In a rather unexpected and interesting move, Valve has decided to flex its muscle, now requiring approval from its own moderation team before Steam Workshop items are approved. But don’t freak out yet, it’s only certain games that are affected by this policy shift, so far.
The landscape of Steam has certainly shifted over the years. Valve’s titanic distribution platform has become a goto place for games, social interaction and various tools and mods for those games on the platform. The massive success has no doubt introduced or exposed a number of problems. And since most of these problems concern a lack of moderation, one would think gamers would be happy that Valve was taking an interest in controlling their unruly platform, but that’s not quite what’s going on.
Instead of moderating games on the service and taking out the trash, Valve is opting to police modded content on the Steam Workshop for three of their own titles. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2 will all now have an approval process for modded content. It’s important to note that prolific modders won’t be subject to this policy, so those with an established reputation for uploading valid and quality content will be exempt. This will be measured through the metric of the numbers of votes and subscribers a modder has.
“You’ll be able view and edit the content during this process, but other players will not be able to view changes until they’re approved,” Valve said on a Steam support page.
Submissions to the Workshop will have to go through a two-step moderation process: first, new items must be verified by email to make sure they’re genuine. New submissions will then go into a moderation queue, awaiting Valve approval.
Reasons for this new system are unclear, but it likely has a lot to do with scamming within the secondary market for these games. Cosmetic items for certain titles can fetch a high price, even after the market crashed for a bit, and there were common scams in certain games where people would flood Steam Workshop submissions with poor quality content aimed at either scamming users or selling them something. This was further exacerbated by the propensity these same scammers have for flooding competing content with false downvotes to outrank it.
There’s a ton of games on Steam, too many are bad actors according to most fans and developers. The window for getting your content noticed just keep shrinking, so the amount of time a piece of content spends in limbo before showing up on the public platform matters. So far, Valve has not indicated any plans to extend such a policy to more games on the service. If they did, moderation would likely be left to the developer who posted the game and added Steam Workshop support. This of course assumes that Valve also supplies an assortment of tools to allow that moderation to happen.
If this is a sign of better moderation of games to come, then good on Valve, although I cannot shake the feeling that this isn’t the case.