Rob Fahey Accuses Steam Of Fostering Toxic Communities Without Evidence
(Last Updated On: June 13, 2016)

I regularly receive updates about some of the latest and most important marketing, industry and sales trends in the gaming industry thanks to reports from GameIndustry.biz. However, one article they’ve recently posted has left me absolutely baffled as to why it would be allowed to be published in its current state.

Writer Rob Fahey accuses Valve of allowing Steam to foster “toxic” communities, and that the prevalence of these communities are driving away potential consumers and developers.

Fahey’s piece would be compelling if it contained at least a shred of evidence, or at least a tangible and easily recognizable example (of which I’m sure there should be a few), but instead it’s little more than a harangue aimed at vilifying Valve for not taking a stronger position against these phantom menaces who make up for this large, nebulous terror group supposedly infecting Steam.

Rob Fahey writes in the GI.biz [backup] piece…

“The problem is this; Steam is almost entirely unmoderated, and Valve makes pretty much zero effort to reign in any behaviour on its platform that isn’t outright illegal. As a consequence, it’s open season for the worst behaviours and tactics of the Internet’s reactionary malcontents – the weapon of choice being brigading, whereby huge numbers of users from one of the Internet’s cesspits are sent to downvote, post terrible reviews or simply fill content pages with bile.”

Fahey doesn’t provide any examples of this brigading, nor does he mention exactly to whom this kind of thing has happened to. Instead he glosses over a generalized list of people that these supposedly heinous acts are carried out against, writing…

“Targets are chosen for daring to include content that doesn’t please the reactionary hordes, or for being made by a developer who once said a vaguely liberal thing on Twitter, or – of course – for being made by a woman, or for whatever other thing simply doesn’t please the trolls on any given day.”

Like the rather mixed reviews a game like Cibele received early on because a lot of gamers felt the actual gameplay was sub-par?

Cibele

Unlike Fahey, I do actually have an example of some of the negative comments made against the game that was designed by Nina Freeman at Star Maid Games. The pros and cons were outlined in a review report for Cibele. However, attacks, “toxic” comments and sewage-dwelling behavior didn’t even make up for a fraction of the comments for a game like that. Scouring through many of the available user reviews did not show signs of brigading or consist of people “attacking” the game as a “reactionary horde” because it was made by a woman. The same applies to the folklore RPG Moon Hunters from Kitfox Games, and the husband and wife duo who made Lilly Looking Through.

If Fahey has some other example(s), he really needs to bring it forward because as someone who actually buys and plays games, as well as regularly produce content centered around user reviews with OAG’s Review Reports (of which we’re nearing close to 100 once the server migration is complete), I haven’t encountered what Fahey is describing. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist… but if you cry wolf, there better be a wolf where you’re screaming and pointing.

Either all the indie, mid-budget and AAA titles we’ve written about in our Review Reports have managed to just not include this “toxic” behavior, or maybe Fahey is indulging in some other corner of Steam where these supposed low-life scoundrels reside.

Nevertheless, Fahey states that Valve has opened up Steam to facilitate vile behavior from communities like Reddit and 4chan, writing…

“Of course, Steam’s not the worst of it in most regards; the places that spawn these brigades in the first place, places like Reddit and 4chan, are far, far worse, and concoct many other malicious ways to hurt and harass their targets. “

Again, Fahey paints a broad brush across these communities, but doesn’t seem to be able to provide examples. If his argument is that some people across the global expanse of the internet can sometimes be really mean and vile… well, welcome to humanity.

However, according to Fahey this is something that Valve should have been fixing over the course of years, writing…

“ I stated earlier on that Steam ended up this way because of bad decision making down the years, and this is what I meant; there has never been a sense that Valve wants to tackle this problem.”

It would have been nice to see a couple of examples of this kind of behavior, because we’ve seen from some of these minority groups that disagreements equate to harassment.

Wade Herring Employment Law Slide

We finally get to the crux of Fahey’s solution to the problem: Valve needs to hire in people to censor customers who say things that certain “minority” groups may not like.

He writes…

“[…] it takes a real, breathing, thinking human to counteract attempts by other humans to be unpleasant to one another, because if there’s one thing our species has demonstrated extraordinary affinity for over the centuries, it’s finding creative ways to skirt around rules in pursuit of being unpleasant to other people.”

