Earlier this week, Steam unveiled a new feature for their store and allowed users to start adding tags to games. The most popular of these tags would be attached the the game’s store page and it would allow users to filter through games according to tags they were looking for. Some tags were actually useful, indicating what genre the game is or what to expect in terms of gameplay. Others were more fun, like the numerous amount of titles that people sarcastically hit with a “not Half Life 3” tag. Some of the other more popular ones that started getting attention within the first couple days included “Rules of nature” and “nanomachines, son” for Metal Gear Rising and…uh…”choke on it” for Fez. As you might imagine, when “choke on it” is one of the most common tags used for a fairly popular indie title, Steam started to rethink the way they used tags and have implemented a change to the feature.
Now, users will be able to click on a little flag icon near the tags that will allow them to downvote the popularity of the tag. Valve currently lists four reasons that are acceptable to flag a tag, which include spoilers, offensive, not appropriate, or not helpful. By allowing other users to moderate the tags being applied to games, Valve hopes it can curtail some of the more abusive aspects of this feature so people might learn more about games like Fez other than Steam users really, really hate Phil Fish. For now, it seems like a nice way to counteract the initial deluge of unfair tags thrown at some games, but at the same time Valve is now getting close to undermining some of the more useful or fun aspects of the tags in the first place.
You cannot open up tags like this to the people, then start taking them back when people start acting like people. It is absolutely true that some of these tags are abusive, and within hours of the feature being launched Fez’s page was riddled with tags like “diva dev” and “Phil Fish sucks”. Not only are these not entirely relevant to the game, but they aren’t going to help anyone make any informed decision about the quality of Fez. On the other hand, when a game like Gone Home starts accumulating tags like “not a game” and “walking simulator”, these sort of things should be taken a bit more seriously. If a community has come together and, as a whole, decided a game is not very good then it isn’t really abusive to allow them to inform others that the game isn’t worth their time. These might be overly harsh, but if stuff like this is curtailed then you risk undermining the utility of these tags to the community and then these will just serve as another means of promotion for the publishers. Just because a tag isn’t positive doesn’t mean that it is necessarily abusive, and hopefully this system Valve is using will do more than just removing tags that might hurt the developers feelings.