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"Honor PLS" or why Riot's behaviour policing techniques don't really work
by Gawel Ciepielewski on 02/04/13 09:09:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Online gaming sees a lot of trash talk. Quips and insults fly around a lot, partially due to their competitive nature, partially because getting your opponent off their game is as good a tactic as shooting them in the face in most games.

Then there's League of Legends, the carefully designed MOBA by Riot, which has a player base notorious for its downright hateful behaviour.

You see, apparently according to some unwritten laws, it is a crime of the highest magnitude to be a less skilled player than your opponent. Should you dare to be beaten in the early laning phase of the match you are very likely to get one or more of the following messages:

"OMG, stop feeding", "Noob", "Idiot", "Retard", F*cking feeder", "Refund champ", "Refund skin", "Uninstall LoL", "Kill yourself".

Yes, according to some people, being weaker than your initial opponent is reason enough to tell you to commit suicide.

Riot is aware of their player base and have hired a team of psychologists to combat this behaviour. They put in place two tools to do this: reports and honor. After playing a match  if you feel your teammate or opponent was behaving negatively you can report him for the offense, and add a short comment describing your grievance. Sufficient reports against a single player are sent to the tribunal - a player-run jury of several thousands, if not tens of thousands, which decides whether to punish or pardon an individual. If the Tribunal decides to Punish, the mods decide what the punishment should be and enact it.

Alternatively, you have the option to honor your teammate for exemplary behaviour, great sportsmanship, friendliness, excellent teamwork or being an honorable opponent. A player who gets honor of a specific flavor enough times will have their account marked as such and be recognizable to other players.

Riot takes great pride in the system, presenting statistics that show, that since the implementation of the honor system the report rate has sharply declined, assuming that this meant players have actually bettered themselves.

Sorry, Riot Games, this is not the case.

Honor is something the particularily hateful players will hold hostage. "Honor me, or I'll report you" is not uncommon. Some players will, after an entire match of nothing but harassment, tell you that they'll honor you if you honor them, completely shamelessly. Asking the opponents to report a teammate you didn't like in exchange for honor is also a recurring practice. People who did nothing remarkable will write "Honor pls" at the end of a match, and often get what they "pls" for. Additionally, a lot of LoL users have such low standards of sportsmanship, that they will honor opponents for merely being civil, rendering the "Honorable Opponent" badge worthless, because it translates to "Isn't a jerk to the other team".

The problem with the system isn't that it's badly designed, it's actually pretty good in theory. But it's only that - a system - and players who are absolutely vile, recognize it as such, and proceed to twist it to their ends.

I have no idea how much actual, presonal experience Riots psych team has with the community, but they seem to operate from some kind of "safe place", completely out of touch with the bile in the League of Legends community, only glancing at it through two-way mirrors, or maybe seeing pictures of it, but not immersing themselves. I don't claim to have an answer to the problem with vitriol in the LoL community, but anyone who wants to, should actually get in and play the game, experiencing first-hand the harrassment that this game is home to.

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Jake Muehle
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While the honor system certainly has its failings, it is the first step towards fixing a community hundreds of times more toxic than LoL--the Defense of the Ancients community.

It's not like Riot didn't know what they were getting into--the game was spawned off of potentially the most hateful, trolling gaming community of all time. That being said, however, even taking marginal steps towards fixing a problem that is plaguing the MOBA community (and to a lesser extent EVERY multiplayer game) is impressive.

The quotes from League players are certainly unfortunate. Competitive games that require everyone to know what they're doing to win will unavoidably generate frustration for the experienced players on the team. While this article points out that abuse of the Honor system is unavoidable, it lacks the perspective that shows what the honor system did.

A few weeks after the honor system was implemented I was being harassed for a bad game. About halfway through the game, that player /apologized/. I dare anyone to find an apologetic player anywhere else on the internet.

The honor system starts the "Honor PLS" people and people who try to farm that little banner, you're right. However, I would much rather have people who are falsely cheery or don't say anything instead of harassment. There are much, much worse things than somebody not talking and then asking for honor.

I don't think that Riot intended to reverse a problem that's festered for years overnight. However, their example of putting effort into actively encouraging other players to be positive towards one another is something that should be lauded in the multiplayer games realm.

Gawel Ciepielewski
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Thank you for your feedback, I sincerely appreciate it.
I wrote this entry prompted mostly by how Riot has recently flaunted their statistics of how the honor system has bettered player behavior, while all I experienced as a player since its implementation was a shift in the kind of abuse.

This is also not apparent from the article, but I write from the perspective of playing on the EU:NE server which, as far as I know is the most toxic server of all LoL servers.

I appreciate what Riot did, I even enjoy the system itself. I am disappointed with how pleased Riot are with themselves over something that hasn't made much of a positive impact on my experience, or the experience of other people I know that play on the same server as me.