Defusing the video game review bomb

By Sun Jing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/10 15:08:39

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Finally there is the promising prospect of healing the anxiety of video game developers that receive unreasonable criticism at Steam, one of the largest and most influential video game platforms in the world. Apart from introducing new products on a daily basis, this platform features a comprehensive review system for each video game, comprising star and text remarks by those who played the game themselves.  

According to the latest post shared by Valve, the company operating this worldwide PC game community, their scoring system will include extra graphics without changing existing functions or remarks. This means game scores can be checked by date and a user can distinguish so-called review "bombing" from a genuine gaming evaluation.

Bombing refers to the phenomenon where users flock to a game review website and intentionally dump overwhelmingly negative reviews. It has been a hard nut to crack for Steam in recent years, with a new wave initiated by Chinese gamers in April. Targeting NieR: Automata, a new product released by Square Enix, Chinese players continued to post unfavorable scores, expressing dissatisfaction at a lack of Chinese subtitles and its higher price for Chinese customers.      

This is not the first battle between players and game companies. Early in 2015, Valve's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim got panned on Steam over news that the company intended to remove paid mods where players could create their own content. The negative reviews immediately lit the fuse of a petition attracting 132,500 supporters at The same thing happened in June to GTA5, one of the hottest games for foreign hardcore players, over its suspension of Open IV, a popular modding tool.

It is worth mentioning that all the fights ended with victory for the players while the companies obviously were unwilling to infuriate their customers. This echoes an approach to game culture - "negotiated mode" - according to British scholar Stuart Hall.

Superficially, the negative response to Steam from Chinese players was nothing more than the usual bomb, representing negotiation and interaction between game producers and consumers.

However, it uncovered a dilemma for the Chinese video game industry. On the one hand, Chinese indie game designers have gained momentum since 2015, while on the other there is no proper local channel for them to publish their work. For players, the Chinese aesthetic taste of video games has been enhanced, generating a thirst for more creative game products unfortunately nowhere to be found on foreign game platforms like Steam.

Steam, not designed solely for Chinese users, prefers international players as their potential customers, providing English rather than Chinese as their official language. This creates a serious problem: the absence of a more attractive game platform in China and Chinese gamers' heavy dependence on the foreign game community. 

Indienova is a Chinese game website that introduces indie games and provides a perfect option out of the quagmire. It has started a program named Gutenberg aiming to localize foreign games by translation so as to break the limits of languages.

For the Chinese game industry, however, the effort by Indienova is quite limited. Obviously more work should be done on new game launches and more support offered to Chinese indie game designers in the future. In this way we would have a better game ecology without problems like review bombing.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.



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