Left-Wing LoL – A Short Discourse on Economics

Posted: August 29, 2011 by xenocidebrm in General, Guides, Metagame

It may (or may not) surprise some readers of this blog that when it comes to economics, I am very left wing (American left, not European left). Some of you might be spitting your coffee all over the screen while trying to say “socialist” and “dirty liberal” at the same time. Bear with me, dear readers, because I’m not here to take you on a magical rainbow adventure of utopia: I’m here to tell you how to get better at League of Legends.

One of the fundamental problems with the free market is the idea of money. I do not say that money itself is the problem because money is an extremely flexible and useful tool for conversion between millions of different types of goods and services. I say that the idea of money is the problem because people are obsessed with money in itself. Socrates was the first well-known philosopher to identify this problem, believing that self-improvement was more important than material wealth. He also identified the concept known in the field as things-in-themselves. Combined, these two provide a powerful case against our current concept of money.

The free market and right wing economics in general relies on goods and services flowing naturally. It is posited that this may only occur with the use of currency, money, or some sort of other conversion measure governed by the market itself. Disregarding the fact that such an assertion leaves no constants in what is claimed to be a scientific field, we can immediately identify a problem with money. People ought to see money as little more than a note which can be converted into hundreds of thousands of real capital options. Instead, what we find is that people never think quite that far. Few of us are truly interested in what money can buy but instead are concerned with the possession of money as a thing-in-itself.

So what does this have to do with League, you begrudgingly ask with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged held close for protection? Everything, dear reader, everything. You see, League of Legends has a system suspiciously similar to our own in that it has its own form of currency, creatively named gold. Unlike real life, there is no purpose to hoarding gold, but there is a purpose to obtaining gold. Also like real life, this purpose is to obtain items with utility, real capital, if you will. This system seems to work pretty well: no one hoards gold and everyone buys items. We must go a step further into the deadly philosophical world of the metagame to identify the major problem.

See, while everyone is obsessed with items as things-in-themselves, much as we are obsessed with money as a thing-in-itself, we often forget that items aren’t there to look pretty but exist to let us do something. Every time you buy an item you gain an advantage roughly equivalent to the amount of time it took for you to farm up that gold. If you don’t do anything with your item, congratulations, you just wasted any advantage your item could have possibly given you. Doing things includes, but is not limited to: farming, clearing the jungle, taking down a tower, taking dragon/baron, ganking, teamfighting. When you buy an item make sure you do something with it.

Let’s take a step deeper into the metagame. Sometimes a champion will, objectively, gain a greater advantage from an equivalent amount of gold than another champion. In technical terms, we call this one of two things, either “letting the carry farm” or “feeding the carry”. Of course, if we apply our modern sense of economic theory, we run into a problem here. First is the idea that greed is good. If this were the case, every character would try their hardest to farm, steal buffs and kills, and never take personal risks. In other words, it would be playing the crap shoot that is solo queue.

A second, more sophisticated version of this argument is that greed is still good, but that it is in our own best interests to occasionally give up resources to others for an expected larger reward at the end. Party queues with little or no communication tend to follow this theory, which still doesn’t get us to the highest levels of play but instead to the merely adequate.

The final stage of play is that of the *cringe* high ELO and competitive scene. There we see entire teams playing as fluid, complete machines, dedicated to the destruction of the enemy. Little is wasted in the way of resources, timings are extremely tight, and all of us gawk and wonder at these veritable digital entertainment gods.

Do they play with greed? When we consider how much time all of these players put into this game, we find that the answer is a resounding no. These players did not naturally develop from pure greed into modern day superstars. They do not on the fly economically consider the advantages and disadvantages of stealing creeps from carries. What these players do is plan ahead, communicate frequently, and leave their greed outside the game. Their play is focused on bringing their team to victory*, not just themselves.

So the next time you play League, consider playing a more left-wing game. Don’t play to get items as things-in-themselves or in an attempt to do the best you can for yourself. Consider the needs of your team as a whole, plan ahead, remember to communicate, and, ultimately, don’t be greedy.

*Some might argue that wanting to win is greed. These people are what I like to call “wrong”. The reason for this is that equating any desire with greed and then greed as good means that, deductively, all desires are good. This leads to a number of undesirable consequences, such as a desire to cheat, steal, or murder being good.

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