The Industrial Steamworks
And the tyranny of Valve
After four years of bullshit:
I happened to be reading a book from Seth Godin, better known as God, who has pretty much skullfucked me in so many ways that to describe the impact he has on my life would be like describing the impact he made on his industry. If ever there was a New Philosopher (separate from the French New Philosophers, instead referring to people who have spread once-in-a-lifetime ideas after the death of philosophy in the year 19XX), he is it. He probably won't be in the Great Books of the Western World (refusing to swallow pisses off your masters), but he's in the Great Books of Fuck You I Like Him.
Unfortunately I have killed Mr. God, as his decades of experience, twenty-two published books, and a shout-out on the prestigious Froghand blog (I prefer to swallow myself) has been completely upended by less than one page in his book The Icarus Deception, which was about to be the best thing he had ever written but has sequently keeled over and died of a cancerous growth in its brain which has forever deemed it mentally retarded. It's Terminal 7, God! It's cancerous!
The page happened to be praising Valve, which is a games company, hahaha that's a real funny joke. Okay let's cut the bullshit and stop putting the jizz before the mouth. Valve is a company which has devoted the entirety of its existence to the success of a few good games released in the 1990's, having then used the buckets of money they have earned to systemically put in place the most restrictive and freedom-killing storefront that the video games industry has ever seen, using the brand recognition of their sequels (they haven't made an original game in over eight years) to play their audience like a fiddle with the expectations that Valve will eventually deliver on the promise that they'll close a story that they started literally twenty years ago in a franchise they last updated in 2007, even though they have zero incentive to because they are multi-billionaires who make all their riches off the backs of other developers (and who won't publish their net worth, which I'm willing to bet is from the Apple School of Tax Dodges), disrespecting the legitimate art that they do by shoving them into a storefront that does nothing to nurture the growth of anything other than immature banter, and using the few games they have made to capitalise on the same psychological reflexes that casinos, tobacco companies, and cults have used for generations in order to maximise their profit at the cost of their tens of millions of users.
So basically I'm saying that Valve is like the USA after World War II. Now seeing as I've torn you apart a new asshole with these words, you're going to want some proof of that, aren't you? Well, yes, I will provide proof, not just of what I've said, but what I will further accuse down the line. To say some shit and then go back to that shit and provide evidence for each and every line would be nice, but indeed, that is boring. Not so much for a counter-argument, but for the main course, it is as unappetising as a month-old "banana" covered in "whipped cream", as the prosecution so kindly put it to my victims.
Today we're going to look at all the sins that Valve has spread onto the world, and if you defend them, you're probably a horrible person. Valve isn't your friend, mate - they're a company with more money that you'll ever have in your life with a bigger audience than all the people you'll ever meet in your life. They don't need your defence, and are indeed relying on it so they can further their cult image so big spenders can waste thousand of dollars on virtual goods they will never use, just like McDonalds relied on misinformation so that they could con money out of obese people for decades regardless of the health costs, until Morgan Spurlock caused the world to hate them. Maybe if you would stop sucking their banana-shaped hats, you'd see the full extent of what you are saying when you say fuck you to David and let Goliath do whatever they want.
Valve isn't a games company
Slow the fuck down Quincy. What's next? The sky isn't blue?
Don't let the history fool you - Valve isn't a games company by any means. They don't make video games - they made video games, a few ones, ones that a few people might tell you are decent. They made video games that were innovative for their time but have petered out and are considered passe by today's standards. They made culture bombs that stopped being relevant the instant they turned into parodies of themselves. To your credit, you can suggest that some time ago years in the past, Valve made games. But don't ever get the idea that making games is a part of Valve's business strategy, as suggesting that Valve is a games company because they made some games is suggesting that McDonalds is a health food company because they made salads.
Valve hasn't made a single-player game in over five years, when they released Portal 2 - a sequel to a two-hour demo that was so instantly recognisable that any sort of sequel, even lip service, would have been a best-seller on its release. The last original single-player game would be Half-life 2 - almost twelve years ago. The last video game they made period, and not a demo, would be DOTA 2, another sequel where they piggyback off of the ideas of other people, because Valve doesn't have original ideas and have to ride off others. The idea that a company relies on outsourcing for the entirety of their business model is the same repulsive idea that has carried us through the Industrial Age, and thank all Chaos in the world that it's over.
