If you haven’t played it yourself, you’ve at the very least heard of League of Legends, especially if you’re on this site. It’s a global phenomenon and arguably the game that spawned an entire genre of games that have slowly but surely begun to take over the entire online multiplayer sphere of gaming. There was a time where I, like millions worldwide, loved League of Legends: once it sunk its claws into me, I basically couldn’t stop playing it. There was a period in my life where I would be playing every night with a group of close friends, often into the wee hours of the morning.
It’s been some time since my last League match, probably close to a year now. But unlike most games I fall out of touch with, where I look back on them rather wistfully, Leagues of Legends is one I don’t look back on fondly at all. In fact, when I finally stopped playing it once and for all, I think I hated it. After thousands of hours, I despised League of Legends. So, submitted for your approval, here’s why I left League of Legends behind:
Online abuse and harassment is something of an ongoing issue in the world of online multiplayer gaming. It’s even gone as far as resulting in esports players getting slapped with bans and getting kicked out of competitions. Now, of course, there’s a whole boatload of reasons why people feel the need to be abusive dicks online that have nothing to do with the game itself. But in League of Legends’ case, I can’t help but feel that it is, by its nature, a game that cultivates a toxic culture among its players.
The toxicity of League of Legends really pours out of every facet of its design: gameplay, the meta, length of games, the nature of competitive play mixing with the culture of online detachment; all these things just come together in the worst possible brew of toxic sludge that seeps into the brains and hearts of everyone who plays it. Okay, I know, that was melodramatic, but I’m not kidding when I say that League of Legends seeps with venomous player-unfriendliness. So let’s break down all those things I mentioned, shall we?
The meta in League of Legends is both its most all-encompassing element, yet perhaps its most indecipherable, particularly to anyone not well-versed with MOBAs period. But, once you get a feel for it, the meta can at first feel welcome: its nice to have some fairly rigid structures to follow when you’re new to something, since it helps you pick the game up. The problem being is that its not as if players shed the meta once they begin to gain a better understanding of the game. If anything, players embrace it even more, and ultimately become slavishly obsessed with doing everything by the rule of what the meta dictates. In short, rigid structure becomes a prison, and in that prison there is little room to deviate. Not much leeway given to trying bold or risky strategies, or daring to play a champion in a lane that is not designated as the lane they are to be played in: even if you’re successful playing a champion in a lane they’re not typically suited to, you can still easily draw the ire of your teammates who are frustrated that you’re not following the entirely self-perpetuated rules that Riot Games increasingly gears League of Legends towards.
And this isn’t even mentioning how it affects the game itself: most games will follow the exact same routine: you pick your champion, you choose a lane, you go to that lane and proceed to do nothing but farm and try not to die for about 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, the game does open up after that initial phase, but what does it say about League of Legends that it takes the length of an entire match in other online games to get to a point where things actually get interesting? This is magnified even more by just how truly boring some lanes can be. Take ADC, for example: with most lanes, there is at least some room to experiment or try different things, but if you wanted to do that with ADC? Good luck not dying a hundred times over and turning your entire team against you. Instead, most ADC games in that brutal laning phase will just play out the exact same way, over and over, like clockwork, the only tiniest sliver of a thrill coming from the possibility that you could go on a hot streak and actually carry the team.
Now of course, this all matters far less when playing non-ranked matches, right? Well it does…in theory. Most players only play non-ranked matches to tune up for ranked ones, so the very particular draconian meta mentality still very much applies across the board. If it sounds like I dislike the competitive aspect of League of Legends, I do…in a sense. I rarely ever played League of Legends in ranked games simply because that kind of atmosphere and dynamic didn’t appeal to me, but thanks to the overbearing nature of the meta game on League of Legends, it really can’t be escaped.
TIME KEEPS SLIPPING AWAY
So you might have noticed that I alluded to the fact that League of Legends can really take its time to get going. Well, not only does it take its time getting going, it often takes its time ever finishing too. Again, as I alluded to earlier, most online games have a typically fast turnover in match times. This is in part to do with the fact that the majority of globally popular online games are often shooters, which tend to be very fast-paced. In League of Legends, the absolute shortest amount of time your typical Summoner’s Rift game can go for is 20 minutes. Yup, 20 minutes, which would be enough time to have a handful of matches in Call of Duty or Overwatch; and I must stress, that is the minimum time the game can go for, because it’s the time after which you can surrender. In reality, most games will easily go for 30-40 minutes, and in some cases, can even stretch past the hour mark, which is a pretty ludicrous amount of time to be playing a single match in a game for.