And with this, we find out that Fahey wants Valve to likely adopt the same sort of moderators who would censor people from typing terms like “SJWs” or calling journalists lying scumbags. In fact, this very thing happened over on the PSO World forums, Gamespot, the Blade & Soul forums and over on the Anime News Network forums; users are prohibited from talking negatively about feminism, or in some cases even mentioning “Social Justice Warriors”.

Right now, Steam is ripe with a lot of consumers who absolutely hate Social Justice Warriors. There are a number of groups who have sprouted up to warn gamers against titles that have been censored due to SJW meddling or developers kowtowing to the loud regressive minorities on social media, such as Censorship Watch.

Nevertheless, according to Fahey, non-traditional games and titles tackling tough subject matter aren’t frequenting Steam due to all the “toxic” community members, where he writes…

“Anyone making a game that tackles a tough subject, or aims at a non-traditional audience, or who is themselves a member of a minority group; well, they’d probably love to be on Steam, but they’re thinking twice about whether it’s a good move. That’s not conjecture – it’s something I hear almost every week from developers in that position”

So are we going to ignore that games like Sunset covering a civil war outbreak from the lens of a female minority did release on Steam but just didn’t sell well because a lot of gamers weren’t into it?

Are we also going to ignore games like Hotline Miami that also cover “tough subject” matter? How about the whole Post Mortem/Still Life series? Those games cover tough subject matter and star female protagonists… or do we not count those?

There are games like The Beginner’s Guide, Bientôt l’été and The Path; we also have emotional and personal visual novels like Clannad, along with titles like The Rainy Port Keelung, the latter of which dealt with the cultural appropriation that the Taiwanese suffered at the hands of the Chinese following World War II (a topic many SJWs should be familiar with when it comes to gaming).

The Rainy Port Keelung

There’s a list of games currently available on Steam covering “tough subject” matter, so Fahey should really clarify what he means by games that “tackles a tough subject”. Just about any and every game under the sun is nearly allowed on Steam save for games with excessive or gratuitous sex, so the only thing stopping any game from becoming a success is gamers simply not liking the game.

Even still, Fahey argues with anecdotal evidence that some developers he knows have dampened their view of putting their games on Steam due to this “warped” community, writing…

“[…] it’s something I hear almost every week from developers in that position, developers whose starry-eyed view of Steam from only a few years ago has been replaced with absolute trepidation or even outright rejection of the idea of exposing themselves to the storefront’s warped excuse for a “community”.

The majority of excessively negative comments I see in the user review section, and in the discussion threads, usually spawn from a game being a scam, the developer abandoning the project half-way through Early Access, or some other kind of anti-consumer or game-breaking mechanic, such as the people who complained about games like Death Pirate , Zombies On A Plane or The WarZ, the latter of which was covered in expert detail by KnowYourMeme.

There’s also the groups that clutter around poor PC ports, with games like Tales of Symphonia getting lambasted for locked frame-rates and poor performance. Then there are groups like The Framerate Police forming in order to help warn or inform users about games that may either be broken or limited when ported to PC when it comes to frame-rate performance.

Fahey makes no distinction in his report which group of gamers he’s talking about, but we’re left to guess and assume based the lack of evidence provided in his piece.

Even still, if customers being proactive in pro-consumer activism are being labeled as “toxic”, then what sort of denigrating moniker should we apply to lazy journalists who publish fact-free hit-pieces without doing any due diligence while negatively generalizing their own community? I get the feeling that search engines wouldn’t be happy about the term I come up with, but it would likely be far more accurate than calling these individuals “game journalists”.

(Main image courtesy of iRage)


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About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • lieschen müller

    one of the only people who make sense and shows reasoning on that article comments section its that chris Simmons the others are filled with fallacies and poorly presented accusations

  • Erthwjim

    Fahey argues with anecdotal evidence that some developers he knows have
    dampened their view of putting their games on Steam due to this “warped”
    community

    I think some developers avoid putting their games on Steam because there’s a load of shit on steam thanks to the whole greenlight thing and they know their games don’t do enough to be a diamond in the rough, they’re just more shit.

  • Lena N

    I honestly thought this article was a joke when I read the title. I mean anyone who regularly reads reviews and forums on steam has to know how toxic steams community is right? I mean it’s a pretty open thing.

