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Steam Trolls Players With Bans Wrapped Up Like Christmas Presents

Valve goes full Grinch-mode on unsuspecting Dota 2 cheaters

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Dota 2 characters recoil at toxic lumps of coal.
Image: Valve

Video game companies have gotten very creative when it comes to punishing cheaters, from cutting their parachutes’ strings in Call of Duty to blowing them up in Grand Theft Auto Online. But Valve just set a new benchmark for trolling players: sending them permabans wrapped up like Christmas presents.

The seasonal savagery was discovered by pro Dota 2 player and streamer Mason “mason” Venne. He opened the Dota 2 client to see what looked like a surprise gift from Valve. When he opened it, however, the game revealed a “highly toxic lump of coal” that instantly permabanned him for “smurfing,” aka playing on a secondary account to bypass the game’s skill-based matchmaking rules.


“What?” Venne shouted after the gift was revealed. “I got banned?” A message appeared on-screen notifying him he was blocked from queuing for matches. Here’s the moment clipped from his recent Twitch stream (via Polygon):


Valve alluded to something like this in Dota 2’s recent Frostivus 2023 update. “There’s no sense denying it,” the company wrote. “King Kringle knows. He’s checked your behavior score twice, and he’s coming with his ban hammer to pulverize the smurf accounts of all the naughty boys and girls, before handing out penalties to their associated main accounts.”

Smurfing is a common practice in competitive multiplayer games in which skilled players open fresh accounts for the opportunity to dunk on lower-level players. It’s fun and entertaining for livestreams, unless you’re on the receiving end, or if you’re Valve and trying to maintain the integrity and fairness of your second-most-popular online game. In September, before this latest wave, the company revealed it banned 90,000 cheaters for indulging in the practice.


A fresh batch of alleged Dota 2 cheaters have been finding out that the ban hammer is back. The game’s subreddit is full of people getting hit by surprise lumps of toxic coal. While many fans are enjoying the chaos, some thus-afflicted players are begging for their accounts back. Venne is one of them.

“I’ve played Dota for 13 years,” he wrote. “ I have never once cheated, never abused a bug, never abused any sort of MMR tricks.” But the pro did admit to briefly buying an illicit third-party “behavior booster” to improve his score for in-game communication and staying positive and cordial. That’s a big no-no.


“I have never in my 13 years of playing Dota 2 ever done anything like this, and when I realized it felt wrong and was the wrong way to go about things, I stopped it, sadly you can’t undo a mistake you made,” he wrote. “I’m asking for a second chance, because I will never do anything like this again, and I never have in the past.”

‘Tis the season for forgiveness. We’ll find out just how generous Valve is feeling.