The result of this lengthy game time is two-fold: firstly, it makes League of Legends a difficult game to just play and enjoy: the second is that it tends to make it far more frustrating.
To my first point: most games I own I can just pick up and play for any length of time, and its great. I can play them for 10 minutes to 3 hours and feel satisfied either way, because I can dictate just how much time I want to get out to fit with whatever I need to do in the day. I can’t do this with League of Legends, and I’m willing to bet there are plenty of people who can’t either: because again, at best, I’m looking at a game that goes for close to an hour, or one that could go way over. For people (unlike me) with lives and things to do in them, I can’t imagine how frustrating that truly absurd time commitment for one game is. Hell, even with a whole bunch of free time, it’s frustrating. It contributes a lot to League of Legends just being an all-around stressful experience, and not in the good kind of stress games can often elicit.
As for my second point: I have something of a short fuse as far as frustration goes, and that’s a personal problem. That said, it doesn’t necessarily help frustration to be locked into a frustrating experience for, most likely, at least half an hour; because you can’t just quit out of League of Legends if you get sick of a game. In most other games, you could just quit, and it wouldn’t really make a difference, then go do something else and cool off before coming back fresh. But in League of Legends, if you quit, then that’s it: you’re handicapping your team for an entire match just because you aren’t feeling it anymore. Its unbelievably frustrating to be put in a situation where you’re forced to play a game for close to an hour that’s making you want to pull your teeth out with pliers, just because League of Legends is so damn restrictive with how it sets up its matches. The end result is that if you have a match that just piles it on early, it wears you down with its oppressive length to the point where the whole thing just becomes a miserable experience.
“A TEAM GAME”
Its insane how incredibly dependent League of Legends is on teamwork and unity. Not just in the sense that your team is just made up of good players, but that it’s made up of good players who work well with each other. Oftentimes victory and defeat is wholly dependent on your team’s ability to come together and fire on all cylinders. Unlike most games, where one team member not pulling their weight can be overcome, in League of Legends, having one teammate whose not keeping up may as well be waving a white flag. Now if someone is lagging behind, a supportive team could pull them up, but that brings up League of Legends’ biggest problem:
Nobody who plays it is actually a team player, and that culture is fostered to a frustrating degree.
See, I’ve come to understand that the kind of player psychology that League of Legends fosters is one where players don’t view themselves as succeeding by working with their team, but rather working in spite of their team. There’s often a drive toward individual performance rather than strong team performance: the fantasy of being the badass that carries their team to victory, or racking up an insane number of kills.
Of course none of these fantasies gel well with a game that often requires you to make certain sacrifices for the betterment of the team. It’s little wonder then, with such a self-centered mentality, when things start going pear-shaped, players will immediately turn on their teams; somebody on your team dying a lot? They’re feeding. Support took your kill? They’re a shit support. Lost your bottom lane? Jungle didn’t help enough. Basically, once things start going against a team, that distinctly selfish desire for high performance erupts into a vitriolic torrent against teammates perceived not as an asset, but a burden. Any semblance of League of Legends being a “team game” falls through once players make it abundantly clear that they’re out for number one, and you’re in their way unless you can measure up to their standards.
Now it should be said that what I just outlined is not atypical of other multiplayer games. In fact, that kind of self-centered mentality is depressingly common. But there are aspects of League of Legends that magnify the toxic outputs of these attitudes ten-fold: its ultra competitive component, the restricting meta that instills in most players a “only one right way” mentality, and mechanics that often reward individual performance over that of the team as a whole.
In spite of what the past 2000 words or so would suggest, I actually still think that League of Legends is a great game, at least in theory. I’ve always thought it has an appealing visual design, I love the characters, and I’ve had my share of good times playing it. But all those things don’t really do anything to disperse the toxic cloud that hangs over League of Legends. For all those good times I’ve had with the game, its been thoroughly drowned out by all the other truly awful experiences.