Posts Tagged ‘League’

Disclaimer: While I am a law student, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.


Part of my own legal education has been the study of Professional Sports law (in the United States), so I decided to do a quick comparison of regulations and punishments between some of the major US sports organizations to Riot’s eSports organization.

In this article, I’m talking about professional League players in the eSports setting; not your everyday bronze scrub.


The Original Setup – Rules and Regulations in Physical Pro Sports


In the four major US sports (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB), the rules and regulations are set up sort of like a corporate hierarchy: you have the Commissioner at the very top, who controls most aspects of the game itself – the schedule, regulating officials, league-based discipline, etc. The Commissioner’s power over the league and its teams is set forth through a League Constitution  (similar to a corporation’s bylaws). However, these constitutions don’t directly dictate the relationship between teams and players – those are set up contractually.

In each of these sports league constitutions there is a clause called the “best interests of the game” clause. It basically gives the Commissioner the authority to do just about anything as long as the act is in the best interests of the game as a whole.


A New System? – Rules and Regulations in League of Legends


Unfortunately, Riot’s eSports regulation setup isn’t publicly available, and most professional player contracts have a non-disclosure clause. With the  lack of available information, the best we can do is apply current sports law concepts and see how they fit onto Riot’s eSports infrastructure.

In League of Legends, the setup is very different from the club/league “franchise” arrangement most other professional sports use, but the outcome is essentially the same. Riot effectively takes on the role of “league commissioner,” exerting direct control over both the game and the teams simultaneously.

The biggest difference is that instead of holding “commissioner” power through a league constitution, Riot seems to be given that power contractually – teams sign lengthy contracts that give unilateral control over League events to Riot – which seems pretty obvious. If you want to play their game in their tournaments, you have to agree to play by their rules.

Ok, so instead of becoming a commissioner through a “league constitution,” Riot becomes a commissioner through individual contracts. Is that really any different? The answer is yes.


The Differences – Advantages and Disadvantages of Riot’s eSports Setup


Setting up commissioner power as contractual agreements has advantages and disadvantages. It’s advantageous to Riot on several practical levels:

First, Riot maintains a direct relationship with the players – as opposed to professional sports law, where only teams and owners are parties to the bylaws, and players have no direct relationship with the Commissioner. Second, individual contracts allow a large degree of flexibility – great for different teams in differing circumstances (e.g. foreign teams). Finally, Riot could distance themselves from principal-agent situations with teams/players, which has  several benefits – not the least of which involves avoiding antitrust violations.

However, there are some legal disadvantages to having a contractual setup rather than a series of league bylaws. The first is that contractual damages are very limited. Harsh penalties designed to deter behavior don’t fly in contract law – if actual damages can’t be proven with certainty, Riot has no case. This poses a problem, for instance, with cheating – you want to punish cheaters even if cheating didn’t actually help them win, but a court will require you to prove that damage was done. This may explain why Riot caught several teams screenwatching last year, but only chose to penalize when they were certain it had an impact on the game.

A related disadvantage is the lack of a “best interests of the game” clause. In professional sports law, such clauses are kept extremely ambiguous on purpose, to meet whatever new situations can come up (e.g., dog fighting, gang-related signs… etc). It also allows for flexible discipline measures to be taken – commissioners can fine teams, revoke draft picks, or even force team ownership transfers outright.

But the ambiguity that makes the clause so valuable in a bylaw is also what makes the clause detrimental to contract law. Ambiguous words and phrases are difficult to enforce because it’s hard to tell if both parties really agreed to the same thing. (e.g., what exactly constitutes a “performance enhancing” drug? Is it limited to anabolic steroids? What about prescription medications such as Adderall? Energy drinks? Caffeine?). In some situations, courts can strike entire clauses from a contract for being too ambiguous – a pretty severe disadvantage.

Will we ever see any of these issues get raised in court? Probably not, as most teams and players are not in any position to negotiate or test any of the terms in their contracts. Their bargaining power is effectively nullified by the fact that Riot has a stranglehold on League of Legends – it is, after all, their game.

Follow me on Twitter @VCDragoon for updates!

