Whether you've recognized it when it happens or not, there's a solid chance that you've gone up against a smurf in League of Legends. Chances are that you'd likely know if you have or not, though, since it usually results in you or someone else on your team getting stomped in lane by a drastically superior opponent, probably leading to a big loss for your records.
For those who aren't as familiar with the term, smurfing is when a player creates a new account and plays in games that a new account would typically find itself in. They're matched up against (what should be) new players, but they're bringing with them the skills that they've learned from their main account. These lower accounts are knowns as smurf accounts, and they can be quite unhealthy for competitive gameplay in League according to Ghostcrawler, the design director for League of Legends.
"We've talked about this before (a bit), but at the end of the day, my opinion is that smurfs do more harm than good," said Ghostcrawler. "The promise of a competitive game is that matchmaking will provide you with a match that you have a fair chance to win, but when the players on either team may not actually be at the skill level they claim to be, then that promise sort of goes out the window."
The Rioter went on to admit that smurfing is a difficult problem to tackle as well; they'd have to limit everyone to one account, a rule that could be easily circumnavigated. Aside from the difficulty of the task, there are also reasons that they recognize as motives for people to smurf, reasons that they don't have a good solution for at this moment. The three causes for smurfing they mentioned specifically include:
- I want to play with a friend of a different skill level. League places a lot of restrictions on how I can do this, so it's easier just to make a new account.
- I want to try out a new champion or role without the risk that I will tank my ELO.
- I'm stuck at the steep curve of climbing through ranks or champion mastery or whatever, and I miss that time when progression came really quickly.
Disguising a players skill level so they can stomp some new players is of course the main damage that they're looking to avoid, but until they have suitable ways to address the above three causes for smurfing, they said they aren't ready to implement any additional measures against smurfing, though Ghostcrawler said that they did have some methods that they were currently exploring.