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Riot Games’ Frontier Justice

It might not be perfectly accurate to call what the independent developer Riot Games has done ‘frontier justice,’ but they’re certainly crossing borders into new territory when it comes to taking care of hoodlums in gaming communities, so call it what you like.

The service team at Riot were presented with a problem, a big one. Their game, League of Legends, garners a considerable slice of a niche-within-a-niche genre that first came to popularity in the form of a modification to the Warcraft 3 realtime strategy game. It has a particularly rabid fan base, and because of its free-to-play marketplace payment system, it became somewhat of an independent game development success story. Due to the nature of their product though, and furthermore the nature of the user base from which they got most of their players, the League of Legends ladder became plagued with poor sportsmanship.

Seeing a potential threat to the lifespan of their game, Riot implemented a reporting system that allowed for their moderators to handle customer complaints and reprimand offending players, the ones that ruin or otherwise sour other players’ game time. This would have worked, had their problem not been as rampant as it indeed was. They received as many as ten thousand separate griefing complaints every single day. Therein lay their problem.

Not to be defeated, Riot has since developed a system to control poor sportsmanship that is unlike any other to appear in a gaming community. They’ve dubbed it the ‘Tribunal’ system. Every player has a rank, a ‘Summoner Level’ to be specific, and once a player reaches the highest summoner level, they have the ability to become a judge. When a player is a judge, they can randomly pull from all of the case files that are generated when a player or players register a complaint with the system. These case files detail the events of the match and the chat logs, making sure to leave out player names to prevent favoritism. The judge then decides whether or not the player in question was in the wrong, and a punishment is issued, depending on the number of previous infractions the offending player has made.

The system doesn’t allow just one judge to make the call though. The case files are made for relatively quick review, so that a good deal of judges can make a decision about a single case, and the punishment (or pardon) is handed down according to the majority decision. To make sure the system runs smoothly, judges themselves are tracked, and if they disagree with the majority opinion too frequently, they lose their judge status and can no longer review cases.

This is quite a change within the world of griefers and the gamers who hate them, and if Riot’s system proves to be as strong as it seems to be, there will be imitators, especially since we’re starting to witness the dawning of a new independent gaming renaissance, and are thus seeing smaller and smaller companies having to come up with intelligent ways to handle their massive player bases.


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