In the midst of the 10-year anniversary of League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game by Riot Games, I find myself reflecting on the too many hours that I’ve spent on LoL alongside its other 80-million monthly players. When my cousin introduced me to the game in 2011, the champion (LoL’s name for its characters) Ahri, an overly seductive, spellcasting representation of Korea’s mythic nine-tailed fox, had just been released. She blew sparkly pink kisses as weapons, quickly became an icon for furries and e-girls everywhere, and was essentially a sex-positive woman of color, so I had to start playing as her immediately. Eight years and eight Ahri skins later, I’ve returned to occasional nights spent on League of Legends for the same reasons that I began: bonding with my friends as I developed my online literacy skills within the most toxic environment possible.
Not only was I the ripe age of eleven when I started playing LoL with my cousin and his friends, but I was also a 4-foot-something, unintimidating fairy of a boy. Although personal information is completely hidden from other players on LoL, your in-game performance may make you a target for users to verbally harass you based on sheer assumptions about your play style and character. Like any other competitive activity, playing LoL meant that you sometimes played not so well. When you don’t play well, you can be guaranteed that the other nine anonymous players in the game are eager to flame you with their highly inappropriate arsenal of identity-based insults, threats to report you after the game, and general offensive language that seems to be accessible to people who can’t seem to act right in real life. As I honed my skills, I became increasingly desensitized to whatever may be said in the in-game chat room, eventually learning that rather than any lack of game playing skills, many players haven’t quite leveled up their online social skills.
A year after I started playing, Riot Games introduced their Honor system with the purpose of rewarding players’ positive behavior in the form of points across three categories: Stayed Cool, Great Shotcalling, and GG <3. During a game, I don’t usually say a lot to anybody that I’m playing, save for the occasional “good job” and “thank u,” because typing will take me further out of the game as if I’m not already blasting Blackpink in my AirPods while I fled from the enemy team. It amazed me just how often that I’m honored by my teammates as a result of being nothing more than civil. The most “honorable” games that I’ve played have been when my team has cooperated with each other without any negative judgment upon our mistakes or missed plays. When your team is comprised of your friends, honor is second as to having fun. Trolling only becomes kinda funny once you figure out that someone is trolling… and if that someone is you.
With time, I learned how to master my champion and how to stay calm in LoL: just play. Hating the player won’t lead to them doing any better — if anything, they’ll perform even worse. Hating the game defeats the entire purpose of playing. After all, if you’re not having fun, why are you playing?
And if you’re playing alongside a user named “Kendall Janna,” then /all gg <3