Rape and gaming communities: not funny, not a win

I play Dota 2 on Steam (have I lost you already by saying that?)

It’s a 5v5 team battle across a fantasy landscape, it’s fast-paced, and there’s always something new to learn. It’s like one of those board games that is so well-designed and nuanced that people play it for decades.

There’s a huge and flourishing community, a pro-gaming scene with big money prizes, and you can watch matches live with thrilling play-by-play commentary. It’s even free.

But I only play against bots on my own machine – never against real people. Here’s the email I just sent the game’s designers, Valve, explaining why.

Dota 2 community’s attitude to rape (and Valve’s response)

I’m a 45-year-old college lecturer and web designer in England. I’ve played computer games since the ZX Spectrum in the early 1980s. I don’t play much, and usually only strategy games such as Civ, but I came across Dota on Steam after backing the Shadowrun game on Kickstarter, and I love it. It’s a great game, live matches are thrilling to watch, and there’s so much to learn and master.

I play maybe 1-3 bot games a day when work allows, and I’m supremely useless at it. I don’t have young reflexes and I have a huge ergonomic keyboard that is dreadful for finding hot keys. This is one of the reasons why I haven’t yet played a pub game – I’d be rubbish.

I also don’t play against real people because of the community. When you’re 45, your tolerance for young foul-mouthed know-it-alls is pretty thin anyway, and I can do without endless flame wars triggered by my failure to use a Blink Dagger properly.

But I’m also not playing because I’m sickened by how the community seems to think that rape is simply an amusing way of talking about a dominant win. I don’t go on the forums, but it’s there in front of me in the recommended builds, again and again.

I use builds a lot. They help when you’re a rubbish player. So I get exposed to this sort of thing without the ability to avoid it. And I’d rather challenge it than avoid it.

Having said that, I’m not daft enough to do a forum post about it. I’d rather contact you directly and avoid having to discover just how many players think it’s just a joke.

Try these:

“Kaboom’s build to bitches be livin”, currently promoted on the builds front page and therefore – presumably – an example of the sort of thing you want to encourage, tells us that Io’s Overcharge ability is one to trigger a “hardcore gogo rape train”.

For Shadow Demon, which I randomed yesterday, there’s one that’s simply called “rape guide :)”

And the one I noticed first, and which upset me so much when I came across it in the game client, is a heavily-upvoted Leshrac build. Birrywong’s “STAND AROUND AND GET KILLS – mid Leshrac”. I did report it a few days ago when I first saw it but I don’t see anywhere I might get feedback on the report and the build is still there. It finishes with this:

“The Rapetrain is coming. No lube baby. Bite down on something.”

Think about that for a moment. Particularly think about it if you have a daughter or a sister or a wife or a mother. (I’m assuming here that this is being read by a man. If I’m wrong about that, then I probably don’t need to say another word.)

Now when you’ve thought about it, think about the gang rape / murder that happened on the bus in India. Think about the injuries to the victim. THAT’S what the ‘rape train’ really is.

And that’s what Valve seems happy to allow its community to joke about.

Why? And when are you going to stop?