Published on June 14th, 2012 | by Gary Kirwan
Fear and Loathing in League of Legends
My name is Gary and I’m in a doomed relationship. Everyone told me it would end in tears, I’d get hurt, I’d be wasting time and money in a fruitless and one-sided love affair that would only fall apart in the end. It was all true. League of Legends broke my heart. And despite my scarred psyche I’m back for more. Things will be different this time, it’s changed, I’ve changed, we can make it work. Right?
Okay, all dramatics aside, I really do love League of Legends (LoL to the uninitiated, yes it’s a hilarious acronym, get the giggles out of your system now). I hate that I love it, but I can’t help myself, I think it’s digital heroin. Someone should call the police. For those not familiar, LoL is a MOBA (Multi-player Online Battle Arena, a not so humorous acronym, can’t all be winners) style game which essentially involves two teams of five players making their way from opposite ends of the map in an attempt to destroy the opponents’ base.
There are various obstacles along the way to impede progress and a seemingly infinite number of nuances to complicate things, but that’s the primary goal in each match. The game’s biggest strength lies in its simplicity. One or two games and you’ll have a basic grasp of what’s going on, from that point increasingly more elaborate tactics and techniques are revealed. Did I mention it’s all free-to-play? If you so choose you can never pay anything, but that would make you a lousy cheap-skate.
New hero characters are released every other week and can be purchased with in-game currency, awarded for every game or by throwing down some cold, hard, sweaty-from-your-pocket cash. Well it’s actually from a credit card, can digital money be sweaty? Forget it.
New champion skins are released on the alternate week, but you’ll have to cough up again for those. Thankfully they have no impact on the outcome, with the exception of occasionally infuriating your opponent. Weathering “OMG, noob skin” after proudly sporting my new threads thirty seconds after purchase brings me to the downside of LoL – the community.
In each game you can chat with your team-mates and, if enabled, the opposition. What this means, being the Internet and all, is that you can’t do or say anything without being ridiculed, insulted and otherwise assaulted by a deluge of racial slurs and misspelled expletives. Many of them directed at your maternal parent who I’m sure is really a classy lady. These people don’t think so, but what do they know.
This unseemly facet finally drove me away about a year ago, I just couldn’t understand why I’d put myself through it. I love the ever-evolving mechanics, games which hang on a knife-edge, and even those catastrophic failures where I simply get out-played. Unfortunately, having to endure these tirades with such unsettling regularity eventually smothered any sense of enjoyment, with a pillow in its sleep. A truly masochistic way to spend leisure time.
I should mention the game’s creators efforts to quell the tide of infantile behaviour. Riot games have never been one to rest on their laurels, implementing a peer-based system called “The Tribunal” to deal with repeat offenders.
Bruise enough egos and you may find yourself facing a community ballot for a temporary account ban. I always believed this was an ineffective method of stemming the flow of abuse but a recent info-graphic released by Riot indicates that over 16 million votes have been cast. 94% of those on trial taste swift internet justice, and more than half of those don’t repeat offend.
The downfall of any community-based system however, is that you only get out what you put in and, in a game boasting 32 million registrations at the end of last year, the odds of you meeting someone with the vocabulary of a drunken sailor are unfortunately all too high.
So why go back, I hear you cry (at least in my head)? The beauty of the ignore function. I once believed that in a team game, losing communication with the team would be a detriment. This is not the case. Ignore them all I say! Team-mate has a silly name? Ignore. You can see the rage building on that mage in mid-lane? Ignore. One guy rages at yet another death and announces his intentions to sit at base and sulk? Ignore and report for good measure. I can guarantee your enjoyment of the game will increase as your ignore list grows.
Yes, it’s anti-social but the dream is to eventually whittle down the player base to the good ‘uns. You won’t get grouped with people you’ve ignored in the future and you shouldn’t have to put up with rowdy pre-teens when you sit down to play some games. Embrace the ignore function. Unless the rowdy child is your own, probably best not to ignore that one, what with child protective services and all.