I’m not surprised that Steam’s new and vaunted Steam Tag system is largely a clusterfuck of offensive stupidity. I’m mostly just surprised at how Valve could possibly think that it would be anything else.
For the uninitiated, Valve recently opened up a system that let users “tag” games. In their own words, you can “tag games in the Steam Store with terms that you think are appropriate, or apply tags that others have already suggested for that title.”
You can “apply genres such as ‘Puzzle’, themes like ‘Military’, or attributes such as ‘Difficult’.” You can even “come up with entirely new concepts to apply in categorizing products.” Sounds good, right? There’s no way this could possibly be misused or abused by the general gaming community. I mean, there’s no way anyone would tag things with “Jews did WTC”.
Well, on the plus side, at least the tags can only be put in by people who actually own the game. I mean, there’d be no point in letting people who don’t own the game apply tags, right? If they haven’t even played it then they can’t really speak as to the themes or content within, so… oh.
No, you can tag things if you don’t own them. Which I guess is why the newly-released OMG Zombies has tags like “Pandering to the lowest common denominator” and “OMG Day One Pirate”. Or maybe why NPPD Rush is tagged with “Gay abortion” and “Chuck Norris”.
Okay, but on the plus side, this is probably just a minority. I mean there’s no way “High impact sexual violence” would be the highest-rated tag for Let’s Sing, or… oh.
Okay, fine. But at least these tags are being moderated by developers, so that the trolls can easily be weeded out.
Oh. Well, okay, I guess NPPD Rush is actually about “gay abortion”, then, even if the developers don’t think so; I suppose they just forgot to mention that on the game page, or maybe it’s just them perceiving it differently to the community. I haven’t played it. I wouldn’t know. Not that this will prevent me from tagging it with “My Little Pony rip-off”, if I really want to.
At least I can browse “Indie Trash” games, like god-based balancing act Skyward Collapse, or even “Not a game” games, like Saints Row IV. I’ll be honest: I thought that was a game. I feel liberated.
It’s okay though, guys! Swearwords are filtered out.
Can I repeat what I said at the start? I’m not even remotely fucking surprised at any of this, which either speaks to my cynicism, or speaks to the hateful idiocy of the internet. The only thing that surprises me is that Valve either didn’t think this would happen, or didn’t give a shit.
This is the latest in Valve’s recent trend of INCREASED USER INTERACTION. The user reviews system is in place, for instance, and varies wildly between “actually quite useful” and “utterly fucking stupid.” Greenlight, which lets the users vote for what games are deemed popular enough to get onto Steam, is still a horrifically broken system that Valve have yet to fix. And now we’ve got a tag system with so many problems and so many holes that I’m honestly staggered it was put online.
And no, the words “it’s just a beta” do not help. Beta or not, everyone sees it. Hell, it’s actually higher on the screen than the purchase button; you’ll see these “beta” tags even if you don’t go looking for them. Thankfully, “Jews did WTC” has seemingly been expunged from the system, but that was sometime within the hour or so I’ve been writing this piece – it was there awhile before I started, and was gone by the time I went grabbing screenshots. Considering it should never have appeared in the first place, the fact that it took hours to remove (and that it was apparently one of the more popular tags during that time) says a lot for just how boneheaded this system is.
The idea behind Steam Tags seems to be to let people find games with similarities. If you want to go searching for “Action” games or “Difficult” games, you click the tag and see everything tagged as such. Why I’d search for “killable children”, “worst in the serie” [sic], or “functioning toilet”, I don’t know. All of those, incidentally, are in the Deus Ex: Invisible War tags, alongside things that might actually be useful, like “Transhumanism”, “Singleplayer”, and “First Person Stealth.”
The idea behind it – letting people search for games that have similar styles and themes – is laudable, sensible, and useful. Having these tags be user-defined with no seemingly no moderation beyond removing the most offensive is jaw-droppingly insane, particularly because rarely-visited games are never, ever going to get moderated. A few people might visit those pages in a week. I suspect that all you’d have to do to get something genuinely offensive as one of the highest-rated tags on one of those games is convince a few friends to tag it as such, too. If I didn’t hate the idea so much I’d actually try this out for myself by attempting to create and popularise the worst tags I can think of. But why bother? The rest of the internet’s doing it for me.