It’s a difficult task for developers to limit player toxicity. It’s the Internet, after all, and people can generally get away with saying whatever they want (to an extent). Racism, sexism, general hate-speech – a player hoping to avoid these unpleasantries would be better off turning the computer off entirely.
Of course, many game studios have made strides towards improving the environment in their games. Overwatch, for example, was updated last year to automatically replace the frequently unpleasant phrase “gg ez” with self-deprecating remarks like “I feel very, very small… please hold me…” and “I’m wrestling with some insecurity issues in my life but thank you all for playing with me.”
Other studios have opted for more direct solutions, which is part of the reason why League of Legends – already infamous for having an unpleasant player community – has never allowed voice chat. Or, at least, until now.
According to a recent Q&A response from Riot Korea, the long-awaited feature may be soon arriving in the multiplayer-online-battle-arena (MOBA). The response, translated by Reddit user Calycae, reads:
“As you’ve said, League of Legends is a team oriented game so communication is important, and games are played strategically.
Because of that, In-game voice chat is currently being internally reviewed.
Previously we worried that voice chat would lead to toxic behaviors, but after rethinking, we ultimately decided to provide an in-game voice chat feature.
League of Legends promotes team-sport oriented teamwork, and we think that voice chat brings value to when players are matched with random players, so we are reviewing the feature at the moment.
After the game client update has been applied, we expect concrete plans and preparations to be possible.
It is difficult to say exactly when, but we would like to let you know that we are working progressively on bringing this feature ready and working.”
Now, there’s a number of things to consider when digesting this potentially troubling development. Some have condemned the possibility, stating an unwillingness to tolerate the same level of abuse over voice that they frequently receive in chat. Players have responded with disdain, citing a reluctance to play in a game that previously limited player interaction to text.
There is a possibility, however, that voice chat will do more to improve the LoL community than any other development. Whether out of a fear of reprisal or an increased feeling of empathy, people are generally inclined to be more cordial in person than when interacting online. The sudden inclusion of a voice to the otherwise unknown person on the other side of the screen may actually reduce the level of toxicity in League of Legends.
There’s also match balancing to keep in mind, as well. It’s not uncommon, after all, for solo players to be matched against a team already communicating over voice-over-IP (VOIP) through alternate programs. This placed them at a natural disadvantage, and the inclusion of an optional voice chat feature would do much to reduce this imbalance.
Then again, people might just use it to scream at each other. Who can say?
For more information, follow Riot Game’s official League of Legends Twitter account for frequent updates related to competitive play, game updates, and news about future developments.