Last month, Riot Games surprised everyone when they announced plans to reward good player behavior in League of Legends with a free mystery gift. The gift came as a surprise, with no prior announcement made, and is intended to encourage players in the League of Legends community to not behave like a**holes.
While we're used to seeing games punish players for toxic behavior, Riot is exploring the concept of rewarding positive behavior. After its initial trial, the developer has plans to continue this form of surprise rewards.
"One of the keys of positive reinforcement is the idea of “schedules,” or the expected frequency of a reinforcing event. Introducing surprise rewards unrelated to specific activities or durations is one of the most effective ways to encourage positive player behavior. The surprise element is crucial: imagine an achievement system where, if you are sportsmanlike for your next 10 games, you unlock a free skin. Players could simply behave for 10 games, unlock their gift and go back to playing the same way they were before (whether that’s positive, negative or neutral). So, instead, we’ll continue to surprise players once in awhile for their positive behavior. Because players aren't sure what the next reward is (or when it is), players will strive to be sportsmanlike in a larger range of games to try to get all the surprises."
"In future roll-outs it’ll be possible for players to earn the next surprise so long as they've been positive since the last surprise was awarded. So, if you were chat restricted and missed a surprise, you could still be eligible if you were positive in the time range between that one and the next."
The developer noted that not every surprise will be a mystery gift. They will differ in magnitude and will be tailored to different players. For example, although the last surprise was an IP Boost that was beneficial for new players, future surprises may include collectibles like unique summoner icons.
It's no secret that the League of Legends community can be a toxic environment -- especially when you get into Ranked Play. I don't now how much free gifts will affect player behavior but I admire Riot's approach in attempting to shake things up and find an alternative solution to simply punishing players.