Steam’s going to fight review-bombing with…graphs

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User reviews can be problematic. While they’re fantastic for getting a bit of insight into what fellow gamers think of a game, they’re subject to abuse. Online communities who become enraged over a business practice instead of a game itself often take to “review bombing.” They’ll leave negative reviews on a game en masse as an act of protest.

It’s something that’s most recently happened with Campo Santo’s Firewatch, which is an excellent game. After Campo Santo filed a DMCA complaint against PewDiePie following his racist outburst, his army of fans has bombarded the game’s Steam page with negative reviews.

Here are a few, in a sea of similar reviews:

“I loved this game, but the developers have broken my heart. I cannot support such downright scummy, hypocritical developers. This review stays until a public apology is issued.”

“just another walking simulator, no point of paying to play this game. go watch someone on youtube play it like pewdiepie…oh wait”

“Copyright strike my negative review. It’s just one more DMCA. Anyone that defends this company’s actions are misinformed. The game itself is alright and for 10$ or less I think it is a good buy. However supporting a developer that would ruin let’s plays is something I cannot in good conscience do. If I could return I would but unfortunately the only thing I can do is try to inform others of the shady practices of this company and urge you to not give them anymore money.”

There have long been calls for Valve to implement something to combat review bombing, and they finally have. When games are suspiciously flooded with reviews, the game’s Steam page will show the strange activity, along with a histogram.

Says Valve UI designer Alden Kroll in a blog post.

“One thing we’ve noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they’re unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don’t like the developer’s political convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren’t very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself.”

On the Firewatch user reviews page, you’ll find this message: “High Volume of Negative Reviews Detected: Sep 11 – Sep 16.” You can then choose to exclude reviews from this period, or only show reviews from those dates so you can see if the negative reviews are justified.

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Says Valve:

“Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you’re able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it’s easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it’s something you care about.”

Last Updated: September 20, 2017

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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