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Steam Expands Troll Game Definition, Changes Searching

Earlier this week as part of a blog post update Valve offered some more clarity as to their policy on “troll” games. This comes months after a major policy change which in effect allowed almost any game on their platform. The exception being anything illegal of course, and “straight up trolling.” The trolling part being very vague. Valve made these changes in order to go back to one of their original principles; Valve shouldn’t be deciding who gets to buy or sell what games on their platform. This choice is to be in the hands of the consumers and developers on the Steam platform.

Flash forward to this past week’s blog post and Valve further stated they purposely kept the definition vague because “trolls come in all forms.” Valve went on to add more clarity as to what they define as a troll with “they aren’t actually interested in good faith efforts to make and sell games to you or anyone. When a developer’s motives aren’t that, they’re probably a troll.” So there we have it. While still vague at least there is a bare minimum definition on what Valve is looking for when deciding if a game or developer is trolling on the platform.

Surprisingly, Valve went a step further and offered insight into their process of enforcing these new standards.

Our review of something that may be “a troll game” is a deep assessment that actually begins with the developer. We investigate who this developer is, what they’ve done in the past, their behavior on Steam as a developer, as a customer, their banking information, developers they associate with, and more. All of this is done to answer the question “who are we partnering with and why do they want to sell this game?” We get as much context around the creation and creator of the game and then make an assessment. A trend we’re seeing is that we often ban these people from Steam altogether instead of cherry-picking through their individual game submissions. In the words of someone here in the office: “it really does seem like bad games are made by bad people.”

In addition to combating trolls or bad actors on their platform, Valve has implemented several changes that will affect how games are displayed on the Steam platform. The first of these changes is now users will be able to ignore content from entire publishers instead of just games or product types.

Secondly is Valve increased the number of game tag filters from 3 to 10. All of this was done ” to ensure you can safely ignore swaths of games in the store, but still find them if you look directly via the search tool.” When using the search tool, any ignored content will still show up in the search results, however, it will be blurred out. Hovering over the blurred content will display why it is blurred out.

Finally, Valve is changing how mature content is handled. In the store, players will be able to filter out games “that feature Frequent Violence/Gore or Nudity/Sexual Content.” They are also requiring developers of violent or sexual games to describe the content of their game. Valve believes that context will help aid players in their decision of whether or not to purchase a certain game. Unfortunately, those super annoying age gates are not leaving anytime soon. Because of rating agency rules, Valve wanted to let you that they’re “with you on this.”

This update gives players much more control over the types of games they want to see on the platform. In addition, the expanded definition and insight into trolling on the platform does offer some comfort that Valve is doing something about this particular issue. More specifically “bad people.” In the coming months, it will be interesting to see how Valve will use new data they gather as players ignore certain developers and expand their tag filters list.