Dota 2 has a notoriously toxic community, and it seems as though that this toxicity goes right to the very top.
A strange Reddit drama was kicked up recently by a player who claimed to have received a bogus demotion to the low-priority queue. While that’s standard fare on Reddit, what makes this case unique is the fact that the individual claims to have been manually punished by an employee at Valve. This doesn’t seem to be a crackpot conspiracy theory either, as he has enough evidence to take the claim seriously.
According to the Redditor, who used the handle MiniJuanJohnDoe, he played a pub game that happened to match him on the same team as Sean Vanaman. Vanaman is best known for his work as a director and lead writer for TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 1.
In 2013, Vanaman founded Campo Santo, where he launched the game Firewatch in 2016. He famously issued DMCA takedowns on popular YouTuber Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, who was playing Firewatch, in protest of PewDiePie’s use of racial epithets during a stream. Vanaman joined Valve in 2018 and was most recently credited as a writer for Half-Life: Alyx. It is unclear if he has any sort of role on the Dota 2 development team.
According to MiniJuanJohnDoe, the two began to argue through team chat over how to handle the enemy team pushing a tower. With the bickering occuring through team chat, there are no chat logs.
After the game, MiniJuanJohnDoe was banished to low priority queue for five victories. This comes despite the fact that he claims to have a very strong behavior score and played the game to its completion. He believes that the punishment was manually put in place by Vanaman. No official Valve entity has comment on the matter, nor has Vanaman.
Short of Valve publicly confirming Vanaman’s alleged behavior, there was no way to be certain whether Vanaman abused his position at Valve to get back at a player who frustrated him during a pub game. Dota 2’s metrics for sending people to low priority queue have always been dodgy, and are constantly changing. This situation reasonably could have been chalked up as a strange coincidence. But in a strange turn of events, the Valve employee actually fessed up on Reddit and admitted that he used his position at Valve to punish a player that angered him in-game.
“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,” Vanaman said in a post on Reddit.