(Disclaimer: While I am a law student, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Last time, I looked at the possibility of bringing another player to court in a civil action for trolling. This article follows the same theme, but from a criminal law perspective. Of course, 99.99% of “troll-like” behavior (flaming, spamming, etc.) should be simply brushed off. From a legal standpoint, ignoring this behavior is generally the only realistic option. 

A couple months ago, I had the “privilege” of being teammates with a real winner. His messages displayed a wide variety of “adult” topics, which included some very creative threats. The player  disclosed some specific information about an individual he intended to “kill” – including some advice to “watch the news” for it. (Although I didn’t believe his threats were serious, I took some screenshots and sent them to Riot. At the very least, he seemed like he needed a “grown-up’s time-out.”)

That incident started me thinking on both Part 1 and Part 2 of this article. Specifically, I was curious to answer the following question:


The short answer is: Yes. 

I will divide this article into two main parts. First, I’ll briefly talk about the 1st Amendment and the role it plays in criminal statutes. The second part will look at a criminal statute that outlaws certain types of online communication (“true threats”).


I. 1st Amendment: Right to Flame Speech?

The biggest obstacle to regulating any type of communication is the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, in part:

Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.

Although the 1st Amendment has been held to protect almost all expressions of ideas, this freedom is not absolute – in very limited circumstances, Congress can take some steps to regulate speech. 

While most speech is protected, a handful of speech is not
Although we just established that “Congress shall make no law” that restricts freedom of speech, there are limited exceptions. For example, you can’t provoke an angry mob to take violent action (“fighting words”); make false statements that harm a company’s reputation (“defamation”); or provide”obscene” material to minors (“pornographic speech”). Another exception, the focus of this article, prohibits the making of “true threats.”


II. Federal statutes regulate “threats”
Supreme Court interpretation has held that the 1st Amendment does not offer protection for threat-making. As such, Congress passed 18 U.S.C. 875(c), which imposes criminal penalties for making threats over the Internet. Courts have narrowly defined what can be considered a “true threat” for the purposes of the statute:

threats elements

The easiest way to get a good grasp on the idea of a “true threat” is by understanding what the government does not have to prove.

a. Whether you actually intended to carry it out doesn’t matter
What matters is whether the threat could place a reasonable person in apprehension – a question that would be left to a jury to answer. The jury analysis in our case would be complicated by the fact that players in League are anonymous to one another. 

In order to make a “true threat,” a reasonable person has to believe you might actually do what you’re threatening to do. Making a general threat to someone in all-chat, like “I’m gonna kill you Ziggs!!” is much too ambiguous – you could mean “in-game”. Even “I’m gonna kill you in real life, Ziggs!” still is unlikely to meet the standard. Without further evidence, it’s hard to say that a reasonable person would believe a true threat exists; it’s reasonable to believe that the player has no idea who the “real life” Ziggs is.

All this means is that a true threat requires a certain level of specificity. If the player making the threat is specific enough about who they are threatening to make a reasonable person believe they might intend to carry it out, § 875(c) has likely been violated.

b. Whether you even intended to make a threat doesn’t matter
Most crimes require some sort of subjective intent – you meant to do what you did, even if you didn’t know it was a crime. For example, burglary is different than theft or larceny, in part because a burglar enters a house with the intent to commit a crime – a thief could have simply seen an opportunity to steal, but didn’t begin with that intention (like a kleptomaniac).

“True threats,” unlike many crimes, don’t require subjective intent. They simply have the objective, reasonable apprehension standard listed above. Even if a player is just expressing frustration, and doesn’t actually mean what they say, if a reasonable person would interpret the communication as a threat, then they could still be found guilty. That being said, courts have held that the context of the situation should be taken into account. 

The “context” of a League game adds yet another layer to the jury’s analysis. Without visual and other non-verbal methods of communication, not to mention language barriers, mediums such as all-chat allow for a single sentence to be interpreted in a variety of ways. To deal with this, the reactions of the other players would likely be considered to determine if a “true threat” had been made.

c. Whether the person threatened knows of the threat doesn’t matter
This is pretty straightforward, even though it may be a little surprising. Let’s say a player, Swain, has been verbally harassing Ziggs all game – so much that Ziggs has done the smart thing and muted Swain. But towards the end of the game, Swain loses it, and makes some disturbingly specific claims regarding beating his neighbor to a bloody pulp.

