League has gone through a lot of transformation over the past few years. It’s developed an honor system that has been praised for potentially being a better way to fight trolls and toxic players — and it’s worked, to some extent. But the unintended result of that has been League players incorporating a unique brand of passive-aggressiveness into schooling each other on how to play better.
Rather than coming outright and saying “you’re bad,” players these days go into intricate detail about the problems in your build and your Baron calls, which can be off-putting to hear from complete strangers. Or they save the insults to the very last minute before the game ends, in hopes of avoiding a report. And that has taught me a lot about our (overly high) expectations that we set for each other.
I’ve been a League player since 2015, which is to say I picked it up pretty late in the game’s lifespan, about six years after it was created. At this point, League already had a robust community, well-known lore and a plethora of champions. That also meant that it was very challenging to learn from scratch — mechanics, gameplay, nuances of item builds were all a mystery to a beginner.
The worst part though, is probably other players’ reactions for when you play poorly. There’s no room for beginners to screw up, especially if you’re playing with more veteran friends, which is one of the main reasons people give for starting to play the game. I had friends who were Diamond and Platinum just blacklist me and never play a game again with me, or if they did, they would rage every time I died and question mark ping me. And of course, it’s even more toxic if you’re playing with strangers.
But how can this be? Didn’t the Honor system incentivize everyone to be nice to each other? Hop into an ARAM game now and play like a monkey among all the competitive people who are on during preseason and you’ll see what I mean. If you roll Xerath, play him like you forgot how to aim and walk up too close and get stunned. Be prepared for your Jayce to question mark you endlessly. And when I say endlessly, I mean, he will AFK and die while he’s question marking you, that’s how dedicated he is to correcting your mistakes.
In a culture where we idolize esports professionals and Korean builds that take the math of each damage variable into account, we simply just expect way too much from the random people we queue up with. Let’s face it, there’s always going to be a weak link, either a player queued up to the wrong lane that they never play, someone trying out a new champion or someone just getting ganked too often.
We want perfection but we really just can’t have it. And the result is hilarious and sad, especially when we run into beginners who don’t know how to play and don’t even operate on the same expectations we have for most veteran players. I queued up with a friend once and we needed to Baron for a mission, so we both arrived at Baron and started doing it, while informing the team. The other players didn’t budge at all.
We tried again, “Hey, come Baron.” No response. Baron executed both of us. At this point, the other players likely thought we were intentionally feeding. On another attempt at Baron, a player actually responded, “Baron? Why should I help you?”
Why should I help you? That comment really stuck with me for a while. Indeed, I could imagine a world where players simply just do their own thing. Essentially the game would just be a forever laning phase. The top laner split pushes top forever until they meet the enemy Garen who spins angrily. The ADC who just farms up for full build and a Soraka support with well-timed Es to snipe all the kills. It would be a fiesta, for sure, but just imagine it for a second. To a beginner, that might feel like the natural progression of the game.
It doesn’t work in reality, because we already have many examples of the ideal version of this game, through streamers like BunnyFufuu and Gosu, and players like Doublelift and Faker. That’s a quality League has that many other games, which are new and developing, don’t quite have yet. And it’s a burdensome expectation to throw on new folks coming into the game, or even veteran players still struggling to learn a champion that’s new to them, but we still fall into this pattern anyway.
This is partly why the divide between beginners and veterans has grown so big. We ask so much of our often random teammates that we just happened to queue up with, often in silent communication. We want them to know where we are at all times and come help gank us. If Zed swoops in and dives me under tower, I want my jungler, ADC, and support to come avenge me. Leona’s got to land the perfect ulti, Braum needs to block all of Jhin’s shots and both want me to heal them just in time before their aggressive play gets them killed.
For new players coming into the game and lapsed players making a return, all this just makes League more extremely unfriendly. Veteran players feel justified in correcting newer players mistakes and advising them, often in harsh tones, that they’re not building correctly and aren’t good with a certain champion. The mistakes that beginners and lapsed players are making often feel too obvious and we can start to think they’re intentionally feeding. But giving that kind of feedback just doesn’t come across as polite advice. Instead it feels like a rude assertion of why we’re better than them.
My advice to all of us, myself included, is to calm down, and also to remember that what goes around comes around. The next already tilted player could be someone you queue up with in ranked and they could end up throwing the game in rage. People often comment on Reddit that they’re queuing up with terrible players and that’s why they’re hard-stuck Silver or Bronze. But actually, it’s entirely possible that toxicity is keeping our ranks down and hurting any sense of community within the game. Instead, making a boatload of mistakes and still winning the game is part of what makes League satisfying, as is trying our hardest to play a perfect game. We can remember that everyone on our team has the same goal (as long as they’re not trolling), and that means we at least have a starting point for communication.