review brigading on Steam is infuriating

When people accuse the gaming community of being entitled pissbaby manchildren this is what they’re referring to.

These concerted hate campaigns against devs make me angry as a creator, reviewer, and consumer. They destroy the integrity of the review system, make it impossible for consumers to evaluate games, and hurt small developers.

I don’t have anything else useful to say, you’re my captive audience and I needed to vent. It just seems to be happening with more and more frequency and I wish there were steps Steam could take to stop it but I don’t think there are.

I cannot imagine how it is possible to exist with this level of entitlement. Fuck people who do this.

Image result for god grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man

25 Comments

  1. Heatth says:

    I am curious, are you referring to a particular recent event or just in general? But, yeah, review brigading is generally awful all round. It is not just a Steam problem. It is why I find hard to trust user reviews, not only on Steam but on any big site, like meta critic or whatever.




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    1. Act says:

      In general, though I know there’s a few recent relatively big ones that went on.




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  2. illhousen says:

    What’s “review brigading?”




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    1. Keltena says:

      A coordinated effort to affect a thing’s reputation by flooding its online reviews with either positive or negative ratings. So in this case, flooding a gameswith negative reviews on Steam because you have an agenda against its creator.




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      1. illhousen says:

        Thanks. Yeah, that does sound vile.




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  3. Online user based systems are, and have always been, utterly shit (exhibit A: youtube comments/likes/subscriber). The faster everyone figures Steam scores are pile of useless crap and they lose anything resembling meaning or importance, the better. So I approve of this dumbfuckery and hope it gets even more terrible as time goes on.




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    1. CrazyEd says:
      Stuff likes this makes me glad I stopped giving a fuck about video games in, like, 2009. I never hopped on the Steam bandwagon (the only digitial distribution I’ve ever liked are the retrogames on GOG) so I don’t have to deal with any of this shit.



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  4. Roarke says:

    Review screening is typically the solution here, but the volume makes it unfeasible. I feel bad when folks try to make something like that in good faith and a bunch of jerks shit on it for no other reason but bigotry. 




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    1. Farla says:

      You don’t need screening, you just need some way to tell which reviews are more suspicious than others and make them matter a bit less. I don’t think it’d be that hard to minimize this if Steam actually wanted to do so. They don’t need to keep a watch out for a swarm of negative reviews, which is a lot of trouble and requires more humans to do the job, and risks backlash as people shout about censorship. You just need to mess with how much weight each review is given.

      1) The older an account, the more its vote is worth.

      You’ve still got the problem of there being legions of cranky assholes, but they only get one vote each. If you’re trying to get outsiders riled up, or existing users to create duplicate accounts, you now need absurd numbers of newbie accounts to move anything. Bonus – your existing community will love the idea their votes count more, AND once there’s one factor changing the numbers by an unknown amount, it’s harder to see what other factors are in play.

      2) Whether or not the account actually bought the game, especially if the account usually buys games on Steam but not the ones it reviews negatively. And if the game was bought and returned, how long was it played? Does this account consistently buy and return games after five minute’s play? If someone’s willing to pay for the priviledge of hating on a game, or even just willing to play a good chunk of it, then fine, they’ve earned the right for their negative review to count.

      3) What’s the average review they give? Someone who gives 100% negative reviews just hates all games and their opinion doesn’t tell you anything about a particular one. If they hate 90% of games, then their negative reviews count that much less than their positive ones. If they love 90% of games, on the other hand, then their negative reviews should count for a lot more.

      (Of course, this one’s abusable, but combined with weighting for if you actually bought/played, as well as making the numbers non-obvious and never telling people exactly how review weight is determined, it should be fine.)

      4) What genres are they playing? Someone who plays nothing but FPS dropping in to say this one particular visual novel/puzzle game/platformer is garbage shouldn’t count as much as someone who played and rated similar games before.

      And if the internet is still able to pull off dogpiles through sheer determined volume, you can add in weighting by average-per-day/week. A huge influx of reviews all at one time will count for less individually than a couple trickling in later, so a game’s score can recover more easily. That’ll also help moderate day-of-release hype reviews.




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      1. Roarke says:

        Forcing someone to actually buy the game (and play it for at least a few hours, depending on the actual length of the game in question) does sound to me like a decent way to keep reviews in check.

        I mean, like all the other examples you gave, they are still open to abuse/circumvention, but they do make life harder for jerks, and that is 100% a valid move. Though, since you bring up the difficulty of review screening, I’d say that even most of the suggestions you made would bring up shouting over one thing or another. These folks won’t stand any resistance to their right to free speech hate.