As far as § 875(c) goes, it doesn’t matter who sees the threats. It could be Soraka, or even Soraka’s Mom who happens to read the threats while passing by the computer. Or even if everyone in the game had Swain ignored, it could be the tribunal readers. The point is that Swain’s neighbor would never have to know the threats existed.

d. Additional Misc. Factors
Each fact pattern will be different, but there are some general factors that are usually considered in § 875(c) cases. As mentioned above, the reaction of the actual recipients of the threat usually plays a large role, often in the form of witness testimony. Additionally, whether or not the threat was conditional – “if you keep feeding, I’ll saw off your hands off with your own keyboard” – can reduce the likeliness of a “true threat.” Finally, if the threat in question could be interpreted as a mere expression of desires, it would be more difficult to be a true threat. Telling Teemo that you really hope someone burns his house down is unlikely to cause the reasonable apprehension element above.

Most trolling would never rise to this level. But the federal government doesn’t mess around with true threats – several Myspace, Facebook and even Twitter postings have led to violations of federal law. Even some rap lyrics have been deemed “true threats.” And the penalties can be hefty. While the protections of anonymity and the context of a virtual game greatly reduce the chances of a guilty verdict, some may take comfort in knowing there is a line that can’t be crossed.

Bottom Line: Making a real-world, unconditional threat against a specific target could violate federal law under 18 U.S.C. 875(c) if it causes a reasonable person to fear that the threat is intended to be carried out.

Follow me on Twitter @VCDragoon for updates!


Hello Summoners! This is the first of two articles taking a look at some of the legal issues surrounding League of Legends and video games in general. I love feedback, so feel free to comment below! Disclaimer: I am a law student. I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. (I know, such a mood-killer)

Today I want to go over Trolls. Most of the time trolling doesn’t amount to much more than a painful 20 minutes. But sometimes, people just seem to snap. To be clear, I’m not interested in your everyday 0-39-2 Pantheon, or the bad-sport who simply says “bg noobs.” I’m interested in the individuals who take trolling to the “next level” and bring some real verification to this (somewhat crude) Penny Arcade Comic.

I’ve found myself wondering if there is a limit to what a troll can say, and not just in terms of the Summoner’s Code. That forms the basis of this article’s question:


While there are dozens of ways to evaluate the legality of trolling, I will focus on two causes of action:

Part 1 (this article) will look at a civil claim: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED). 

Part 2 (a future article) will look at a criminal charge: Threatening/Intimidating Behavior.


I. IIED - Player v. Troll

IIED is a tort – a wrongful act that harms someone else. This is a civil lawsuit, and not a criminal one, which means it is easier for the plaintiff (in this case, the player suing the troll) to win. Tort law, and especially IIED, differs greatly from state to state. Some states don’t recognize IIED as its own legitimate claim at all. This is because emotional distress, unlike a physical injury, is intangible – there’s always the worry of the little boy who cried “troll.”

Some examples of IIED claims involve pretty traumatic stuff – the victim often ends up suffering from an objectively measured psychological disorder, such as depression or PTSD. Often the victims sue for compensation for expenses in treating said conditions.

CLAIM: Player claims that a Troll’s verbal harassment inflicted a severe degree of emotional distress. 

So what do they have to show? IIED has a four-step test:

IIED2Each criteria of this test must be met in order for the Player to succeed. If the Troll can show by at least some evidence that they are not guilty of a single part, then the whole thing crumbles. Let’s quickly go through and see where the Player’s claim is strongest, and where the Troll might push back.

1. Intention. This is the easiest one for the Player; Trolls intentions, when verbal at least, tend to be pretty obvious. Just browse through some of the Tribunal Cases of the Weak.

2. Extreme or Outrageous. The courts interpret this as whether the act was “beyond all bounds of human decency,” to be “regarded as intolerable.” At first, the Player might be thinking this part is a slam-dunk. Just imagine what a judge’s reaction would be if showed one of the chat logs linked above.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple – the conduct is measured by a “reasonable person” given the context.

The Troll may be able to argue that, given the context, the behavior was neither “intolerable” nor “beyond all bounds” – in fact, the behavior is quite frequently exhibited in the game. While frowned upon, the Player may be hard pressed to show that, given the context, the trolling in question was “extreme or outrageous.” This prong is a toss-up, and will depend on how the Jury rules.

