Valve Anti-Cheat’s “permanent” bans now have a major exception

Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, seen here at the 2019 Dreamhack Winter Open, may once again participate in Valve sponsored events despite the VAC ban.
Enlarge / Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, seen here at the 2019 Dreamhack Winter Open, may once again participate in Valve sponsored events despite the VAC ban.

If you only know one thing about Valve’s Anti-Cheat (VAC) system, you probably know that a ban issued through it lasts forever. As clearly stated on Valve’s support page, “VAC bans are permanent, non-negotiable and cannot be removed by Steam Support.”

Now, apparently, there is a considerable exception to this rule, at least when it comes to esports. A post for him Counter-Strike: GO Yesterday’s blog notes that some players banned by VAC will now be able to participate in events related to the upcoming Regional Major Rankings (RMR) season of the game.

The CS: GO The team notes in the post that the event guidelines were initially written around the game’s launch in 2012, when “all CS: GO The VAC bans were relatively recent. “However, now the team has decided to update those guidelines to reflect the fact that” VAC bans may now be more than eight years old. “As such, the VAC bans are older than five years, as well as VAC bans that predate a player’s first participation in a Valve sponsored event will no longer be considered when evaluating RMR event eligibility.

That’s a pretty big change for a system whose defining characteristic is consequences that are supposed to be “permanent” and “non-negotiable.” And those other consequences of VAC, including the loss of a player’s purchased game library, achievements, interchangeable toiletries, etc., will remain in effect. “The only change is how they influence your eligibility to play Valve sponsored events,” the blog post reads.

Past cheater?

For years, Valve’s zero tolerance approach to applying VAC has suggested how seriously cheating evidence is taken in the hundreds of games that use the system. A verified cheat violation was enough to ruin your in-game credibility on Steam forever, with no exceptions not even considered by Valve’s enforcement team.

When it comes to CS: GO However, in esports, Valve apparently now thinks that old cheat tests should be seen as some kind of youthful indiscretion that shouldn’t be taken against current gamers. It is a surprisingly stark and specific exception for a policy that was previously inviolable.

Some CS: GO Observers suspect that the rule change could be aimed at affecting players What Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, who received a VAC ban in 2015, when he was 14 years old. Olkkonen has claimed that the banned account in question had been loaned to a friend of his at the time of the alleged cheating. He sued Valve in Finland in 2019 over the impact of that ban on his professional esports career, including the role that prevented him from signing a contract with professional team OG.

A Finnish court ruled in Valve’s favor in that case last November. And in February, Olkkonen apparently gave up CS: GO completely and signed with Team Liquid as a pro level Valorant player (although the name “CSGO” still appears on his Twitter account). “Thanks to all who have supported me during my last years in CS, let’s start the new path in [Valorant],” he wrote at that time.

Yesterday, however, Olkkonen wrote a “thank you” on Twitter for your “Officially … not prohibited” status on CS: GO. Olkkonen’s father, Petri added via Twitter that Valve’s legal advisor had confirmed to him that “due to the time that has expired since the infringement occurred it will no longer affect [Elias]”Eligibility to be invited to a Valve sponsored esports event.”

In 2016, Ars contributor Rich Stanton wrote in depth about the collective collaboration process used by CS: GO community to reliably identify cheaters. It’s a process that involves several experienced human investigators who agree with the recorded evidence of cheating, Stanton writes. It is also a process in which investigators “presume that the suspect is innocent” and in which “never being wrong is more important than always being right,” Stanton wrote.

“The guarantee required by the Overwatch system creates a small part of the cases where you are convinced that the player is hacking, but you cannot say for sure, and if there is any doubt, you should let it go,” Stanton continued.

It is not clear if this new CS: GO The policy suggests that Valve could loosen its VAC consequences system further in the future (a Valve representative has not yet responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica). In any case, this is the first visible crack in a system that had previously served as an impenetrable shield against cheaters.

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