California studio Riot is taking a criminologist's approach to tackling the online trolling that plagues its popular MOBA game League of Legends.
Travis George, a lead producer on League of Legends, has revealed that the studio has established what it internally calls the Player Behaviour and Justice Team. This division, he says, will help the studio understand, identify and remedy online trolling.
"We don't like players being jerks in games," George told Gamasutra.
"We've experienced it all ourselves. But we actually sat down and said, 'how do we actually more tangibly understand how bad the impact is, or what the impact is, or understand the problem more?'
"We actually have built a team around this. We call it, lovingly, the Player Behaviour and Justice Team. There are a lot of really talented folks on that team, including two PhDs. One's a cognitive neuroscientist and one's a behavioural psychologist."
He said that the science team "can help develop models for how we track and trend what we call 'player behaviour'".
"We've actually developed specific trends, and our own set of metrics that we look at for measuring what percentage of times we think that players will encounter a negative experience in a game, and how severe that negative experience is," he added.
League of Legends is known for carrying a tense online community of dedicated players.
George added that a "decent amount" of trash talk in the game is acceptable "because that exists in every competitive event, sport, game ever", but adds the studio wants to determine where to draw the line.
"Generally the line is people being mean for the sake of being mean, telling you what to do, telling you how bad you are. And I think we can actually fix a lot of that," he said.
Games development and psychology have only recently begun to cross disciplines. Portal 2 studio Valve famously used an experimental psychologist to help the group design new game and hardware concepts.