Video Game Creator Battles Racist Bots

Security

A PC gaming service is taking action to eradicate a growing number of racist bots from one of its leading shoot-em-up titles.

Valve said it has introduced new anti-spam measures to the game Team Fortress 2 in an attempt to “mitigate the use of new and free accounts for abusive purposes.”

Earlier this month, Kotaku reported that offensive bots were “running rampant” in TF2, overwhelming chats “with everything from annoying troll-speak to full-on racism.” According to the gaming site, the title has been beset by bots “of various types” since early 2020. 

Frustrated players of the game took to TF2’s subreddit, Steam forums, Discords, and other communities, asking for Valve to intervene. Players who tried to tackle the bot problem themselves faced the wrath of the bot user community.

One TF2 player, Pazer, created a tool to automatically detect and remove bots from matches in the games. Angry bot users responded by creating a workaround and making a bot to specifically damage Pazer’s reputation in the gaming community. 

While the existence of offensive bots in TF2 is nothing new, Gamesindustry.biz reported yesterday that the problem “took a turn for the worse recently as the bots began employing game-breaking hacks and spamming the chat with racist diatribe.”

In hopes of tackling the problem, Valve released a new patch on June 16 that restricts certain new accounts from using chat in official matchmaking modes. In announcing the patch, the company said, “Work is ongoing to mitigate the use of new and free accounts for abusive purposes.” 

Valve has also updated its Report Player functions, empowering players with the ability to disable in-game voice and text chat.

The widespread popularity of Team Fortress 2 has declined since its release in 2007 as players turn to more modern titles. Because of this drop in the number of users, the team-based shooter is now maintained by a skeleton crew, leaving it vulnerable to attacks by threat actors.

In November 2019, veteran Valve employee Greg Coomer said: “There are very few people working on Team Fortress. I don’t know the exact number, but it’s hardly anyone anymore.”

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