I mentioned earlier this week that I was worried about placement matches for fear of getting junked back into "Elo Hell". Robb expressed disdain that I could believe such a place exists. I do, and I don't, and it really depends on what you're calling Elo Hell. So I thought it could be useful to revisit the topic once again to explain my thoughts.
First of all, I'm going to define one's equilibrium point as the rating one should eventually arrive at assuming the rating system works properly.
Elo Hell is then going to be defined as a rating zone substantially below your equilibrium point from which you cannot escape in a reasonable length of time.
Now, most people who talk about being in Elo Hell don't actually fit this definition. They're actually in a rating zone near their equilibrium point and everything is working fine. The problem for these people is illusory superiority. They think their equilibrium point should be much higher than it actually is. So when they're sitting at their equilibrium point it feels to them like they're substantially below where they want to be. And therefore, they think they're in Elo Hell.
So, for most people, I don't think Elo Hell exists. I think the rating system does a good job of getting most people towards their equilibrium point. I think most people who consistently play actual rated games will find their way where they should.
So, what am I so worried about? Well, it's that playing actual games thing. Last time I was in the 1000-1100 bracket I found that most of my games weren't actual games at all. The games were filled with people who would go AFK, or who would intentionally feed. I'd win some games by default, and lose others by default, but I wouldn't actually get to play real games very often. It didn't feel like I could get out without getting very lucky since most games seemed to be a complete coin flip regardless of my personal play skill.
Now, maybe I couldn't get out of that pit because that's actually where I belonged. I am human, after all, and certainly partake in my fair share of illusory superiority. I do think that the fact I ended season 1 around 1400 and season 2 around 1500 implies that my equilibrium point is closer to 1400 than 1000. I was rusty, to be fair, so it's hard to say. Maybe I was that bad and should have been playing against 1000 people. That's actually fine, and I'd be ok with that. The problem was they weren't games most of the time. It simply wasn't fun.
Does Elo Hell exist? In an environment filled with leavers and people who go out of their way to intentionally lose, yes. If enough of these bottom feeders exist then they'll end up creating a pit out of which most people can never escape. But it doesn't exist the way most people complain about. If most of your games are legitimate games and you find yourself winning about half of them then you're not in Elo Hell. You're at the right rating.
Riot claims to be doing a better job banning these people. So maybe the 1000 bracket is fine now. Maybe my worries earlier this week were for naught. But I don't want to risk it. It's worth it for me to take a week or two off to lower the odds of sinking down into that pit again.