Minecraft is on fire. At least that’s how it feels at the moment if you follow the fandom on social media or certain message boards. A section of the community is up in arms after the news that developer Mojang will not back down from a controversial move to open private servers up to moderation and account wide player ban. The fans are now rallying around the battle cry “Save Minecraft” against what they see as an existential threat to hugely popular web builder.
“If Mojang thinks that any skilled coder who is against this system won’t try to embarrass them by breaking this system, I’d bet against Mojang,” big time Minecraft YouTuber, Taylor “AntVenom” Harris, tweeted. “Not a threat btw. Just calling it what it is. #SaveMinecraft.” Another player was more succinct. “Fan 1.19.1,” they wrote in a tweet that has since been blown up. Some blame the studio itself. Others believe that the policy change comes from Microsoft and blame the technology giant.
Mojang and Microsoft declined to comment.
The hate and hashtag are all due to Wednesday’s v1.19.1 update for Minecraft: Java Edition. Players can now report each other for “inappropriate chat messages or dangerous behavior,” even on private servers. “The type of behavior that will get you banned is hate speech, bullying, harassment, sexual solicitation or threats to others,” Mojang wrote in a FAQ.
The reports go to Minecraft moderators who then decide what, if any, follow-up there will be, including player bans. That sounds like a good system, especially for a game marketed towards kids that anyone can play. But it is also a major intervention in part of Minecraft which historically has been run purely by players.
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While Mojang said it will not monitor online chat or use bots to moderate, players still fear the new tool could be misused to wreak havoc on private servers. The idea is that players can conspire to maliciously report someone on a private server, then get them banned from the entire game. An exploit called Gaslight V2 is a tool players have used in the past to manipulate in-game chat logs, and the developers claim it still works in the latest version of the game.
Mojang previewed the changes several weeks ago, but the backlash is building after the studio made it clear it’s not ready to reconsider them. In a comment that has now been downvoted over 1000 times on Minecraft subreddit, community manager MojangMeesh wrote that while the studio valued feedback, “it does not mean that feedback will always change the design principles Mojang Studios follows.” MojangMeesh also asked fans to stop hounding developers about the issue in unrelated threads and discussions.
“Harassment helps no one: not the developers who receive it, nor the players who are passionate about an upcoming change,” they wrote. “We want to maintain a constructive and open dialogue with you, and this kind of behavior inhibits that.”
“Bullshit sorry but this whole shitfest has been blowing up your community for about a month straight now and there has been very, very little true mojang discussion coming from it,” one commenter shot back. “A simple question, then: How long will an appeal take?” wrote another. “Since many of us are concerned about false positives, give us a time frame.”
Bans range from three days to permanent, and while Mojang says all reports and appeals will be reviewed by humans, some players remain concerned about edge cases, as well as the freedom to run private servers as they see fit. This has led to mods to try to circumvent the new moderation system. One program called “No chat reports” has already been downloaded over 200,000 times. It says it removes “cryptographic signatures” from messages so they are no longer associated with a specific one Minecraft accounting.
Others in society have taken a more nuanced approach. YouTuber xisumavoid, who runs his own private servers, argued a recent video on the subject of players not fairly weighing up the abuse and predatory behavior that moderation would help to catch. “There’s going to be good that comes out of this system,” he said. “People want to be protected, and I feel like a lot of things in life are a trade-off.”