Is Steam Discovery Capable of Changing Journalism?
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With their latest update, Steam unveiled a new curator system to help customers wade through over 3,700  games worth of content, almost half of which have arrived in the last nine months . The effects of the update are many fold.

Steam’s library is growing rapidly and it’s clear that a system needs to be put into place so that users can discover games they like without hours of browsing.

The  new curator system will alleviate concerns users have regarding very forgiving Greenlight platform. Greenlight is another curation system of sorts open to all users. The idea was that developers could submit their games to the platform and if enough Steam users voted for the title, then the game would appear in Steam’s Digital Storefront. A lot of games got through, though, and users started to complain about the sudden influx of games, most of which they considered shovelware. One such title was the text based, narrative game, Depression Quest.

 

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The game received mixed reviews and angered some as it didn’t meet their definition of what qualifies as a game. Despite the game’s free price point, some users resented that it was even present to clog up the store. With the new curator system, damage from a flooded market is further mitigated.

Integrity in game’s journalism has also been a hot button topic lately, and the Steam Curator update could manage to alleviate some of these concerns as well. It’s hard to say for sure, but the system could even have far reaching effects on the field of game’s journalism. For one, it offers a sort of reward system for a writer keeping their integrity intact.

With the ability to follow specific curators, the publications writers work for become less important to the reader than the writers themselves. This is because their reviews and personal taste are accessible through Steam as opposed to the domain of the publisher. Sure, the reviews will still be hosted elsewhere, but the idea that a writer can grow a following in an easily accessed, streamlined system that focuses on just games, as opposed to Twitter which can get cluttered, might remind writers where their loyalty should lie: with the readers. Writers displaying bad practices will also see a direct response from their followers when they mess up.

The system curates more than just games, too. It isn’t a stretch to claim that while curators curate games for Steam Users, Steam Users will also curate curators for other steam users. There are even sites being built with this aspect of the update in mind. This idea could be an important one, as almost anyone can become a curator— all it takes is a moderator position within a Steam Community Group and to have recommended at least 10 titles on their profile. 

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Valve recommends finding curators who share your personal taste in games. This means actively reading writers, and not necessarily their publications. And since everyone has unique taste, some of which are niche, writers should be honest. Now that they’re able to market their taste more successfully, they may discover some untapped markets through their honesty. That is, of course, if their publications allow them to take a chance on a niche audience. Bloggers and YouTubers stand to benefit even more from the service, having no middle man to work around in reaching their audience.

It’s very early to say for sure, but reception of the service seems to be mostly positive. While paid promotions are certainly something to look out for, the landscape is changing and Valve is looking for feedback towards perfecting the system. Ideally, the system will evolve and put a lot of power into the hands of the consumer.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 09/26/2014

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