What you need to know
- Players caught 'smurfing' in DotA2 have logged on to be greeted by a gift from Valve, a 'Highly Toxic Lump of Coal' which permabans their account.
- The bans have been handed out indiscriminately and even to professional streamers who have opened the gift live.
- Smurfing is when a highly skilled player intentionally uses an alternate account to have an advantage over new less skilled players.
Sing along if you know the words. You better watch out, you better not smurf. You better not cheat, I'm telling you first — Valve is coming to ban your account.
Ok not the catchiest of holiday jingles, I'm no songwriter, but Valve is fully feeling the holiday spirit today after handing out bans to DotA2 players most imaginatively. From average gamers to big-time streamers, players found to have been 'smurfing' in the game have found a seasonal gift on their account in the form of a highly toxic lump of coal'. The coal when accepted (and it gives you no choice) permanently bans the DotA2 account from playing.
The festive gift accompanying the “Highly Toxic Lump of Coal” reads “Your Dota account has been permanently banned for Smurfing, or other violations of the Steam Terms of Service,”. Some streamers completely unaware have opened their mysterious gifts live on Twitch to be told the news that their account is banned.
What is smurfing?
'Smurfing' is the process of creating alternate accounts to mask your true skill level in a game, and get around the skill based matchmaking systems to be able to obliterate new players. It ruins the game for new and lesser-skilled players and it is against the terms of service in most online games. Streamers are known to 'smurf' to entertain their viewers, so it's great to see that Valve has handed out these bans completely indiscriminately from average cheats to professional players. Richard Lewis, popular esports journalist has praised the move as "the funniest thing I've ever seen relating to Dota."
This might be the funniest thing I've ever seen relating to Dota. Well played Valve. pic.twitter.com/v37jGXHQK1December 15, 2023
Mason Venne, one of the big streamers affected by the ban has taken to Reddit to beg for his account back. “I completely understand what I did was wrong, and I know it's a hard ask, but I'm asking for leniency,” he pleads in this Reddit post. Mason's ban comes as a result of using a behaviour score farmer to boost his in-game behaviour score. Valve are taking no prisoners though, as stated in a blog post to the community with a chilling message "if you’re on the Naughty List, we’ve got great news for everybody else and bad news for you, because this year is gonna be a bloodbath."
Can players not just refuse to open the gift?
The inconspicuous lump of coal that bans the account is hidden inside a 'Frostivus' seasonal gift, which is the current DotA2 holiday event. Players on Reddit have speculated that the items within the gift are also related to player behavior score, as those with good behavior scores have received cosmetic goodies.
The gift itself will be opened by many players as part of the event, though those who are feeling rather guilty may wish to avoid opening it. They will only be able to avoid the ban hammer for so long though as Valve has made it abundantly clear that cheating in DotA2 will not be tolerated. "Regardless of you’ve been naughty, we've been watching you (not while you're sleeping, calm down) and we’re cracking down on all of it. Punishments will be handed out for all of the above, including behavior score penalties — and in serious cases, main account bannings."
Windows Central's take
Cheaters ruin games for everyone, and I'm happy to see Valve taking such a staunch stance on the subject regardless of player's stature in the community, it sends a message. The fact it's been done with such humor and festive flair will make more players take notice and hopefully, behave. They see you when you're smurfing. They know when you're a fake. They know if you've been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.
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Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.