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Dev Blog: Exploring Player Behavior Design Values

November 26th, 2014


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The latest dev blog explores player toxicity and how it can and can’t be resolved.


TLDR: There is no silver bullet that solves negative behavior in online games. Players are a diverse bunch, and each player has different motivations and responds differently to different consequences. We design diverse systems using three core philosophies based on reform, punishment, and reward.

In the early days of the internet, players might use racist or homophobic language and nothing would happen; as a result, deviant behaviors not only emerge, but become the norm. In these cases, a non-action such as silence is reinforcement of the behavior, so the behaviors grow in frequency and severity.

But the League community has shown that change is possible. When structure is introduced, players rally behind it and online societies are maturing in some of the bigger online games like League. For example, we know the community rejects homophobic, racist, and sexist language–we’re seeing this type of language in less than 3% of games globally and when it does appear, it’s immediately reported by players and acted upon. We’ve seen time and time again that the majority of players in League will stand up against verbal abuse, and that it doesn’t belong in our community. The problem is, some players have now been gamers for decades where these excessively negative behaviors were considered “OK,” so now we’re playing catch up and need to change our standards and expectations. In this series of dev blogs, we’ll dive deep into our approach to this problem and how we’ve worked with the community to create the tools to enact change and give a voice to the majority of players who reject negative behavior.

One of the first things we did was take a step back from some of the traditional assumptions around online gaming and human behavior. For example, there is no silver bullet to the problem. It isn’t just about banning negative players (punishment) and it isn’t just about rewarding positive players (positive reinforcement). There’s a diverse group of players online (and in real life) and each group of players have different motivations and respond differently to different consequences. We need a diverse spectrum of systems to address the overall player behavior problem in online communities.

As a result of everything we’ve learned, we design our systems, features and programs along three axes: Reform, Punishment, and Reward.



Reform is critical because less than 1% of players are so persistently negative that they trigger a permanent or 14-day ban, ranked restriction or even a single chat restriction. For about 95% of players, they’ll never see these harsh penalties and don’t drift close to negative behavior except on the rare bad day. But we still need to have systems aggressively try to reform or remove the persistently negative players because they could impact an abnormally large number of games. In our next blog post, we’ll focus on reform systems and why sometimes all players need is a harsh penalty that triggers introspection and shows them some behaviors are never okay in League.



For some types of players and some types of behaviors, punishments are the best method of enacting change. Some of our punishment features include chat restrictions and ranked restrictions, and the new Leaverbuster which forces players into a low priority queue if they routinely AFK or leave games. In addition, the system gives players frequent and immediate feedback about their negative behaviors every time they try to get back onto the Rift. In the punishment-related blog, we’ll dive into the design rationale for some of these punishment systems, and why we believe ideas like Prisoner’s Island (where you match negative players with negative players) are poor design, and what we’ve done to improve on these concepts.



Finally, let’s talk about rewards. It’s not enough in a community to simply reform or punish negative behaviors; in a society where expectations and norms are no longer the standards we want for ourselves, we need to re-educate players on what it means to be sportsmanlike. To do this, we need to spotlight positive behaviors and celebrate positive behaviors more often. The obvious answer is always “just give a skin or RP!” However, if the goal is to actually encourage positive behaviors, research suggests that always using what we call “extrinsic” (tangible) rewards isn’t the best approach. We’ll take a deeper look in a later post at reward systems and how we’d like to spotlight positive behavior over the course of 2015, and why it’ll always be valuable for players to be good.

Our designs around rewards need to be diverse and include extrinsic and intrinsic options (different types of rewards for different people). For example, our current thinking is that, over the course of a year, we’ll introduce light rewards every few months such as the recent IP boost for positive play. One or two times a year, you might earn a more substantial reward such as the Santa Baron summoner icon. In the end, our goal is spotlighting positivity and how awesome the community actually is, not bribing or buying out negatively behaved players.

Before we sign off, we wanted to thank you again for showing us what the community wants to see in itself by using the reports and honoring your positive teammates. We’ve only introduced the philosophy behind our Player Behavior designs in this blog, and we’ll be going into greater detail about specific implementations in future posts.

We’ll continue to iterate and refine, creating new systems with our three design pillars in mind, and we’ll see you on the battlefield.

-The Player Behavior Team

If you still want to know more about how science can help us understand player behavior online, learn more from Lyte’s talk at GDC in 2013: http://gdcvault.com/play/1017940/The-Science-Behind-Shaping-Player.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at [email protected]