Modifying Player Behavior with Psychology: League of Legends

Article, Jen Loglia No Comments

Jen Loglia | December 13, 2012

Like many other gamers (and people who like playing games), I have been sucked into the vortex that is League of Legends. League of Legends (LoL) was created by Riot Games, and is a free-to-play, Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game, which requires teams of players to destroy the enemy team’s base first. It’s arguably the most popular PC game, with an estimated 32 million players monthly [1].

LoL[photo source]

Unfortunately, along with this game’s incredible popularity, its community is getting a terrible reputation. Christian Nutt of Gamasutra was not wrong when he described the player community as “vicious” [2]. I personally do not know of any LoL player that has not been a victim to, or at least been witness to, some of the awful verbalizations and behaviors of League players. It’s a GIGANTIC pet peeve of mine; I cannot stand the insults and down-right hateful comments. This is a team game where effective communication is key, yet that doesn’t click for some people. So, what is Riot doing to address this issue?

In this article, lead producer Travis George talks to Gamasutra about what they’ve put together in order to fix this community.

“‘We actually have built a team around this, to address it,’ George says. ‘We call it, lovingly, the PB&J Team, which stands for Player Behavior and Justice Team. And there’s a lot of really talented folks on that team, including two PhDs. One’s a cognitive neuroscientist and one’s a behavioral psychologist.’”

I think it’s great that a) Riot places importance on their gaming community, and b) they are using psychology and science in order to address the problem. Especially in labs like RETRO, we are focused on adapting gaming as solutions for psychological issues, and I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a two-way street. The PB&J team has come up with their own metrics and has developed their own trends to predict when players will have a negative gaming experience, and how intense that experience might be. They’re also looking to come up with their own model of “player behavior,” and ways to mitigate or control problematic behavior. Aside from the incredibly adorable name of PB&J, I am in love with this team and its existence; I think it’s a great use and example of applied research. It also opens up interesting avenues in other realms of the world: for example, if the PB&J team can effectively address communication and behavior issues, can these techniques be applied to other settings, such as a business setting? Can these techniques be used to improve virtual workforce teams? Can we use League of Legends to teach students better communication skills? Science, yes.



1. Evangelho, J. (2012, Oct). ‘League of Legends’ bigger than ‘WoW,’ more daily players than ‘Call of Duty’. Forbes.

2. Nutt, C. (2012, Dec). League of Legends: Changing bad player behavior with neuroscience. Gamasutra.

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