A particularly troubling hack recently appeared in Red Dead Online and it specifically targeted people of colour. It's no coincidence that the sudden uptick in this exploit happened around the time, and following, a wave of protests against police brutality in the USA and elsewhere in the world. Luckily, Rockstar has fixed this symptom, but the underlying issue remains.
Rockstar's multiplayer attempts have a history with hackers and cheaters. Grand Theft Auto Online was plagued with them for years and still isn't clean on PC. Things were better with Red Dead Online, but you still got the occasional hackers fouling up lobbies. Sometimes hackers do silly, entertaining things. Usually they do mildly annoying things. Not this time.
I wouldn't normally share this, but we're seeing more & more posts about it on reddit & Discord
Will @RockstarGames ever do anything about modders abusing the "Rockstar Message" text in Red Dead Online & spawning klan npcs?
Give us crew/friend only sessions. Stop enabling this pic.twitter.com/WXsRihsrqV
— Red Dead Online Community (@RedDeadRDC) June 13, 2020
Players began reporting on Reddit and other community sites that hackers would spawn hostile NPCs using the KKK character model from single player, or switching their own model to it. In single player mode, you can randomly encounter a group of KKK members, who you can kill without reproach. They were never meant to be in Online.
This was done with the same method that hackers used to spawn two headed skeletons and the like. The difference is, now hackers would form "KKK posses" and harass anyone playing with a non-white character while using racist display names, and exploiting the in-game message system to spread hate-speech.
Several players began documenting the disgusting phenomenon on Twitter, showing the sorts of messages these racist trolls would send while spawning white hooded NPCs. With renewed focus on rampant racial inequality in our societies being a hot topic following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer, it is clear which side these hackers are taking.
Someone think it's funny to Spawn bunch of KKK in Red Dead Online. #RockstarGames I know you don't care about hackers in this game much, but given the current situation in USA maybe you want to do something? PS, I shot them in game, just can't stand it. Bad taste of joke pic.twitter.com/PRPiU3q7Uo
— KEN CHANG (@fanfusuzi) June 4, 2020
Rockstar was quick on the draw and put an end to this nastiness. The game has been updated to check assets anytime a new one is loaded, and if it happens to be the KKK NPC model it is automatically deleted. The developers didn't address the issue beyond confirming that the fix was implemented.
Earlier this month, Rockstar Games temporarily blacked out the Red Dead Online and GTA Online servers in honor of George Floyd. Racism continues to be a prevalent issue in online gaming communities, and it's up to both players and developers to ensure that these virtual spaces are open and welcoming to everyone.