In a recent update over on the Steam store, Valve made a lengthy post explaining how they were addressing review bombing, an instance where the community’s best way of shining light on a problem is to add lots of negative reviews to the game so that the rest of the community wakes up and realizes that the developer messed up somewhere along the way. It worked wonders in getting media attention when Rockstar and Take-Two attempted to ban offline single-player mods in GTA V (which they later reversed) and it also helped when Valve and Bethesda attempted paid mods in Skyrim (which they later reversed), and it appears to be affecting Campo Santo’s Firewatch after they attempted to abuse DMCA claims against PewDiePie.
On September 19th, 2017 Valve posted up a blog explaining how they’ll be addressing review bombs, and how they intended for user reviews to be used to quickly inform potential purchasers about the pros and cons of the game. They note that review bombs can be a problem because sometimes the reviews have nothing to do with the game — like in the case of Campo Santo and Firewatch, which is a sociopolitical protest.
Valve played with the idea of hiding the review score from game pages, altering the way the totality of scores are calculated, as well as toyed with the possibility of locking reviews after a certain threshold was reached within a certain (and very short) amount of time. They decided against all of those options and instead decided to add a graph, with Valve engineer Alden Kroll stating…
“Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you’re able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it’s easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it’s something you care about.”
You can view an example below.
So why now? After all the other games have been review bombed over the last few years for one reason or another, why did Valve start after Campo Santo got review bombed?
Well, recently Social Justice Warriors in games media have been advocating for Valve to do something about the unrest from the gaming community. Game journalists hate when gamers express their consumer rights, and hate it even more when they do so to the detriment of developers who are also considered Social Justice Warriors, such as the ones at Campo Santo.
A perfect example is GamesIndustry.biz. On September 14th, 2017 they posted an article in response to the review-bombing of Campo Santo’s game, claiming that they were taking a stand against Valve because Valve wasn’t taking a stand against gamers. Previously they also came down against the gaming community in favor of Cibele, another game from a “progressive” developer, where they attacked Valve for fostering a toxic community on Steam. Kotaku in Action also compiled a few other instances of the site engaging in activism in an attempt to get Valve to change policy.
GamesIndustry.biz wasn’t alone in criticizing Valve about how they do business. Earlier in the spring Polygon had taken jabs at Steam, and recently – following the update about the graph for reviews – Ars Technica also chimed in criticizing the community about the review bombing, and also criticizing Valve for not doing enough to curb “hate”. Their solution seemed about as drastic as a Stalin-era policy, where Sam Machokovech writes…
“[…] without an apparent outcry from Valve or a pledge to go so far as to wholesale ban user accounts and IP address ranges for repeat TOS offenders (and thus risk losing paying customers), there’s no reason to believe the Internet’s worst trolls and abusers won’t keep on creating new accounts and raising hell wherever they’re allowed on Steam.”
A flurry of other sites tossed in their two cents, like J Station X, continuing the trend of criticizing Valve for not doing more to combat review bombing. Typically J Station X used hot-button individuals like Zoe Quinn as an example of someone offering solutions on how Valve needs to address consumers being displeased with a product by creating more “safe spaces”.
Vice’s Waypoint also criticized Valve about the graph, following up on previous coverage of the incident involving Campo Santo and PewDiePie. In the article they state that it still ignores problems created by “hate mobs”.
Others like Venture Beat” and The Verge also jumped in on the fray; The Verge explained that the graph does little to fix the problem because the article purports that “[…] the whole system is temporarily poisoned.“
In today’s capitalistic oligarchy, consumers and proletarians have very little say-so or any notable voice in the marketplace at all. In the case of Steam, the only way that customers can vocally break through the shroud is usually by review bombs. Any other method is stomped out by volunteer moderators or curtailed by social media services when hashtags or certain phrases are banned from trending, or banned from widespread discussion.
The media continues to show their colors in wanting to strip away whatever scraps of consumer control people are afforded, advocating heavily for Valve to essentially turning Steam into an autocratic digital distribution empire. It fits in line with the communistic and anti-American values that many media personalities have been advocating lately, but it’s not a result that would in anyway benefit the end-user.
(Thanks for the news tip ThyPancakeConsumed)