VAC is broken and not in the way you'd think.
The VAC technology is fine, that works brilliantly, don't remove the VAC program. Detect a blacklisted program hooking into a game's process; ban issued ~2 weeks later. That couple week delay is to capture as many users on this new cheat as possible and deal with them in one swoop.
VAC never lies and cannot be cheated, it may make mistakes but those can be detected and reversed.
VAC's punishment is no access to VAC secured multiplayer games and sometimes for items related to that game to be removed, this is quite a fair punishment and I agree with it, it works.
A lot of you won't understand this next part, so try to keep an open mind about it;
A user's profile is marked as VAC banned, this is displayed to the public with how many days since the relevant VAC ban was issued.
Why is this a thing?
Well, at first thought it makes perfect sense, it publicly shames the hacker and if anyone sees the profile they can judge them and kick them from a game just-in-case.
What does this actually achieve?
I have a VAC banned account, I cannot play Orange Box games online with that account, I have to use my second account to play TF2 or CSS. Fair enough. What isn't fair is that my punishment extends into the community.
Yesterday I was kicked from a game of Pay Day 2, why?
Oh dear Xilefian, looks like you have a VAC. We're going to have to kick you.
At this moment, I literally have second to respond, second to give my defence. They are already in the process of kicking me. I can say one sentence before;
Still a cheater.
[You have been kicked from this session]
That's not even half of it. The amount of online abuse you get for having VAC on your profile is maddening. People will go out of their way to tell you to go die just because they saw a VAC mark on your profile.
I get this across multiple games, CS:GO more than anything, I will have a vote box against me appear - quite suddenly too - there is a pause before the person issuing the vote says;
VAC on profile. Kick him.
And the Yes votes come pouring in.
Did I cheat on any of these games? No. When was my VAC issued? Nearly 6 years ago.
My ban came from hacking, I ruined a round of Counter-Strike on a 32 player server before they kicked me. I joined other servers and ruined a round there too before they also kicked me. I did this for a bit because I was a horrible person and I found enjoyment from ruining a round of their game.
Those players forgot about it, they are lucky. They get to play on knowing that 1 hacker is gone. Myself? I get to live with online abuse from then on. I may have ruined someone's day, but 20 other people who have nothing to do with that will now go out of their way to ruin my days.
Is this part of the VAC punishment? To give cheaters a taste of their own medicine by marking their profile permanently? Isn't it slightly ironic that malicious activity is punished by encouraging targeted malicious activity towards that person?
The popular opinion; Yes it's fair. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Doesn't matter if you haven't cheated in years, doesn't matter if it was 1 cheat, you deserve death threats, you deserve to be kicked out of games without question. That is your punishment.
If you don't like it, make a new account.
Right there is the problem. I have a second account, most people do, that's where I play TF2 now. But right there is exactly the mentality that I believe is wrong.
If I am so deserving of all this abuse, the death threats, the kicking, the foul language, if I am deserving of all this then I should receive that punishment. If that is truly the intention of Valve, I shall receive that.
The solution to the problem of this kind of online abuse? Run away from the problem.
I do not think this was Valve's intention at all. I think the VAC ban display is there because it was an obvious thing to do at the time, but in hindsight it makes no sense.
It just leads to a more hateful community.
If someone was going to forever be a cheater, they will be the ones who make new accounts, they will cheat again there and get banned there and they will move on.
Someone who faces up to it all? They will be subject to hate. Doesn't matter the crime, you're forever marked.
The VAC ban community is quiet, and thankfully it is a small community, but we're all valid Steam customers who enjoy playing games. We aren't proud of our mistakes and it is a community we do not want to be part of, but hopefully we learnt our lesson. Hopefully we accept our punishment and move on.
Give us a chance, Valve.
Get that branded mark off our profile pages, for the sake of improving the Steam community.
You have nothing to lose with this.
I was inspired to write about my experiences after reading about other VAC banned users who face the very same prejudice and hate from the community over historic VAC bans that are irrelevant to the context where they receive the hate.