Why do I bring up this distinction? Because competitive multiplayer games are only a part of the entire video game spectrum - a recent addition to a wide and varied history of traditionally single-player experiences. Multiplayer games are huge right now, but when you think of games that actually mattered and changed the world, you very rarely think of games that are multiplayer only. A company that only makes multiplayer games is no more of a games company than a film company that only makes comedy movies. They're still games, and they're still movies, and having a niche is good for business in this day in age, but to imply that Valve is a company that actually cares about video games beyond what's good for business is a flat-out lie, the same way that Adam Sandler doesn't care about movies beyond what makes him money.
Nintendo is a games company, despite their shitty business practices and disrespect for their fans, because they at least respect games enough to be able to produce enough of them to have an actual impact on the world. When you think video games, you think Nintendo, and they're still earning that reputation to this very day because they are one of the only companies in the world that are making games consoles, with actual fucking games, and not just dumbed-down PC's with multiplayer shooters like their competitors are. The entire industry is shit right now, Nintendo included, but they're still holding onto a part of what makes it special - the unreplicatable experience of a high quality video game.
I have never seen a multiplayer game be considered art (except for Journey, which I haven't played, so I can't talk dirty about it) either from me or anybody else, because art is an innately solo experience - you experience it, and you cannot rub off those experiences onto anybody else. You can only give a recommendation or a faint replication of how you felt, if you can even express yourself at all. Do you think that you would have ever gotten the same emotional punch from Spec Ops: The Line's multiplayer component than you would have the single-player? Of course not. Because the emotions you feel for something can never be shared with another person. Not even your best friend.
Most multiplayer games, and not all, mind you, as exceptions exist, ruin the artistic experience by sullying your view of the game with the opinions and reliance on another person. I get it - not all games have to be art, and not all media has to be a big fucking cultural deal. But when you get to the point where you stop considering the actual significance of a piece of art and instead focus on the cheap and easy thrills that the easily-digestible lowest-common-demoninator media provide for you, you stop being a whole person and instead rely on somebody else to give your emotions to you. That's really fucking sad to me. To live your life through the whims of another person is the slavery we humans have worked so hard to prevent.
Single player games are very, very hard to recommend because people are afraid to talk to each other about how they feel about a piece of media because they're afraid of assholes criticising them for it. You know how this feels - you try to tell somebody about how much you enjoyed something, but you just can't find the words because you can't ever express your emotions. Because it's how you feel, and not what they or anybody else in this world feels. The only way that you're able to do so is if you're with other people who've played the same game and have felt the same things as you have, because they know what's up. That's how fanbases start - collections of people just feeling the same things for each other. That's a special thing that I'd defend to the ends of the Earth.
Feels aren't just a meme - they exist because they're instantly relatable. They exist because when we know that feel, we all know that feel, each and every one of us in the fanbase, in the niche. They're popular because they relate to us like nothing else ever could. Feels let us find people just like us, and are able to express the same things we've felt in a convenient shorthand for like-minded individuals to talk about. Feels are a meme, sure, but they're an important meme.
Multiplayer games, with very rare exceptions, have no such feels. They have their own brand of shorthand, but they come through cheaper and easier means. Multiplayer games rely on inconsequential interaction between strangers and sometimes friends, where instead of sharing actual emotion depth, they share entertainment - an easily digestable emotion that everybody can relate to and share with each other. Multiplayer games rely on thrills - easily creatable moods that can be manipulated and shared with people on a whim, because people would much rather talk about what's easy to talk about rather than the enlightening conversation of a difficult topic. A man who is constantly entertained is a man who is never satisfied. A man who is satisfied has no need for simple thrills, as they have already found peace with the world in all of its beauty.
That's why multiplayer games are so popular. You can share them with people who don't care too much about games as art, don't care about the emotional impact, don't care about anything more beyond getting their cheap thrills and then dumping it. It can be addictive - and I will talk about why it's addictive. Valve has only made multiplayer games because they're popular. Because they make money. Because they don't care about the art, don't care about the emotional experience, and instead choose to rely on people blinded by a sudden rush of excitement to give up their money to further fuel their soulless machine.
Valve doesn't make games. I told you, didn't I? No, babe. They make money. That's all they'll choose to do, because it's easy.
Valve lives through slaves
If you own the means of distribution, you own who gets to be published and when. This is what the music, movie, and games industries relied on for decades. Until the Internet came along and gave everybody the means of distribution. Then the world didn't belong to the privileged few who owned movie studios, recording studios, or development studios. It was given to everybody with the desire to change the world, because now everybody has the means of production, and the only people who matter in this world are the ones who have enough connections to make an impact and change the world.
