Online games are fickle creatures. They are subject to the whims of their prospective communities, and they can make a player’s experience shift dramatically. Depending on the attitude of a community, a player can feel welcome and appreciated or distinctly unwelcome. I call this the “Masses Effect.”
My two favorite online games, League of Legends and World of Warcraft, illustrate this effect perfectly. These games are obviously different in practically every way; one is an RPG and one is a MOBA. One has rich and satisfying lore supported by years of tradition, the other has “lore” made up of the pieces of some unsatisfying scrapbook. Lastly, one has a friendly, supportive and inviting community and the other has a community made up of the Justin Biebers, Donald Trumps and Charlie Sheens of the world.
What I mean by this is that the community of League of Legends is infested with dimwits, bigots and antagonists. I mean no offense to all the patient players out there, but in my experience there is AT LEAST one of these people in every game I play.
In contrast, World of Warcraft seems full to bursting with friendly, helpful players who are generally all too happy to offer advice on prime locations for questing or material-farming, or in fact any other game-related query you can imagine. I find it so encouraging that, as a relatively inexperienced player, I can walk in to any city and ask my stupid question in General Chat and I’ll have multiple people whispering me within seconds. In fact, I even got offered a lift by a stranger to one of the Legion Invasion sites during pre-launch when I was playing on a low level character.
Directly after this experience, I headed over to League of Legends and played one of the most frustrating, rage-inducing games of my life. Every mistake I made was criticized to no end, every mistake someone else made was (of course) my fault, and at the end of the game the spamming of “ez” in all-chat left a very bad taste in my mouth.
On one hand, I don’t understand how the communities of two of the most successful multiplayer games in the world could have such vastly different player environments. However, on the other hand it makes a whole lot of sense.
As previously mentioned, WoW is game steeped in tradition. From the very first ground-breaking RTS games, Blizzard Entertainment has maintained a rich and complex lore to the Warcraft universe, as well as unique aesthetics. They have introduced entirely new races (night elves, furbolgs, naga, murlocs, aracoa and tauren, among others), all of which present new and interesting aspects to the games. Of course, Riot Games did give us yordles. What would we do without them, I wonder.
Compared with WoW, League of Legends is an infant of a multiplayer game. It wouldn’t even exist without the teachings of the wise and glorious Warcraft 3, which eventually gave us DOTA. So like a whiny child, LoL attracted the attention of the more inexperienced players. They didn’t know that if they had just ignored it, it might have matured and become a respectful game. As it happened they pandered to its whining. And now look at what the world has created.
Warcraft 3 gameplay.
“Flame.” “Salt.” “Toxicity.” These are some of the words used to describe the incessant negativity players are subjected to by the League community. But no words can accurately capture the feeling that your teammates actually want you dead. Imagine writing an essay and accidentally pressing the D key instead of the F key. Now imagine that instead of being able to hit backspace and start again, a lynch-mob appears at your door and hurls insults and threats at you. Welcome to the League of Legends; where the praise is scarce and the hatred bountiful.
The real question is we should ask is whether the age of a game, and therefore average age of its player-base, is really that important in determining the level of toxicity. Surely there are young, patient players who play WoW, as well as old, angry players who play LoL. Also vice versa; I recognize that WoW also houses its share of stupid people. I would argue that it is not the age of the game but instead the essential motive the game instills in you that defines the attitude of the community.
League of Legends is hugely competitive, as seen by its flourishing eSports scene. Even on an amateur level, the game ignites some extreme competitiveness among players. The ranking system is frustrating, and when ultimate success depends largely on what your teammates do, of course this is going to cause tempers to fray. The essential insidious (and fatal) flaw in League is one found in every MOBA. It is a team game that people play to selfish ends.
[caption id="attachment_67208" align="aligncenter" width="560"] The LoL eSports scene.[/caption]
World of Warcraft, on the other hand, is not (generally) a competitive game. Many people play the game completely ignoring its multiplayer aspect and quest alone. Even when going after group objectives, such as dungeons or raids, the level of toxicity is generally low as failure is not the “end” of the game. Dungeons very rarely result in complete failure and even after a wipe, players can regroup and try again. On the whole, it supports a healthier attitude and environment.
League of Legends can be an immensely enjoyable and satisfying game. You may have to wade through those yards of petulant dimwits, small-minded bigots and raging antagonists to find a few friendly faces, but once you find that game you bask in its warm glow.
I still hold to the claim that League and WoW can be equally enjoyable. It just depends if you are willing to listen to children whining, hoping some shred of wisdom will drop out of his mouth, or whether you would prefer to sit by the fire and listen to the wise old man tell his tale.