The Dunning-Kruger Effect and the Blame Game in League of Legends

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been discussed at length within the field of psychology, but its principles can easily be observed within the League of Legends community.


To sum it up shortly, the Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias that someone has when gauging their expertise, or skill level within any form of topic. Namely, those that are missing required self-awareness and metacognition will not understand the perspectives, experience, or techniques beyond their own, which is required to become a professional in their field.


So, let's look into some of the largest flaws, that many League players bring up when talking about their experience playing within the competitive community (a.k.a. ranked). What are some stereotypical complaints that League players have, regardless of their role or rank?


To no surprise, one of the typical complaints is the "luck" in getting good vs. bad teammates in solo queue and how it is unfavorable for every given player. I'm sure that, if you've played ranked for longer than a couple of weeks, you've heard someone express this thought: "whenever I get ‘X' champion on my team they suck, but every time the enemy team has ‘X', they always get fed and carry." You could insert the name of almost any popular champion in the given meta, or just any champion that is notorious for being popular (think of Master Yi, Zed, Katarina, Kai'Sa, etc.) Perhaps even you have thought along these lines yourself. But, thinking back to the Dunning-Kruger effect, you'll find that this thought pattern matches the description of biased individuals who believe, their team's capabilities will never match their own. This exact bias is also expressed within the community. "Why is my team always trash? I never get an equal balance of good vs. bad teams."


This, however, creates a massive contradiction: assuming that a player has played a considerable amount of ranked games (at least 100+, preferably more), how can they so firmly believe they are of a higher caliber when their rank hasn't reflected their supposed profession? As basic statistics show, with a large sample size of games, regardless of a player's perception, the distribution of "good" versus "bad" players will follow a normal curve.


To further explore this concept, I want to talk about an experience I had in solo queue that pertains to this cognitive bias. Given the random nature of a single game in League of Legends, sometimes some truly unfortunate events can happen that destroy someone's "mental". In this particular game, an extremely poorly executed invade led to two of my teammates dying. As soon as it happened, Mundo quickly typed out and insulted Nami, blaming the other for being the cause of the poor invade.


Whether the invade was particularly at anyone's fault didn't matter to him. Soon after, Nami who died again rage quitted the game. At this point, assuming Nami wouldn't come back, the game would almost certainly be a loss for us. Mundo was persistent in his typing even after Nami left, further justifying his actions, and not only was Nami the reason the invade went poorly, but also the entire team deserved the consequences of her leaving due to Nami's weak mentality, not his harassment. An interesting question at this point would be, "If Mundo hadn't typed, or if he typed a more reasonable message only acknowledging how unfortunate the situation was, would Nami have left? Would the game be decidedly over like it was then?" Nami disconnected for approximately 5 minutes, but when she did reconnect, Mundo immediately went back to harassing her, telling her to leave and that she had ruined the game beyond repair. As a result, she disconnected again, not to return until the game was lost.


Looking at this scenario as an outsider and given my example questions, it's laughable to see that our perspective on the game clearly shows an alternative and better outcome in which the team not only stands a chance at winning but mutually benefits the mental state and even League community on a larger scale. But for the Mundo… well, let's just say the Dunning-Kruger effect is hard at work.


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