Bitpicking: Community? Where?
Community is one of the quintessential aspects of modern gaming. It’s the sense of comradery between gamers that makes each and every encounter enjoyable. It’s the conversations that people have over games that lead to rising success. It’s the love that a community shares that has an everlasting effect on the industry. And there are few genres more affected by the community than the MOBA.
The influence that a community has on the developers is immense. How a community reacts to a certain change within a game can oftentimes lead to a reversal on the part of developers. In addition, the community often has great power over up and coming features of the game they play. Developers might ask the community on what they’d like to see next and how they would like the game to proceed from a certain point onward.
But what if that power were used for evil? Can the positive energy of the community be reversed to have a negative impact on the industry? Today I’m going to look at one of the biggest gaming communities in the world, League of Legends.
League of Legends is the most popular MOBA game in the world, having its hold over countries such as China, Korea, the United States, and many others in Europe. This international phenomenon helped give rise to eSports. eSports have been around for a while, obviously, but League of Legends brought even more gamers into the fold. Because of eSports, the League of Legends community has grown immensely and, as of October 2012, as reported by Riot, the game has 5 million concurrent players worldwide and 12 million registered players. That’s absolutely insane.
Players love to play the game, and it’s not hard to see why. But perhaps the biggest growth has been in the streaming scene, where pro gamers and other Internet celebrities stream their games. Twitch.tv is one of the largest streaming services available, and League of Legends never fails to hold the most viewers at a given time. Just recently, Riot held an All-Stars tournament in Shanghai, and the stream accrued hundreds of thousands of viewers, which isn't even counting the people at the stadium watching the game.
But this community can be both good and bad. League of Legends houses some of the worst type of people you can find in an online community, both in the game and out of it.
League of Legends is by nature a very competitive game. It pits five players against another team of five. The players must cooperate to defeat the other team by finishing off their base. It’s a simple game in nature, but a poor player can cause an entire team’s downfall. Additionally, it's easy for a player to turn on the team if something goes wrong. Usually these wounds can be mended with apologies, but there are players whose actions are so toxic and vitriolic that they can ruin the game for everyone involved.
Take a look at the above image, which comes from a chat log in one of the games. It’s filled with curse words. This sort of language is common throughout the game, and one might even argue that it’s an expected standard. There is a lot of poop-slinging going around, and it can make the entire experience disappointing. Though I’m not guilt-free, the game just feels less satisfying if people are resorting to verbal violence and the use of curse words.
It's not just the common curse words that are a problem. Using language in an offensive manner, such as the word “c*nt” or “f@g,” can instantly create a warzone that reflects poorly on the community. The community isn’t reserved sometimes, and people won’t hesitate to lash out at you the moment something goes wrong. Of course, there are ways of keeping these extremely malevolent players out using the Tribunal system, the game’s player evaluation reports, but those offensive players will never cease to exist entirely.
Still, we’re all human, and we can get angry, emotional, or upset. The same ways you’ve been wronged by the community, you can be an annoyance others. There are measures in place to prevent the upsurge of horrendous behavior in a community. Tribunal is one such thing. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with a community that can turn on you the moment something goes wrong.
A game’s community exists for nurturing and enhancing the game and the people who play it. However, just like almost everything in the world, there is both a good and bad side to it. Hopefully, the bad doesn't outweigh the good.
Do you know where you’re going? I think I do, for the most part. Join me next time as I head into... where was I going?
Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.