Steam

Ratings: Judgment of usefulness vs. signaling of personal approval

Cynical reminder: Remember: Review ratings are not a usefulness indicator, but a popularity contest.

Occasionally I am being reminded of the frequent misuse (deliberate confusion) of usefulness votes for reviews as approval votes. While negative reviews can garner lots of approval, they won’t if what you say hurts the egoes of fanboys. They have an unhealthy attachment to the product or service in question (let’s just talk computer games here, since this is inspired by Steam), and that means there is a dependency that they themselves, deep within, are not happy about. This is usually the fact that they are willing to tolerate lots of crap, to accept not being respected. This of course is something they really don’t like to admit, so when you criticize a lack of respect from a game design or game business, you will unpleasantly remind the fanboys of their weakness and unhappiness, of their state of denial. It’s not intended, but that’s the effect it will have, and that’s why some justified and elaborate reviews might still get loads of downvotes. Usually without comment, in the case of actually somewhat smarter (and/or more fearful) fanboys who understand that any communication could give away what they are trying to hide. This at least helps with self-awareness. The ones that add a stupid comment to the downvote, fully revealing their motivations, are actually the fools. There’s relatively little hope for them, although this state still provides its own opportunities for eventual enlightenment. The path towards the light might lead through the deepest dorkness.

Among all the possible combinations of up- or downvote and no or stupid or elaborate comments that you agree or disagree with, the most valuable is the elaborate negative critique that you agree with, since it provides an important external viewpoint that makes you see what you couldn’t see on your own and helps you to improve your perceptions and judgments.

Stupid negative critique is still more useful to you than downvotes without comment, since that makes it easy to identify it as useless. So to all critics: Feel free to speak your mind. I’d like to get to know you and understand your reasoning. 😉
Stupid positive critique has its use, too, since it helps to identify baseless praise, which could become a big problem for you, and you should be able to imagine why.

Additional thought: Cases of downrated reviews about technical issues with a game could also be triggering pure egotism of the likes of ‘It worked fine on my system; you’re stupid.’

Thoughts on Valve’s commercialization of modding

Recently, Valve decided to introduce a payment system for game-modifications that are available in their “Steam Workshop”. Here are my thoughts about the situation:

Modding is something based on the spirit of free sharing, labor of love in a way. It is built up by various people, embracing that spirit, but also by Valve with their Steam Workshop – supposedly in the same spirit.

But then suddenly money comes into play, and this creates an incompatibility. Especially since it is an attempt to build the commercial aspect on top of something that wasn’t designed that way.

More generally speaking, money is a great corrupting influence, and the outrage generated by Valve’s move is rooted in material, philosophical and spiritual grievances. Money as motivation in the mind impairs objective reasoning, and especially with growing economic pressures.

The emerging business trends we see in the world are not an improvement, but an attempt at dealing with growing problems without solving the core problem. Progress for humankind means being able to get more stuff done without monetary structures, because money is inherently a tool of distrust, social distance, a scarcity-ruled mindset. The root of all that is fear. What we see here is more of the old paradigm, masking itself as progressive in order to fit a corporate identity.

Compare that to the courage of CDProjekt Red / GOG.com and their decision to sell their upcoming game “The Witcher 3” DRM-free.
Now I’m not using this as a shining example for all eternity, since this is how great ideas usually start, and there are also factors involved that take away certain fears, but it still a bold move, and whenever such ideas eventually become corrupted, someone new has to step in and build something that fits the current spirit of the time. Trying to change the old fear-built structures is usually a futile endeavor, since people running them have made their choices and lack incentive to change; and even if there is incentive, they will merely adapt, without change of mind.

Thus the conundrum: Trying to create a movement for social progress and then wanting to make it big by involving big money. This is why so many things start pure in spirit, but if successful tend to corrupt.

As for the game “Skyrim”, the prime name involved in this affair: Especially the original interface put me off a lot (typical for-console design) as well as various bugs. Reliance on modding often is not a gesture of appreciation, but a strategy to outsource less-than-critical product features as well as a publicity move for improving product presence. This might eventually result in game dev business becoming almost purely management, with the development done by monetized contributors, which destroys the spirit of an artistic-creative process even more than is already happening especially in non-indie game development. Those who make the decisions have an impact on the product, and if the decision-makers have no emotional connection with the character of that product, then that will show in the product.

Then again … ‘Corrupted minds’ can be found all through society. Some of the outrage is certainly fueled by the very same mentality, people just resenting the idea of having to pay for something that they used to get for free.
Which mindset, which intention is driving someone should be examined for every individual case.

Steam reviews’ “funny” tag: another corporupt approach

Just yesterday I thought of making a humorous remark as a review for a game, since I’m an entertainer at heart. At that point I also (again) had the thought that it might make sense to have more rating buttons than just for “Was this review helpful?”, because people tend to confuse whether it’s of use to them or whether they can confirm it’s an accurate review.

And then, today, I noticed that there is now a “Funny” button under reviews.

They are taking all the fun out of fun by trying to cram it into a system.
As someone on Reddit pointed out so well: “It’s not going to be funny if you know it’s going to be funny.” Another one pointed out that now people will try to be funny because of the systematization of it, because it’s being rewarded, which is as corrupted as people faking emotions on Youtube videos in order to get more advertising revenue. It takes the spirit out of it.

–> Corporuption

The whole point was that joke reviews and such are an occasional spontaneous phenomenon outside of the norm, fueled by passion, not cold calculating strategy. Only grumpies will take issue with this little bit of chaos in our order-sickened world, and even if your review got tons of negative ratings from said grumpies because it was for the LOLs, you could find comfort in the passion that made you do it.

And now they’ve built a ghetto for comedians.

Especially after my recent World of Warcraft 10 day trial and realization that this kind of control-freak corporate mindset (which is shared by many equally-minded users) has continued to spread there, I am so sick of this crap!

For reasons that even with these words can not be accurately shed light on, I am now even less motivated to write Steam game reviews than I already was.

This might make people resort to less funny/entertaining acts of chaos again.

The nature of the word “cloud” in computing

The name “Steam Cloud” is bullshit. It’s a perverse derivative of the term “cloud computing”, which is about sharing of computing resources among participants of a network, like a utility company would provide electricity, and sharing them more like services than products. (You can read up more details on Wikipedia if you feel the need.) The so-called Steam Cloud though is in fact the opposite – centralistic. It saves game config data, screenshots and stuff like that on Valve’s servers. That’s nothing but another age-old server side storage (or online storage as it might be more commonly referred to in layman’s terms). Attaching the name “cloud” to those totally not new server-side storage solutions became popular after the term “cloud computing” became popularly known.
If at least your Steam settings were ONLY stored on Valve servers and accessed live any time the Steam client needs them, that would be a bit more like the idea of cloud computing, but the online storage is just an alternative storage and you still have everything locally (which is actually wise).

If the misuse of this term keeps happening, then we could just as well call WordPress a blogging cloud, because, you know, you write stuff in your browser and then it’s published on their server space. In that sense, the word would become totally meaningless. The term itself is kinda metaphorical and probably as mushy as a cloud itself, but it still makes no sense to suddenly attach the word “cloud” to stuff as if it was something new.

There are examples of things that actually fit the cloud computing idea better, to various degrees, but those things existed way before the cloud-label was attached to them, and it worked fine without it. Again, this is just useless language ballast, meant to evoke a certain feeling of novelty about it, trying to entice people to use those services. Because… the sheeple consumer wouldn’t get excited about “activating server-side storage”, but now they can “join the cloud”.

It’s just ‘hipster marketing’, if you will.