Professional Dota 2 is having yet another reckoning with its ongoing racism problem.
A recent stream from Andrew “Jubei” Evelyn was mired by an argument during a pub game between the Black N Yellow support player and 0-900 mid laner Eliseo “Kxy” Arancibia. The fight starts with the two arguing over breaking items before Faker drops a racial epithet towards Jubei, who is Black. The moment was clipped and posted on Reddit, uncorking a series of allegations against other professional players.
Among those alleged to have made racist comments are Luke “YamSun” Wang, one of Jubei’s teammates, who allegedly used slurs towards Asians during a game. Another member of 0-900, Christian “Madara” Kimura, recently used racial epithets during a stream while playing against Evil Geniuses coach Sam “BuLba” Sosale.
The list goes on and dredges up Dota 2’s unflattering history when it comes to racism and Valve’s seeming unwillingness to do anything about it.
Racism is a commonplace experience in Dota 2 at all levels of play. Casual players have no doubt come across racism at some point during pub games whether it’s gatekeeping over who should be playing on a specific server or a teammate spamming racial epithets. While this is unfortunately common across all online games, it’s a problem that’s been allowed to fester in Dota 2.
That has seeped into the professional scene as well. Going over the chat logs of pro players often unearths blatantly racist language, with even beloved figures like Anathan “ana” Pham having been caught red-handed.
Valve has historically taken little or no action in regards to racism in its games, which has resulted in Dota 2 being consistently rated as among the most toxic communities in all of gaming. Steam is broadly rife with racism, sexism, and more. Little is done to police usernames, profile pages, and groups, meaning there is a decent chance that users will be met with problematic behavior as soon as they enter into a game.
The one time Valve seemingly addressed racism in its games came in 2019 when two pro players, Rolen Andrei Gabriel “skem” Ong and Carlo “Kuku” Palad, garnered intense scrutiny from China’s Dota 2 fandom. Valve initially called for calm before eventually stating that it had suspended Kuku from competing in the upcoming MDL Chongqing Major. This was later proven to be untrue, when word broke that local authorities in China had actually barred his competing in the major alongside another tournament, WESG 2019.
A number of different studies have been done to try and measure the most toxic community in video games and Dota 2 is consistently rated as one of the worst, and has been pegged as the absolute worst on numerous occasions.
In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League released a study where 79% of Dota 2 players stated that they had been harassed, with 37% saying they had either altered their in-game behavior or left the game entirely due to harassment. Dota 2 was the worst in both of those categories among a number of online titles including League of Legends, Fortnite, StarCraft 2, and Overwatch. Another popular Valve title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, was not far behind.
A year later, another study declared Dota 2 as the most hostile community based on offensive language used in their largest subreddits. Dota 2 and CSGO topped those lists, beating out a similar list of popular online multiplayer titles.