3. Causation. Was it the troll that caused the “emotional distress” involved? The Troll’s defense grows stronger, because they can sit behind the “burden of proof” curtain – it’s the Player’s job to prove that but for the Troll they would not have suffered emotional distress. The Troll can simply bring up some doubts – was the Player upset because of something that happened in the “real world?” Or from losing the game, or making a bad play?

It’s extremely difficult, given the limited availability of scientific measurements of emotional causes and effects, for the Player to show that this emotional distress was the result of the Troll’s conduct – but again, it’s probably up to a jury.

4. Severe Distress. The final prong of IIED doesn’t get any easier. The Player must show that their emotional distress was severe. This means at least two things: firstly, the Troll had to have a profound effect on the Player’s long-term mental state. Being temporarily insulted or upset doesn’t cut it. Secondly, the effect should be quantifiable – whether documented through counseling, medication, work-performance, etc.

This is wheremost of the cookies are going to crumble. How likely is it that an anonymous player, through a game used for entertainment, will have a severe, medically-documentable effect on another player’s long-term emotional stability? The courts are old fashioned, and unless there is some pretty clear and convincing evidence, it’s likely that the judge won’t even let this one get to the jury – at the end of the day, “it’s only a game.”


In case the Troll’s defense wasn’t already strong enough, they could argue an affirmative defense. Given the “innocent until proven guilty” nature of lawsuits, defendants don’t even need to present anything at all. All they need is to show how the plaintiff can’t meet one of the four parts of the test. However, sometimes defendants also have the strategy of saying “even if I am guilty, I had a good reason…”

Here, the Troll could allege an assumption of risk defense. Essentially the defendant claims that the Player, fully knowing there was a risk of being trolled, chose to join the game (they also enabled “all-chat” and chose not to mute individual players). This defense was successfully used when a plaintiff jumped through a bonfire, and sued because he got burned – the court found that jumping through a bonfire carries an “assumption of risk” that you may incur fire-like burns. I like to call this the “herp derp” defense.



A couple of quick notes/questions before wrapping this article up:

  • “Outrageous conduct” changes over time with the standards of society. I remember when your order in ranked draft pick was used instead of role-calling, but now that’s starting to change. The more we tolerate or are desensitized to trolls, the less likely trolling might be considered “extreme or outrageous” – is this a desirable direction to be headed?
  • Do you think it’s even possible for a Troll to say something so horrendous that your average Player would find it “outrageous”? Even if it is, do you think someone could be so affected by it as to require clinical treatment? Or is it really “just a game?”
  • Finally, by queuing for a game, do you think a player could reasonably believe there is no risk of getting a troll on their team? Does the “degree of trolling” factor in?


Bottom Line:

Because players voluntarily assume the risk of getting trolled, and because trolling, even in its worst forms, is unlikely to be “extreme or outrageous” enough to cause severe emotional distress, Players would probably not be able to succeed in an IIED case against a Troll.

Follow me on Twitter @VCDragoon for updates!

Dodge Penalties – Riot Pls

February 11th, 2013



Rioter RiotKiddington recently posted in a forum thread about the dodge penalties in Season 3. Chime in on the matter here, or check out some quotes I’ve selected below, as well as my opinion on the subject!



Why the penalty?


Malzahar_4Queue dodging is a complex problem that involves much deliberation and consideration. We have a queue dodge system with a queue dodge penalty because we need to strike a balance between the need of players who wish to play the game and those who want to dodge the game (of any reason). Why Riot not just have a “free queue dodge” system of some form? The answer to this question is simple because it is too prone to abuse.


Regarding ARAM:


Malzahar_4There is another segment of our player base that will queue dodge for competitive reasons. Let’s take current ARAM game mode as an example, the ARAM mode supposed to be all random in champion selection, and by logical extension of ARAM design, there should never be any “troll pick” or “mid or feed”. In reality: ARAM games currently have one of the highest queue dodge rate. Based on this information, have you considered why that is the case? Were these queue dodgers indifferent about their games? Or they cared too much about their games, and they will, at any instance of perceived disadvantage dodge the queue? One can’t deny there is a segment of our player base that would utilize the dodge system to enhance their competitive advantage if no strong discouragement exists. We need the queue dodge penalty to keep this group of players in check.


