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Valve Corporation is a company that seems to be almost universally admired in spite of all the mistakes they make. Making consistently high quality games and offering incredible discounts on a store filled with almost every game imaginable is certainly a good way to get in the good books of gamers, but trust is not easily gained and is very easily lost. The latest controversy involving a Valve product is starting to make me wonder whether Gabe Newell really knows what’s happening at his company, or if he’s so high up the ivory tower that he simply doesn’t care.
So, for the uninitiated: Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is a massively popular competitive FPS by Valve. The game has a loot drop system, where during gameplay a crate containing a skin for an in-game weapon of varying rarity will drop randomly. After paying a micro-transaction (boo) to unlock the crate, you can then use the Steam Marketplace to trade skins with other users for Steam store credit, with some worth the equivalent thousands of dollars. The virtual economy surrounding skins led to them being used as currency, with third party sites using Steam’s API enabling players to cash out skins for real money or, most famously, gamble with them. Just put up some skins into a pot and if your number comes up you win the lot.
The thing is, CS:GO is quite popular with kids and teenagers: when it comes to gambling having kids involved is not only illegal, it is abhorrent. There may be those out there that say skin gambling is OK because there’s no real money involved, but if some kid uses mummy’s credit card to buy skins and gambles away all of them, there’s a real loss there.
The real controversy over skin gambling began in early July when it was revealed two YouTubers, Tom “ProSyndicate” Cassell and Trevor “TmarTn” Martin, were the co-owners of a skin gambling website, one which they had used and promoted to their audience with absolutely no disclosure. I cannot begin to tell you how angry this makes me. These guys were admired by millions of impressionable young people, which places them in a position of trust. These scumbags were more than willing to betray that trust to squeeze a bit more money out of their fans, and in doing so crossed numerous boundaries. They used their knowledge of the site’s backend to manipulate their winnings. They outright lied and said they were just sponsored by the site. They got young people to think gambling skins was not only okay, but it was a fun and easy way to make money!
Excuse me while I prepare to spit some bile.
Fuck these guys. Fuck them and their lying, manipulative, money-grubbing, criminal arses. I hope the law comes down hard on these gutless fucks, making it crystal clear that if you manipulate your audience like them you’ll get what’s coming to you.
Valve has since issued numerous cease-and-desist notices to most skin gambling sites, hopefully ending this black market for good, but it’s too late. This whole economy should never have been allowed to happen, let alone become a series of successful enterprises. Who knows how many poor kids have wasted their money on it.
I think it’s appropriate to end on the words of former Napier Boys’ High headmaster Ross Brown, who once told me, “I never make promises I can’t keep and bets I can’t pay” Damn straight.