Valve, unfortunately, knows this very well. You must never fear a man who is wiser than you. You must fear a business who is wiser than you.
Valve was born when the Internet was getting its legs out - in the 90's, when everything was neat and cool and was an innocent place to be in, until the mainstream came along and made it "clean" instead. Out were homemade web pages built by hobbyists who just wanted to have a place to talk. In came businesses and app makers who had to appeal to the most broad audience possible to make an impact in the oversaturated developer's market. Every generation kills their heroes, and our generation is trying to find new heroes.
I guess Valve found some potential somewhere down the line, and decided to buy them out before they could make real art and have an audience that will miss them when they die. You know the stories, don't you? About how Valve buys out tiny, tiny development teams, maybe three people large, and then steals their ideas so that nobody else can have them? The good old Valve school of business philosophy - steal the culture before anybody else can use it. Grim fucking fable.
It happened with Portal. A bunch of university students makes Narbacular Drop, a game with portals and a cool gameplay feature that won a bunch of awards for innovation. Valve bought them out and stole their idea, took all the credit for what our young enterprisers did. Now nobody remembers the team of developers, who could have easily made their own studio and changed the world, but no. They took the money and let Valve tell them what to do. Now all of their ideas will never see the light of day because they're satisfied living under somebody elses shadow. If you don't take the money, you can't be told what to do, but I guess our universities are filled with cowards instead.
Two young men make a mod for Half-Life, called it Counter-Strike. Kids had some talent, since they modded a three-year-old game and released it before that became the standard way to do business. The focus on realism was an addition never before seen in gaming, and that school of thought could have been used to make games that had never before been seen. But Valve bought them out, and instead of innovating, they coasted on the franchise for years, and to this very day rely on its sequels as a cash cow. The two kids? Who gives a shit about what they do? Valve bought them out. End of story - but there could have been so much more to it.
Valve didn't even need to look for talent - it was handed to them out of somebody else's franchise. DOTA came along out of a mod of Warcraft 3 and became one of the first MOBAs, which is one of the most god-awful and manipulative genres to ever have graced the gaming scene. But I guess that's what Valve does best, manipulating its users and all. Three guys come along and make a new genre? Doesn't have to be the best genre, but they fucking did it, and that's worth commending. I guess Valve realised that MOBAs were getting popular and wanted a slice of that action, making DOTA 2, another multiplayer game designed to be as addictive as possible. And the three kids are still coasting off of Valve's popularity, as people tend to do when they're handed a boatload of money and the keys to an easy life. No more mods coming out of them: they're stuck under the guise of a company which hates them.
And that's not counting the other mods that Valve stole, like Alien Swarm, Team Fortress, Day of Defeat and Ricochet. All of them were modifications of Valve's games, made by fans, back when Valve was a name that was meant to be praised and not be ashamed of (except for Alien Swarm, but we can't all be perfect little snowflakes, now can we?), back when Valve meant something in the world of gaming beyond a false figurehead riding the tides of nostalgia long gone, cynically stealing money from their fanbases like so many other companies do before they wither and die. I wonder what all of those teams would have done if Valve didn't come along and spoiled them while they were young? We won't ever know. We won't know because Valve squandered their talent for the sake of profit.
And that's not even considering the many thousands of games which Steam sells, all of the backs of developers who think that Steam is the only place where they can be published in order to be somebody - a brand that Valve has spent millions of dollars and years cultivating. Take it from experience: Online storefronts are where games go to die. The only games that are successful nowadays are those with developers who have earned their audience through connecting with a community, who then spreads the word to a larger audience. You will not get a successful game because you are on Steam, or Itch, or GOG. All it does is amplify the audience you already have, and if it's zero, then you'll get nothing out of it.
You must never respect a company which earns its living off the slavery of others. They do not care about their users. They do not care about their developers. Any sort of opinion to the contrary is part of Valve's plan to appear as a safe and reliable place for games, which we know is bullshit thanks to its many, many ways of restricting the rights and freedoms of not only its users, but of its developers, too.
Valve is a casino
Casinos rely on manipulating people into spending as much money as possible on their machines by taking advantage of some of the most basic tenets of psychological manipulation that you can get your hands on. Nobody walks into a casino expecting to go out broke - they think they're too wise for that type of thing. But once you exit from the casino with no more money than you started out with, in many cases going bust, you find yourself half the man you used to be. The house always wins.
