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What Is Trolling? Steam Cracks Down on Troll Games

(Image credit: Valve)

Anyone who's been online for more than a few hours knows the internet's full of trolls. It can be hard to define exactly what that means--usually it's someone posting inflammatory nonsense or deliberately annoying people--but the "I know it when I see it" rule generally applies here. But that didn't stop Valve from taking a stab at offering a more specific definition of what a troll is, at least as it applies to games sold via Steam.

Most people who make games do so because they want to inspire fun, make a statement, or otherwise engage with the medium as a creative outlet (and let's not forget that pretty much everyone is secretly hoping to ship the next Stardew Valley so they can bask in financial success). But some people release things on Steam because they want to get people to buy what can only nominally be called a "game" so they can make a quick buck. Valve considers the latter group to be trolls who disrespect the bond between developer and player.

Valve said in a blog post this week:

"On Steam, some are simply trying to rile people up with something we call 'a game shaped object' (ie: a crudely made piece of software that technically and just barely passes our bar as a functioning video game but isn't what 99.9 percent of folks would say is 'good'). Some trolls are trying to scam folks out of their Steam inventory items, others are looking for a way to generate a small amount of money off Steam through a series of schemes that revolve around how we let developers use Steam keys. Others are just trying to incite and sow discord."

At least from Valve's perspective, whether or not a developer is trolling Steam customers has little to do with the quality of their game and everything to do with their intent. Some developers just can't make quality games; that doesn't mean they're intentionally provoking any potential customers. It's like the difference between standing on a street corner and screaming "Despacito" at anyone who walks by and bombing at an open mic. Neither is very pleasant, but at least the person at the open mic was earnest in their intentions and in the right environment.

Valve offered up its definition of a troll game as part of a broader announcement regarding changes to how Steam displays titles. The company introduced several changes meant to make it easier to find or avoid games you don't want to see in the marketplace. Finding new games was improved by adding home pages for developers that show all of their works and by improving the Upcoming Games Lists "so they're much better at showing you upcoming games that you might be interested in, or upcoming extra content for a game you've been playing a bunch."

Hiding non-relevant content involved a few more updates. Valve will now require developers whose games feature violence or sexual content to explain why exactly they bear those content markers. There's a big gap between "game that features some nudity" and "literal porn" and offering in-depth descriptions can help curious shoppers figure out which is which. Two new content tags--Mature Content and Adults Only--will also make it easier to stop Steam from showing games that feature intense violence or sexually explicit content.

Valve also increased the number of tags you could say you aren't interested in from three to 10. The company also said it's made this a "harder filter," so Steam "now assumes you want to ignore all the games that feature any of those tags in their most popular tags, instead of just using them as suggestions to our recommendation engine." You can still find games with blocked tags via Steam's built-in search tool, however, so it's not like blocking the tags will prevent you from finding a game you already know you're interested in. That seems like a fair compromise.

  • jcaulley_74
    All these fancy features and Steam still can't remember my birthday after I've told it 200+ times.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    21298402 said:
    All these fancy features and Steam still can't remember my birthday after I've told it 200+ times.
    https://i.redd.it/8deappdvcik11.png
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Maybe they should just have a refund policy. It could be indexed to the amount of time since your first install. So, like 100% refund after 1 hour, 90% within 3 hours, 75% within 6 hours, 50% within 12 hours. If you re-purchase something after returning it, then the refund timescale is halved. This would be so that you could try an updated version claiming to fix a problem you previously experienced. So, you could test the "fix" with relatively little risk.

    I feel like, between refunds, ratings, and comments, the system should be fairly self-moderating. There would be so little for a developer to gain by publishing bad games that most wouldn't even bother.
    Reply
  • BaRoMeTrIc
    21298402 said:
    All these fancy features and Steam still can't remember my birthday after I've told it 200+ times.

    Why the hell does it always default to January 1st (current year). Are newborns regularly trying to download "dark souls?"
    My finger gets tired scrolling to 1984 every times
    Reply
  • BulkZerker
    @bit_user steam does have a refund policy. It's full paid price back if you have played for less than 4hrs within 2 weeks of the purchase.

    That's not what this is about though. This is about letting games on steam that hurt people's feelings. Having a game about shooting up a school is verboten! Having a game that shows bare breasts is verboten!
    Think of the children.

    Reply
  • bigdragon
    First, I'm uncomfortable with this effort to define troll games because people can define it so differently. I think Valve is trying to go after barely-functional asset flips capitalizing on recent events, but their user community is going to target things they don't agree with. I thought curation was supposed to take care of this. Instead, it seems like mob rule may be getting an even bigger influence on Steam. This is not good. The next step is to police objectionable content. I don't want to see this snowball get rolling and hit that point.

    FOR EXAMPLE, a fully functional, fandom-pleasing MLP fighting game will be attacked by the greater Steam community, but the bug-laden, RNG-fest Vermintide 2 gets a pass. The former actually works the way it was intended (although induces cringe), but the latter has no shortage of rage-induced flaming reddit posts about unobtainable items and duplicates due to terrible RNG.

    Second, I'd like to see Steam's refund policy improved. There should be a time threshold set by the pricing of the game. The current time threshold is 2 hours (USA) regardless of price. Geometry Wars (inexpensive, instant action) is treated the same as Monster Hunter World (expensive, heavily cutscene-padded). That's not right. The refund mechanism really should be 1 hour for every $10 in price (round up). So Geometry wars would have a 1 hour refund period while MHW has a 6 to 7 hour refund period.
    Reply
  • caustin582
    21300272 said:
    Maybe they should just have a refund policy. It could be indexed to the amount of time since your first install. So, like 100% refund after 1 hour, 90% within 3 hours, 75% within 6 hours, 50% within 12 hours. If you re-purchase something after returning it, then the refund timescale is halved. This would be so that you could try an updated version claiming to fix a problem you previously experienced. So, you could test the "fix" with relatively little risk.

    I feel like, between refunds, ratings, and comments, the system should be fairly self-moderating. There would be so little for a developer to gain by publishing bad games that most wouldn't even bother.
    They already have a rather lenient refund policy; less than 2 hours of game time, or within 14 days of purchase.
    Reply
  • caustin582
    21300294 said:
    21298402 said:
    All these fancy features and Steam still can't remember my birthday after I've told it 200+ times.

    Why the hell does it always default to January 1st (current year). Are newborns regularly trying to download "dark souls?"
    My finger gets tired scrolling to 1984 every times

    You only need to scroll down to 2000.
    Reply
  • Mr5oh
    21300294 said:
    My finger gets tired scrolling to 1984 every times

    21301890 said:
    You only need to scroll down to 2000.

    You guys are picking the same year every time, or an accurate year? I just fling the wheel, or touch screen and pick a year. Wherever it stops is good. One screen it could be 1915, the next it could be 1958. There is no consistency to it.

    Reply
  • aquielisunari
    21298351 said:
    Valve updated Steam to make it easier to find or block specific content. It also defined what a troll game is and why it tries to keep them off Steam.

    What Is Trolling? Steam Cracks Down on Troll Games : Read more

    We used to be able to go to a site and get the content we want. Now we have video players automatically gobbling our data, opening a smaller player even after we stop the first one that can't be closed. I don't want to play "close that popup if you can" just to read an article!!! Bills....

    And now the beginner developer will have more scrutiny because of the 1% that are (censoreds). The 1% is sure different in the PC world and have just as much control. Cheaters have lost in court recently too.
    Reply