The problem at hand
League of Legends is (if you don’t know already) a MOBA developed and published by Riot Games. In the MOBA genre it is easily the most played title, with a rough monthly player count sitting at around 110 million. When you consider it among other games like Warzone; the insanely popular, Valheim and the kids favourite Fortnite – 110 million may not seem like much. But, the thing to really remember here is that League of Legends is in it’s twelfth year! Fortnite is the closest out of the ones I named and that’s only in it’s fourth. Sure, these games are fresh on the scene, but ultimately League of Legends has been doing the same thing for the past twelve years and is only growing.
I’ve played League of Legends on and off now for about 10 years. On my wol.gg (Wasted on LoL) page, I’ve racked up a grand total of 638 hours – equating to roughly 27 days. 27 of my 9,430 days on this earth spent on League. And the worst part is, I’ve only played a fraction of the amount of time that some of my friends have. I’ve had good times on the game, but they are countlessly outnumbered by the bad times. Let me explain a bit more of my history with the game before I dive into this dilemma more.
The descent into MOBA hell
I started playing the game extremely casually the summer after I finished high school. I had been really into my PC gaming after building my own rig a few years before and then slowly making upgrades with the occasional birthday present and part-time earnings. I barely played the game at this point. When I started my 3D Animation course at college I started to play a fair bit more as there were a number of other players there and we would often party up. I also reconnected with a great friend from school through the game. There were always two ways to play: ‘normals’ or ‘ranked’ queues. I almost exclusively played ranked games. The reason being is I liked the risk element involved and it always felt like the players took the mode more seriously (often too much so).
After I left college the game sort of fizzled out for me over a period of time. I am also quite a big World of Warcraft fan so that took a lot more of my time, but I also just found myself playing less and less games. To the point where even today I would consider myself much more of a casual gamer than ten years ago. Games are no longer my life, they just supplement enjoyment in my life. When I went to University, I ditched my PC after my first year (only to build another just over 12 months ago). I had no need for it at the time and I wanted something much more minimal, so I opted for a Macbook Pro (God rest his soul). I realised, however, that I still wanted gaming to be a part of my life in some form, so I sold my Macbook to buy a gaming laptop and with it came the reunion of me and League of Legends.
I played relatively solidly in my spare time from around July 2019 to about March 2020. But when one of my close friends quit the game, I began to see less point in me playing so I stopped the month after he did. That is until January rolled around and the 2021 Split had begun – I was back. I’ve had this thing throughout my whole time on the game that it would be great to get back to the tier I started at (Silver 1) in 2011. But since then, my ELO has been awful and they added Iron tiers to make the climb even worse. For the past two seasons, I’ve started in Iron 2 and so far this season I’ve made it to Silver 4.
But here’s the thing with League of Legends – it’s perfect for casual gamers, but it will ruin your taste for games.
The poison of the Rift
When I think of the game (that I still continue to play), I think of it as slow-release poison. You can feel great at the start of it and really be completely ok with what you are doing. But down the line, you don’t think about playing other games. The dopamine given from the game when you win is great, but the crushing feeling at the end of 45 minutes where you are greeted with the sigh of defeat is almost numbing. Forty-five minutes, what could I have done in that time? Watch half a movie, read a chapter or two of a book, plan a podcast episode, write a few articles for the site… the list is potentially endless.
When I say, “you don’t think of playing other games,” I mean literally that. I have a bit of time after I finish work to play games for an hour or two before spending the evening with my wife. I have countless games I could play on the PS4, my PC or the Nintendo Switch. Some great games like Ghost of Tsushima, Persona 5 Royal, Yakuza, Animal Crossing etc etc. But the question is never: “Ghost of Tsushima or Animal Crossing?” It’s always, “Ghost of Tsushima or League of Legends?” And I can tell you now eight out of ten times, League wins. The other games just don’t offer the risk/reward scheme you see in League (and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually the polar opposite). There’s almost a gambling element to it, but instead of risking your money, you’re putting your time all on black. And what a waste that is. The way the game is able to taint your views of other games because they don’t offer what League offers is a genius marketing move, and I don’t know how they did it, but hats off to them for it. But I’ve got to say, Riot, I dislike you for it.
Possibly the most toxic gaming community on the planet
One of the main reasons people quit the game is for this very short, yet, increasingly real reason. It’s almost a given in this game that at least one person in your match (more often than not on your team) is known as a ‘flamer.’ Someone who will berate, belittle and blame you or someone else for every little problem that happens. You may not encounter someone in a game here and there, but if you don’t see one for a good 3-4 games then it is highly likely that the flamer is actually you.
It’s not fun to play a game and to be attacked, and League has the worst community for it. Better yet, they have to put systems in place to manage this on such a level that almost every game someone is getting reported for something. There are times when you make a silly mistake (face-checking happens to be my biggest flaw), but you don’t deserve to be cussed out of your lobby to the point where you just don’t want to play the game anymore.
It’s frankly depressing. And although Riot don’t condone anything like this, they’re more than happy to facilitate it on their platform. Where’s the calls for reform on this part of the industry?
Want to know something else about this toxic environment? It’s pretty simple and straight forward logic too – when you are surrounded by something, you begin to emulate and become what you are taking in. When I mentioned about being the flamer above, I’ve been the flamer too. I’ve said things that I regret, especially when I was younger. I let the toxic environment of the game become something that influenced me. Here’s the thing as well – I know this is a video games website, but please bear with me here – I forgot that there’s a person on the other side of that screen. What did my words do to that person? I don’t know… I didn’t care, really. Because something they did wrong in the game affected my rank and win/loss ratio, I thought it’d be acceptable to take it out on them. What? Where is that logic? How warped is that?
Riot, I said it above, I know you don’t condone it, but how are you going to fix it?
What is the solution?
I love games. I love many different kinds of games. I want to love League of Legends because it’s actually a really fun game at its core. I like the competitive nature. The rhythm. The routine. But it’s not worth everything that comes with it, at least not right now. I don’t have a solution for you here (sorry if the heading misleads you), but I am actually asking you a question – what is the solution?
I am a casual gamer who loves to dip his toes into different games. Right now I am borrowing Ghost of Tsushima and absolutely loving it. Soon, I will be picking up my copy of Monster Hunter Rise for my Switch. I still have countless things left to do in Persona 5 Royal and I half the Yakuza catalog sat on my PS4 harddrive. I want to enjoy these games without the tainted feeling of deciding whether to play it or League of Legends. So what do I do?
At 21:30 on March 14th, I deleted League of Legends off of my harddrive. I want to enjoy video games. I don’t want to question whether or not I have wasted 45 minutes of my life on League (which some people will think just playing video games altogether is). For now, there is no room for League of Legends, but that doesn’t mean there won’t come a time when I will play again. There probably will be. But right now…
Give me a wandering samurai on a coastal Japanese island any day.
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