Mob mentality should be a familiar concept for anyone who’s even just dipped their toes in the internet. For movies and videogames especially, anger from communities will sometimes come in the form of review bombing. Whether these angry people have actually experienced the movie or game or not, they’ll drop a negative review, one-star rating, thumbs down or whatever it may be to display their discontent. Valve is trying to fight this trend on their own Steam Reviews.
On a blog post in the Steam community’s page, UI designer Alden Kroll detailed some changes and additions to the review system. Instead of taking the more radical options of removing user scores or having temporary locks on reviews, Valve is instead using the powerful tool of visual aids. That’s right, Valve’s solution to combating internet toxicity is a goddamn histogram. With this graph, users will be able to see a more accurate picture of a game’s critical history, being able to identify anomalies such as review bombing incidents. Kroll elaborates:
“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. This approach has the advantage of never preventing anyone from submitting a review, but does require slightly more effort on the part of potential purchasers.”
Additionally, Kroll adds, this feature will be useful for showing how critical reception to a game changes as the game itself updates and evolves—say for example, how Team Fortress 2 is received now, compared to its original release 10 years ago.
While Kroll doesn’t namedrop any review bombing incidents in particular that necessitated this addition, we do have a couple recent events fresh in our minds. After a post from former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw shared what could have been the story for Half-Life 2: Episode 3, angry Half-Life fans blamed Dota 2, Valve’s most recent game, for the lack of Gordon Freeman in their lives, review-bombing the hell out of the MOBA.
But more than likely is a recent incident involving Firewatch, after Campo Santo co-founder and developer Sean Vanaman took DMCA action against YouTube streamer and N-word-dropping personality Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg on his Firewatch content. Kjellberg did receive a copyright strike after his racial slur controversy (three strikes, and his channel is gone), and fans of PewDiePie took to Steam to fight back against Vanaman’s weaponization of DMCA.
We’re no fans of what Kjellberg has said and done as of late, but he did at least try to push back against the sea of immaturity on Twitter.
The histogram feature for Steam Reviews is showing up on the service as of today. Check out our own non-bombing review of Firewatch here.