Steam Tags are atrocious, offensive, and entirely stupid

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”.

steam tags - fish tycoon
This screenshot of Fish Tycoon’s tags has been taken from because, thankfully, Jews did WTC has since been removed.


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.

steam tags - lets sing

Okay, fine. But at least these tags are being moderated by developers, so that the trolls can easily be weeded out.

steam tags - rules

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.

skyward collapse
If they remain, “Indie trash” and “Not a game” might actually wind up being two of my favourite categories. Working as intended?

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.

steam tags - deus ex invisible war
In fairness, “functioning toilet” is a pretty succinct summary of my opinion of Deus Ex: Invisible War.

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.

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  • Tim McDonald

    Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.

    • nasarius

      Letting random internet people smear garbage on a webpage is basically always a huge mistake. Comments at the bottom of serious newspaper articles are bad enough, but putting user-generated tags at the top of the page is just unbelievably foolish.

      Really, they should all be approved by the developer, no exceptions. Tags are good for objective information, for fine-grained categorization. If you want to whine or make cutesy little jokes, that’s what reviews are for.

    • Rushster

      I am pretty stunned at the stupidity of this move to be honest. I also feel sorry for developers that will have their games smeared with crap. What gamers tend to forget is devs are people who are usually proud of their work, whether it be good or bad. The certainly don’t need this tag system as an extra thing to worry about.

      The whole tag thing seems really pointless.

    • Peter Parrish

      I’d be sad to see these go completely, because some of them are really funny (I’m a fan of “Nanomachines, son” and “beard simulator.”) I guess limiting tagging to games you actually own and have played for more than an hour would help a fair bit.

      “Functioning toilet” is a vital tag, Tim! Don’t tell me you aren’t just a little bit disappointed when a game with bathrooms in it doesn’t let you mess with the taps and toilets.

    • Lazerbeak

      lol ha

      ##Q. What if I don’t agree with a tag that has become popular for my game?
      ##A. Tags can be a good indicator of when there is a mismatch bet Often this ##is simply because there is some piece of information regarding ween how you ##perceive your game, and how your game is perceived by customers.the game that ##customers feel is missing from the store page.

      So if the tag for a game is “the creator of this game is a utter complete douchebag”

      sorry creator tough luck, your perception of not being a douchebag doesn’t much the customers so fuck off

      steam must have been smoking some good stuff when they came up with this mad idea.

      I never really found tags that useful since you can’t really depend on them, loads of stuff your looking for won’t be tagged , and many that have a tag your interested in, will be completely wrong

    • Shoomer

      They have just added a report feature……

      “BETA UPDATE: Feb 13 2014 – Tag Reporting and more
      Hi, we have a few updates to the tagging beta today:
      There is a new reporting option next to popular tags on game pages. You can click the flag icon to report a tag, which will downvote the tag. Right now there are four report reasons:
      Offensive/abusive tag
      Not appropriate for this product
      Not a helpful tag
      In general, tags need to be applied by more users before they will show on the popular tags section
      “For You” / Recommended tags will only recommend tags that apply to multiple games
      Fixed an issue where swear words would show unfiltered in some places

      Please keep the feedback coming, we’re continually working to improve the feature.”

      ……Step in the right direction but they still need to restrict tagging to games you actually own.

      • DavidTheSlayer

        Its a step in the right direction, but I don’t want to spend my life voting or down voting steam tags, I’d rather vote on Greenlight or spend time supporting my games in other ways :D.

    • Lazerbeak

      that will probably fix most of the issue though it depends how quickly they respond or if they do at all. a voting system would be good and does not require oversite

    • CharlesMabe

      No comments. This is one of the clearest huge problems with AAA software I’ve ever seen, and nobody seems to care.