Team Fortress 2 players gather over 140,000 petition signatures in the latest campaign against the ongoing aimbot menace

 Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress 2.

17 years after release, Team Fortress 2 still has a devoted fanbase—one that keeps the classic team shooter in the upper echelons of Steam's concurrent player rankings. And today, through an online petition for the #SaveTF2 campaign, over 140,000 members of that fanbase are declaring they've had enough.

TF2 has a long-standing bot problem. Official matchmade servers are rancid with bots, and they aren't just headshotting your team's Heavy with inhuman precision or flooding in-game chat with hate speech. According to the #SaveTF2 site, they're also a vehicle for doxing and targeted harassment. "There should be a zero-tolerance policy relating to this kind of conduct," the site says, "and Valve needs to be held accountable for persistently refusing to acknowledge it."

This isn't #SaveTF2's first rodeo. The campaign emerged in 2022 to demand that Valve address TF2's long-neglected bot problem. Valve responded to the ensuing wave of support and public outcry, implementing a series of anti-cheat fixes throughout the year that culminated in a biblical-scale purge of bot-hosting accounts. By July of 2023, TF2 was enjoying a renaissance, breaking its all-time record for concurrent players. But the renaissance would be short-lived. Bots slowly reemerged, and without ongoing anti-cheat support to combat them, they've once again swamped TF2's official servers.

#SaveTF2's current petition campaign has a simple goal: better, consistently supported anti-cheat measures for TF2, and "an open line of communication" with Valve as to how the bots are being addressed. At time of writing, the #SaveTF2 site has collected more than 140,000 signatures through its automated petition form, each accompanied by an email sent to Valve with a copy of the petition. According to the site, it's currently sending an email every second.

The #SaveTF2 site also details a June 3 (that's today!) community operation for its public awareness campaign, asking TF2 players to share screenshots and video proof of the bot plague on every social media platform with the #FixTF2 hashtag. By doing so, the hope is to underline the scale of the bot problem, "to transform this perceived petty drama into the massive, game-defining scandal that it is." The language might be a tad over-eager, but I admire the sentiment.

Realistically, devs can't support a game forever. Eventually the lights have to turn off—in an ideal world, it'd be after archivists and community server efforts have all the tools they need to take over. But in TF2's case, Valve is still using the game to sell cosmetics. If players can still spend money on the product, they're right to expect it to work.

I'll say this for the petitioners: They know how to use nostalgia. The petition site is lovingly crafted in the style of the hype pages Valve would release ahead of TF2 updates. Giving it a read took me right back to 2009, when I was eagerly combing the Classless Update write-up and dreaming of my very own tower of hats. With any luck, a day will come when I can return to 2Fort wearing my three hats at once, without being menaced by aimbots.