Biting Bullets: LoL and Toxicity

"JiNX: Bang Bang Galore: League of Legends" | Art by Eddy-Shinjuku. Used with permission.

I got yelled at the other day by a stranger. Full blown, at the top of the lungs yelled at.

It was a dark and icy Winnipeg evening. I was driving home from my friend’s place and there came a point where I was yielding right onto a highway. As I waited, I saw a break in traffic and I thought I had plenty of time to merge. I misjudged the speed of an oncoming truck, though, and the driver had to slow down for me.

I didn’t hear any squealing brakes or see any fishtailing, he just had to slow down a bit. We were approaching a red light so it’s not like he lost any time.

But he honked and honked, drove up to the right side of my vehicle, and when he didn’t see me respond to his horn, backed up and drove around my other side, rolled down his window and let it loose.

I looked over at his angry, yelling face, and I did not want to roll down my own window to fully hear whatever swears and insults he was shouting at me.

“I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being.”

I wanted to apologize. He was right, I had made a mistake. I had misjudged his speed. The roads were icy and maybe he had pumped his brakes or skidded a little, and that can be dangerous. But I was pretty sure if I rolled down my window in an attempt to apologize, I wouldn’t be able to get a word in before the light turned green. I would have had to shout to be heard, and “I’M SORRY!!” doesn’t sound very contrite when you’re yelling over the person you’re trying to apologize to.

So I uncomfortably stared straight ahead, counting the long seconds until the light turned and I was able to drive off in relief.

As I drove home, I realized the situation uncannily reminded me of League of Legends. My experiences in League are where my natural response (or lack of) came from.

“Don’t feed the trolls,” the internet will tell you, and this is a habit I’ve picked up. I ignore the players who are angry at me. I call them jerks in my head for not understanding that I hadn’t meant to feed bot lane (i.e. die several times to the other team). It hadn’t been my intention to apparently ruin my jungler’s entire life by doing so. Sometimes the other player is just better, you know? It’s not always because I suck (and never because the Jinx yelling at me does, obviously. She’s Gold 2 and she never makes mistakes. She told me so herself).

Ignoring the angry players doesn’t make it better, but at least it doesn’t make it worse.

I can’t help turn that event with the angry driver over in my mind, though, wondering if I should have bitten the bullet, rolled down my window and attempted an apology. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe he was just taking out other frustrations on me. Maybe if I burst out crying in front of him because he was yelling at me, he would have let me get out an “I-I-I’m sorry”?

In a recent League of Legends match I played, I was jungling (running around the map killing creatures to level up while my teammates fight the enemy players) and made the mistake of starting to kill the dragon (a creature that gives the whole team gold and advantages when you kill it) at a poorly planned time. I thought only one enemy champion was nearby, but the entire opposing team was lying in wait. We were outnumbered. We died. We lost the dragon to the other team.

Our Brand (Leaguers generally refer to teammates by their character names rather than their gamertags because who can keep track of those) was… well… “upset” was putting it mildly.

But for some reason, I decided to apologize instead of saying nothing. I typed, “You’re right, that was my bad. Sorry.”

Arguing with angry players and trolls when they’re wrong does not work, but admitting a mistake, at least in this instance, did.

Our Lee Sin, bless his heart, was very chill and offered up an “It’s fine, don’t worry about it :)”

I braced for an onslaught of anger from Brand, but that was that.

Faced with a couple teammates who weren’t arguing with him—an Elise who apologized for her mistake and a Lee Sin who forgave—our Brand didn’t have anything else to say.

Arguing with angry players and trolls when they’re wrong does not work. Saying nothing and hoping it goes away sort of works but doesn’t really improve the surrounding environment. Being humble enough to admit a mistake and being fortunate enough to encounter another player’s grace can make a real difference to the entire game, however,

A recent episode of This American Life delved into the psyche of a troll through a fascinating interview with Lindy West, a writer for a variety of publications including Jezebel, GQ, and The Guardian.

West relates the only story I’ve ever heard of a troll apologizing for his behaviour.

She had written an article in response to this man posing as her dead father on Twitter, an act that deeply cut already open and emotional wounds, and surprisingly, she got an email of apology from the man who did it.

The troll confided in her, “I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self.” He then took down the offending account, apologized, and decided he was done being a troll.

I have to wonder if the angry people in my life are really angry at me. If I bite the bullet, face their anger, and show them some Lee Sin-style grace, will they tear me apart or will they step back and take a good look at the reasons behind their rage?

I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Commander at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron