Behavioral Economic Techniques & League of Legends: Curtailing Trolling in Game


One of the defining focal pitfalls to the community of League of Legends is phenomenon of trolling. Its prevalence, frequency, and fortitude fluctuates by player, game, and situation. Stunningly, this behavior is only elicited online. In my travels to NA LCS in Manhattan Beach California, there is 0% of trolling outside of the game. Trolling has been attributed to fluctuations in the enjoyment of the game. The definition of a troll is :One who posts a deliberately provocative message with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument. [Urban Dictionary] In recent news, Counter Logic Gaming’s Top Laner Nien recently stepped down from the team due to an increasing large community of players demeaning, belittling, and bullying the characters performance in the NA LCS 2014 Semi-Finals even though the team landed in 3rd place. CLG’s Team Captain Double Lift discusses this issue in a video and Top Laner Nien discusses his point in this video and the sad truth about the troll aspect of the community.

Behavior Economics can help solve a real-world problem that plagues the community of the first ever Electronic Sport: League of Legends. Is there a significance in the increase of trolls causing a decrease in the number of players that move out of the lower tiers of the hierarchy for the game? Do trolls create a massively negative experience for beginning players paired with trolls at lower tiers which causes them to remain stuck in the lower tiers or quit? Within the lowest Tier Bronze there are 1.3 million players accounting for 37.13% of the total players in the game. Within the second lowest Tier Silver there are 1.39 million players accounting for 38.75%. The remaining Tiers (Gold 562,418 (15.66%) Platinum 233,346 (6.50%) Diamond 68,534 (1.91%) Challenger 1,672 (0.05%)) account for only 865,970 of the Total 3,591,152 players that play the game.That means only 24% of the players ever leave the bottom two tiers and progress. [Numbers taken from Riot]


League of Legends, as an esport, is inherently super competitive. According to Mazar, N., Amir, O., & Ariely, D. (2008), Hypermotivation is a visceral state that leads someone to take actions s/he would normally deem unacceptable. As competition within a domain increases, dishonesty also tends to increase. Competitive situations are more likely to elicit unethical behaviors because competition will always create winners and losers resulting in a decrease of enjoyment of the game. The perceived difference in outcome becomes the potential to hyper motivated, to turn losers into winners through unethical behavior. The increase of competition within the lower tiers of the system or the increase of players to compete against increases the potential for players to become hyper motivated or to use unethical behaviors like trolling. In experiment 4 of the study just mentioned, participants cheated but didn’t feel they needed to inform the extent to which they viewed themselves as honest. Compared to Cressey’s (1953, p. 120), when defined as criminals embezzlers, they found this incompatible with their position as trusted persons and condemn themselves for their past behaviors. This is to lead one to believe that the ideal of herding comes into play here. If a particular player is defined as a troll, will their incompatibility to being labeled as a troll, force them to change their past behaviors? If not, then what about rewarding conforming to the norm of positive behavior?

The proposed solution to this situation could be by implementing behavior economics techniques to break down and intervene before the unethical behavior is manifested we resort to opportunity costs; which is when you give up choosing one thing over another. If we can place a higher value on positive behavior by associating that positive behavior with a specific item (lets say a unique skin, summoner icon, or Summoner name)we can manipulate player behaviors to perform positively (i.e. giving their team recognition/assisting/not trolling). If they are reported for trolling at any point, that in-game item is removed to which dramatic scene should popup showing the player has lost this valuable item to increase the pain of paying for their unethical behavior. The dramatic cinematic clip applies Mazar, N., Amir, O., & Ariely, D.and Cressey’s research into practice. Why? Loss aversion is the key reason. Once the player receives the item for their positive behavior, if they can be notified when they have trolled on another player and a countdown reminds them of remaining chance of negative behaviors that will turn into a loss because of the endowment effect, players will adjust to the level of ownership of the valuable item and become to attach to it fearing losing it. The endowment effect is the close attachment one manifests when they own something. You are less likely to want to give up something you already own.


We can add social aspect to the solution to ensure positive behavior is supported. By placing the game into a social concept, we can urge a social bond with other players that would increase the likelihood that players will refrain from acting unethically. Gifts increase social relationships and create greater sense of reciprocity. For every positive recognition given by a fellow player, that players name will pop up to connect the “gift of recognition/plus a point to get the valuable item” with a person. This will in hope diminish the perspective of competition to a more social environment of camaraderie, decrease the number of trolls, and increase the likelihood that players will move out of the lower two tiers of the game system. This is called a herding system, where the informed ideal is of teamwork and partnership.

However, there is a downfall to creating this system. If the system is to play a part in decreasing the likelihood of trolls it must be tested against the possibility of creating a new black market place where players can report each other positive behavior for in-real life money. This could become a similar black market method to what we know as “elo-boosting”. To counter this, experimenting and testing must be administer to ensure effectiveness.



Cressey, Donald R. (1950), “The Criminal Violation of Financial Trust,” American Sociological Review, 15 (6), 738–43. ——— (1953), Other People’s Money. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Mazar, N., Amir, O., & Ariely, D. (2008). Commentaries and Rejoinder to “The Dishonesty of Honest People”. Journal of marketing research, 45(6), 645-651

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Founder, Staff Writer
Narz is a journalist whom writes about League of Legends, video game psychology, gaming events in NYC, and loves being a otaku. Currently studying CBT/positive psychology in independent research to one day become a Player behavior Specialist for eSports. She also loves curry and wine. (/◕ヮ◕)/