Failing to start a game:


Malzahar_4One group of players we also need to take into consideration are those who want to play the game. There are times when I have a perfect team and the other side queue dodged (for whatever reasons), and this really sucks for me. Now if this happens 7 times in a row, it would really make me feel bad. This is not without history, we have seen last year when the Dominion queue dodge system failed to enforce queue penalty for months, the consequences of that bug were devastating. It will take 7-8 tries before a player can successfully launch a game. Once we fixed the dodge penalty bug, the number of tries needed to launch a game dropped dramatically.






I‘d like to discuss Ranked games in particular, because to me ARAM is a chill mode and far from competitive. Obviously Riot wants to eliminate the threat of trolling, so much so that they are willing to reverse changes that many agreed with. It’s a reminder of the loss of Elo system we parted with back in Season 2, where if a player dodged a lobby in ranked, he/she would lose 10 rating. The system’s changed, it’s no longer Elo, it’s League Points, but the idea is basically the same. I myself gladly used, without abusing, the time-penalty system that preceded the current one. It was a safe way to dodge trolls or otherwise unpleasant figures. Two people arguing since last game? Leave! Someone picked ranged carry just because the guy in front stole his role? Leave! It was rather alleviating, it felt… justified. In my mind decent players should never be punished for being stuck with people who are less than eager to commit to the game.

Of course, that’s just one side of the problem. For the good of the community in general, the penalties were reintroduced It’s not fair for everyone but what is? I’ll leave you with a few suggestions that have been wandering on the forums that I, personally, agree with:


Kick/Ban system in lobby: Test it out, introduce it in a careful manner because it’s a system that can easily be abused. Best case scenario, this will be the end for a vast majority of negative experience in Ranked games. Maybe this shouldn’t work for duo premades?

Make the time penalties even more punishing: This is also a dangerous move since many people don’t have the time to play a lot of League of Legends, especially during workdays. But, many will agree that time penalties are the lesser evil. And they don’t even have to increase steadily. First leave could be a 30 minute punishment, but the next would jump to 2 hours and so on, making it less abusable than it currently is.

Add a report function to Champ Select: This is seriously needed as many of the players who troll are often dodged and left unpunished for their actions. To me it is a much cleaner example of terrible sportsmanship than in-game failures. It would help establish a level of mutual respect in lobbies, since the Tribunal threat would be present even there.

Automatic leave for Random Locks: Let’s face it, Random locking in Ranked is a sign of a player either trolling or AFK-ing. The feature itself doesn’t need to go. Why? It’s a great way to identify such actions as punishable! Drop the player from the Champ Select and set a penalty only for him/her. No drawbacks here.



What do you guys think about the dodge penalties? Should Riot once again punish players with loss of rating? Or can we find a middle ground in Season 3? Share in the comments below!


Good luck on the Fields of Justice!

league system

It has been about a week since Riot released the new League System which aimed to revamp soloqueue into feeling like an actual ladder, instead of the endless and painful grind of spamming games to gain or lose rating. The new system has provided people with tangible ranks, divisions, rivals, rewards, and promotions, but was this overall a good thing for soloqueue and does it help alleviate a lot of the common problems and grievances that soloqueue grinders used to suffer from? Well I am here to give my humble opinion on the subject as a pretty avid soloqueue grinder and after only playing a handful of games in the new system all I have to say is…..


The new league system is absolutely amazing and does so much to make soloqueue an actual enjoyable alternative to playing Normal games compared to its old iteration. Soloqueue feels competitive again because the Color and Number divisions actually do an accurate job of distributing players based on their skill. Climbing the ladder to get to your placement matches also feels incredibly rewarding and satisfying and gives you realistically obtainable rewards to queue for compared to the old system. If you get about twenty League Points (LP) a win and need 100 to qualify for a placement, that means you only have to win five games before your hard work pays off. Compare that to the old system where after hitting 1520 rating to get gold you had to get another 330 rating to get platinum! You could even lose rating and slide past your previous achievement into a lower color; which brings me to the other best part of the new system, once you have achieved a certain color (bronze, silver, gold, etc) you get to stay there! Talk about actually getting to reap the rewards of your hard labor!

