[Opinion] Does Riot Korea even care? An in-depth look into the state of toxicity in KR solo queue

Source: Riot Games


I’ve been playing League of Legends since the end of Season 2. It was around the time when I moved back to Korea permanently after almost 13 years abroad, I didn’t have any friends. I was absolutely bored out of my mind. At the time, people were saying how League of Legends is the next big game title that will replace StarCraft, so I tried it out. I still remember my first game, where I just played Nasus because he aesthetically looked strong at the time.


Season 2 Worlds finals [Azubu Frost vs Taipei Assassins] was the first LoL esports match I ever watched. Source: fmkorea


Fast forward many years later, I’d say that I have a love-hate relationship with LoL. I love League of Legends because my job as an LCK journalist allows me to tell many different stories about it, which aids in bridging the communities worldwide. It was something I've wanted to do since I started playing this game seriously. However, over the many years of playing this game, I’ve experienced so much toxicity in Korean servers. I’ve had death threats, experienced racism [because I was typing in English, so people called me all sorts of names], and slander towards my parents [it’s considered the worst type of slander in Korean culture], among many other forms of toxic behavior.


Now, I’m not saying that Riot Games didn’t try. But Riot’s most recent countermeasures, such as the champ select report system and punishing the players for swearing in chat, haven't really solved the underlying problems that exist in solo queue. People just found new ways to ruin other people’s lives. Just the other day, in my solo queue game, the Ezreal on the other team decided to ruin the game for his team, simply because there was a couple playing on his team. Due to Riot’s efforts, I’d say that this doesn’t happen as much as it did in the past, but it’s still incredibly frustrating.


I know that it's hard to read, but basically, Ezreal was saying that the Kayn-Yuumi are a couple IRL, so not only did they call them "retards", but they was also telling where Kayn was on the map through all-chat


By no means do I fit the definition of being a "high-Elo" player; my peak was Platinum 1 on the KR solo queue ladder. However, the toxicity gets worse as you climb up. My profession grants me easier access to many different players that are highly ranked on the solo queue ladder, and I had a chance to speak about this topic with a well-known personality in the scene that plays at a Diamond-Master tier level in KR solo queue, who requested that they remained anonymous.


They shared that the most common reason why people "run it down" in KR solo queue is that “If someone has a bad experience with somebody else and gets matched again with them later, they just give up the game before the game even starts.” They shared that they also had weird, but frequent instances with some players, where “They just say ‘open’, but I can’t figure out why. That person could have 10 kills under their belt, but one death could just trigger them to leave”.


After playing so many games in Diamond/Master/GM Elo, this player said that “there’s a correlation between people with a lot of games in that Elo and flame. Someone with 1000+ games this season with only a couple months into the season; more likely to flame and be toxic. They think they’re hardstuck because of team diff, but the reality is, they’re most likely doing something wrong themselves. People like this exist on every server, but it’s more common in Korea.”


“Methods of ‘opening’ have been industrialized in KR solo q, and tactics of ‘how to AFK’ have evolved to evade the system catching them. People would follow around the person they hate the most in-game around the map to steal EXP; it’s extremely difficult to even 4 vs 5 anymore, because of the discrepancy in the EXP/gold vs the enemy team.”

The report system in champ select does absolutely nothing. According to multiple high-rank players I’ve spoken with, “there’s an unspoken rule among the NA LoL streamers, where if they meet a player that’s known to be toxic/griefer, they all just report the person before the start of the game”. From the Korean LoL streamers that I’ve personally watched in recent years, I can confidently say that a similar pattern exists in Korea as well, but the system feels very much useless.


When Riot announced that they’re going to increase the penalty for dodging, everyone was in outrage. There are countless games that are doomed from the start, where people just lock in the ‘Disco Nunu’ or Master Yi with Ghost-Cleanse.


Screenshot of the champ select screen sent by the player I talked with after our conversation


It doesn't matter what these people do and that’s the reason why people are so frustrated and feel helpless by the fact that they have to play under the mercy of these int-ers, or the Yasuo players that go 0/20 in ranked and say, “First time Yasuo, btw”. Because of these players, the fact that you have no influence over the outcome of the game is incredibly demotivating for many.


It's been proven over and over that the system itself is very abusable, so the threat of being banned needs to go higher. For ‘soft inting’, it’s obvious for the people inside the game itself, but from an outsider’s perspective, who only has the information that comes from the body of text in post-lobby reports [sometimes, there isn’t even a body of text], it’s really hard to figure out whether or not this player is actually griefing, or is just having a terrible game.



In 2019, Riot Korea suspended top laner Choi “Doran” Hyun-joon for one match in the LCK and issued a fine of 800,000 KRW (~717.67USD). Riot Korea claims that it’s due to intentional griefing, but the fans that analyzed the solo queue game in question all said that it was not the case; Doran was simply having a bad game. I realize that it’s damn near impossible to review each and every single game, but is there no one at Riot Korea who’s competent enough to tell the difference between a bad game and intentional griefing?


Why is it that over 10 years of service, the fans seem to be doing a better job than the people get paid to do so? At this point, does Riot Korea even care?

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