        I don’t think actual concerted review brigading on Steam is difficult to recognize, especially since it would be basically the same accounts every time, or extremely young accounts that have basically no games. The same algorithms that the marketing division on the Store pages uses can be used to track account reviews. A human being should eventually look to make sure the careful pruning of downvotes and reviews is legit, but Steam should be as angry as anyone else about this.

        Also wow, you’re really getting value in this new upvote system. GJ.




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        1. Farla says:

          Well, ideally you don’t tell users exactly what factors you’re using to weight things. Review screening is really obvious, and people who were, or at least feel they were, leaving the review legitimately are going to be infuriated by being told their opinion doesn’t count at all.

          If review brigading is just a couple dedicated trolls, then yeah, banning them would do it, but then more would pop up and it would require constant attention, plus it’d result in recurring issues when something did sneak through. More, I’d guess there’s a whole host of intermediate reviews. Someone making a thread on a game forum saying “THIS GAME IS HORRIBLE WE NEED TO TANK ITS SCORE!!!” might be able to get lots of people who already have accounts to leave a bad review. Or someone making a thread saying, “THIS GAME IS JUST WALKING AROUND WITH NO GAMEPLAY, WE NEED TO TANK ITS SCORE!!!” resulting in reviews from people who really believe a game needs gameplay to count. Even a sudden influx of negative reviews doesn’t always mean they’re fake, and could end up protecting really bad developers from legitimate backlash. Etc. Saying that longterm community members who actually played the game and are widely played in general get listened to over random newbs, on the other hand, is relatively uncontroversal, especially if you don’t say anything specific about precisely how much each thing counts for.




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          1. Act says:

            Honestly I’m in favor of a really hard-line approach, because no matter what you do Reddit will lose its shit about freeze peaches. Have a rule that if negative brigading starts, all reviews from that time period will be purged and review submission frozen until the hoopla passes. Take away the opportunity. Then if suddenly it starts somewhere else, you have identified the people who are the problem and can start perambanning them from reviewing.

            Yeah, community moderation is work, but if you don’t want a shit community that fucks over devs, you have to do it. If people don’t want to be reasonable, don’t reason with them, and tell them they dug their own graves when they whine.

            If people would just stop falling for bullshit CENSORSHIPPP!!! screaming abuse on the internet would never have gotten this bad to start with.




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            1. Heatth says:

              Yeah, community moderation is work, but if you don’t want a shit community that fucks over devs, you have to do it.

              Basically, if you want a community, you need community modaration. It is that simple. I don’t think every site needs a community. I am always in favor of closing comments sections or whatever if you think it is too much work.

              But Steam goes out of its way to create a community space. Not only with user reviews but with their forums as well. But, of course, they hardly bother actually monitoring these spaces and enforcing rules, which results in the chaos most steam forums and reviews are.




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            2. Farla says:

              The problem is that requires more overhead, which in turn means the site has a monetary incentive to ignore as much as possible. I’m also not sure banning people is a disincentive. It shows people that they’re successfully being disruptive, and trolls are used to making fresh accounts. (If they banned the accounts and also removed all purchased games, that’d matter, but people would just shift to using exclusively disposable accounts.)

              There’s also the possibility that if rating down a game doesn’t work, they could spam praise to their preferred games and push the others down that way. Slate-style voting wouldn’t be that hard to pull off. It’s less damaging than directly tanking a game’s rating, but much harder to stop – “we froze reviews because it was getting too much positive attention”?!?!?!




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            3. Roarke says:

              Yeah, trolls are used to being a problem and dealing with the minor consequences of that. If Steam did anything that actually took away a game someone paid for, you can bet there would be lawsuits. On the other hand, freezing accounts is definitely a punishment used by MMO games and the like for cheating. There are hilarious videos of people getting banned from Battle.Net mid-stream on Diablo III and stuff, and that is a paid game.

              If the company could make it clear that they’d extend the same punishment for concerted harassment, maybe with a box you check for each review, then that might be a bit better.




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            4. Farla says:

              If Steam did anything that actually took away a game someone paid for, you can bet there would be lawsuits. 

              The new legal system favors the idea that consumers are paying a fee for licensing the right to use something. A lot of people have gotten screwed over by bans that prevent them from using their digital goods and it’s even expanded to a lot of physical objects with any digital component. So, legally, they should be fine. The issue is people responding by buying games through other platforms instead, but this is assuming it’s punishing a small number of dedicated trolls and not much of their overall userbase.

              The easiest is just to say that reviewing a game you didn’t play blocks you from getting a refund for that one game. And you’re free to try again the next time you feel like being a dick online but there’s that risk you won’t be able to return that one either.




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            5. Roarke says:

              Oh, I didn’t realize things got that friendly for digital developers, but I suppose that does jibe with how lenient they’ve gotten in terms of some other things (like digital purchases no longer being necessarily final).

