it get directed at other players.
    • Players are more likely to reform just by playing enough matches without acting up, which is part of the requirement to remove both ranked and chat restrictions.
    • To be fair, I kind of understand the logic of this idea, since ranked mode generally implies towards an "I must win" mentality. On the other hand, while winning is important, why reinforce the "I must win" mentality when it can promote toxicity in itself due to the competitiveness alone? It just seems far more reasonable to use the restriction as a means of having a player take a break from ranked until they can behave better by playing a sufficient number of matches without being toxic.
Lyte's Statement and Reactions

Okay now for the main topic:
  • The original link, with Reddit comments (statement has since been edited - original statement is here).
    • There's a broad array of replies here.
    • For example, there's some people that took Lyte's statement, analyzed it as a method of excessive punishment, and using it to justify that there's no need to punish toxicity and people should grow a thick skin or the like. This is a very extreme side of the argument I disagree with because there are negative repercussions to behaving in a toxic manner to both the individual and those who interact with him or her.
    • Aside from that extreme, there were quite a view voices of reason describing why the policies described in the statement were unreasonable as opposed to reasonable. This will be discussed later, but keep this in mind from this point forward as it's a big part of why I sided against Lyte's original statement.
  • Additional Reddit threads, etc, and so on (bonus sources)
  • When it comes to punishing those who received a 20-minute low priority queue, assuming this only applies to the supposed extreme of players who excessively leave, even due to internet problems/other internal problems but not external problems such as server issues, I refer you to this statement from PirageYT. Aside from the condescension and the like, what the statement means is that if you have a (consistently) unstable connection and keep dropping games, chances are you're not having much fun either and should stop, if only to do yourself the favor of avoiding frustration.
My Analysis of the Statement

Alright, with all that said, let's start off with what I'd consider a reasonable approach:

As I said before, Riot has had a history of showing they wish to reform toxic players, even going so far as to title their automated system a reform system. Even prior to that, it's been said that Riot isn't too big on handing out permabans except in very extreme situations (example: XJ9) because they want to help players realize what they're doing might be wrong and give them numerous chances. This line of thinking, along with the automated reform system, is quite similar to something like Blizzard's penalty volcano.

With that said, the ideas of removing ranked rewards as Lyte's original statement on dictates ruins this entire system of reform.

The punishment itself is retroactive and was announced a good way into the season, meaning if players got punished early on but have reformed, which is probable especially when it comes to chat restrictions since Lyte himself stated ~70% of players who received one didn't receive another after finishing the chat restriction, they still earn no rewards despite their attempts to not be toxic. In short, people who might not have deserved additional negative punishment are still punished and need to wait until the end of Season 6. This sort of method isn't really that conducive to the reform that Riot envisions.

In addition, those under an ongoing chat or ranked restriction may not have much of a desire to reform since the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, has gotten dimmer. I would like to think players in the process of reforming will reform for the sake of self-improvement, but I can also understand if people want to do something like give up and quit. It's also worth mentioning players who got out of a chat/ranked restriction but get no rewards would also be likely to quit, since waiting for over a year to earn rewards they might've deserved anyways may simply be too long and punishing for some players.

It is also worth mentioning that the idea of punishing players (more) for being under a ranked of chat restriction at all may be excessive in itself. The removal of ranked rewards was generally reserved for the most extreme of offenders (that is to say, players who got banned, boosted, and so on), but under the current policy made earlier in the season, players under an ongoing ranked or chat restriction and thus haven't been met with more significant punishment are also subject to losing their ranked rewards, which, while possible to escape from, still means a larger number of players are subject to this sort of additional punishment. Given this fact, I would suggest only removing some of the rewards if at all, as that should be a sufficient punishment for the transgressions the players have committed regarding the Summoner's Code (AKA sufficient consequences and accountability for their actions).

Also, denying ranked rewards won't impact all toxic players, such as low level smurfs who contribute to a miserable League of Legends leveling experience. If the punishment is intended to, as ESEX so succinctly put it (and for some reason people took it seriously...) "meaningful," then why does said punishment not work on every single toxic player compared to chat restrictions, etc? (This also to a lesser degree applies to ranked restrictions but it's not as big of a deal since chat restrictions and ranked restrictions have some overlap in terms of reforming players.

One thing I can compliment in all this is that there is positive reinforcement in the form of a Mystery Gifted skin to all players who weren't toxic - a policy implemented in the last season. The future reformation of the Honor system that Riot employees occasionally mention is another promising form of positive reinforcement (mentioned in this post I linked above). I think that expounding on this could lead to a promising future of lessened toxicity as players try to reform how they behave to both avoid punishment and acquire rewards.

Arguments Defending Lyte's (Original) Statement

Anyways, let's go over some of the arguments defending Lyte's original statements until he revised it to fall more in line with the existing policies:

In a way, but at the same time, not really. If someone is consistently toxic, the system will find a way to handle them. That's why warnings, chat restrictions, ranked restrictions, bans, and permabans exist. This is more about arguing against excessive punishment (I've already described why).

Not wrong, but the playerbase will also have shrunk as a result. Also, not everyone who happens to be toxic will quit and some non-toxic players who disagreed with Riot's stance will also quit. Ultimately, the point is that players quitting in such a matter doesn't do well in terms of painting a picture showing players can change how they behave over time through reform - they are instead ostracized out of the game and the mentality in the argument doesn't help matters.

Furthermore, this sort of elitism is effectively comparable to toxicity since toxicity in itself is largely about mistreating people by treating them as something inferior to a human being (or oneself). While these players have clearly shown they misbehaved, does that mean they deserve to also be treated as inferior? The fact of the matter is they are people as well - people who did something pretty terrible, but people nonetheless.

In addition, the players quitting might resolve toxicity (to a degree) in League of Legends, but the players who quit will still probably be toxic and will "ruin" other games such as DotA 2, Heroes of the Storm, WoW, Call of Duty, Battlefield, CS:GO, and so on. While this might not affect you personally, I would have to question your compassion (which is an important aspect of being human, is it not?).

TL;DR: Toxic players are customers and people too. It's a matter of trying to help them become customers and people who treat other people like people. I would also advise you take a deep look at your own behavior because you yourself might be toxic in a way.

"It's easy to avoid being toxic."

Ignoring the possibility this might not be as true as it sounds due to a number of factors (including personal biases), the problem is in its current state, Lyte's proposal will be retroactive after many months of a different policy. Also, as I implied above, the moral high horsing isn't too well appreciated, if only because it comes off as treating toxic players as inferior shares a common theme with toxic players treating other players as inferior, which helps to justify unsavory behavior.

"It's just a border/the rewards aren't a big deal."

I'm afraid that's rather subjective. For example, while I wouldn't give my firstborn to get a border were I to have one (nor do I condone boosting at all), I do value my shiny Diamond border in the sense I can bask in my achievements. It is at least clear based on the reaction to the statement from Lyte that in some way the ranked rewards do have some value.

Final Statements

That's about all I have to say on the topic. WoW in Restrospect should be next (really, it should be) in terms of videos.

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