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Steam Introduces Review Histograms To Combat Review Bombing

by Imran Khan on Sep 20, 2017 at 05:49 PM

Steam user reviews were meant to be handy little scores designed to tell you at a glance whether a game is good by popular consensus. It has since become the domain of meme jokes (thousand hour counts with "This game is okay" as the only text) and extrapersonal conflicts with a game's developer. Valve has introduced review histograms as part of their attempt to combat this.

While not explicitly because of a recent incident with Firewatch developer Campo Santo, the timing lends itself to using that as an example. When Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie used a racial slur, in the heat of the moment by his recollection, co-founder of Campo Santo Sean Vanman issued a takedown notice for PewDiePie's Firewatch videos. Whether they were fans of PewDiePie, defenders of his language, or people who were not happy about the targeted use of copyright claim, many people showed their dislike of the move by going to Steam and bombarding the title with bad reviews. This is colloquially known as review bombing.

Under the newly introduced histogram, in theory, people can see when the bad reviews originated and investigate why. If someone were to check why a rash of bad reviews suddenly appeared for Firewatch on September 10, they would likely find it correlated to the PewDiePie incident. It could also be used to correspond to a patch that breaks the game, or perhaps a bad piece of DLC. The idea is that Steam is giving the data to the user to do with what they will.

For the record, PewDiePie has called the Firewatch review bombing wrong and stated that he does not condone them.

It remains to be seen how well the histogram process will work to right the scores of games or prevent review bombing, but it does add an extra layer of data to help make the decision. The question then is whether or not people browsing Steam games are willing to go through that extra step.