    To my amazement this seems like a serious article and the writer makes good points but he sounds like a fanboy on the whole. At worst one of the toxic people so he doesn’t see anything wrong with steam.

    Mainstream journalism today though is just PR extensions of game companies, the truth was clear when after the GG scandal broke in a united front they immediately turned on thier own readers with “gamers are dead” headlines and moved on to dividing the community with BS so people stop calling gaming journalists on thier garbage.

    • To my amazement this seems like a serious article and the writer makes good points but he sounds like a fanboy on the whole.

      Nothing wrong with being a fanboy, I wear the badge with pride.

      At worst one of the toxic people so he doesn’t see anything wrong with steam

      Dang, that burns.

      However, can I ask a question? What is it that makes people like us “toxic”?

  • The Riddler

    Thanks BillyD for calling out this nonsense article. Fahey is a Gawker scion, and is of course imprisoned in a click-bait cesspool that is dominated by far-left radicals, neolibs, and SJW fascists. Maybe Fahey believes the crap he’s shoveling – who knows – but the fact remains that he slanders Steam, gamers in general, and the industry as a whole using the broadest brushes possible, all of which he claims could be (conveniently) resolved if ONLY Steam would do what Twitter is doing and hire a bunch of SJW’s to censor things he doesn’t like…

    Which makes Fahey’s comment (below) just one more example of the irony-laden hypocrisy that comprises the entirety of the SJW movement from toe to crown…

    “As a consequence, it’s open season for the worst behaviours and tactics of the Internet’s reactionary malcontents – the weapon of choice being brigading, whereby huge numbers of users from one of the internet’s cesspits are sent to downvote, post terrible reviews or simply fill content pages with bile.”

    Apparently Fahey hasn’t bothered looking at what feminists, BLMers, and every other SJW hate-group does on a daily basis whenever they see something they don’t like. He calls Steam “toxic”? Please. If you want to see toxic, then look at what SJWs type when they’re brigading a target.

  • lieschen müller

    i dont get the parto f nepotism is not against law

  • For some reason Disqus lodged this comment in the spam box. I was pretty sure you were already on the whitelist.

    Anyway, I do agree that a lot of it does boil down to culture. The education system here in America is borked. They teach kids to be whiny little pissants instead of strong-willed, smart, intelligent, independent thinking human beings. So those stupid little pissants grow up to be annoying, whiny, screaming, self-victimizing ignorant pieces of s**t.

    I don’t know exactly how Japan avoids producing a bunch of beta males (maybe they do?) but America has an awful problem right now of producing a future generation of worthless SJW betas who will grow up to fulfill the unneeded quota of dastardly trolls.

    • Erud

      “I don’t know exactly how Japan avoids producing a bunch of beta males”

      They do, but on top of that they also teach them to shut up and work.

      • Quiet beta males who shut up and make sandwiches in the kitchen? Well, I’m okay with that.

  • Alistair

    I had to stop reading after the quote down vote & terrible reviews etc etc.

    I knew then he talking bullshit. So let me get this straight he got issue with steam community that uses down vote, terrible reviews if it’s not sexy images getting them in a dizz it now this.

    Go figure.

  • Mike Antley

    Just made the mistake of reading Grayson. So it’s OK to charge people early access money for a bad game…but it’s wrong to complain about it?

  • Mr.Towel

    Leftist journalist has issues with Lady Liberty. News at Eleven.

    Jk, jk…

    It’s amazing how these people don’t realize how contradictory, hypocrite and just outright insane their proposals are. I wonder how they would react if some birther went around on Kotaku’s comment sections pointing finger to Gawker’s Community for vilifying his minority there.

    Valve has notoriously positioned itself as a very libertarian company, not just on the political commentaries their users might express but frigging anything. From greenlight games to mods to any kind of content, official or not, that runs in their ecosystem.

    When journalists were Jackthompsonning over the video game “Hatred”, which result in a mass hysteria inside their own circlejerks which got the game pulled from the store, it was holy lord Gabe himself, praised be his name, that got the game on the store again, smiting the Jack Thompson’s Infidels on the head with his Liberty Hammer.

    It’s very clear to me that these people don’t even bother to get up-to-date with Valve’s historical instances, much less understand how it fucking works.