              Yeah, I don’t think a relatively small review brigade is going to scare Steam overmuch, at least. I think prioritizing the developers a little would be a good move, since those are the actual creators of the goods. Though, if Steam successfully kicked out the bulk of the trolls, in a magical fantasy universe, those trolls would go to smaller outlets that would be less capable of turning down their custom. I’d be sad to see that happen to something like GOG, which I don’t visit much but still love.




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            6. Act says:

              I’m also not sure banning people is a disincentive. It shows people that they’re successfully being disruptive

              See, I’ve kind of changed my feelings on this. Because: everyone knows trolls are disruptive, and pretending they’re not has obviously not been working. I think we’d be a lot better served in general by saying, “Yeah, these people suck and they’re making everyone feel like shit. What can we do about them?”

              There’s also the possibility that if rating down a game doesn’t work, they could spam praise to their preferred games and push the others down that way. 

              I also don’t think this is a problem for two reasons:

              1) These people feed on negativity. It is a lot easier to whip up an angry mob than a happy one. They do it because putting someone down makes them feel good. The motivation isn’t there for positive reviews.

              2) The effect of a game going from “Mostly Positive” to “Very Positive” is minimal compared to it going from “Mostly Positive” to “Mixed” or “Mostly Negative.” Most games on Steam are going to have mostly positive reviews, except in extreme cases, and most people know this. 

              A game getting better reviews than it deserves is good for the dev and neutral for most consumers (either people are going to be swayed by any positive review or they’re actually going to pay attention to substence, and quanitiy doesn’t affcet either of those. People who regret buying after an hour can return the game. Negative brigading can legit put people out of business and fuck with their mental health. Positive results in Steam having to process some extra refunds.

              Even a sudden influx of negative reviews doesn’t always mean they’re fake, and could end up protecting really bad developers from legitimate backlash. 

              I think the Type II error here is preferable. I’d much rather a bad game get unreasonably good reviews (which happens en masse anyway) than a decent-to-good game get unreasonably bad ones.




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            7. Act says:

              But Steam goes out of its way to create a community space

              Yeah, this is why it bothers me so much on Steam as opposed to like Metacritic or something. Unless you want your community to be toxic shit, there’s a significant effort that has to go into moderation, and Steam’s active positioning of itself as some kind of Game Facebook + Valve’s refusal to crack down on problem users is irksome.




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        2. CrazyEd says:
          Unfortunately, Steam can’t actually tell if you’re playing a game. Leaving it open in your task bar for five hours would be enough to fool a time requirement.

          But they should definitely require purchase of a product to review that product. I’ve never understood why retailers allow you to do otherwise.




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          1. Farla says:

            Ah, but that’s five hours they have to have a game running between leaving reviews, and five hours they can’t be playing something else they want on Steam. If they do stuff like leaving it on overnight, they risk playing too much to ask for a refund. The goal here is just to make it more and more work for less and less reward until people get bored and wander off.

            Also, you can sorta tell if people are playing with achievements. If someone claims they played for ten hours but doesn’t have the Finished The Ten Minute Tutorial achievement… You could even tie this to requests for refunds, refusing to refund games people are lying about having played. I think developers would accept the coming of the brigade if all of them had to pay for the game.




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            1. Roarke says:

              To be fair I’ve seen people with 1000+ hours on games like Skyrim having never finished the first story quest. But they get a billion other achievements so your point still stands.

              I think you’re absolutely right that the point is to make it too much effort to hate on things. That’s why I think the original suggestion of simply weighting reviews differently is insufficient by itself. It diminishes the reward, but when the bigger part of the reward is self-satisfaction, it doesn’t go far enough.




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            2. Farla says:

              Well, too much effort to successfully hate on things. I don’t think we can make the internet stop hating. It’s a matter of channeling that hate into useless things. It’s like, yes, youtube comments are garbage. But would we be better off if all those people were busy commenting on other sites instead of arguing with each other on youtube?

              If we say, “You can totally post an angry review without any effort! …but it won’t count for much…but you can make it count!…by jumping through these extra hoops…” The person who super ultra cares about you hearing why Game By A Minority Woman is a violation of the very concept of games will spend thirty hours fulfilling every requirement (and then the other twenty requirements that are just rumor) including paying for the game, to make their one review count, which is thirty hours they can’t harass the developer on twitter. Meanwhile, a whole host of less informed trolls will spam the page with reviews and go away, unaware their review counts for effectively nothing. Sure, they’ll feel good about themselves, which is a bit annoying, but a self-satisfied troll is one not trying to find ways to get around the system. And a lot of people in the middle will go in thinking they’ll do the extra requirements, then get bored partway through and give up.

               

               




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            3. CrazyEd says:
              I can’t possibly imagine someone being so additcted to games on Steam that they couldn’t just put down a game for five hours and do something else.



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