clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Valve changed how Steam search works, furthering its new anything-goes model

Games that are ‘illegal or straight up trolling’ can still be banned

Steam logo on blue background Valve via Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Valve is making changes to how search works on Steam. The changes come several months after the announcement of a new policy that will allow virtually anything to appear on the storefront, regardless of content, so long as it’s not “illegal or straight up trolling.” In the blog post, Valve also added clarity to what it considers to be trolling.

The changes to Steam, many of which are live now, focus on giving users the ability to tailor what games are displayed for them. For instance, you will now be able to indicate specific developers, publishers and curators who will be excluded from your search results. Valve said that customers will also be able to use tags to create a barrier between themselves and the type of content they don’t want to see.

“We’ve now increased the number of tags you can list to 10, and made them into a harder filter,” Valve said. “In short, the Store now assumes you want to ignore all the games that feature any of those tags in their most popular tags, instead of just using them as suggestions to our recommendation engine.”

To that end, Valve has also added two new filters called Mature Content and Adults Only.

“We often see developers who tell us their game contains mature content, but not sex or violence,” Valve said. “You can now filter those games out if you wish. The second is an Adults Only filter, which allows you to filter out games that feature explicit sexual content.”

Valve is also requiring that developers with violence or sexual content in their games describe that content, something which has long been part of the process outlined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or ESRB, to apply ratings to games.

“We think the context of how content is presented is important and giving a developer a place to describe and explain what’s in their game gives you even more information when browsing and considering a purchase,” Valve said.

Finally, with regard to games that are seen as “trolling,” Valve finally opened up about how these new standards will be enforced.

You’re a denizen of the internet so you know that trolls come in all forms. [...] The thing these folks have in common is that 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.

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.”

While many welcomed Valve’s decision to open up its platform, others see it as an abdication of responsibility.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.