    Communities are free to run whichever way they want. If the largest PC gaming community has turned their backs against the likes of Rob Fahey, Rob Fahey and their peers are the only ones to blame. They started this toxic finger pointing first, it’s their turn to deal with it.

    http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/ac/acdc1c11fb2aacc8f90e45dbe9d7dccc4f3a87e9ce323ee4ef1f007290742f37.jpg

  • Mike Antley

    Jesus, that was the dumbest thing I ever read.

    UNTIL I read the COMMENTS to that column. Jesus. This safe space nonsense needs to stop.

    • There was only one comment (from last I read) that wasn’t knee-deep in the Kool-Aid. It basically sounds like a small cult wanting to take control of a platform they have no control over, so typically they say that the community is this barbaric group of heathens that need to be culturally tamed and cleansed of their old ways so that they become pure in the eyes of the ministry of SocJus.

      • hurin

        The comments are unbelievable. They don’t wan’t Gamers opinions, but they sure have no trouble accepting our money.

  • durka durka

    “allowing Steam to foster “toxic” communities, and that the prevalence of these communities are driving away potential consumers and developers.”

    “potential” aka unproved hypothetical market.

    How about those people exist and THEN we talk and what if those “toxic” communities give valve more money? What then?

    • Fahey would have done himself favors to provide a few numbers. But I notice that facts are something that these groups are allergic to.

      • durka durka

        I got a great idea about a game but if no one is showing interest and buying similar games how will this game will be made if no one is paying attention to it and keeps buying “toxic” cod, creeds and bfs? It will be stupid to throw it all away for a audience that does not exist. gamers are dead and dont have to be your audience anyone?

  • Dindu Nuffin

    I trust steam reviews a DAMN sight more than gaming websites.

    Why? For the simple fact that, no matter how hard steam reviews are shilled or brigaded, many people can review. 10, or even 100 shilled reviews get swallowed by the aggregation. Your fake/misleading/nepotist review doesn’t matter against the weight of the rest. The power is with people.

    No wonder these cultural gatekeepers desperately want to lock the doors. They’re losing power and influence.

    • Mr.Towel

      Damn right. Actually, I wished journalists started to clocking their own hours on a game they reviewed, that feature is god sent on steam reviews.

  • No mention of ‘GamerGate’ in this bigot’s entire article? He held himself back well.

    “As a consequence, it’s open season for the worst behaviours and tactics of the Internet’s reactionary malcontents – the weapon of choice being brigading, whereby huge numbers of users from one of the Internet’s
    cesspits are sent to downvote, post terrible reviews or simply fill
    content pages with bile.”

    Does Rob realize that he’s describing SJWs and feminists there? You know, the behaviour of SJW minorities?

    ““Targets are chosen for daring to include content that doesn’t please the reactionary hordes, or for being made by a developer who once said a vaguely liberal thing on Twitter, or – of course – for being made by a
    woman”

    “for being made by a woman”

    There we go. He couldn’t help himself could he? Then again I guess it was always only a matter of time before the Misogyny Card was brought up.

    • Mr.Towel

      Reductio ad Hitlerum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum
      was a great master card by the mainstream left. Here in our own modern game industry we have DLC variants of it, like Reductio ad Misoginia, Reductio ad Raptorem, Reductio ad Homophobia and the likes of it.

      • Dindu Nuffin

        I like these. Stealing them for later use.

  • Grey

    I wonder who it is he knows with a Women’s Study degree or Diversity Management Training that desperately needs a job.

  • Ryan Smith

    I’ll accept that conservatives, libertarians, and other undesirable ‘regressives’ go to the Steam reviews and forums to complain when a game rubs them the wrong way. Of course, the reason they do this is that when a game rubs a *progressive* the wrong way (say, because it shows cleavage or has too many white people), progressives can count on any number of professional games journalism outlets to carry their torch for them and attack the game. Non-SJWs don’t have an official voice, so they speak up where they can.

    Maybe if “The Witcher 3 is racist” type stories didn’t define game journalism these days, people with other perspectives wouldn’t feel so desperate to speak up.

    • C G Saturation

      You know game journalism is a joke when the headlines are always stuff like “The Witcher 3 is racist” instead of stuff like “The Witcher 3’s human protagonist steers like a truck”. Priorities, people.

