It’s the second day of the 2014 Riot World Championships and SK Gaming are currently in the group stages. Their next opponent is the Taipei Assassins, the No.1 seed from GPL, but critics rate them low. SK, on the other hand, are playing without their starting jungler. After some drama surrounding the racially insensitive nickname he chose on the taiwanese servers.
Game 1 goes from bad to worse for SK, after a solokill in the botlane. They trade 1 for 1 after a misplayed gank in the mid lane and then give up 2 kills for a dragon. SK managed to bounce back and put up a fight, being in the gold lead for the majority of the game. Still, after losing a fight around their own inhibitor turret, SK had only 2 members left, who weren’t able to defend the base against TPA, who won the game in the next few minutes. It was an exciting game to watch as a spectator, both teams put up a decent performance, considering the limits they had. But the audience did not seem to respect that, booing SK. But why would they do such a disrespectful thing to athletes that just played a stressful match?
That’s simple. SK are from EU and one of them made a racist joke.
Well, this article is not about judging or defending Svenskeren’s actions, nor is it about SK’s performance at worlds. Both of these topics have been discussed to death. This article will be about the prejudice the rest of the world has against EU players.
SK Gaming’s jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen chose to change his in-game name to something unarguably offensive towards taiwanese people, which resulted in a 3- match-ban and gigantic backlash from the community.
Meanwhile, nearly every member of the team “LMQ”, who represented the North American region also picked offensive nicknames, like for example “KILL KOREANS”, on the korean server, but no ban or community reaction followed.
SK on the other hand was getting hated on Reddit for months.
Now we are at a point where you can clearly isolate one argument often brought up by people, on why they dislike SK and EU in general:
“I hate EU, it’s the most toxic region.”
Why is this statement so popular? What makes this assumption seem so real?
This article will assume it is.
It will not try and explain if the statement is factually true. What it will try to explain how EU might have developed in such a way. It will go over the common arguments which try to to explain this.
Disclaimer: I am only going to compare EU to NA, because I have no experience with Solo Queue in other regions.
The linguistic argument
Picture by Spiridon Manoliu
If there are two things that define Europe, they are really good midlaners and the fact that we are a region made up of many countries with many different native languages.
Twenty-four official languages are spoken in Europe, more than in any other official region. How does this matter? It is easily explained: if you speak a language poorly, you are going to focus on a few keywords you say often and repeatedly use them.
Those keywords turned out to be insults like “retard”, “cancer” or “autist”.
League of Legends is a frustrating game. As soon as there are other players responsible for the performance of your team, every game is frustrating. Nobody likes going 5/0 in lane and then have every other teammate feed, which results in a loss. You are losing because of variables you have little to no control over.
When you are frustrated you are going to get angry and then you need to vent.
Those simple and very offensive insults are easy to understand and fairly hard-hitting, which is the reason why they became more and more common.
If you are really angry at someone, most people are more likely to punch him in the face rather than calmly explaining themselves, especially if both of you don’t share the same first language. The simple insult is the easier way to tell someone that you hate his/her playing style.
If every European would speak Swedish for example, chatlogs would be more actual arguing than insults being thrown around, since many players would be able to communicate on a higher level than they could in English.
The sheer practicality of this argument makes it the one that seems most influential, but with more context, other arguments start to factor in.
The historic argument
Imagine a community of young people from many countries who play a video game all day. This gives you a picture of what the EU scene is like.
EU consists of many countries, each with it’s own history, background and culture. There is no region as culturally diverse as EU.
It has also been the center of many conflicts. Nowadays the leaders work in the European Union work together and we live in a time of peace, at least compared to the past. But even with all these efforts: From 1104 BCE until now wars have raged in Europe.
Sweden and Denmark are the 2 countries that have fought the most wars in between each other, 15-21 depending on how you define war.
They have been in constant conflict from 1205 and onward.
Sweden and Denmark are 2 countries with a load of high elo players and the best eSports infrastructure in Europe.
When you picture a young Swedish player being in a game with someone Danish, who happens to feed, then it’s not that hard to imagine that those parts of the player base still carry on this conflict in their own way.
This is just one of many long-standing feuds in Europe that still affect the community to this day. Other famous examples would be Germany-France or Russia-Poland, all of these are major parts of the region and host many players.
The impact wars have on societies reach far beyond their time. To this day feuds continue on and while people might not shoot others over it, hate between people of different nationalities definitely exists.
For this reason racist slurs are really common in Europe, compared to NA, where most players live in the same country, thus increasing toxicity further.
The Riot argument
Riot is a North American company.
Nowadays, it doesn’t seem too apparent since they handle the EU community well and monitor player behavior very strictly in the entire world. That used to be different.
Very early on (around Season 1 and Season 2), Riot nearly exclusively monitored NA high elo players and made examples out of them. Of course, EU players were also banned, for example the infamous DarkWinJax, but those were not used as public examples by Riot. The average player didn’t know about Team Solo Mebdi – a team banned from playing while they were boarding their planes to the LCS qualifiers. In NA, on the other hand, pro players like pr0lly and IWillDominate were banned and it was openly promoted by Riot to show that toxicity can destroy your career.
The players realised that and toxicity went down, but in EU we had no cases like that. While people still got banned, Riot never promoted it. High elo players saw no reason to change their behaviour, especially with toxic players like Ocelote being the most famous amongst fans.
Later on, Riot took a few steps by giving a warning to Ocelote and making a video about him “reforming”. The behaviour didn’t change drastically at first, but when people like Nukeduck or Mithy got banned, EU players started realising that their careers were at risk if they continued being toxic in Solo Queue.
Examples like the top laner Flaxxish, who was banned a few days before the expansion tournament started, ruining his team’s chances of winning a spot, have recently shown that this scene still has a long way to go.
Riot is made partly responsible for not introducing the same punishments in EU that they introduced in NA.
I had a chance to ask some questions to Olof “Flaxxish” Medin regarding this topic. To the question if the team expected a ban he answered
“My team did not expect it at all.”
This proves even further that most players didn’t expect such harsh punishments from Riot.
You could really see in his answers that the transparency for banned players is non-existent. He doesn’t know if or when he will get unbanned and Riot Support doesn’t answer any questions.
Being toxic is never acceptable, but these are obvious flaws in the system which are counterproductive to Riot’s goal of having a good environment for players.
EU West is infamous for the toxic players and big egos, and there is a lot of truth in that, but it’s not because europeans are just naturally immature. It’s a lot of factors leading to this result. This article tried to explain the major ones, but it doesn’t change the fact that EU is wasting talent due to players not behaving. The in-game culture in EU West is way too different at the moment and Riot needs to address that, while assuring transparency and the same standards across all regions. Then we can have fair and effective punishments and, maybe one day, a toxic-free EUW.nt in this box.
Thanks to @doctor_emi and @LOLworlds for editing and to @reazony for help.
Big thanks to @flaxxish for answering my questions.