Published: Wed, September 20, 2017
Electronics | By Jesus Weaver

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

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

If you're a knowledgeable Steam user, it's not hard to figure out when a game is being review bombed.

"Many of these out-of-game issues aren't very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself", said Kroll.

"When we look at what happens with the review score after a review bomb, we see that it generally recovers, in some cases fully back to where it was beforehand", Kroll wrote.

These so-called "review bombs" have become common over the last few months.

For instance, here's a graph for one of Steam's most popular games, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Adding in the ability to see a game's overall score as well as its average review score in the past two weeks was great as it was able to make potential buyers aware of any negative changes or updates to a game that previously would have been well received. In response, they seem to have created a genuinely good solution that neither discounts review bombers intentions nor misinforms the uninformed user. Amazon, for example, recently deleted hundreds of fake reviews for Hillary Clinton's new book. Based on the theory that review bombs are temporary distortions, we could prevent reviews for short periods of time whenever we detect massive distortions in submissions. This led Valve to call review bombs' effect on a game's rating a "temporary distortion" whose effects are really felt only while the review bomb is ongoing. Or should they be able to post them, but we ignore them for the goal of calculating the Review Score?

The other side to this is that it conveniently ignores what developers and players have been asking for: a human-staffed moderation and review team.

I will not mention all of them, but late events showed us that the Steam user reviews can easily be misused by a handful of angry adolescents... In the end, we decided not to change the ways that players can review games, and instead focused on how potential purchasers can explore the review data.

This approach hits two birds with one stone: it lets users see a visual history of user reviews, helping them make more informed decisions, but it doesn't prevent any user from submitting a review.

Valve has implemented a new graph system to help combat the problem of review bombing, which although indicative of player opinions of a game and possibly its developer too, isn't always a reflection of how much fun a person may have from playing a game. It happens to movies, video games and even books.

Beyond Steam's new histogram, the Firewatch incident, and PewDiePie's controversial usage of a racial slur, this whole ecosystem of fans going after someone or something they don't agree with or find unpleasant is one of the biggest problems of modern criticism. In the pool of players who are interested in a game, the ones who are more confident that they'll like the game will buy it first, so as time goes on the potential purchasers left are less and less certain that they'll like the game. That should give you some idea of when review bombs occurred and whether that's indicative of an overall negative trend, or if it was a temporary hiccup caused by something that isn't necessarily to do with how much fun you might have playing a particular game.

Hopefully this post has been useful. In the meantime, we'll keep a close eye on the community conversation around reviews.

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