Those familiar with how multiplayer online gaming works know that inter-player chat is both a feature of this gaming genre and one of its primary hellscapes. On the one hand, in-game chat can be both fun when it’s part of the game and funny when you get lively banter between players. On the other hand, such chat is also rife with stupid, sophomoric, abusive language casually bandied about by teens and adults alike. Because of this, some game developers have tried to limit what words can be inputted into the game’s chat system. The end result of this is mostly spectacular creativity for players dedicated to being assholes in getting around such systems. But for Rockstar, when it came to the online portion of Grand Theft Auto, this chat blacklist was also a place to stupidly blacklist references to illicit gaming sites like “The Pirate Bay”, meaning users entering that text would see their words simply disappeared.
But this all gets doubly stupid now that Rockstar is set to release Red Dead Redemption 2, within which it simply ported over its previous blacklist.
As revealed by a user on Reddit, the company has implemented a banned words list, which attempts to deter people from using some of the worst sexual, racial, and religious insults, which is fair enough.
However, the developer has also seen fit to prevent players from talking about sites like The Pirate Bay, with the word ‘PirateBay’ banned from the game. Since the galaxy’s most resilient torrent site is hardly a friend of the gaming industry, the decision is not that much of a surprise. However, the developer goes much further with a whole range of bizarre censoring decisions that start of weirdly and get worse.
Taking them in alphabetical order, first up we have the term ‘BTJunkie’, which refers to a once-prominent torrent indexing site. What’s so special about this platform is that it’s been shut for well over six years. In fact, the site closed down for good in 2012following the massive raid on Kim Dotcom. Safe to say, it’s not coming back.
The examples go on from there. Now, there are a couple of things to say about this. Obviously blacklisting long-dead websites, even if it would have been once understandable that a game developer would want to keep those names out of the game chat, is painfully stupid. I’m not sure what Rockstar thinks it was accomplishing by keeping those site names out of their game chat when those sites were live, but I’m super-certain that they’re accomplishing nothing by doing so when those sites are dead. And because, of course, there is the inevitable collateral damage caused by such word-bans.
The initialism ‘VCDQ’ has also made it onto Rockstar’s Great Firewall, which is nothing short of ridiculous. VCDQ – otherwise known as VCDQuality – was a site that reported on freshly-leaked pirate copies of movies and commented on the quality of the release. The site never offered copyrighted content and was a really useful platform. It too has been dead for a number of years.
The other thing to say about this is simply that any company that would so callously treat chat censorship in this way, where the company thinks that a simple port of old blacklists would suffice, is a company that doesn’t care much for its own players. Gaming companies can put in these blacklists if they like, and they might be good things when it comes to hateful and abusive language, but they should do so with care. Gamer interaction is kind of a key component of online multiplayer, after all. To treat banning words with so little regard isn’t a great look.
So, the end result? Anyone want to place money betting that this censorship of its own customers has made Red Dead 2 free from abusive language and conduct? Or that there aren’t more examples of collateral damage out there, specifically since the blacklist also bans the word “Torrent” entirely?
I didn’t think so.