Valve has responded to reports that it is not doing enough to tackle racism in public Dota 2 matches after Chinese fans review bombed the game’s Steam page.
After compLexity Gaming’s Andrei "skem" Ong made a racist slur in a public chat, the tournament team said on November 1st that it had "been made aware of an inappropriate comment by one of [its] players" and "does not condone intolerance of any kind". Ong was subsequently sanctioned with a formal reprimand and a "maximum fine".
A few days later, in an unrelated match, Carlo "Kuku" Palad used the same racist word. But as neither the team nor Valve itself took action over the incident, Chinese fans started writing emails and review bombing Dota 2 to get Valve to notice their complaints, adding almost 6,000 negative reviews to Dota 2’s Steam page (via ResetEra).
Professional Dota 2 player and coach, Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei, then took the surprising step of publicly sharing an email exchange purportedly with Valve’s Erik Johnson. According to the translation by Reddit user r/WhoIsEarthshaker, Johnson said: "Valve does not support racist language between pro players in any form. We fully agree with you and fans in China that this is very offensive and inappropriate. The player involved has been punished and fined by his organization, and has issued an apology regarding his remarks. We think the player is sincere in his apologies and regrets his actions. We also apologize on his behalf for the pain this has caused fans."
When Zhilei subsequently asked Johnson to confirm if Valve was willing to intervene with racist conduct if the event organisers or the team itself did not – particularly if the player was "well-known" – Johnson purportedly replied that Valve would indeed "involve" itself as pro players "have [a] huge impact on the growth of Dota 2".
Now, Valve has formally responded to the issue via a statement on the official Dota 2 blog.
"We’ve always had an approach of letting the players be themselves, and to express themselves freely," Valve said. "That’s how it’s always been for a long time. However, we also expect pro players to understand that they represent the Dota community regardless of where they are. Words carry a lot of meaning. Some people may not agree or understand why certain words are harmful, but it doesn’t make it any less so to those on the receiving end. 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.
"We’ve been spending the past few days talking to various pro players and community leaders about this," Valve continued. "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 [sic] our tournaments to hold its players accountable, and be prepared to follow up with strong punishments when players represent Dota and its community poorly."