Riot’s Latest Decree: Valid Action or Abuse of Power?

September 25, 2014 by

As loathsome as they may be, do toxic players deserve Riot’s latest ban protocol? Read on and chime in with your thoughts!

Though someone will inevitably try, it’s hard to argue the fact that maintaining an online presence in the gaming community comes with a bit of responsibility. Like any communal gathering, we gamers are held to a modified version of Rousseau’s Social Contract, and for the most part, the population gladly complies. Joining a server simply to be told your mother was a woman of ill repute is not how one wishes to start a match, and luckily the grand majority agrees and acts accordingly. However, as I’ve stated previously, within any population sample lies the few outliers who just want to watch the world burn (Michael Cain, you glorious bastard). These contract offenders, known as “trolls” to anyone online since the early 2000s, have made their presence felt within the gaming world, and while some companies are striking back and taking action, lines must be drawn between team players and psychotic sadists, moderators and dictators, and what should be done versus what’s being done.

Before looking at the community as a whole, let’s first try and break down the “toxic player” and its motives. Why do trolls troll, what do they get from causing other people anguish? If you’re sitting there thinking this has already been answered by the age old study of antisocial personality, then you’re completely right. Science has (as it always will, given enough time) shown time and time-again that the qualities found in individuals who consistently troll directly relate to measures of sociopathy. In the most recent study to make waves among psychologists (we’re pretty much over Freud by this point), researchers from the University of Manitoba, Canada found that self-identified trolls displayed significantly higher levels of sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism (with sadism leading the pack) than any other type of online presence observed. Sadism, the act of experiencing pleasure (including sexual pleasure) at the expense of someone else’s pain, was their number one personality trait. Charles Manson would be proud, and that’s some scary shit.

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Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?

The presence of trolls in the gaming community is far from news. Anyone who has played online for a modicum of time has experienced trolling, and the situation completely varies from something as light as being called a noob, to being downright accused of buggering your own pets. Game developers and companies see this, and history demonstrates that measures have been taken. Reprimanding bad players has traditionally come in the form of kicking them from servers, demoting them, or laying down a ban, either for an extended period of time or permanently. Though these measures work post hoc, or after the incident occurs, how much does it actually deter future would-be-trolls? With more and more attention from research, media, and a growing community, more pressure is put on game companies to combat these types of people, but at what point will these new and dire actions be deemed dictatorial?

Just a few days ago, Riot Games announced via Twitter that brand new measures were being taken in an effort to reduce the amount of toxic players found lurking within the servers of the ever-popular MOBA, League of Legends (LoL). Now, for those of you who have yet to experience LoL, take nine minutes to set up an account, download the game, and enter yourself into a match. I’m not saying this to boost Riot’s numbers (I couldn’t give less of a crap), but rather to let you experience for yourself the acidic vitriol present in almost every multiplayer match. Never have I been called a feminine care product so many times in such quick succession than the times I’ve played ranked matches. Thank god none of those players were omnipotent, or I, my family, and even my two guinea pigs would be long dead from the amount of death threats received.

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A five minute ban from chat is to a troll what traffic is to normal humans

In order to curb the amount of toxic players seen within the 27 million-strong community, Riot’s Jeffery Lin declared that effective immediately, anyone exhibiting blatant signs of trolling or malice will be issued either a 14-day ban or a permanent ban. That’s right, cracks about race, religion, and sexuality, and purposeful feeding (boosting the opposing team so that your team loses) are all grounds for a ban, which, in some cases, will last till the year 2500 (that’s how you drop the Banhammer, guys). This sounds great. Homophobia, sexism, and racism don’t have a place in gaming, why the hell should they? But it’s the latter part of Lin’s statement that sends a shiver running down my spine.

Along with banning toxic players through the use of a computerized catch-system (an automated way of picking up trolls through trigger words and such), Riot will now attack those who complain about the ban by publicly posting their ban-related chat logs on the public forum. Here’s where things get a bit iffy for me. Where Riot previously denounced naming and shaming in their forum, here they orchestrate it themselves. I’m all for free speech, and being able to account for said speech, but this screams of both pettiness and Stalinism. A massive company is now picking on the former picker-ons (I invented that, it’s mine now!), all because they protested the repercussions of their actions. It sounds like Riot’s next step would be to send them packing on a train to some Siberian work camp (bundle up, little trolls!).

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Step aside Banhammer, BanAxe…Banxe…Baxe…has arrived!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending toxic players, they’re still vile, little assholes. Hell, ban them for all eternity and erase their stats for all I care. I’m simply saying that Riot’s new program reads like the first step of a Soviet Union pamphlet on pacification. Trolls are horrible people, science even says so, and though actions need to be taken to combat them and their poisonous effects on the community, how far will companies go with power unchecked to do as they please and publicly shame their players, and will it stop there? I pose a problem without a solution, partially because I’m not very good at planning, but I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments. What’s your take on the new policy, do you see it as a trend, and what would you do differently, if anything at all?

