From Riot Games’ 2011 Tribunal infographic
It’s not fun to deal with toxic behavior in games, but it can be a lot worse in the workplace. Harassment at work takes a toll on mental health, and not enough employers take workplace harassment or bullying seriously.
But Riot Games, creator of League of Legends, is trying to change that with the same tools it uses to deal with toxic behavior in the game. A case study on Google’s re:Work explains that the company uses in-game toxicity as an warning sign of workplace toxicity — and that method has been working.
Riot looked at the preceding 12 months of gameplay of every employee and discovered there was a correlation between in-game and in-Riot toxicity. They determined that 25% of employees who had been let go in the previous year were players with unusually high in-game toxicity. The most common bad behaviors they found were passive aggression (snarky comments) and the use of authoritative language, sometimes using their authority as a Riot employee to intimidate or threaten others.
Riot also found that a player’s toxicity was a fluid thing and not immutable. Like moods, toxicity levels can fluctuate. Riot could measure and predict toxicity trajectories of players over time, and so they set about seeing if they could improve the player behavior of their employees.
After finding the 30 most toxic players in the company, Riot was able to talk most of those employees through their behavior and inspire most to reform. “Pretty much everyone we spoke with was appalled at their own behaviour. We actually received some essays from employees vowing to change their ways and become not just more considerate gamers but better people,” Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Riot’s head of Talent, told re:Work.
With that success under its belt, Riot is now looking for ways to use toxicity metrics to screen potential employees, who are expected to have played the game and provide their handles. Currently, Riot is experimenting with a system that sorts applicants into three tiers of toxic in-game behavior–those who exhibit the worst behavior aren’t rejected outright, but hiring managers can see sample chat logs to help make their hiring decisions.
It won’t solve workplace toxicity across the board — most companies don’t have access to logs of their online history, after all — but Riot is certainly contributing to the erosion of the idea that online behavior is consequence free.