Following a series of offensive remarks made by professional Dota 2 players recently, the game’s creator Valve has published a blog post condemning the behavior. In keeping with the company’s traditional approach of remaining mostly hands-off, however, it leaves the responsibility for sanctioning players strictly with teams, and didn’t offer any clear guidelines about how they should do so.
On November 1, Complexity Gaming announced on Twitter that it would punish one of its players for conduct that included typing the phrase “gl chingchong” in chat during a match at DreamLeague Season 10 against Chinese opponents Royal Never give Up. Rolen Andrei Gabriel “Skemberlu” Ong, a Filipino player, apologized on Twitter the same day. “I understand that words have consequences and I have learned from my mistake,” he wrote. “I am very sorry to anyone that was offended.”
A few days later, Carlo “Kuku” Palad, who plays for TNC Predator, typed the same phrase during a public game. On November 3, his team issued its own statement condemning the remark and saying it had given Palad the maximum penalty for his actions. At the time, neither organization elaborated on what the punishments for the players would be. Neither immediately responded to a request by Kotaku for further comment on the matter.
Many Chinese fans wanted Valve, who sponsors the game’s biggest pro tournament of the year and oversees the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, to weigh in on the matter directly. When the company failed to do so, some players started trying to review bomb the game’s Steam page. Over the past week, thousands of people have left negative reviews, many of them all including the following comment:
“I promise that I will not add any funds to the Valve’s games (for example dota 2 and csgo), until the Valve gives appropriate punishments or announcements about the insulting speech given by two professional players (ID: Kuku; Skem).”
It took a few days of this before Valve finally responded on November 10 with a post on the game’s official blog. “The language used by multiple players over the last week has caused many of our fans a lot of pain and is not behavior that we condone,” wrote the company.
“We’ve been spending the past few days talking to various pro players and community leaders about this,” Valve wrote. “From all the interactions we’ve seen over the years, we know that deep down professional players respect each other immensely. However, we want to be very clear that Valve will not tolerate racist language between pro players in any form. We think it is really damaging to the entire Dota community whenever even a single professional player uses discriminatory language. It pits fans against each other, belittles and demeans entire groups and makes them feel like they are not as important. Going forward, we expect all teams who participate in our tournaments to hold its players accountable, and be prepared to follow up with strong punishments when players represent Dota and its community poorly.”
While strongly condemning its players making racist remarks, Valve did not provide any guidelines for what constituted racist language or what would count as “strong punishments.” The company didn’t respond to a request by Kotaku asking it to do so, or explain what action it would take if a team failed to adequately sanction inappropriate player conduct itself.
Other games have taken a much bolder approach when it comes to curtailing hate speech. Rainbow Six Siege, for instance, recently rolled out auto-bans for players who type various racial and homophobic slurs into the game’s all chat. Dota 2’s current reporting system is much more relaxed. Players can report one another for abusive behavior, but there’s nothing that directly targets offensive language.
Currently, the Kuala Lumpur major, featuring a $1 million prize pool, is going on in Malaysia, where TNC is in attendance and Palad is playing. Prior to the tournament, TNC publically asked fans on its Facebook page to stop using “derogatory words,” asking them to come together and be respectful rather than using offensive language. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time playing Dota, however, knows that it will require more than well-meaning requests for the community to become less toxic.