Dota 2 players may still be as toxic as ever, but they’re not actually the most toxic in gaming anymore.
The Anti-Defamation League has released a 2021 follow-up to its past studies on toxicity in online gaming, which tracks players’ experiences in various prominent games. Studies on the subject began in 2019, with Dota 2 being the worst-rated game in both the inaugural rating and the 2020 edition of the study.
Things have actually gotten worse in Dota 2, but other games have taken such a steep nosedive in toxicity over the last year that Dota 2 is now the second-most toxic fandom in video games. The worst player base according to the ADL is Valorant, which narrowly edged out Dota 2.
As of 2021, Dota 2 is no longer the most toxic game as Valorant has taken the top spot. But Dota 2 is still considered to be highly toxic.
79% of Valorant players reported encountering harassment of some kind while playing the game compared with Dota 2’s 78%. Dota 2’s 78% rate of harassment is down slightly from 2020, when 80% of players said they were harassed. But while some might think that this declining number actually suggests things are improving, the rate at which players have positive social experiences in games simultaneously declined from 95% in 2020 to 94% in 2021.
By all measures, Dota 2 is more toxic than League of Legends by a significant margin.
Even though Dota 2 isn’t the most toxic game anymore, it’s still statistically worse than a long list of competing titles. Only 65% of players from rival MOBA League of Legends reported harassment, compared with Dota 2’s 78%.
The ADL’s study also found Dota 2 to be worse than most other top console and PC multiplayer titles, including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Fortnite.
Toxicity in Dota 2 has become normal due to a number of different factors, most of which boil down to inaction from Valve in addressing problems.
Starting at the very top of Dota 2 is the normalcy of bad behavior among Dota 2 pros. Many professional players regularly stream themselves intentionally feeding, griefing, and generally behaving poorly.
Racist language is also unfortunately common among Dota 2 pros. Popular personalities including Anathan “ana” Pham and Hector “K1” Rodriguez have spouted blatant racism in-game without consequence. This has spilled over into actual tournaments, with players using racist language against Chinese opponents in-game and facing no repercussions from Valve.
This applies to esports organizations and tournament organizers as well. Grant “GranDGranT” Harris had a history of aggression towards women both physically and verbally, but was still a regular commentator at tournaments and was sponsored by Evil Geniuses for years. Henrik “AdmiralBulldog” Ahnberg has had a number of controversies surrounding his use of racist language and stereotypes on stream, but remains a part of Alliance and has worked as an analyst at multiple events.
Compare this with League of Legends, which regularly sees pro players fined and suspended for using racist language, and it’s easy to see why these issues might escalate over time in Dota 2.