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Want to make toxic League of Legends players more pleasant? Limit their chat

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Riot Games is committed to making League of Legends as pleasant for new and struggling players as it possibly can, and it's not exactly an altruistic goal: The more people sign up and play, the more people there are to buy content and expand the success of what is arguably the most popular game in the world. The efforts have been ongoing, and have yielded some interesting strategies.

Science journalist Jeremy Hsu wrote a great look at some of the company's efforts in making the competitive scene a bit more welcoming, which is a daunting task. League of Legends, and other games in that genre, are known for their aggressive players and often borderline abusive chat logs. A single player who is unsure of their strategy can sink a team, and you'll hear about it if that player happens to be you.

The article focuses on the work of Jeffrey "Lyte" Lin, a designer with a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience.

"Today, he heads Riot’s player behavior team of more than 30 researchers working in game design, statistics and data science as they devise social psychology experiments on competitive League of Legends gamers," Hsu wrote.

One of the experiments limited toxic players' ability to chat, and the results seemed to last longer than that specific punishment.

"It’s a temporary punishment that has led to a noticeable improvement in player behavior afterward — on average, individuals who went through a period of restricted chat saw 20 percent fewer abuse reports filed by other players," the article stated.

"The restricted chat approach also proved 4 percent more effective at improving player behavior than the usual punishment method of temporarily banning toxic players. Even the smallest improvements in player behavior can make a huge difference in an online game that attracts 67 million players every month."

So it seems as if having your chat limited in this way made you a less abusive player even after the limitation was removed, it's a slap on the wrist that could lead to longer lasting, positive change in players.

The entire article is a fascinating look at what can happen when scientists, and game designers, have such a huge field of players and potential areas for manipulation of player behavior and emotion, and using that power to make the game more welcoming is a good thing for both Riot and the player base.

A happier, more welcoming community interested in teamwork makes players more engaged, which leads to greater revenue. Everyone wins.