Slander, extortion and doxxing – beneath the surface of TF2’s bot crisis

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In 2022, Team Fortress 2 player megascatterbomb created a Discord bot with his friends to track the cheaters they encountered in their matches. TF2 was three years into its still ongoing bot crisis. With seemingly no end in sight, megascatterbomb took it upon himself to do something, and over time the Discord bot evolved into a database, then a website, and now into an upcoming community-led anticheat.

It’s also led to defamation, doxxing, and a visit from the police.

Developed over the course of several years with the help of many members of the community, megascatterbomb’s database acts as a map of cheaters, largely within the Australian TF2 community. Available on his website, megascatterbomb.com, it displays a sea of individual nodes. Each one indicates a confirmed or suspected cheater, or someone who is friends with two or more known cheaters. Between them, a web of lines connects these accounts, illustrating the scale of the issue and the tightly-knit relationships between cheaters.

A web of nodes from megascatterbomb.com indicating a number of cheaters in Team Fortress 2.
Each red node represents a confirmed cheater. Image captured by VideoGamer

As the project grew, so did the number of people working on it, until it was eventually leaked in 2023, prompting megascatterbomb to publicly announce its existence on his YouTube channel. The harassment began immediately. “Even before my YouTube channel took off, word had spread that there was a database of some sort that many people had access to. The cheaters managed to get my dox at that point in time” he said.

Soon, bot hosters began attempting to slander megascatterbomb. Faked screenshots from anonymous accounts started popping up in his Discord server framing him as a paedophile. Accounts impersonating an ex-girlfriend attempted to spread false rumours about him. AI voice models were trained on his YouTube videos and used to spew racist and homophobic slurs across in-game voice chats.

“My website and TF2 server are frequently DDoSed” he explains, before adding that “even the more experienced developers on the anticheat dev team shudder when seeing how big some of these DDoS attacks are.” As serious as this harassment had proven to be, it all pales in comparison to the lengths these bot hosters were willing to go to attempt to silence their critics.

A screenshot of an email from Cloudflare indicating 36,944,788 security threats stopped.
megascatterbomb.com faces almost constant DDoS attacks. Image via Thewhat

“The worst action by far was the bomb threat,” megascatterbomb recalls. “Someone made a bomb threat under my real name towards my university. That night, two police officers showed up to my house looking for me, and I had to explain all the history with TF2 and cheaters and make an official statement.”

Unfortunately, megascatterbomb is far from the only person targeted by these bot hosters. Fellow TF2 content creator Thewhat has published a document compiling examples of harassment directed at other creators. YouTuber SpikeyMikey had bots with his name and profile picture spamming links to his channel in matches in an attempt to drum up negative sentiment. He was further threatened with the creation of more bots unless he gave up his Unusual Hong Kong Cone, an in-game hat worth several hundreds of dollars.

Alongside the harassment, slander, and attempts at extortion, it’s not uncommon for bot hosters to doxx their targets, be that their most vocal critics like megascatterbomb, or anyone with the simple misfortune of getting on their bad side. These players join games only to see bots swamping the text chat with line after line of their personal information – and this is only one game of potentially dozens.

A bot hoster's website advertising services such as renting bots and bot immunity for sale.
Bot hosters have begun attempting to monetise the crisis through offers of ‘immunity’. Image via Thewhat

Regrettably, it isn’t only the big names of the TF2 community that are under threat from extortion and scamming. Many bots advertise ‘immunity’ services, claiming that players who pay a fee will have their accounts spared from being targeted by their bots. It’s a racket the likes of which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Scorsese flick as opposed to a 17-year-old video game.

On what motivates the actions of these bot hosters, Thewhat did not mince his words, decrying them simply as ‘pathetic people’ hooked on power. “They like to harass and intimidate because they like the feeling of having control over people. If this was just about simple trolling for reactions, surely you would’ve had your fill by now, but it’s been half a decade and these people are still going.”

And yet, in turn, the same players that have been hit the hardest by this harassment remain steadfast in their opposition to the bot hosters. megascatterbomb, who has continued to work on the in-development community anticheat, has been open about the ups and downs. “It has been stressful, but I am managing it well enough,” he writes. “I can laugh at many of the things that have happened, but I also have my low points.”

A pyro player aiming a flare gun towards an aimbot sniper.
For many, aimbots are just the surface of TF2’s issues. Image captured by VideoGamer

For megascatterbomb, Thewhat, and many others, the impact of TF2’s bot crisis has long since devolved beyond the plague of aimbots in casual TF2 servers. Valve’s inaction has resulted not only in their game becoming unplayable, but the active, and in some cases allegedly criminal harassment of its players; a position that grows ever more untenable as the crisis continues to worsen. 

The bomb threat made against megascatterbomb is the most serious action allegedly taken by bot hosters thus far. But without any solution from Valve in sight, the prospect of a more serious incident taking place hangs heavy in the air. The onus, now, is on Valve to act before it does.

About the Author

Alex Raisbeck

Alex is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. He is an indie gaming obsessive with a soft spot for Zelda, roguelikes, and Football Manager, as well as an unhealthy relationship with his backlog.

Team Fortress 2

  • Release Date: October 10, 2007
    • - 01 January 2007 (PC)
  • Platform(s): Linux, macOS, PC
  • Genre(s): Action, First Person, Shooter, Tactical
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