Oct. 2, 2012 at 2:20 PM ET
When you play a game online, the people you play with -- many of whom you may not have ever met or happen to know at all -- can make or break your experience.
Are the people you're playing with awesome, generous, helpful players? Or are they foul-mouthed, mean-spirited trolls who get their yayas from making other people miserable? A lot of attention has been paid to that latter category and much thought has been given to how rude, if not downright hateful, players can destroy an online game experience. And there's been a whole lot of discussion and soul-searching over how to properly report, punish and prevent this behavior not only in online game communities, but in online communities in general.
Riot calls its Honor System -- which has just gone live -- a "positive feedback initiative." It lets players reward either their teammates or their opponents for good behavior after they've finished a match-made game together.
"League of Legends" is a highly competitive multiplayer battle arena game, not to mention a game that's far from an easy for new players to jump into. An experienced player can make a newb's life far easier by simply offering helpful advice or showing patience and encouragement.
"League of Legends" game designer Jeffrey Lin explained in the game's forums that Riot realized that, "Historically, we’ve reacted to toxic players." That is, Riot has an innovative community peer review system -- the League of Legends Tribunal -- in place, which asks players to vote on how to handle bad behavior by fellow players. They also have a Leaver Buster system for dealing with players who exit a game before it's completed.
But as anyone with a child knows, oftentimes you get far more from praising good behavior than you do from punishing bad behavior.
"We’ve found that some of the most meaningful, memorable moments in League come from the positive interactions players have with each other," writes Lin. "Everyone’s had one of these days: You are struggling in a game and find yourself in a situation where a teammate could have easily trolled or flamed you, but instead goes out of his way to be a helpful, compassionate team-player ... You may not friend this player or ever play with him again, but this small, kind gesture made a difference and is something you remembered. Through Honor you’ll be able to give something lasting back to those players who went out of their way to make your game experience better."
With that in mind, there are four honor categories from which players can bestow an attaboy on their fellow gamers. You can honor them for being especially helpful, for being friendly, for being a good teammate or for being a good opponent.
The amount of honor you can bestow on other players is limited, but you can earn more by playing more matches. Meanwhile, though Riot Games is not currently offering tangible rewards for earning lots of honor, the developers say they are going to "experiment with some potential bonuses" in the future. For now, your honor level will be displayed for all of your fellow players to see.
What affect this will have on the "League of Legends" community remains to be seen and the game's players have had plenty of questions. As one player asked Lin in the forums: "Do you think this will make potential trolls turn into good players? Or is this just a way of rewarding good players for being good players?"
His response, "Some trolls are no doubt going to continue to be trolls and be picked up by the Tribunal; however, some players who are 'skirting' the line between good and bad may decide to lean good because Honor exists. One of our goals in Team Player Behavior is to ensure that it's easier to be good than it is to be toxic. For the good players, this is a way for us to celebrate them and reinforce that they are exactly the type of players we want in League of Legends."
We here at InGame don't have an Honor System built in, but if we did, we'd happily give as many Honor points as possible to the folks at Riot for trying to make their game a better, more positive place to play.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti, and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.