So What Does It All Mean?

Well the thing that I am noticing when I queue up now is that I am much less stressed when it comes to winning, trolls, and not making progress. The League system has remedied all these things quite nicely. I was put into Platinum Division IV to start and played a few games, win some lose some, until I eventually got to my placements to move up. I quickly lost my first 2 placement matches and was back to building up my LP to 100. One game later I got back to placement, took two quick wins and got promoted to Platinum Division II. What I learned from all of this was that I really didn’t care if I won or lost though. The burden of stress had been lifted and I think part of that was that I knew I was always going to be locked into Platinum. I never again have to worry about sliding so far down the ladder into areas where I greatly outskill the players on mine and the enemy team, and this made losing much less stressful. Another thing is, when you enter a new division and are starting anew, you have no pressure at zero points because you can only go up, never down. I never find myself grinding my teeth anymore and I am always having a good time even when I lose because I know I can queue up again and get an equally challenging game that actually caters to my appropriate skill level. Also, because you cant go down in color (you can go down in division but its unlikely) your skill becomes tempered and you always make progress. I can’t quantify how much my skill in playing mid lane has gone up by being in my current division, but I sure as hell notice a difference. I die less, I have better map awareness, my cs is good, and I carry more often. This also leads to positive feelings because if you can stick it out in your division long enough and actually learn stuff from the games you play then you will definitely rise and eventually be promoted.

The last thing I want to briefly touch on that is a problem in soloqueue is trolls. Now I will say that with the new system I find that people are much more cooperative and nice within the game lobby, they all want to win, but people still rage a TON in game, especially if they are in placement matches. There are also still some “lobby bullies” lurking out there which are the people that will call mid and even risk going double mid or double top to try and coerce you out of picking the role they want. The new system did nothing to resolve these problems so every once in a while you will encounter them. However, it makes giant strides in removing the general stress and animosity people feel towards eachother in soloqueue under the pressure to win in order to gain rating, which I think overall is a great change to the environment and makes everything much more enjoyable.


So What Are You Waiting For?

If ever there has been a Season to clean up your act and finally achieve a specific color rating to really make yourself proud, impress your friends, and add a tangible value to your skill this is the Season. Riot has made giant strides with the game to make it more enjoyable as a spectator sport and also now to play as a casual fan of the game. Brush up on some of my past Season 3 articles if you want to have an edge over your opponent and I’ll see you on the Fields of Justice!

Previous “Glory of the Climb” Articles:

Making Sense of Season 3

Dominion: Helping You To Win More Lanes and Games

Developing Your Killer Instincts: Why to be Aggressive in Season 3

Working With Your Team to Win

Countering Health with DFG


Love, Dcgreen



LoLKing Profile


Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo has switched his position from top lane back to the jungle. His original role used to jungler and as he states it is what he is most comfortable with. Now that IWillDominate has become IWillSpectate that role has freed up for his taking.


The situation we are in as unfortunate as it may have been, has happened right in the beginning of a new era for League of Legends, in which everyone has to start from scratch in their updated roles. This is an opportunity for me to play in the jungle once more and be hopefully on par with the already established junglers.

I have made the decision to jungle because there is a much greater abundance of great top laners than there are junglers, as well as jungling being a position that I can impact the game more than top lane. Having played League of Legends for so long, I feel comfortable in every role, but jungling for me just feels right.

-Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo


On the official Dignitas website it has been announced that they are now looking for a new top laner and are currently trying out applicants. So go to their website and try your luck.

Cheers and thanks for reading!


Elementz is back!

December 6th, 2012

The king of the Benches, Elementz, is back on his starter position. This is confirmed and announced on Travis Gafford’s(whom mostly gained popularity by being the State of the League host) twitter:

Elementz was benched right before IPL5 and it seemed that he had no issue with being benched at all. This means that CurseNA has benched Rhux, the support player they had high expectations for going into IPL5 and that Elementz is back to being the king of supports (at least in his team).

Elementz has a known history of being benched and hopefully this means that his position is secure and that he won’t have to deal with this any longer. Elementz is back baby!

Cheers and thanks for reading!