A lot of people say that League of Legends has one of the most toxic communities ever seen in online gaming. I'm not going to deny that - there are some downright vile players; some incredibly terrible, hateful, and arrogant human beings play the game. Some games, it's all you can do to even make it through the experience - I'd even go so far as to say that anyone who claims to have played League without wanting to punch someone in the face at least once is lying. Now that I've talked up the clear merits of the League of Legends community, let me hit you with a bombshell:
This is the game that has made me a better person, and still continues to do so. Before we really dive into things, I believe a bit of back story is necessary.
I started playing League of Legends a few years ago, back when I was still in University. I don't quite remember when; all I know is that it was when Summoner's Rift was the only map, and there were far fewer than 100 champions to choose from. For a long time, I enjoyed the game without ever really improving - I never really had the desire to, after all. It was just something I did in my off time; a means of making the hours pass. I didn't really analyze my plays, didn't look at recommended builds; didn't think about what it would take for me to actually become genuinely skilled at the game. My roommates were much the same - we just played, without really thinking about how we might improve (not that there's anything wrong with that).
There was one among us who actually put an effort into improving - he worked his ass off. That was just how he was: he was one of those guys who never did things in half-measures: if he became interested in something; he'd do whatever it took to become good at it. Unfortunately, he also tended to rage a fair bit at the game - and at us in particular, whenever we played it with him. He was a toxic player (I understand he's mellowed out a bit since then).
All I could think of was that I didn't want to be like him.
Flash forward a few years. I'm finished University, I've picked up a freelancing job while looking for a more permanent gig, and I decide I need a roommate. After searching desperately on Kijiji, the campus of the nearby University, Facebook, and even Craigslist, one fellow approaches me with the offer - a guy I met at a LoL tournament a few years back (which my team lost spectacularly). I figured, hey - common interests and all, right?
About a month or so later, everything was finalized, and he'd moved in, setting up his computer in a storage closet beneath the stairs (I live in a two-level apartment, and it was the only place it would fit). Naturally, since we now occupied the same living space; we ended up playing quite a bit of League together. It was here that I realized how unskilled I actually was - he wasn't just on another level from me; he was on an entirely different planet. He also wasn't even remotely toxic: his stance was that trash talk only serves to destroy team morale; making a loss more and more definite the more you badgered people.
I've echoed this stance in one of my earlier pieces.
Slowly but surely, I began to improve, simply through playing with him and his circle of friends. I wasn't yet good at the game by any stretch, but I was getting better. I began studying builds, watching the occasional stream. I began to play more frequently, more skilfully. There was still something blocking my path, however: try as I might, I couldn't bring my skill up to my roommate's level. I just accepted it - I had a different skill-set; I was better at other games.
That was when I met another fellow - we'll call him Lan. Initially; he was brought in as a fifth player in my weekly D&D game. He was also one of the people my roommate regularly played with - the kind of people who frequently played ranked and usually won. They were some of the best players I knew. Pardon the pun, but each and every one of them was completely out of my league.
As we played more D&D sessions and got to know one another better; I began playing League of Legends with him and his circle more often. Without realizing it, I was still improving; still upping my game each time I jumped in. Eventually, after watching me play for a few months, he looked at me and said something which, at that point in time, absolutely floored me.
"I want you to join my team. I think that, with a bit of training, you could be incredible at this game - you've got the skill-set to be so." He paused for a moment. "I'm going to break you of quite a few bad habits if I'm to train you, though. It's not going to be easy."
I gladly took him up on his offer. The opportunity to become genuinely skilled at the game was one I didn't want to pass up. It dawned on me that this was something I'd wanted for quite some time, albeit without actually realizing it. What I didn't expect was that I'd become a better person in the process; that I'd begin to improve in other areas of life.