Hey, Geeks, welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about the worst parts of your favorite things. This week, we’re talking about League of Legends. And while I know a huge part of your psyche is screaming at you to fight me on this–because “how dare I”–take a step back. Because I know at least a part of you knows it’s true.
The Fanbase is Toxic
I am not kidding. I write an article series that is made specifically to point out flaws in well-loved nerd things, and even I can’t stand the toxicity of League. Which is unfortunate, because it had the power to be amazing and awe-inspiring–up until people got ahold of it. Like a Redbull-infused atom bomb.
Every MMO in the world is going to have some level of toxicity and bullying. There will always be people who shout maledictions and lewd comments from the safety of their keyboard or headset just because they can. But it is so much worse on League. The hazing and demeaning of Bronzies—despite that being far and away the majority of Leaguers (not that anyone will admit it)—is insane. Everyone blames everyone else for everything—constantly and vehemently using someone’s tier as a catch-all determiner of their worthlessness as a human being even as they ignore everyone else saying the same thing about them.
You’ve seen it happen. A game goes FUBAR and suddenly everyone is blaming everyone else’s shittiness while simultaneously screaming inflammations at the opposing team. And you join in because you know—YOU KNOW—that it wasn’t your fault everything went sideways. But everyone else is just as positive, and that constant, universal surety of “everyone else sucks besides me” makes you drop into the lobby again—absolutely SURE once again that this time won’t be the same. This team will be better.
That’s the thing about tiered rankings in MMO’s. They are essentially caste systems where shitting on the people below you is deemed acceptable, and even helpful—in case it inspires them to improve. But everyone has to start somewhere, and at one point or another everyone is in the lowest tier. And, especially in League, most people stay there—and are constantly punished for it as they try to scrape together enough games to move upward. But unless you have an almost limitless amount of time on your hands—you’re pretty sure that’s not going to happen.
There is Nothing Outside of League
One of the main reasons that escaping the Noob or Bronzie caste is so impossible is that most of us have actual lives outside of League. Jobs, families, friends. Right?
Seriously—do you still have those things outside of LoL? Because it honestly might just be jobs at this point, and even then I bet you’ve talked to at least one coworker about it within the last two weeks.
The thing is, as League of Legends continues to grow bigger and more all-consuming—I’m willing to bet that a lot of your friends are already lost to the net. Maybe your significant other is stuck there, too, and you tell yourself that you’re spending time together because you’re both playing the same game and not cursing at them like you are at everyone else—but part of you knows that this isn’t quality time. That this is a festering wound that you just ignore because enough people have leprosy at this point that it might as well be a freckle.
But some part of you recognizes the waste of time and life–but you can’t leave. Who else would you hang out with if not for your friends who are still playing? The toxicity leaks in enough that most of them will probably support and congratulate you for escaping that Viper Pit—but they probably won’t stop, themselves. You’ll be isolated because do you even still have common ground with the friends you entered the game with 7 years ago? Or did you even have that to begin with? Are all the friends you have left just faces on a constant stream?
There’s Really Only One Way to “Get Good”
We already discussed the toxicity of the LoL fanbase, and that leaving that toxicity would probably result in some sort of void in your life—so you’re stuck with this. Okay, fine. If I’m going to be in a shitty situation, I can at least try to make it less shitty. Let’s prove we know what we’re doing in this game. That we’re NOT the reason our team keeps losing. Let’s get good.
And you. Just. Keep. Playing. More. Games.
That’s your option. You want to get to cleaner currents? You’ve got to swim through the shit over and over again until it’s somewhere behind you. But the thing is—everyone else is doing that exact thing. And probably for the exact same reason. And you’re all still Bronze. Unless you have hours and hours to dedicate to your ranking every day, you’re never going to be able to catch up with those who don’t have anything better to do. Unless you dedicate yourself. Really dedicate yourself.
Take all the fun out of it. Because this isn’t just a game anymore. Everyone who was playing “just for fun” was already chased away for their naïve experimentations and you’ll be damned if you’re going to let anyone call you a quitter.
There’s no time to just play to learn. If you want to make it with the big boys, you have to play by their rules—pore through the endless guides. Scrutinize every patch with a microscope so that there’s no chance that you don’t know exactly how new changes are going to screw you over—and create a new account to test it out anyway so you don’t let your ignorance show. No one must know that when they called you a Noob they were *gasp* right.
I’m kind of joking, but that’s where the mentality of League has gone. There is no room for error anymore. The other players will eat you alive if you show weakness. This is not a game where having fun is the norm. You’re only trying to be a little less shitty so the toxicity doesn’t destroy you completely. That is your new normal. Revel in it.
You’ll Have Favorites. And They WILL Change.
This isn’t necessarily bad. Everyone gets a bit excited about reworked characters or the chance to try something new. But the thing is—we’ve already talked about the impossibility of getting “good” with more than a handful of characters without people laughing you into a corner immediately upon seeing your first uncertain steps. So imagine the pride and love of finally mastering someone. FINALLY thinking you can step into a match and know you are WORTHY of being there. Those comments WON’T be about you–and then having that change. Starting over. Looking at the “self” you’ve claimed and looking in the mirror—only to see someone that isn’t quite right. And not knowing exactly how that’s going to change everything. Because wins and losses are determined by hundreds of factors—and you’re about to relearn how your Main influences those all over again. Super!
Riot Games Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself
If you’ve played enough League of Legends to have even read this far in this article—then chances are you’ve played it a lot. And Riot Games knows that once you dedicate a lot of time to something there’s a sense of obligation to hang onto it. Because if we don’t, then all that work was for nothing. (But it’s a game. It was for nothing. Find a different one. A better one. That adds something to your life other than new hate speech to your vocabulary. Listen to me. Get out.)
There’s a reason that League is instantly addictive and then insanely time-consuming after you’ve gone too far to turn back. Why it seems so easy on the surface and then you find yourself hiring a coach after several hundred games and nothing but a wonky sleep schedule, a surprising number of lost time, and one slightly-less shitty character to show for all of it. Why just when you think you’ve had enough of all the vitriol a new event, reward, character or rework pops up and you get dragged back in. Because no one actually likes League of Legends. No one enjoys the actual runs, or the teams, or the players. But you like that thrill of making progress. That ecstasy that comes between the grinding and the slurs. You know it, you see it.
But you won’t stop it.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.