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The State of the LoL Community: How Dirt Nap Paves the Way

By Iris 'Mydnight' Z
Jun 28, 2012 19:14

ImageTired of ragers in solo queue? Hitting that report button to no avail? Want to play League of Legends without the trolls and harassers? Some communities offer a different solution.

We have all felt the sense of dread when clicking into solo queue. There's the slight sting of shame when a friend asks you about that game you play a lot online. You're not sure you should introduce it out of fear of the common problems faced by individuals interacting within the community: near constant harassment, gigantic egos, and the 4chan-esque behavior expected when you combine a 40-minute team-based game with online anonymity.

After all, this is the nature of MOBAs. We have even developed memes out of the pattern of less-desired behavior exhibited by our peers. Despite the Tribunal's best efforts, most players of this game probably feel a little more than fed up. Good thing is, they're not alone. In the absence of Riot's shaping of the community, player-driven communities have sprung up to organize the larger space of disgruntled solo queuers. After someone from a gaming community reached out to me after seeing my work, I decided to investigate the state of the League community and what it has to offer.

Pro-Team Communities

On one hand, we have communities organized around teams that show success in the tournaments. Team Solomid, arguably the most popular team in North America, boasts close to 100,000 registered members on their website. Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, and others are similar in popularity due to large fan followings. These sites offer guides and advice for the average player, some limited interaction with LoL celebrities through their streams, vods, and blogs, and the quintessential star drama. However, aside from the stardom of these professional players, they do not offer much in the way of community. Without tournament success, these sites would arguably fade away once the stars no longer command such a following.

Reddit is the behemoth of the video game community. With a subscription just breaking 100,000 this month, r/leagueoflegends arguably boasts the largest active community within League of Legends. As with other subreddits revolving around specific games, what draws the users is the ability to link to relevant material for the community to downvote and upvote, making it an ideal news aggregator and gossip venue. The subreddit is so popular with League players that even Riot employees communicated with the playerbase during the recent outages when their website server was down. Players also offer guides and advice and share fan-created stuff, everything from crocheted Warwick hats to LoL parody songs. In addition to holding Reddit tournaments, the community also provides hang out venues in the form of (often-full) chatrooms and a Mumble server. Members looking for similar-elo players to queue with are never turned away.

Dirt Nap Gaming

Nick "SmaCkexe" of DNG first reached out to me after I had written on League of Girls. Like any other frustrated solo queuer and player invested in e-sports, he was concerned about the state of the community. Fed up with the trolls, he simply posted in the League forums, "I'm tired of solo queue and want a site where all of us can congregate. Who's with me?" And thus, Dirt Nap Gaming was borne. Only active since last year, Dirt Nap now boasts one of the most active gaming communities in League of Legends, with no real professional gaming team to attract the fans. What's the secret?

Firstly, no one actively moderates their community quite like Dirt Nap. They have an automated report center similar to the Tribunal in which members can click a link next to other member's names. An active HR team manages all complaints, and they are known for taking a strong stance against harassment, especially of the sexual nature for their female players. They also place a strong emphasis on retaining member. When resolving any conflict, HR team members will give the player the benefit of the doubt. However, if they show continued disrespect, Dirt Nap will gladly show them the door.

Dirt Nap founder SmaCkexe also makes an effort to connect his community to Riot, so that they can "fundamentally alter the relationship between the community and game developer." In traditional sports, professional players and sport governing bodies can only interact with their fans through limited media contact. Only in e-sports can player, professional, and game developer meet in the same fields of justice, playing the same game. The potential for cultivating quality interaction is huge and largely untapped.

Certain players are quickly catching on. As one Dirt Nap member said, "the admins [at DNG] are actively involved with the members and interact with us on a daily basis. They participate in our games, chat with us, and listen to our needs. Previously [at a different gaming community] Fever, I did not get that feeling of involvement at all." News of such a rich gaming environment spread quickly, as many players seem to have discovered Dirt Nap in the last year. Word of mouth seems to explain the explosive growth in members. Who needs advertising when you have passionate players gladly reaching out to strangers after playing a game?

Finally, I decided to immerse myself in Dirt Nap Gaming myself for a period of three weeks to understand the member's perspectives. As a LoL player, I also find myself among those dreading to click to the solo queue button. I always queue with friends, but only playing with those you know real life means they're not always around when you are. I had to turn somewhere else to make new friends. Despite the existence of pro-gaming websites and r/leagueoflegends, I was still hesitant to take a chance on random people in a community that did not moderate for quality of interaction. I took the plunge and entered the Dirt Nap chat, and immediately was flooded with dozens of "lfg's" and "lfm." Players greeted one another, welcomed newcomers, and fostered a friendly atmosphere. After a couple of weeks hanging out at DNG's chatroom, I added more friends to my list than I ever have in the past 6 months I've been playing.

Gaming communities succeed when they understand the potential that e-sports has. Dirt Nap drives change by pioneering a new way to engage with the larger LoL community. Some things stayed tried and true, however: DnG is working on cultivating a pro team along the lines of TSM and CLG, finding modest success at the GESL tournament. No matter where the future takes them, you can count on Dirt Nap stressing the importance of the team's relationship with the community. For those seeking a change from typical solo queue behavior, or to change the way the solo queue operates, look no further.



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