Rockstar Ports Its Old, Antiquated, Flawed Censorial Blacklist For Player Chat Into New 'Red Dead Redemption' Game

from the don't-say-that dept

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.

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Companies: rockstar games

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Comments on “Rockstar Ports Its Old, Antiquated, Flawed Censorial Blacklist For Player Chat Into New 'Red Dead Redemption' Game”

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ryuugami says:


the blacklist also bans the word "Torrent" entirely

Good, I cannot imagine that word being used for anything but piracy. This is certain to stem the torrent of bad behavior in online gami— waaaait a minute…

Next up, banning the other parts of phrases that people use when discussing piracy. "Game" torrents, "red" "dead" "redemption" torrents, "download", "search", "google", "get"… Fuck it, just add the damn dictionary to the banlist, and give the players some pre-selected NPC conversation menus to choose from.

Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Depending on how well it’s implemented, I can see some of them being caught by an algorithm that catches common replacement letters.

If, however, they decided to do torrent without checking on how their regex parser works, expect whole phrases or even sentences being censored.
Based on their apathy, I wouldn’t put it past them

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…and implemented ways to react when people come up with euphemisms to refer to torrents without using the word itself? If people just learn to bypass the filter by saying “river” or “popcorn” instead, will their filters react by blocking those words too?

It’s a losing battle, and the end result will be either people discussing such activity anyway or legitimate conversation being blocked due to words being used in a different context but blocked any way – or, most likely both.

Trying to keep the conversations civil is fair enough, but once you start censorship you run into the same unsurmountable problems that every automated filter encounters.

Anonymous Coward says:

political correctness is killing games

Perhaps the worst example of absurdity in game chats using drop-in boilerplate banned-word lists is in Battlefield 5, a game about fighting Nazis which even bans the word “Nazi” – yes, really!

Michael (profile) says:

Depending on how many banned words or phrases they have in their blacklist, I can see just porting over the entire list. While there are certainly people with enough time to pour through a huge list to find site names that have been taken down, it might not be a great financial decision to spend resources doing that when they could just use the list they already have and move on.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

I doubt anyone seriously believes word filters will remove abusive language, much less piracy. Companies just put them in because it’s easy, and because it’s what everyone else is doing.

The filter lists are compiled by having some intern write down all the “naughty” words they could come up with in 30 minutes, or indeed just copypasted from somewhere else. Nobody much cares if they are simultaneously overbroad and hilariously incomplete.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Companies just put them in because it’s easy, and because it’s what everyone else is doing.”

No, it’s because of the same reason as everything else that looks dumb gets implemented – lawyers. They put them there so that they have plausible deniability if someone’s trading torrent links or some poor kid harms himself because of bullying. It’s impossible to have a human moderator in every match, so they put something like this so that they have something to show the next lawyer who tries holding them responsible for things other people said.

The issue, and the reason I’m largely opposed, is the collateral damage on acceptable behaviour. But, it’s not hard to see why it happens, and it’s not because Rockstar’s devs are prudes or they’re scared someone’s pirating their content. It’s so that they don’t get shut down by someone going after the easy target instead of those actually committing the acts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…which in my experience is largely a hyped up set of complaints to exaggerate a fringe set of people and enable others to denigrate them without understanding their issues or what they actually believe (see also: damn hippies, millennials with their avocado toasts, etc. – full disclosure I’m part of what’s termed “generation X” and I also heard a lot of complaints that bore no relation to what I or my peers actually believed)

Also, if it was for that reason, they wouldn’t be blocking mentions of torrents and the like. The only people who have ever been “triggered” by the mention of such things are record company and movie studio executives.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

I’ve seen even stupider black listing.

There’s been twitch channels that blacklisted words like ‘Kill’ to stop people from threatening the lives of others in chat. But one problem there, a lot of games involve killing people or other bad guys. And in this case it was a MOBA gaming tournament, where Kills is one of the most important stats in the game. And where killing the enemy heroes is very important to win the game.

So yeah, chat couldn’t use the word ‘kill’ when talking about a game about killing people.

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