Not long ago, Steam was releasing news about how it was going to save its hackneyed review system. It seems we are once again in need of enlightenment.
This week, Steam released its plan to further combat the forces of evil with some algorithmic magic that will devalue the clicks of users who add multiple thumbs ups to negative reviews in an attempt to sway which reviews get seen as a result of review bombs.
If only it were that simple.
For years now, Steam has been the go-to place to purchase games for your PC. Between the flexibility of being able to install every game in your library on whatever box you wanted, to the ubiquitous sales that commonly drop a game to 1/10th of its normal price, it's easy to come to the conclusion that if you want a good game for a fair amount of money (or better), you need to get a Steam account.
What has also been a fairly agreed-upon facet of Steam, is that its review section is total crap.
Look, I understand this "news" is biased (most news is but that's beside the point) and I get that reporting on this only helps our brand, but I'm not wrong. For many years now, Steam brought a particular apathy to game reviews that is finally culminating in a backlash from users and developers worldwide. It's just now that we see the issue.
Here is a list of articles that outline how Valve have been trying to solve this issue for literally years:
- Steam tweaks community reviews to fight spam
- Valve Details Upcoming Steam Curator Update
- Steam implements histogram to identify review bombings
- Steam Removes Game After Developer Posts Fake Reviews
- Steam review scores will no longer include unpaid games of any kind
- Valve tackles dodgy devs cheating Steam review scores
I could keep going back for years with more articles but I think you get the point.
The problem isn't one that Steam can solve with a patch to its system. The problem is endemic to Steam's practical monopoly as a storefront. Honestly, how can a site with as many users, selling as many games, and posting as many reviews as Steam has, and still be able to manage it? Algorithmic solutions are a good start, but there's no way to truly curate the bullshit, not even with literal curators. There's too much real estate for selling the game, and not enough for reviews on the game itself, to qualify as a place you can go for a sincerely thoughtful review. That's where we come in.
Yes, yes, I know that the more we toot our own horn on this site, the less objective the piece becomes, but I'm OK with that in this specific case. We need to bring awareness to what constitutes a good review, and that it's actually possible to get one without relying on experts. Because let's face it, even experts have their own opinions and yours might be completely different.
We need a new kind of site for game reviews. That site is here, and now is the clearly the time we need it most.