A DOTA 2 Player Receives an Apology After Valve Employee Abuses Power to Ban Them

by in Dota 2 | Nov, 23rd 2020

Today we get to discuss an egregious and disappointing abuse of power in the online gaming world. A DOTA 2 player has had a ban rescinded and received an apology after Sean Vanaman misused his Valve admin privileges to suspend this player. But what did the player do to warrant such a punishment? He suggested they let mid tower go. That was enough to manually punish a player. 

A Sad Abuse of Power Over a Game

There’s a whole lot to unpack in this discussion though. We understand that DOTA 2 can be a very stressful game. It’s a high-skill cap MOBA, and some of the best/toxic MOBA players actively play it, all over the world. The interesting thing here is that the player in question, minijuanjohndoe seldom drops below 10,000 Behavior Score. That’s the highest it goes, mind. The lower the number, the more disruptive of a player you are.

We can extrapolate from that that minijuanjohndoe is not a toxic player. So after Sean Vanaman and minijuanjohndoe had this discussion in-game, Vanaman punished the DOTA 2 player with a sort of ban, which did at least get apologized for – he was put in a low priority queue. That’s where the toxic, rude players go who actively disrupt games. 

Players who receive more reports than about 95 percent of the player population in a 15 game window get kicked to low priority automatically. But this player had proof he wasn’t toxic, and had done nothing wrong. He posted his match ID and his own behavior score to show he had done nothing warranting this. The punishment wasn’t meted out automatically by the system, but by Sean Vanaman as a frustrated response to the in-game action. 

DOTA 2’s Low Priority Queue can feel very much like a ban though, so the apology was warranted. You are stuck in Single Draft mode, and can only pick from three random heroes, and have to win a certain amount of games before your low priority status is lifted.

Here is Vanaman’s apology, as found on Reddit:

“The team looked into this case, and concluded the user clearly did not deserve the ban. Even if the user did deserve a ban however, we all think it’s clear that manually banning users is not a good idea because of how hard it is to be objective in Dota games that you are in. My mistake in this case being a sterling example. As employees, we should have no special privilege when playing Dota.

“That has been the team’s informal policy in the past, but it has clearly failed in this case. It won’t remain informal going forward — manual bans like this won’t be allowed anymore altogether. And sincere apologies to user u/minijuanjohndoe.”

Changes in Valve Employee Powers

At least a bit of useful change came from this. Henceforth, Valve employees will not be allowed to apply manual bans, as a result of this exchange. The scary part of this, is we have to wonder now how many players were manually punished for winning/losing/disagreeing with someone who has some sway at Valve. While this is the first time we’ve seen this come to light, there’s no telling how many people just ignored it as a facet of the game. 

Low Priority typically comes from being reported often by other players. If a player, in particular, has had bad games and winds up in Low Priority, it could have come from someone manually putting them there, but that’s more of a conspiracy theory. That’s the danger of an automated system like this. Players who have a string of bad games, or players who pick unpopular heroes (like Techies) can be reported or doing absolutely nothing wrong. 

This particular instance is worse though because a player not only did nothing wrong but was punished by a Valve employee directly. At least this led to that power being removed – something the Valve employees likely never needed in the first place. If there’s anything this writer has learned by having friends in online game dev, it’s “Always do things through proper channels”. We’re glad justice was served here, but it should have never happened in the first place. Don’t let a game disagreement ruin the fun for someone else.


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