If Steam Starts Curating Games, Then What's The Point Of Game Reviewers?

Now I know there are some people who will instantly drop to the comment section to decry the title, make excuses and go on and about the necessity of the current setup of the video game market, but I do at least implore you to watch the video first before making any snap judgments.

John Bain, a.k.a., TotalBiscuit, brings up some interesting points about “fixing” or “cleaning” up the Steam store. It needs an overhaul, he says. It needs better, cleaner navigation, he says. I sort of agree.

One of the the key points brought up in the video, however, is about content curation: what deserves and does not deserve to be on the Steam store? Well, this is where things get a little less clear and a lot less friendly.

TotalBiscuit's suggestions about adding better clarity and navigation to new releases – or old games being promoted as new releases – is admirable, but somewhat misguided.

In the video above, he uses Summoner as an example of what he feels could be a good game being promoted in a proper way on Steam. He also uses Desert Gunner – a game that was recently released on Steam but was originally brought to the market in 2006 – as an example of a game that didn't deserve to be on the front page. Well, who's to say what deserves to be where?

I haven't played Summoner and I don't know if it does deserve to be on Steam's front page. I also haven't played Desert Gunner, so I don't know if it deserves to be on Steam's front page, either.

Here's where the suggestion of filters get hazy: who determines and how, what deserves to be filtered? Riptide GP2 isn't necessarily new, it's been out on other devices for a while. I love the game, though. I wouldn't have bought it if I didn't see it on the front page. I almost purchased IHF Handball Challenge 12... whether it's good or not isn't the point, but I did want to play it. I considered adding it to my wishlist, as I may pick it up later. I easily could have missed it with a filter being on.

Now, adding a filter could be nice, but again, how do you determine what games should be filtered? Not every gamer has the same tastes in games. Even more than that, not every gamer knows about some of these older titles being re-released for the first time on Steam. While a filter may be great for games I may not care about, like Science Girls, BoneTown or Strategic War in Europe, I'm willing to bet that there are more than a handful of gamers out there who do like those games. A filter for everybody is not necessarily a good filter for everybody.

But that's only part of the problem. That game I just mentioned, BoneTown, has been the result of a lot of uproarious fury in the gaming community about the “failure” of Steam's Greenlight and the process of filtering “bad games”. In addition to curating games through optional filters, TotalBiscuit and some other gamers are egging Valve on to start curating what appears in the Steam store, such as laughably bad titles like Desert Gunner [Editor's Note: This is not a point explicitly discussed in the video on the first page, but the video created the result of a lot of adjacent discussion from the community about the need for more strict curation].

Here's the thing: If Steam starts gauging what gamers deserve or don't deserve to play based on their own methods of curation and quality (something that existed before they put Greenlight into place), then what's the point of the gaming industry having a middleman known as game reviewers?

It's a little like Netflix opting to not supply Steven Seagal movies because they're beyond terrible and they want to avoid people from having to suffer through his movies (even though some of us still secretly enjoy his movies).

I don't know, I could be off my rocker but I always imagined that the purpose of a game reviewer was to curate the good from the bad and roll out a score so people would know what's good and what's bad. I always imagined that the point of some of these dedicated sites was to provide users with valuable information on just about every game out there so that they would know what to buy and what to avoid based on a standard measure of quality. Is that not their purpose? Are they not tasked with providing this service to consumers?

Pray tell, what then is the point of Valve having an established collaboration with Gamer Network's affiliate sites, Future, Gamefly and Gawker if the purpose doesn't include games being thoroughly detailed with said information to help the community at large make an informed purchase? That is the point of a game reviewer, no?

Unsurprisingly enough, Valve has gone and opted for their own embedded user reviews for every game on the store page to help gamers make those informed purchases. The closest gamers get to warnings and praises from the “professional” game reviewer happens to be confined to snippets of quotes on the description page and a small Metacritic score on the side of the game listing (sometimes).

It puts into question the whole point of an affiliation with massive gaming networks and the point of professional game review scores (or the review process) when the distribution platform still has to go through the process of reviewing and selectively green-lighting releases for the customer. More than anything, maybe it's more a sign of the uselessness of PC game reviews when the community seems intent on ignoring them in the first place.

The argument of Steam cleaning up the navigation of their storefront is fine. The argument of Steam curating games for gamers (some of which people may or may not agree with) seems like the community taking that final step to say that they don't need or want the game reviewer anymore, especially when the community is begging the distributor to tell them whether or not a game is worth purchasing.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.