The link between aggressive behaviour in virtual worlds and real life has been explored and examined for decades, and Riot Games is the latest outlet to take a look at the controversial hypothesis.
Writing in a fascinating blog on Google Re:work, the League of Legends developer revealed the results of a year-long study of the relationship between its employees’ behaviour in the MOBA and their workplace.
“The Riot team hypothesised there’d be a correlation between highly toxic in-game play and workplace toxicity; if a Rioter received lots of in-game complaints, the team assumed they'd have more friction with workplace teammates too,” Riot recounted.
To test their theory, Riot’s talent team looked at the last 12 months of gameplay of every employee – all of who play League.
They discovered that "there was a correlation between in-game and in-Riot toxicity". A quarter of staff let go during the same period were found to be ‘unusually’ toxic players in-game, with passive aggression and exploitation of their status as a Riot worker to intimidate competitors the most common offences.
To curb the problems, Riot split its 30 biggest offenders into two categories, deciding whether they required a ‘stern warning’ or should be dismissed from the company as a result of their excessively toxic in-game chat.
During meetings with the troublemakers, Riot presented them with logs of their actions and messages.
“While these logs did factor into the exits of a couple employees who had already had serious problems, the response from almost everyone else was overwhelmingly positive,” the company revealed.
“Pretty much everyone we spoke with was appalled at their own behaviour,” elaborated head of talent Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar.
“We actually received some essays from employees vowing to change their ways and become not just more considerate gamers but better people.”
Going forward, Riot said it would trial a ‘stoplight’ system where prospective staff are flagged under green, yellow and red lights, reflecting their conduct. All new applicants are asked for their League of Legends username to allow their in-game behaviour to be reviewed alongside their professional capabilities.