*Author’s Note: Whoever comes up with a term more creative than ‘BanAxe’ wins.*

**Author’s Note’s Note: The prize, of course, is feeling good about winning (and isn’t that the best prize of all?).**

About Johnny Ohm

When his nose isn't diligently to the grindstone, Johnny can be found skulking around the dark corners of San Francisco's many pubs. You can contact Johnny via Twitter or ouija board.
  • JustAStranger

    I also have to disagree with you here. In the past, Riot didn’t have to actually answer posts begging for chatlogs to prove a justified bans, in fact they tried to avoid it unless the post explodes into something quite toxic in itself and only then will Riot step in to clarify that the ban is indeed justified. Not all of these posts were replied to, but the demand for “Lyte smite” has been increasing to a whole new level lately. What I’m getting from Lyte’s post is that Riot will make a concerted effort to try meet those demands. It is what the community wants, and Riot listens to their player base. Your concern is that Riot will post chatlogs of people who badmouth them. I think this is quite fair. People start to forget that badmouthing have bad repercussions because they can do so freely in the Internet with very little repercussion. Also, why is it vindictive for Riot to set up things straight and prove that the person badmouthing them actually deserves a ban? If anything I think it will be bad to let the trolls run around claiming Riot has unjustly banned them without proving that the ban is actually fair. It creates confusion and people get scared that they too could be banned unjustly when the exact opposite is actually happening.

  • hello

    I believe this article is wrong. My understandoing is that by submitting a ticket to Riot players can attempt to get their bans removed privately. It’s only when they go onto the public forums and claim that they have been wronged that Riot will then defend their actions with the chat logs.

    TL;DR
    Trolls try to make Riot look bad on public forums, Riot defends themselves with evidence. Players could instead handle matters privately with Riot but chose not too in these cases.

    • John Wyma

      That is the gist of this article. Regardless of whether or not they complained privately or publicly, is it okay for Riot to publicly post them?

      • maijqp

        yes it is. because from what I have seen they ask to have their logs posted in order try to prove their innocence. In fact I have never seen a forum post in which Riot has posted chat logs without the OP asking them to do so.

        • John Wyma

          This new system is but 3 days old, so chances you wouldn’t have seen that yet. Regardless of whether or not you ask to have your logs posted, under these new rules if you publicly bad mouth, it will get posted anyways (according to Lin).

          • Arago

            your wrong the system has been in effect for awhile and despite what Lin said rioters have said publicly that they dont “enjoy” erroring peoples dirty laundry and often discourage people from begging to get their chat logs posted. So they aren’t going to make posting people chat logs a thing unless someone really wants them to, you sond paranoid.

          • John Wyma

            Yes, they have been slowly testing this new ban out in small batches, and I quote: “In the past, we’ve avoided publicly naming and shaming players; however, we’ve learned in recent months that being transparent is extremely critical to the playerbase’s trust in our systems, so we’ve decided to do a compromise. If players complain about unfair bans for this particular system (so, have a ban year code of 2500), we’re going to be fully transparent and posting the chat logs that resulted in the ban.”

          • Arago

            right that was two months ago, and yes since then they have posted chat logs of people who have begged them to do so, but they dont really do that anymore. in fact riot Lyte posted this 3 days ago “It sucks to post “dirty laundry” so to speak, and I don’t know any Rioter who enjoys doing it instead of just working on more positive things like new features. Generally, we handle about 90% of punishment cases privately; however, sometimes players are genuinely confused about their ban and are interested in comments from their peers. Sometimes, players try to persuade the community that they’ve been wronged and put on an act. In these more extreme, public cases, we’ll have to post chat logs–not because the player demands it, but to re-assure the playerbase that the systems are accurate, and to show players what kind of behaviors are unacceptable in this community.” See only extreme cases get their logs displayed, their not just going to go around publicly shaming people for the sake of doing so. People have to beg for it and even then, rioters try to dissuade them publicly getting their chat logs posted and ask that they open a support ticket. so yea paranoia.

          • John Wyma

            Listen, you clearly have a well established faith in the powers that be, and that’s wonderful. My goal isn’t to change that. But if you honestly can’t see the implications behind this new way of doing things, then I don’t know what to tell you.
            Of course Riot is going to be careful with how they handle their level of “transparency”, they have a HR department that probably insists on it. But initial statements like their announcement should strike the sane man/woman as sounding vindictive. Why would a hugely successful gaming franchise care what some teen said about being banned in a forum (unless of course they’re monitoring social response of the community as a whole)?
            Yes, this system can and is used to absolve banned players and clarify confusion, but the other side of that has darker potential.

          • Arago

            I don’t need faith when the facts are written on the wall. Riot doesn’t care what someone says about being banned. they do it for clarity, because as you conveniently didn’t mention a lot of banned people AREN’T trolls, and genuinely don’t understand why they are considered toxic, so they ask for chat logs and an explanation and they get it. What dark potential? your taking one statement and blowing it out of proportion.

          • John Wyma

            “your taking one statement..”

            You’re right, one statement issued to the public by the staff.

            “….and blowing it out of proportion.”

            I disagree. I’m simply extrapolating, looking at it from an angle different than yours and drawing a conclusion based on what I believe.

  • Meh

    Maybe I only saw 1 side of the thread requests but from what I have read most of the time people complaining about their bans were saying it was undeserved, they were completely innocent etc and the chat logs are the only evidence that Riot has that will refute the claims.

    When it is posted on the public forums, blasting the new system to being full of errors and people crying innocent, seems to me best choice would be to bring out the evidence.

    Do you have any proof that riots sees a normal, justified complaint and just throws up chat logs for everyone to see in order to silence the poster?

    • John Wyma

      Lin’s statement on the public posting of chat logs did not make it apparent as to whether or not it would automatically post a dissenter’s chat, or if the case had to be approved by a human mod. Since this new system is being tested in small batches to start, I have not yet seen an instance of public posting with an innocent account.

  • Bongo1138

    This could be nice for other LoL players, but it’s going to push these guys to DotA 2.

    • John Wyma

      Which could start a chain reaction amongst MOBA games :/