      I mean, how many (sick) people go to game news media sites to get their latest fix on societal progression? And not games? Someone’s going to say, “you’d be surprised”, but I probably wouldn’t be.

      • Mr.Towel

        Mainstream game journalism today is just one big crowd-sourced effort to count how many “sexist”/”misogynist”/”homophobe” characters there is in a game.

        1 is too many.

  • scemar

    Oh yeah valve is so unmoderated.

    That is why it has such a great sales.

    That is why it has so many customers, and not just numbers, but they are some of the happiest customers around.

  • Hawk Hopper

    “There is a very real army of boogeymen destroying the world we live in, but I must without all evidence of them doing so.”

    • scemar

      They’re not wrong.

      They just have the target wrong.

      SJW are the monsters they describe, they’re exactly all the worst things they describe.

  • Celerity

    Oh, I have a pretty good idea what narrative they’re on about this time. Nathan Grayson explains it a few hours later.

    http://archive.is/utYpI

    Don’t be surprised if more of the usual suspects mirror post. This is all part of a predictable move

    https://twitter.com/DarkestDungeon/status/728664345207517184

    Bonus points for Virtue Signaling as your own country is literally on fire, and using that as another promotion opportunity.

    Nevermind they’re all wrong and retarded anyways, as barring extreme cases (such as the one they’re bitching about) people unhappy with a game will generally leave, whereas those happy with it might stay, with the result that waves of negative feedback have less impact if those reviews stick for one month (like an Early Access game) instead of six as released games did previously.

    It’s just the usual defend walking sims/defend corrupt devs/only bought out media matters bullshit. Also, all criticism is misogyny, even if not directed at a woman.

    • durka durka

      no the virtue signaling happens because all of those radical leftists are cult, they know each other, they got little cliques and echochamber communitcate their ideas to each other all the time.

      • Celerity

        There’s no contradiction here. This is just one more part of their corrupt circle.

  • anopolis

    Journalists nowadays….they suck don’t they? Well, some a lot more than others. Good job Billy d, I loved you in batman btw.

  • Sand Ripper

    Try making a negative comment in the Steam forum for Depression Quest and see how quickly you get banned, Rob.

    • I don’t doubt it. Some games have extremely strict moderation to the point where any kind of criticism is seen as “harassment”, with bans and blocks being applied. Other times the forum discussions are like the wild west. However, I haven’t actually seen this targeted, mob-mentality ruling over Steam like some S&M-clad wastelanders from Mad Max.

      http://i.imgur.com/h2QX6LD.jpg

      • hurin

        Heavy handed moderation policies when Baldurs Gate: Siege of Dragonspear came out, just made people even more pissed of.

        • Now that… I’ve seen a lot of that.

          People bring up legitimate grievances and get censored to the high hills. Of course they’re gonna be pissed. Usually that’s how I find out about devs diving deep into the pool of dirty deeds. People air legit grievances, they get censored, they get pissed, they run for help to any group that will listen (usually #GG at this point).

          • hurin

            I have come to believe it is a personalty flaw. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have never seen an Eastern European studio do this, it is always some hypersensitive SJW type, who should never have been hired in the first place, crying about harassment.

            GG has become THE gaming watchdog. And if these idiots had not been so busy equating criticism with harassment, they might have gotten a more agreeable watchdog.

            They made their bed, now they get to lie in it.

          • I have never seen an Eastern European studio do this, it is always some hypersensitive SJW type, who should never have been hired in the first place, crying about harassment.

            Hmm… come to think of it, I don’t recall any studios from that region partaking in the “muh soggy knees” narrative.

          • KefkaFollower

            Plenty of the people at Eastern European studios had born behind the iron curtain. They knew a tougher life.

            Is to be expected they are less sensible to nonsense and whining.

          • A couple of them who did grow up in those conditions dealing with death squads and legitimate fascism mentioned that what’s happening in the U.S., and other first world countries is nonsense, so you’re definitely right about that. In fact, Daniel Vavra has been one of the few outspoken devs to call them out on their SJW BS since he did grow up in a real oppressive state.

          • durka durka

            northen europe and australia/canada really. South and eastern europe never act like that.

          • Rides just started.