League of Legends: Usability, Accessibility, and Ethics
League of Legends in an multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games. In the main game mode, players join a team of 5 to compete against the enemy team of 5. Before each game, players select their “champion” with their own unique set of skills and abilities. The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy base or nexus, by conquering various defensive structures. Each game is discrete, with each player starting with the same resources and increasing in strength by leveling up their experience and obtaining resources.
In addition to the large online community of players, League of Legends also boasts an ever-growing competitive scene. Teams of professional gamer athletes compete in regional competitions, known as the League Champion Series (LCS), and vie for the championship title of their respective regions. At the end of each season, the best teams across the globe compete against each other in a tournament to crown the winner of the annual Worlds Championship.
To assess the level of usability of League of Legends, we must measure its adherence to usability heuristics. We will take a look at League’s level of learnability and satisfaction of its users.
Learnability: Before jumping into player-created games, League of Legends offers beginners access to New Player Guides and tutorials. The initial tutorial is highly interactive and does well to teach new players the rules and general gameplay. Players also have the option to play against AI bots, with varying levels of difficulty. The tutorial process has been highly consistent throughout the 6 seasons of League, and Riot has done well to improve on the learnability of the player guides.
Satisfaction: Achieving player satisfaction has always been a high priority of Riot Games. League of Legends’ ability to connect with its players and foster meaningful conversations within its community of gamers has long bolstered the its popularity and maintained its position as the #1 Most Played game in the world.
This past Spring I was randomly invited to participate in a lab hosted by Riot Games. During the play test, I was presented with various versions of a Congratulations screen, with different animations presenting the prize. I was asked whether animation A or B appealed to me more as a player, and why. Now, as a student of User Experience I realized that the lab was conducting user research on the satisfaction based on different animations of a Congratulations screen.
In terms of accessibility, League of Legends is a game that requires a certain level of hand-eye coordination and cognitive motor skills. In order to assist players with unique needs and enhance their game experience, Riot Games has made a few adjustments to certain game modes to enhance accessibility for its players. Although this is true, in many ways League of Legends is a complex game that prioritizes depth over than accessibility. Because of this, there are steps Riots Games can take to increase accessibility to a wider range of players.
Color-Blind Mode: In 2012, Riot Games implemented a feature specifically for color blind players. This is useful for player in order to distinguish between his/her team (green) vs. the enemy team’s (red) health bars, as well as certain special effects within the game.
Slower Speed Settings: This game mode does not currently exist, but it is certainly an idea that should be considered. By offering slower speed settings, we are keeping in mind the needs of players with mobility and/or cognitive disorders. League of Legends as it is right now, is an extremely fast-paced competitive game and this can be tricky for those with cognitive or mobility disabilities. Offering a game mode at 80% or lower of the normal game speed will help remedy this issue. This could be the opposite of the already existent URF, or Ultra Rapid Fire, game mode.
Riot Games tries to promote ethical behavior and friendly gameplay between its community of players. In order to sign up for the game, players must agree to The Summoner’s Code, a detailed guide summarizing good player conduct and instructions how to deal with and report bad conduct. This is especially important for League of Legends, as it is a team game and requires players to work together towards the common goal of winning. Philanthropy is also a large part of Riot Games as an organization, as the organization has a history of taking part in global initiatives and charity fundraising projects.
Partnership with Charities: Each year Riot Games releases a new Championship skin to celebrate that year’s World Championships, and donates a portion of the funds collected to charity organizations. This year the organization has partnered with three global charities: BasicNeeds, Learning Equality, and The Raspberry Pi Foundation, to support causes of mental health care, access to education, and access to technology.
URF April Fool’s Campaign: On April Fools Day in 2010, Riot announced that it would be donated the revenues of its new collection of manatee-themed character skins to the Save the Manatee Club, a national non-profit devoted to rescuing and raising awareness of manatees. Although the idea was comical, the act itself was not a joke and they were able to donate a large sum of money to the organization.