Trolls and ragers have infested every corner of the net and are mostly accepted as unfortunate byproducts of online anonymity. Gaming's not immune – all of us have experienced the frustration of some twerp ruining a game by griefing his own team or blasting obscenities like some kinda diarrhetic curse cannon.
So what's a game developer to do? Riot's recipe involves one part vinegar, two parts honey. To deter toxic flare-ups, we've put the gavel in players' hands, empowering them to report jerky players and pardon or punish those who collect enough reports to appear before the player-run Tribunal. If the Tribunal determines that a player isn't displaying good sportsmanship, punishment is meted out in the form of warnings and suspensions. Ultimate punishment – i.e., a permaban – is still handled by Riot's player-support specialists.
We've learned that while the Tribunal effectively bans the small minority of very toxic players, it doesn’t provide average players with the feedback they need to avoid sporadic outbursts of less-than-desirable behavior. Our research shows that many players have occasional toxic moments and do get reported, just not as frequently, and we certainly don't want to boot these folks. We all have bad days, and sometimes just need a slight attitude adjustment.
To that end, we're trying lots of small incentives to induce more sportsmanlike behavior. In 2011, we rewarded sportsmanlike players with a bonus of in-game currency. This year, we're rewarding the nicest players with an exclusive icon. We've also rolled out a bundle of new features empowering players to give immediate positive feedback to allies and opponents who play honorably.
Enter the honor initiative. With two quick clicks, players can give teammates and opponents alike virtual kudos for exhibiting sportsmanlike behavior. Were your opponents humble in victory or gracious in defeat? Thumbs up! Teammate taught you a new tactic? Thumbs up!
Players who collect enough of these kudos receive a special, animated message celebrating their achievement. From that point forward, a colored ribbon adorns the profile of these players – a visible signal that lets everyone else know they're playing with a class-act summoner.
The honor initiative is proving to be a positive force in the community, and players with honorable ribbons pop up in a majority of games. Strangers honoring strangers proves that players are happy to give a thumbs-up to their teammates and opponents. The results of the system have so far exceeded our expectations and we'll be sharing some of our findings in future updates. Of course we haven't solved the very complicated problem of why we can't all just get along, but we're encouraged by this progress and vow to keep at it because we dare imagine virtual worlds and online play free of jerknozzles.