Rants and Hissy Fits The Game Industry 11 Comments

Crowd Sourcing from a Crowd of Idiots (Steam Tags)

This week Steam introduced tagging for games in their store. Steam users can add “tags”, or short descriptive terms, to any game on the site for use in searches. The idea is to create a more organic, user-friendly system for cataloguing games, making it easier for people to find something they want to play (and buy).

In typical Valve style they’ve taken a very hands-off approach to the whole system. Certain words are blocked, such as common swear words, but in general the company seems to be working off the assumption that given the potentially huge participation numbers for Steam tags the majority will rule sensibly.

Yep, a sensible majority. You know where this is going, right? Let’s look at a few lovely examples.

We have the downright offensive:

rometotalwar steam tag

prisonarchetect stream tags

We have editorializing from “real gamers”:




(That last one is from Gone Home, of course.)

And we have the just plain bizarre, which while not offensive are also not very helpful for searching:

mumble steam tag

Small games are getting the worst of it, as it only takes a few people to totally troll their tags. In fact, users are able to tag games that aren’t even out yet which makes no sense whatsoever.

So what of those developers who find their game has been spammed with offensive or insulting tags? Here’s Steam’s answer for that:

steam tags policy

So if you find your tags are overtaken by racist trolls…. well, maybe you just haven’t considered that your game is racist! Makes ya think, huh?

I actually believe that Steam’s goals here are good ones. More fluid search terms are helpful for the user, and I understand that it is likely unfeasible for Valve to somehow tag every game in their store through in-house efforts.

But the implementation of this system is terrible. I mean granted, the true problem here is that gamers as a collective are terrible, but adding the ability for any wanker with a keyboard to write horrible things was just destined to be trouble.

I hope Valve re-evaluates their hands-off approach to Steam tags and at the very least provides developers with the powers to remove tags. Otherwise, this system will not only be a delivery method for trolling, but also totally useless to anyone trying to browse the store.

(Thanks to the Actual Steam Tags Tumblr for collecting a lot of these images!)

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  • Reply
    Wilhelm Arcturus
    February 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

    “gamers as a collective are terrible”

    People as a collective are terrible.

    I think Facebook pretty much dispels the idea that gamers are somehow different. Or YouTube comments. Or your local city council meetings. Or your homeowners association. Everybody has their own agenda (and that agenda is VERY IMPORTANT to the point of justifying pretty stupid things) and most everybody thinks they are pretty darn funny.

    It is nothing new. I am pretty sure some of those cave paints we ooh and ahh over now were painted specifically to troll somebody in the tribe. Grok always throw spear before rest of hunting group is ready!

    So yeah, Steam tags… working as expected. Back to the drawing board. I expect they will end up with a set of pre-approved tags which people can apply.

    And then people will apply them in a way to achieve maximum annoyance.
    Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: Pantheon Falling – A Desperate Plan B

  • Reply
    February 13, 2014 at 11:28 am

    > the true problem here is that gamers as a collective are terrible

    Surely this is stereotyping gamers in a way that we don’t like to see large groups of people stereotyped. On another day we’d be pointing out what a large proportion of gamers are women / parents / professional people etc, and decrying the portrayal of them as teenage males with no social skills.

    The problem is more likely a minority that are idiots.

    The popular tags page looks pretty sensible and useful, so most people are probably not behaving badly.

    > Small games are getting the worst of it, as it only takes a few people to totally troll their tags

    I wonder how other social tagging systems deal with this problem. You could maybe try hiding tags until they reach some critical number, but then very small games might end up untagged.

    > Tags can be a good indicator of when there is a mismatch between how you perceive your game, and how your game is perceived by customers

    I’m guessing they were saying in polite corp speak, e.g. “EA you may think Dungeon Keeper is oodles of F2P fun but the players think it’s a bait-and-switch money grab that is borderline fraudulent. Maybe you should pay attention to that.”
    Pasduil´s last post: Book Review: The Farseer Trilogy

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      February 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

      “Surely this is stereotyping gamers in a way that we don’t like to see large groups of people stereotyped.”

      Nope, I totally stand by that. Gamers, taken as a whole, are terrible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minority. The loudest voices are what defines a community, and for a long time now the loudest voices have been terrible.

      (I wrote a post related to this way back in 2012: Do I really want to be a “Gamer”?. I should note that I call myself a gamer sometimes, so I’m not saying that I’m outside of the terribleness.)

  • Reply
    February 13, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    When people post “there is no blogosphere community” type of posts, it’s experiences like these that often prompt them to write as such. I mean, that was MY first thought, even. I had to remind myself that just opening a web page and getting covered in shit isn’t a ‘community’. But if one is expecting Steam to do the community-building for them, one will come away thinking that after such an experience, I suspect.

    I *did* laugh at “holoCOAST” though. From the mouths of babes … (and their 55-year-old still-single uncle living in a trailer down by the river)
    Grimmtooth´s last post: Guilt

  • Reply
    February 14, 2014 at 2:12 am

    I like Steam tags but I am baffled they can go through without due validation process. how Valve could not anticipate this is beyond me.

    On a different note, I’m a bit tired of the ‘gamers are terrible’ thing every time someone on the internet does something stupid. big news – lots of people are stupid. the majority of them pretty much and some of them happen to be gaming, too.
    hey, WE bloggers for example, we are gamers too? yet, we are a totally different collective. most gamers are not part of the troll collective.

    Anyway. :) This is just getting to me a bit and no doubt we’ll hear it everywhere for weeks again thanks to Steam….all my best friends and favorite people are gamers and I beg to differ on everyone’s behalf. we are not random assholes on steam or youtube and those people are not my collective.
    Syl´s last post: DayZ – In the Land of Intense Colors and Unspoken Rules of Conduct

  • Reply
    February 14, 2014 at 4:17 am

    I hope I never get so old I can’t enjoy some mischief.

    If you look at the most negative effect of everything then everything is bad, even video games and especially MMOs. As you all well know.

    I haven’t looked at these tags yet but it seems like an awesome idea to me. If it’s not already as easy to remove them as it is to add then I expect it will soon be the case.

  • Reply
    Web Roundup | Thinking Play
    February 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    […] This caused a bit of a kerfuffle as some maintained this was an obviously bad idea that due to the bad behavior of people online would produce a complete train wreck of nasty and inappropriate tagging. I’m […]

  • Reply
    March 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Gamers *are* terrible.

    Good people > Average people > Gamers > Juggalos > Gang Members

  • Reply
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