Team Fortress 2 Fans Use #SaveTF2 to Bring Attention to Online Bot Issues

Valve's silence on the problem spurs the community to act.

Update (May 26, 2022): The Team Fortress 2 Twitter account has taken notice of the outcry and tweeted, “TF2 community, we hear you! We love this game and know you do, too. We see how large this issue has become and are working to improve things.”

The original story is as follows.

Team Fortress 2 has a hacker and bot problem, and developer Valve hasn’t addressed the issue. But the 15-year-old online shooter’s fanbase is still active and suffering from Valve’s inaction. As such, a group of Team Fortress 2 content creators and fans are rallying on social media to remind the internet that the game’s community is still strong, and that the game deserves a fix for the ongoing, often game-breaking, issue.

This has been going on in various degrees for about two years. The bots who fill public Team Fortress 2 lobbies have often been programmed to almost exclusively play as a Sniper class and deliver headshots to people just trying to play. As such, members of the community often gravitate toward private lobbies with verified human players. While the game’s community has been trying to get Valve to publicly acknowledge these issues since they began, a YouTube creator and TF2 fan called SquimJim tried to get things moving with a video rallying fans to try and respectfully get the attention of Valve employees, as well as media outlets like IGN, who posted an extensive report on the matter last week.

“I think reaching the two year mark was really the tipping point,” SquimJim tells Fanbyte. “Not only has it been two full years since this problem really started but Valve has been almost completely silent on it for two full years. They have never even directly acknowledged the problem. They’ve kept players completely in the dark.”

However, despite the initial intent, ShorK, another member of the community efforts, says the movement was weaponized by a few bad actors and became more toxic than other fans wanted. As such, those involved wanted to look for a more constructive solution in line with the group’s feelings on the game.

“People were sending very aggressive stuff,” ShorK tells Fanbyte in a Discord call. “Then SquimJim and the group of original people in this movement [decided] we need to spread our love, but spread it aggressively towards the internet. It’s basically SquimJim’s movement, but we polished it to work universally in a positive way.” [This quote was updated at ShorK’s request for clarity]

Today, May 26, members of the TF2 community are using social media to spread awareness of the bot issue, which has affected much of the game’s public servers. The social media protest centers around the hashtag #SaveTF2, where the TF2 community shares memories and stories about why the game means so much to them. For members like ShorK, a YouTube creator who makes Team Fortress 2 content, it was important that the movement put positivity first, rather than toxicity.

“We wanted to form something big and something special,” ShorK says. “So we started this hashtag, #SaveTF2, kept it a secret for about a month, but built it up and planned it out so we would tweet out #SaveTF2 with a memory of how much we love TF2. Basically share our love and care for the game and how much we wanted to see it prosper and what it’s meant to us.”

While there have been some defeatist attitudes toward the movement online, the broad sentiment has been positive, and has brought members of the TF2 community together, unified on a common cause. Even Robin Atkins Downes, the voice actor behind the game’s Medic character, has been publicly supportive and even spoke to Valve employees about the state of the game.

“There have definitely been naysayers and those who think we’re wasting our time but they’re very much the minority,” SquimJim says. “I think at this point the community is willing to give anything a try. Getting game journalists, huge YouTubers, and even one of the voice actors for the game on board to talk about the bot problem in TF2 has been pretty inspiring.”

As for what happens next, ridding TF2 of its bot and hacker problem would be ideal, but SquimJim and ShorK would also just like some communication or acknowledgment from Valve.

“Valve is unpredictable,” ShorK says. “It’s mostly with hope that we’re doing this. A lot of people have been talking about how, ‘oh, this is definitely not gonna work. Valve’s not gonna see, they’re not gonna care about this. They’re not gonna see your messages. They don’t check Twitter.’ But they don’t understand that this is a bigger picture. We’re gonna set TF2’s footprint on the world. That’s what we’re trying to do. To show this 15-year-old masterpiece is still beloved by millions.”

But if Valve continues to publicly ignore the issue, ShorK and SquimJim think TF2’s community will persist on the strength of the game and the connection’s it’s created, even if its sentiment toward Valve as a company might be changed after all the radio silence.

“The bot problem itself doesn’t really change how I view TF2 as a game or the TF2 community,” SquimJim says. “But the complete and total lack of action or communication has massively diminished any trust I had in Valve as a company. I think a lot of us used to have a fairly positive view on Valve but that’s very much changed over the last few years and if the problems with TF2 aren’t fixed I’d be a lot more hesitant to buy anything else they might make in the future.”

As of this writing, the #SaveTF2 is the number two trending tag on Twitter. We’ve reached out to Valve about this story and will update the story if we hear back.