League of Legends: Hai’s Punishment Reveals a Broken Report System

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

Hai was recently punished for negative behavior in solo queue, but everything that happened after reveals how broken the League of Legends report system is.

Earlier this week, one of the most legendary professional League of Legends players in North America ran afoul of Riot’s report system. Former Cloud9 mid laner Hai “Hai” Du Lam revealed that he received his first-ever punishment from Riot, posting the chat logs that led to the report. Hai claims (and the chat log appears to support) that he was punished during a game in which two of his teammates quit on the game early on.

The fact that Hai was punished for these comments while the two players who displayed game-ruining behavior by AFKing were not has caused a lot of outrage. It is amplified by the fact that Riot has stated that they will focus on punishing players who display these types of behavior. Punishing Hai while these players escape the punishment system seems unfair.

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Now, a lot of people are saying that this behavior wasn’t worthy of punishment. I think there is an argument to be made that Hai’s behavior was aggressive and perhaps worthy of a small punishment. The two players who went AFK were not going to be reasoned with and there was no point in trying or getting hostile.

Riot has stated in the past that actions like calling for reports and harassing behavior are punishable, both of which Hai engaged in here. So it’s entirely possible that the automated system caught those phrases and flagged his account.

However, in reading the chat logs there is no reason to believe that Hai was harassing, raging, or flaming his teammates. Instead, it reads very much like Hai was frustrated at these two teammates and lashing out, which is understandable. Given how mild his rebuke was, I thought it was likely that Riot would walk the punishment back or at least acknowledge that their system was a little harsh.

Unfortunately, that proved to be incorrect.

After manual review of the chat logs by Riot, they made the decision to uphold the punishment. The person reviewing even sympathized with Hai’s situation, but ultimately said Hai was being negative and got punished appropriately. While I understand Riot’s view would be that Hai was negative and deserved punishment, I think the extenuating circumstances, including the fact it was his first offense, earn him some leniency.

It’s especially discouraging that this punishment was reaffirmed after manual review because it shows that despite all their talk Riot still appears to be prioritizing chat toxicity over game-ruining behavior. Their hand-waving away Hai’s concerns (essentially telling him to mute and ignore these griefing players) also reinforces that perception. Then, the real kicker came down last night.

The fact that Hai is not just being chat restricted but losing his spot in the League Partner Program (LPP) from this incident is unacceptable. While the initial punishment could be justified as a function of the automated system and his behavior was within the parameters for punishment, this additional punishment is not.

Again, this decision comes after manual review with more of the same “stay positive” generic talk. It is interesting that they said Hai’s Honor Level dipped below Level 2, which could indicate that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Unfortunately for Riot, the damage already appears to be done.

High elo players on Twitter have been vocal about the continued presence of game-ruining behavior, even after Riot recently announced that they would be instituting new measures to quickly catch and punish such players. Now, seeing a high-profile, former professional League of Legends player, who has a spotless reputation in terms of his player behavior, getting punished while such players got away in that same game might cause some players to lose confidence in Riot’s punishment system.

This incident also makes it seem that manual review, something a lot of players argue for to curb false positive reports and create accountability, might not be the answer. If the Rioters involved with this punishment reviewed this chat log, what was preventing them from reviewing the game footage and punishing the two AFKers? Couldn’t they tell that those players were exhibiting game-ruining behavior from their play and chat logs, or did they just not care?

Of course, this is all speculation. Riot may well have looked into and punished these two players. Hai might have a pattern of negative behavior such as this that led to this point. The perception of this incident, though, is sure to leave a bad taste in a lot of players mouths.

Going forward, I would hope that Riot becomes more communicative and transparent with their players, especially those prominent in the League of Legends community, regarding punishments. If players who cause negative incidents are punished, it would be nice for players to know that beyond the generic “thank you for your feedback.” If a player is punished and others are not, they deserve to know why that distinction was made.

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At the end of the day, though, this incident just showcases that the issues prevalent in the report system aren’t confined to the automated systems in place. Riot’s judgment as to what is punishable behavior and what is not was either badly communicated or is not in line with most of the League of Legends community. Hopefully Riot will provide more information to help us players better understand how punishment decisions like this one are made.