In a world where everyone has enough freedom to easily say whatever they want nowadays, the penchant for racism and hate speech is inevitable, especially in online games such as Dota 2, where (professional) players may become so caught up and carried away that they seemingly forget their values, whether they are trying to be competitive or entertaining.
On April this year, Fnatic player Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang used the “N” word in his livestream, in an attempt to crack a joke among his viewers.
Two months after, sometime last June, Team Liquid player Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov cursed his Russian teammates in a public match for their seemingly terrible gameplay, wishing how they should have been “killed” by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler to make the world “a better place.”
Recently, compLexity Gaming player Andrei “skem” Ong delivered a racist remark against Chinese team Royal Never Give Up during the Dream Hack DreamLeague Season 10. Ong appeared to have mocked Chinese speech by typing “Gl chingchong” in all chat, where practically the whole world were watching live.
Even if the aforementioned professional players have already received backlash from the public and have faced the consequences of their misdemeanor by paying a fine and any other penalty upon their organizations’ discretion, it raises an alarming message for everybody, including the non-gamers.
These infamous cases are just part of the much bigger picture regarding the rise of racism and hate speech in the Dota 2 community, and by extension, the esports industry.
Even without a statistics of such cases, one ought to be familiar to derogatory terms such as “Malays**t,” “Indogs,” “Peenoise,” and many more in pubs, one way or another. Narrowing it down in the Philippines, for example, there is a so-called “racism within racism,” where Filipino Dota 2 players in the Visayas and Mindanao regions are contempted as “Bisaya/Bisakol” or “Badjao” by those in the metropolis.
This is in conjunction with other offensive, homophobic, misogynistic, and disturbing remarks that shall fill in an endless list, just in Southeast Asia server alone, that are all being used by several players across thousands of matches everyday.
While reporting a player for communication abuse post-game is possible in Dota 2 thrice a week, in addition to gaining an extra report when one is successfully penalized, it is nothing but a band-aid solution.
How can one, even if it were the game’s publisher Valve Corporation, prevent such obnoxious cases from happening, much less curb them, through one-day chat bans, a few low priority games, and the threat of a “much-dreaded” six-month ban from playing Dota 2?
Reinforcement would always be better than punishment. So, for a good start, it is already perhaps the high time for professional players to be reminded that they are not merely engaging with the game for prize money, titles, or their passion.
If they are already struggling to lay their moral compasses in the game, then what more if they are already outside the computer screen?
The game has already been a platform where they must also painstakingly promote values and influence their fans positively, aside from offering entertainment, in this already degrading world because of warfare, global warming, pollution, corruption, political and religious differences, and many, many more.
Talents and agencies could be of help as well in raising awareness. It would not hurt to hope that their campaign has a good chance to have a “trickle down effect” among the public, who will all be eager to follow them anyway.
As caster Eri Neeman posted on Twitter, professionals must have an “underlying obligation to do what’s right more than most circumstances,” where it “weighs deeper when the world sees [them].”