‘War Thunder’ Turns Off Chat Because Players Are Fighting About Ukraine

A game about war has turned off its coms to keep players from yelling at each other about a real war.
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Gaijin Entertainment Promotional Image.

War Thunder is a game where teams compete to destroy each other’s military assets. Ships, tanks, and planes pulled from the past 100 years of conflict fight each other for dominance of the map. It’s a game where communication is important but, for the past month, developer Gaijin Entertainment has kept global voice and text chat completely off.

Gaijin Entertainment was founded in Belarus in 2002, but now maintains its headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. On February 26, two days after Russia escalated its war in Ukraine, the company put out a statement on social media. 

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“Gaijin offices, owners, directors, servers and employees are based in EU countries, and so the game is not at any risk of shutdown,” it said on Twitter. “However, in these trying times we think it is improper to post anything that can be portrayed as promotion of war, and оur game is ultimately about military vehicles. We have always stayed out of politics and will further restrain from statements that can be colored as such. We strongly believe that wars should only stay in the realms of video games. We pray for peace and safety.”

Two days after the release of this statement, on February 28, Gaijin Entertainment pushed out an update for War Thunder that turned off text and voice chat. “In-game chats have been temporarily disabled,” the patch notes said. “Quick commands are available in the game sessions for players in your team and voice chat is active for squad members.”

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A tank flying Ukrainian colors in 'War Thunder.' Alexander Diaz screengrab.

At the time, Gaijin didn’t explain why it had turned off chat and didn’t respond to community questions about it. Some in the community speculated it was an attempt to stop people in the game from using chat to troll each other about the war in Ukraine.

Reached for comment, Gaijin told Motherboard this was indeed the case. "We've temporarily closed our in-game chat to make sure that it is not used for political discussions that might offend other players,” Gaijin told Motherboard in an email. “We've always stayed out of politics and we feel that it's important that people from all over the world can have fun together in a safe space".

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War Thunder is a popular game with an international player base and, despite the ban, players have found ways to express solidarity with both the Russian and Ukrainian side. War Thunder allows people to customize the looks of their tanks, planes, and ships and people have painted their vehicles with the white “Z” of the Russian army and the gold and blue of the Ukrainian flag.

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Firing on Russian sympathizers in 'War Thunder.' Alexander Diaz screengrab.

War Thunder players have said the lack of chat has made the game harder to play. "It's annoying when I see torpedoes, for example, and can't warn the guy next to me who is a lil blind," Alex Diaz, a War Thunder player in the U.S. told Motherboard. "I also can't call them filthy Russian murderers.”

Diaz said he understands why the ban is in place. He has an emotional reaction when he sees the white Z painted on a tank. “We hate [the chat ban], but, honestly, even I have wanted to shit talk Russian sympathizers,” he said. The game’s chat has long been combative and typically Diaz would just tell people to shut up and focus on the game. “It sometimes worked, telling people to can-it and get back to the match. But this is much harder. People are dying and a big player base in these games is Eastern European. More so than in other games."

Gaijin Entertainment has not said when War Thunder’s chat might come back. Once based in Moscow, it now has offices in Hungary, Cyprus, Germany, and Latvia.