League of Legends: Runeterra on Trial
by Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG Journalist
With the new champion delayed in last week’s patch, I’m going to hold off this week on writing about Orianna until I can give a proper review. So instead I’m going to rant about one of the most interesting experiments League of Legends has ever attempted: The Tribunal.
Anyone who’s spent any time in League of Legends knows that, much like any popular online game, there is a fetid sea of morons out there who seem intent on acting like a clown due to the pseudo-anonymity provided by the internet. The phenomenon is sometimes referred to as John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, though its more technical name is the Online Disinhibition Effect.
I have a smaller, sub theory of my own that the likelihood of encountering an Internet Asshole in any online community increases dramatically with the size of said community. One idiot in a small group isn’t a problem, as the group bands together and deals with them, but in a larger group several idiots can be harder to catch, and what’s more, their behaviour can often lead others to believe that their actions are perfectly justified. So the outbreak begins, and the trolling spreads like a disease.
It’s no wonder that community management is one of the most thankless jobs in the gaming industry, and even smaller wonder that such a job is needed. Riot is exceptionally strange in that they actually allow their developers and designers to speak on the forums, rather than solely working through their community management team. The reason why most companies do the latter is to protect their employees from tin foil hat wearing nutters who think that the poisonous community is somehow caused by the game’s designers, and that every patch edges humanity one step closer to Armageddon.
The daily, slogging job tasked on community managers is overseeing the well-being of their respective communities and their endless complaints. This is one of the few professions where one can get to witness the full vileness of humanity as a full fledged occupation. Part of the problem, I have always thought, is that there never feels like any transparency in the system. No-one in the community ever sees the work these people have to do on a daily basis to get any idea of the respect they deserve.
So, along comes the Tribunal. Here we can see in full view the stupidity, bigotry, and homophobia of the worst parts of the League of Legends community. Pale and naked in the noon day sun, the playerbase cannot help but witness its own hideous boils and blemishes.
The system itself is rather simple. You get to look at why someone was reported, and how they behaved in a number of games by way of full chat logs, item builds and end scores. After some time deliberating (and the system forces this on you, since you have to spend at least 60 seconds before passing judgment) you can choose to Pardon the reported person, letting them off the hook, or Punish them, which can result in anything from a warning to a permanent ban. The nature of the punishment is not selectable, and I’m fairly thankful for that. We get to be jury, but not judge and executioner.
One other thing worth noting is Riot has looked at ways people might try to game the system, and have employed countermeasures right from the start. Aside from the aforementioned 60 second minimum time, it is also required to enter a captcha code before passing judgment, avoiding the obvious trick of simply having a bot do the work for you. You are also limited to only being able to review ten cases in a single day, which I can only assume is another measure designed to ensure people don’t simply skim read and try to submit as many reports as possible.
My only misgiving over the system itself is natural human behaviour. Sure you get a nice IP boost for voting correctly at least once a day, but surely you could do the same for simply playing a game of League of Legends? The tribunal really is work, there is no recreation to be had here. I know some might plow on for the IP alone, or the sense that they can be the internet’s police, but for actual entertainment all you have is witnessing just how stupid some people really are. While I expect it to be used heavily at release, I can’t see the majority of the playerbase using it for an extended period of time. Only those sharing a deep sense (or rage) for justice or sharing our editor’s morbid sense of humor for seeing LoL Trolls in action will likely continue using the system on the regular.
I think the system can only help the community in a great deal of ways though. From the player side, they get to see the worst the community has to offer, and in turn think on how not to act like such an asshat. This is further compounded by the knowledge that these people now know the exact way that they will be tried and punished, which is, by the community at large. Also, the possibility that someone could take screenshots of things they find on the tribunal and turn the most thoroughly moronic players into the butt of a number of jokes on 4chan will likely allow at least a few people to think before they call someone’s mother the inbred offspring of a pair of retarded oxen.
For the community managers, it gives them a positive PR angle, as the system characterizes their police actions as the will of the people, not the crazed actions of a digital tyrant. The tribunal will also offset a good part of their policing workload, using it to filter out people who are pardoned. This will, in turn, get them more time to be dealing with the parts of the playerbase that aren’t trolls, giving us more information on League of Legends goodness. Greatest of all though, they may finally get some much needed sleep.
To discuss the new system yourselves, post in the massive League of Legends thread in the free to play MMOs section. If you haven’t tried League of Legends yet, now is the perfect time.