Steam Tags… Not So Bad Really…

So the big brouhaha of the week seems to be the tag system introduce by Valve that allows players to tag games listed in Steam with whatever the hell they want.

Queue typical human behavior.  Trolling.  Bad attempts at humor.  Injections of obsessive behavior.

But after reading several posts that pretty much convinced me that the world was going to spontaneously combust due to the absolute horror of this feature and the uses to which it was being put, I actually went and looked at the store pages for all of the games in my library.

And the results were not all that bad.

The key here is that Steam, by default, only shows you a few of the most popular tags… usually 3 to 5 depending on how long they are… and as far as I can see, the most accurate tags are bubbling up to fill that position.  So, for example, SimCity 4 seems to be quite accurate when it comes to tags.


Yes, if you click on the little plus sign, you can see all of the tags people have added.  But even those are mostly accurate.  A couple editorialize… “last good one” is on the list… but I am not sure editorials are off limits or should be.  And all the games in my library look to be about on par.  Do I care that “one more turn” is one of the tags displayed for Civilization V? That is clearly an editorial, but seems totally appropriate to me.

Sure, some games seem to suffer from users being allowed to apply tags.  I wouldn’t be very happy if I was a developer on Call of Duty: Ghost.


But I would probably be even less happy that Steam also displays the Metacritic score.


In a world where big studio titles tend to be rated on a 70-100 scale, getting a 68 is already failing.

And for those who are concerned that these aren’t the tags they are looking for, I would point out that Steam has had genre tags for ages now.


So, if you already have that sort of thing in place, it seems like some editorializing might be appropriate in the user defined tags, which are marked as user defined tags.

Meanwhile, it would appear that Valve went through and cleaned out some of the more egregious and off topic tags that were polluting the system.  Holocaust denial is no longer a thing in user defined tags as far as I can tell.  Prison Architect is no longer tagged with “Not-a-rape Simulator.”

So it appears to me that Valve has decided to devote some resources to policing the tags, which seems reasonable.

I can see how the game studios are still mad about this.  It allows people to say negative things about their games!  Oh no!

Color me somewhat unconcerned on that front.

So worst idea ever?  Not really.  Crowd sourcing from idiots?  On the whole, no.  Whatever Tobold’s point was… as I mentioned above, Valve already had tags… handled… I think.  That Tumblr site devoted to bad Steam tags?  Taken down.  The world? Continues to turn.

Addendum:  And I forgot to mention, if you’re really worked up about a tag, you can report it.

What offends you?

What offends you?

Crowd sourcing goes both ways here it seems.

10 thoughts on “Steam Tags… Not So Bad Really…

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Yeah, there seems to be a trend where people try to focus on a few bad apples and use that to try to tar everyone with the same brush. Tags are not a new concept, and obviously there are going to be some aberrations at the start when there’s not much data. But, eventually the good data will drive the bad if this is going to be a useful tool.

    I don’t agree with the whole, “A few people did something naughty! TEAR IT ALL DOWN!” mindset.


  2. bhagpuss

    The only real problem I saw was with the hate speech stuff. I know you have that “freedom of speech” thing in the U.S.A. but at least a couple of the tags I saw in blog illustrations were probably illegal in the EU. People can be and are prosecuted and even jailed for holocaust denial, for example.

    I don’t know what if any corporate presence Valve has in the EU but if they have any at all I think they might have had a few concerns about the legal ramifications because I seem to remember that several countries over here also have laws making hosting sites potentially responsible for any content they allow to be posted there.

    Perhaps they’d have done better to provide a list of tags themselves and just let people choose from that.


  3. Jenks

    I agree with Brian and it seems obvious to me that this will sort itself out. Let’s use the word ‘idiots’ for the people doing the inappropriate tagging. There are many idiots, and possibly more idiots than non idiots. Right now, all the idiots have Steam accounts and are able to tag games. As they use inappropriate tags, their accounts will be banned from tagging. I would imagine very few idiots will go through the process of creating a new Steam account just to create inappropriate tags. Their numbers will dwindle and it will be very difficult for an inappropriate tag to reach anywhere near the top and displayed on the store page.

    Strap in and enjoy the comedy of tags like “Gone Homo” and “Walking Simulator” now because once the dust settles, they will only be found on the bottom of the tag lists. It all seems so obvious and I’m sure Valve knew this would happen, and knows it will be permanently fixed with only a moderate amount of effort in the short term.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Freedom of speech is always overplayed by the silly here. Basically, it means that the government cannot suppress speech. It in no way ever means that anybody ever has to provide you with a forum to say whatever you want. You don’t get to come into my living room or SOE’s forums or EA’s offices or Valve’s tag interface with an expectation that you have any rights to free speech at our expense. We are fully entitled to ask you to leave.

    As for liability, with YouTube comments and Twitter and Facebook being what they are, if some government agency went after Valve for such tags as were illustrated and which they have actively removed… in a time span of hours… I would be outraged.

    But I also find such laws offensive because they are based on the premise that a certain select group of the intelligentsia must protect the ignorant masses because they are too stupid to figure out the truth for themselves.

    Which I guess gets back to that whole freedom of speech vs. governments thing. So color me American.


  5. Liore

    Introducing an unmoderated system, I wrote, allows for gross racism, etc. and totally useless categorization, and Valve should consider (and in fact has already implemented) more moderation.

    Phrasing that as “the world was going to spontaneously combust due to the absolute horror of this feature and the uses to which it was being put” might make for a good opening paragraph for your post, but I feel it’s a pretty uncharitable interpretation of what I actually said.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Liore – Well, I did not attribute that solely to you. Technically, it isn’t attributed directly to you at all, you have made that inference on your own. Besides which, the line you are referring to starts with a phrase you seem to have omitted… speaking of being charitable… which reads “But after reading several posts…”

    Unless you wrote a couple more posts I missed, I must have been drawing a larger circle than you are allowing. That is directly supported by the end of the post, where I point at several posts.

    The only part you can consider directed specifically at you is the line “Crowd sourcing from idiots? On the whole, no.”


  7. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Liore, one problem is that you’re speaking in absolutes. Look at the example for Sim City 4 in the post above and explain how the tagging system is “totally useless categorization”. The system works, but as I said you’re going to get some aberrations at the start, and trolls will do what trolls do and exploit the weakness out of the gate. And, the BS that the trolls put in there are unlikely to pollute searches on meaningful terms, unless you think people really wanted to search for the tag “Hipster Garbage” to find new games.

    Yes, something should be done about the bigoted tags. But, I’ve noticed a lot of people getting worked up about “walking simulator”. Really? How is that hateful? It seems that some people are just throwing a fit that someone is saying something unflattering about a game they like. You know, kinda like how GTA fans overreact when you point out the ways the game reinforces negative stereotypes. But, perhaps fans of the “walking simulator” types of games would be glad to have a tag to find other games of that same type, since the only common thing they currently have is the generic term “game” they prize for some reason.

    The other problem is that this outcry is giving the trolls exactly what they want: attention. The trolls are relishing every single screenshot that immortalizes their vandalism well beyond what it would have lasted if the system had been allowed to balance out on its own.


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