Smurf and boost is a problem presented in almost every popular Esports. Dota 2 is no exception.

A cash cow

Dota 2 is among the top Esports currently. The game by Valve features various tournaments of all sizes and ages. The money invested in Dota 2 is considerably high as compared to other Esports. Valve has managed to earn hundreds of million dollars each year, mostly out of The International. So far, they have managed to raise the prize pool to $29 million

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Dota 2 has been pulling in big crowds, making good money for Valve

However, the amount of money poured into the game does not match the amount of effort Valve make to cater to their fans' need. Valve seems to concentrate too much on making money rather than improving the current state of their game.

With the recent release of Battle Pass of The International 2019, Dota 2 fans all around the world have been so eager to contribute to the prize pool. Valve has been so busy making new contents to attract more money. They seem to have neglected the major part of the game, the non-competitive scene.

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Casual Dota 2 is also an important part of the game

Dota 2 pubs currently are plagued with smurf and boost. People would casually stream their boosting or smurfing on public stream platforms like it’s nothing too serious. However, this is not a problem that can be taken lightly.

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A casual day on Twitch's Dota 2 stream

They would make titles like “boosting in 4k” or “smurfing for fun” to draw the attention from viewers. Titles of this kind often make people curious, tempting them into viewing the stream. Spectators would expect some kind of dominant plays that are from a higher bracket and often surprisingly effective.

What is smurf/boost?

Smurf is a common term in PC games and Esports. Smurf is a person of higher caliber but decides to play in a lower bracket, giving him overwhelming advantages over the less skilled players. Due to that, the chance of winning a match for a smurf is often much higher than a normal fair match.

Smurf can also be used as a verb to indict the act of playing as a smurf. Smurf is more like an action to seek a feeling of handy victories.

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Smurfs often seek the feeling of an easy victory

Boost is fairly popular in a “darker” part of Esports. Boost is the act of winning multiple ranked matches in a short span of time. It significantly “boosts” an account’s rank, an indicator of each account’s level of skill. Boosters are those who do this as a job, or assignment. They are often smurf but with a malicious intention of winning everything. Boosters often earn real money from the act of boosting for their clients.

Boosting is more like a business. People would do it for money by accomplishing tasks and missions.

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Boosters often boast a sky-high winrate with sophisticated heroes. Other players of that bracket are no match for dedicated boosters

Moreover, boosters nowadays do not work alone and on a low scale. They work for organizations or some webpages to form an alliance of boosting group. Boosting is even advertised online, on some Facebook groups or official websites. They earn money on the suffering of people. Generally, 5 players lose their rank and 4 players gain rank. So it means a general loss for the community.

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Boosters even publicly advertise their service on websites

Is smurf/ boost bad?

The answer is, in most case, yes. Smurfing and boosting significantly decrease the winning chance for the other team. Smurfs and boosters often are often much more skilled than players of that lower bracket. The game is now one-sided and overwhelmingly unfair.

Moreover, smurfs and boosters often have bad attitudes towards the game. It is like you are from a better world and descend to a lower world. Smurfs and boosters are often cocky and bad-mannered toward the lower skilled players.

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Smurf/booster often shows bad attitudes toward the game.

What has Valve done?

Sadly, Valve hasn’t made any significant move to tackle this serious problem. They only made a feature to report players with a bad attitude or intentionally ruining the game. However, that is not specifically made for reporting a smurf or booster.

Furthermore, reported players only have to play low-priority games when getting overwhelming reports. With their superior skills, they can easily win games and continue their process.

There are many threads and complaints on public forums like Reddit or Facebook groups to report smurfs or boosters. However, Valve would not give much thought about these casual cases.

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Reddit is full of complaints about smurf and boosters

What can Valve do to improve this?

There have been many proposals about improving the system to filter out smurf/boost. Here are some good changes and features Valve should implement.

  • Create a reporting system dedicated to reporting smurf/boost. It should be available after the game like the current reporting system. Reported players should be investigated with their recent actitivies. If they are indeed smurf or booster, Valve should hand out punishment for that account or ban the IP address.
  • Add an "overwatch ban" feature like that of CS:GO. People can submit replays and proofs to prove one certain account or player is already smurfing or boosting.

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Overwatch ban in CSGO proves to be effective. Valve should also implement the feature for Dota 2

  • Do regular scan to detect accounts with an overwhelming win rate. There are cases where one player gets lucky with his matches but the chance is low. Accounts with abnormally high win rate should be carefully evaluated to determine whether they are boosted or normally played.
  • Ban players streaming smurf/boost contents on public streaming platforms. The action is heinous and should not be accepted. This should be a warning against smurf/booster.

What can we do?

In general, smurf and boost are bad. However, we alone cannot stop the problem flourishing. It requires the work of the whole community. We should raise each other's awareness of smurfing or boosting. Also, as a Dota 2 player ourselves, we should refrain from committing such a detrimental act in the game. It ruins everyone's gaming experience.