Valve is attempting to make Steam’s user reviews of games more useful. It’s doing this by trying to lessen the effect review-bombing has on certain titles. And it’s hoping to achieve this by adding a histogram showing the ratio of positive and negative reviews over the life of the game.
User reviews can be an extremely useful tool when deciding on a purchase, especially on Amazon. Unfortunately, user reviews are open to all kinds of abuse, including review-bombing. This, for the uninitiated, is when multiple people leave negative reviews to skew the score over something other than the quality of the product they’re reviewing.
Valve Wages War on Review-Bombing
Rather than stand idly by, Valve is now waging war on Steam review-bombing, with Alden Kroll explaining the company’s motives in a Steam Community blog post. Valve isn’t removing suspect review scores, or even putting a temporary lock on reviews. Instead, it’s introducing a histogram showing the ratio of positive and negative review scores over time.
This histogram means that users can instantly see whether a game’s score is being skewed because of an organized campaign. That is if anyone actually bothers to do their homework. The score will remain skewed as a result of the review-bombing, at least until it potentially corrects itself.
This move appears to have been prompted by a review-bombing of Firewatch. Controversial YouTuber PewDiePie reportedly used a racial slur against another player during a livestream of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The internet then had its thing to get outraged over for that day.
We're filing a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie's Firewatch content and any future Campo Santo games.
— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
One of the people who got outraged was Sean Vanaman, of Firewatch developer Campo Santo. The developer filed a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie’s Firewatch stream as a form of retaliation for his bad behavior. Which didn’t go down well with some Steam users, who then gave Firewatch a barrage of negative reviews as a result.
Unfortunately Most Humans Are Lazy
Valve clearly had several options open to it to lessen the effects of review-bombing. These histograms are a good idea, but they rely on people actually delving a little deeper than just looking at the overall score and making a purchasing decision based on that. Which, given that humans are invariably lazy, could be a problem. And Valve itself is too lazy to enact human moderation.
Do you buy games through Steam? Do you read user reviews? If so, how much trust do you place in them? Do you see review-bombing as a pain in the rectum? Or a legitimate form of protest? Do you think histograms are the answer? Please let us know in the comments below!