I’ve written in the past about climbing the ranks in League of Legends, and how ELO hell is both a myth and a reality. What that post didn’t really talk about is win rates, and how any game with a working ranking system is going to play out.
Let’s start with a myth that has been making the gaming circles since basically the invention of ranked play; that game X was designed to keep everyone at 50% winrate, to keep everyone happy. At basically every level, that… doesn’t make sense. For starters, losing half the time isn’t going to make those sensitive to losing happy. Second, winning only half your games isn’t going to make those who are higher skilled happy, as they would easily notice ‘the game’ holding them back.
If in LoL I smash my opponent in the laning phase, but in half my games the other lanes hard-fed, I’m going to notice something is up. Any normal player would notice that the other members of his team don’t understand the game as well as the enemy team for objectives, team fights, and other later-game situations. It’s just a very easy thing to spot if you understand the game, and the fact that you don’t most of the time, and especially the fact that smurfs stand out so much, is proof of that.
Which doesn’t mean that games with a working ranked system don’t gravitate players towards a 50% win rate; of course they do. Once you reach your appropriate skill level, and if nothing changes, you SHOULD win half your game and lose the others. That’s basically the definition of a working ranked system. Devs don’t need to rig a system to keep people around 50%, the system does that by itself.
Additionally, we have plenty of evidence, from smurfs with 60%+ winrates to people dropping down via sub-50% winrates, that the system isn’t hardcoded, but rather its just difficult to make progress quickly. Slow progress frustrates the average person, and for some that frustration manifests itself into rage and silly conspiracy theories.
What also really plays into this is what the linked post above got into; the fact that most people aren’t realistic with their personal skill level, and think they are better than they actually are. It’s why people almost always blame their team for a loss, and rarely acknowledge their own play influenced the result. Same goes for people not understanding that while a 55% win rate is really good, it still results in a lot of losses, and a slow climb up the ranks.