To be fair, when Steam Reviews were initially announced, my reaction was just “oh, that’s cool.” They were never intended to be a new kind of bastion for gaming reviews, a place critics would flock and stake a claim. The intentions were reasonable and good – to allow for more readily available content about a game – but that has quickly devolved into something useless, in many cases. But, there are some reviews that do give out some good information, so there is still some potential for usefulness.
If you take the time to peruse the “most helpful” reviews of a game, they will look something similar to Dota 2′s. Instead of genuinely helpful information, the top “reviews” are nothing more than jokes that the community that plays the game will understand and laugh at. There is nothing there to help someone who is interested in playing the game and looking for information.
There are plenty more examples than Dota 2, here are a few: Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Watch Dogs, Just Cause 2, and many more. These are more extreme examples, as many of the top “most helpful” reviews have been taken up by one kind of a joke or another about the game. Or full of some one-sentence hatred toward a game.
It is not fair to condemn Steam Reviews as a whole though, however changes do need to happen. While those games listed are some of the worst offenders in their reviews, many other games find the actual worthwhile reviews surrounded by comments that serve nothing more than the community that is already in place for the game – so the exact opposite audience the reviews should be intended for.
In many ways, with the thumbs up function attached to the reviews, they have become basically Reddit, just with a replaced name for the upvotes. I think we can all agree that another Reddit, providing many subreddits in the form of the various review pages is entirely unnecessary.
There are so many other places that these kind of jokes and other useless (for reviews) content can go that the Steam Reviews page should not be one of them. It doesn’t matter that the community has approved many of these “reviews” by giving them their thumbs up. They serve no other purpose than entertainment – not helpful information like the reviews should hold. Steam Reviews should be a place that an interested gamer can come to find out some information about a game that will help their decision to buy it or not.
Obvious “reviews” that serve no purpose to someone interested in the games should be removed. So what if one joke, that has been told a million times before in many cases, has made it into the reviews? Communities on the internet can quickly devolve into nothing more than in-jokes, memes, and other attempts at humor, rather than genuine interesting content. Steam Reviews do not need to be one of those places. In many ways, some of the review pages have already come that – particularly those listed above.
At worst, Valve risks the total devolvement of a review page like those mentioned. At best, they allow reviews to muddy and crowd around other genuine reviews on a page.
This is another in a series of Valve implementing something with good intentions, but not following through with the maintenance. Valve should take a serious look at how the Steam Reviews are being used and adjust them.
Of course, I did say there was hope. There is hope in the fact that the Steam Review pages do actually have some good information in them. Some pages are better than others, of course, and it varies wildly, but with some digging you can always find something useful. Clearing away the mess, to eliminate the digging, will go a long ways to making Steam Reviews something actually valuable.
One issue I noticed was the fact that many of the top reviews for a game are the same in their positive or negative nature. There is a hivemind attitude that is happening. However, that is a wholly different issue and one that is much more difficult to deal with.
For now though, Steam Reviews can be infinitely better if Valve decides to clean up the mess.