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Is near-instant punishments for negative behavior the future of online gaming?

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Toxic players inhabit every online game in some way, shape or form. Their negative behaviors put a damper on what is suppose to be a fun and entertaining gaming experience. Although online games, for example Dota 2, have a punishment system in place where users can report negative behavior, every system I have come across so far is lackluster.

Negative behavior is dealt with slowly or sometimes not at all by. For example, when doing research for an article entitled “Dota 2: The Local Experience – An abysmal state of affairs” two months ago, I reported a local player for extremely racist and sexist remarks, which he / she spammed the entire game. Valve finally took action this weekend and sent me a message saying that the player has received punishment.

Negative behavior such as verbal harassment and racist remarks should be met with swift punishment. Riot Games, the League of Legends publisher, is leading the way with a new punishment system that offers near-instant results.

Punishment and reform – The way of the future

Riot Games is testing a new punishment system on the European servers for League of Legends. The punishment system will not only punish players swiftly, giving the reporter a sense of justice, but it will also attempt to reform offending players.

Riot Games talks about their new punishment system:

When negative behavior occurs, we know that the faster a player receives feedback, the better their chances of reforming. With that in mind, we’re building and iterating on a new instant feedback system that delivers actionable feedback and appropriate punishment to players that need it most. In the future, we expect instant feedback to take on rewards as well, but in step one we’re focused on reform-oriented feedback and punishment.” - Source

The system will learn via player reports, which helps it understand and punish “verbal harassment the community actively rejects: homophobia, racism, sexism, death threats, and other forms of excessive abuse.

The offenders will be punished with a two-week or permanent ban in less than fifteen minutes after the game ends.

What about the offending player?  Riot Games seems to think reformation is possible via the implementation of player reform cards:

The system delivers reform cards (notifications that link evidence of negative behavior with the appropriate punishment) that help players address their negative behavior.” - Source

The idea of reforming toxic players is a sound one, as punishment systems for example a country’s Justice System normally focuses on reformation of the offender and integration back into the community. Riot explains how the system will work:

  • Teammates or opponents of the offending player send reports and the system validates them to make sure they aren’t false
  • The system examines the case and determines whether the behavior deserves rejection or punishment based on community-driven standards of behavior
  • The system fires a reform card through email, sharing the chat log of the offending player (we scrub other players’ names and chat logs) and the punishment for the behavior” - Source

False reporting of a player due to some kind of grudge is always a worrying issue. So far, there is no indication of how the system will validate that the reports are not false.

One possible issue with the reporting system is that League of Legends is a free-to-play game, which means instead of taking the punishment he/she deserves, the offending player can opt to create a new account and continue the toxic behavior. Whatever the case, the system does sound promising and if it works out the way Riot Games expects it too, I hope to see something similar in other online games in the near future.

Do you think the system can reform toxic players? Does the prospect of swift punishment make you want to participate in the process? Do you think a system like Riot Games is implementing is the future of reporting offenders? Let us know in the comment section below.  

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