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The Rich-Get-Richer Model in Games

In the wildly popular online MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) League of Legends, the effects of the rich-get-richer model can be seen fairly clearly. This network phenomenon appears in nearly every single match played, making itself well-known to nearly all players of the game.

In gaming terms, the model is referred to as the “snowball effect”, or simply “snowballing”. This term is fairly accurate in explaining this rich-get-richer effect — as soon as a lead is accumulated, the snowball gains traction and continues getting larger. Specfically, in League of Legends, the main goal of the game is to destroy enemy towers and buildings. When doing so, a team accumulates gold, which can be used to buy more powerful items. This is often when the rich-get-richer model can be seen– after taking a tower and acquiring gold, a team is able to buy stronger items, which in turn allows them to more easily defeat enemy heroes. Then, after defeating the enemies, they are able to take more towers, starting the cycle over again. This “snowballs” the game in one team’s favor, thereby making the “rich” team even richer than they were previously.

The consequences of the rich-get-richer effect in League of Legends are mixed. For instance, they can lead to fun and pleasure when on the winning side of the game, as you continue gaining advantages that generally snowball into a victory. But, when on the losing side, the game can feel oppressive– regardless of what you try to do, the opponent just continues to gain advantages, they continue to get “richer”. This is simply the nature of the rich-get-richer model, as it is highly accurate and applicable, especially in this game.



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November 2015