Riot’s League of Legends is a multiplayer game that consists of two teams. Each team seeks to destroy the other’s Nexus, a giant crystal near the back of the enemy base. What is interesting about this game is that, depending on the region, players subscribe to a particular meta. When a player deviates from that meta, it tends to incite other players, which often results in verbal punishment.
On North American servers, the meta tends to center on our capitalistic ideals: certain players come out as power players with everyone else supporting them. For example, those who fill the Attack Damage Carry (ADC) role usually end up carrying the fight because of the high amounts of attack damage they do. The longer the game goes on, the more effective they become until the Nexus is destroyed. These characters usually have the most kills, and other players are expected to help them get those kills to ensure that one player has the chance to optimize their equipment. In fact, other characters are expected to die to protect the ADC. An ADC usually plays at the bottom lane as opposed to the middle or top lanes. They are usually high damage dealers and are fairly “squishy” and need a support character. However, when a person takes a traditionally ADC character to a different lane where they are not necessarily as effective in this meta, other players tend to get frustrated or don’t understand why, often resorting to verbal harassment as a way to express their discontent with the broken meta.
The attitudes of these players, I think, is hauntingly representative of the normative American culture. The general populous expects its members to act and behave a certain way and to maintain a certain mindset. It rejects any deviation from the “norm.” If a Marxist bent is added, it can be said that the ruling class is responsible for establishing these norms. Most often cited as the ruling class in American culture is the white male and his patriarchal iron fist. If you are not a white male, you are automatically disenfranchised as “deviant” from the norm. Other genders, races, and sexual preferences are seen as just that–“Other.” They are seen as a threat, which results in abuse whether verbally, physically, or politically. Such actions are certainly stunting to the development of the culture.
This is the same mindset that many players bring to League of Legends. Because they do not like other players “deviating” from the meta, they are practically stunting and discouraging experimentation and development of new metas that could have a lasting impact on the way the game is played. I find it really interesting that this normative mindset can be observed in the microcosm of the game. In fact, the League of Legends community is considered one of the worst because of the number of players who resort to verbal abuse and other unsportsmanlike behavior. To combat the notorious negativity of the League community, Riot created what they call The Tribunal System, which “empowers the League of Legends community to regulate the conduct that it considers appropriate and supports the tenets of the Summoner’s Code” (Tribunal FAQ). In other words, the players regulate the community. It will be interesting to see how normative attitudes might change in the game.
If the League community is considered one of the most negative gaming communities because of normative mindsets, what does that say about our society?