Playing with Friends
So I occasionally play League of Legends, one could even say that it is one of my major games at this moment. (Not that that means much.) Most of the time I play with friends though not all of us are on the same skill level. And that causes issues. Syl (of Raging Monkeys fame, who will definitely appear on my blogroll as soon as I get to reworking it) recently noted how you have to pick your online game partners depending on their gaming interests and not on real life connections but I don’t really want to give up on playing with friends due to skill differences.
In my case, we have a rather mixed group. My little brother plays a lot (too much! Those damn students!) and is quite a bit better than I am. Other friends of mine are roughly in the same ballpark of games played and skill as I am (where I tend to make up for my lack in skill and experience by playing the same champions over and over again). Playing with those friends is fine and fun. Playing with my brother is a bit humiliating, but he is the one who has to put up with me playing badly, so it doesn’t influence my gameplay experience at all.
I do know how his side of the table feels though, as we also have players in our little loose group that are a lot less experienced than I am and simply don’t play the game very well. Playing with them is frustrating on my part (and likely even worth from the point of view of my brother) because their inexperience causes us to lose games which we (fell as if we) could have won. It’s bad for them as well, though, because the presence of higher ranked players in the group means that they have to fight more experienced adversaries. Additionally, they have to deal with us talking in Skype about concepts and strategy they don’t know anything about and take advice from us. Having been in their shoes (and still being there from time to time) I know how bad that feels.
So what’s the solution here? I don’t know. One way to reduce the problems could be for the more experienced players to use “smurf” accounts; meaning that they make new accounts which will influence the matchmaking system in such a way that they are paired against less experienced players. This would both reduce the chances of getting trounced due to being a not-so-good team as well as reducing the feeling of inferiority on their part.
Smurfing has its disadvantages as well, though. For one, League of Legends allows you to both level up by playing a lot of games and collect points while doing so which can be spent to unlock champions and improve them. A smurf account won’t have access to the champions you already unlocked and playing on it won’t advance your main account any further. Smurfing also doesn’t feel quite fair to those playing at the lower levels who will have to fight others who have much more experience. Finally, smurfing is of vary limited value for your own personal experience because opponents at those low levels will act quite differently from what you need to prepare for against higher ranked enemies.
I’m still having fun playing in a group of friends, but I would have a lot more fun if we could somehow alleviate the problems we’re experiencing. Maybe we need a downleveling/tutoring system once more since your level isn’t actually a measure for your skill anyway, simply for the amount you have played (and therefore your experience.)