So hell froze over and I decided to play League of Legends again. I had been seeing the new season changes in my Facebook and Twitter feeds and I just couldn't resist any longer. I wanted to see the new changes to the game but, I was also interested in Riot's newly revamped Honor System. This is hard to believe, considering how ineffectual the honor systems have seemed over the years, but, Riot actually spends a lot of time, effort, and money trying to clean up their community. In my short time back, I have actually observed a palpable difference in the ways players are behaving and even find myself striving for a higher standard than usual. I'm not sure if it would be sound to attribute this entirely to the new system Riot has put in place, but I do believe it's worth talking about. So here are some things I've gleaned at a first glance.
Ultimately, you have to reward people for being civil. It doesn't feel like that should be the way things are but, ultimately it really is. Video games simulate high-stress situations. Though there's nothing truly at stake if you lose a game, your emotions would tell you otherwise. Because of this, people lose their shit online when they think they are going to lose. Frustration is the single greatest reason why people become toxic in online situations. Since frustration is assured in video games, this creates an odd situation. incentivizing staying calm and being a positive member of the community encourages people to remember themselves and act accordingly.
This is the idea that all honor systems begin with. By acting positively, your teammates will honor you and eventually you get a reward. Formerly this reward in League of Legends was a banner on your profile during load screens signalling to everyone that you possibly weren't a dick. The revamp has retained the system of rewards but has bolstered it by giving rewards with more impact in-game.
These come in the form of honor capsules which give rewards such as champions and skins, including a couple of exclusive skins for some of the game's most popular champions. It should be fairly obvious why the additions of these incentives are significant. I mean who wouldn't want that Warwick skin? It's cool as hell and all I have to do is not be a jerk?
That's what's up.
Rewards would be fairly useless without a sound form of progression. Now we're getting to the more significant changes in Riot's overhaul. Now there's a levelling system. If you receive enough honor you go up in level in receive better and better rewards. That seems like a simple concept but, I've actually never seen an honor system, before this one, which has put a form of tracking one's progress.
Even if you're really motivated to do something, it's difficult to stick with something if you have no way of tracking your progress. Imagine AA, for instance, for each month you're sober you get a chip. You lose those chips if you relapse. There is a form of progression both forwards and backwards. In the setting of League of Legends, this progression is in the form of the levelling system. Every time you're positive you get closer. If you just completely lose it and act horribly, you don't get any closer and if it gets really bad, you lose your progress. It's that simple.
The other cool thing about this leveling system is that it makes the progression incremental. Imagine if you had to walk 100,000 steps to get some sort of goal. Even if you were able to track how much you had to go, it'd be a little discouraging to look down and suddenly realize how much was left, with no acknowledgement of how far you've gone. Now imagine every 1000 steps you got a pat on the back or something. That's a lot better, yeah? Because there's some acknowledgement of how far you've already come and encouragement to keep moving forward. Same thing in League of Legends. Getting that pat on the back when you reach level 1, then 2, then 3 and so on, acts as encouragement to continue being nice each time you achieve a new level.
We've finally arrived at the bottom line for the quality of any online situation, mainly, what sort of accountability do we hold for ourselves and others hold for us? Naturally, on the internet, there is very little accountability. We are all anonymous to some degree and if not anonymous, at the very least we aren't held to the same level of accountability as we would be if we said the things we said online to a room full of people.
This has always been a problem in online games. People can behave as badly as they want and suffer few consequences. As with all honor systems, in Riot's, honor is gained from your teammates appreciating you for any number of reasons and choosing to give you props. But Riot's new system capitalizes further upon this form of positive encouragement by giving each player one vote only. This means, that people don't only have to be generally positive but also, have to be positive relative to their other teammates, which causes the whole group to shoot higher rather than lower.
Finally, finally this system creates easier conditions of self-regulation. By boiling down what good behavior looks like into three three categories: being kind, staying calm in a bad situation, and making good decisions, these three categories are the areas that you could receive honor. By making three succinct categories, Riot has simplified the process for players. Rather than focusing on merely being a positive player in the vaguest of senses, players are given a focus point. Rather than shooting for the sky, if they focus on one of these three categories and succeed in just one, they've achieved being a relatively positive player. Anything beyond that is gravy. With these categories Riot has given a clear picture of what good behavior looks like, so even for those who are confused by what that means, they now have a working definition. This has caused people, I've seen to check themselves more frequently and I nearly fainted when someone actually apologized after getting frustrated after they got killed and they popped off on me.
All together, this is a good start. It's the first good start I've seen Riot make towards cleaning up their community. It sets clear expectations and offers fair rewards for meeting them and you can already see the results playing out. It would be great if this could continue to be the case and if this experiment was successful, to see a similar system implemented in other online games. (Please, Overwatch, please).