Crates and chips
Why do casinos have chips? Because when you spend your money on chips, your brain no longer associates what you're spending with the high value of money. Your brain instead sees the chips as a lower-value, because for all the lessons that you've learned about financial sense with actual currency, you're never as likely to learn those same lessons with something as abstract as casino chips. It doesn't feel like you're spending money, and so you end up carelessly throwing away. You trade a high-value item for what you perceive as a lower value item, even though it's the same amount of money you've spent, as is the same amount of money you're throwing away.
Valve does the same thing with their virtual economies. In Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you can trade in your real-world money for keys, which is an informal currency used among the playerbase. They're cheap - maybe three dollars at most (as I'm most familiar with the TF2 economy), and they're used in trades with the other players to buy virtual goods, as well as unlocking crates with the promise that you'll get rarer, better-looking virtual goods if you use enough of them. These keys, these poker chips, provide the same level of abstraction as you would find in a casino, but even worse because you can't cash them out once you buy them. No refunds on purchase, because Valve hates losing money.
The crate system is this: you spend three dollars on a key, spend a dollar on a crate (two separate purchases so that you're fooled into spending more money than you would have wanted to), which you can also find using the in-game drop system (so that you're forced to play the game and further get addicted to it, more info on this later), and then you have a decent chance, maybe 40%, of finding a cosmetic item or a weapon or a unique one-of-a kind macguffin. Get enough of these, and you're forced to spend more keys to further your desire to get more stuff and thus more valuable virtual goods. It doesn't matter how much they're actually worth, because you can't cash them out for real money. Only more virtual goods. And once you confine your virtual goods to a single game by a single company on a single platform, that's how they get you hooked onto the game. They trap you into a system that rewards you for spending money, even though the rewards only exist on their platform, and encourages you to spend more to further fuel their ability to manipulate you. The house always wins.
I don't believe I need to say this is exactly how a slot machine works. Slot machines prey on the gullible folks who desire big rewards at little risk - and so slowly does out small, valuable rewards to them over time, to encourage them to keep playing and spending money, just like the crates encourages them to keep spending money on keys to get virtual goods. Once in a great while, maybe at a 1% chance, you hit the jackpot and get some sort of one-of-a-kind special hat with a few particle effects, complete with flashing lights and everything. Just like a slot machine.
The chances of getting one of these special hats is about one in one hundred. At that rate, you'd have to spend at least $300 worth of keys to get a hat. With that money, you could have bought enough video games to entertain, educate, and enrich you for well over a year. But instead you decided to spend it on a company that does nothing to enhance your life, much like all the casinos in Vegas want you to spend their time there and not all of the other destinations that are worth going to, because that's what makes them the most money. They don't give a shit about you - if you're broke, fuck you, and come back when you have money. It's a cynical business full of people with no respect for their users. Sounds familiar, eh?
Hooking you for the long game
And Valve just doesn't release one type of crate or one type of key - they release special crates or special keys on a monthly if not biweekly basis, forcing you to continually play the game, spend money on new types of keys, new types of crates, to be able to unlock the unique items inside those crates. You can only get them from buying them through the store (limited-time only, because people are more likely to spend money if there's time pressure involved) or through unlocking them by playing the game on a pesudorandom basis. The crates always drop, but the keys only drop once in a great while (just like the slot machine - keep playing to get bigger rewards), meaning you have to spend the three dollars, about 12 minutes of your time if you earn $15/h, in order to unlock the crates. And the drop rate is designed to get you hooked, too.
The drop rate isn't completely random, just as the payouts for casino games aren't completely random. If there were, you'd give up, because having games out of your control would cause you to leave out of frustration. No, Valve's little slot machine is more clever than that, hitting all the triggers of the human body like a needle to a voodoo doll.
The drop rate is designed in a linear curve. When you first start playing a game, you get more drops more often. Then slowly, over the course of a week, you start getting imperceptibly less and less drops, as if there was nothing wrong at all. And while you're getting less drops, that means you have to keep playing for hours more until you get more drops, the same amount of drops that you're used to. Until eventually, you get none at all, and since there's no indicator to tell you this (designed on purpose), you play the game for longer than you would have wanted to if you stopped getting drops, as you have no idea when to stop until the realisation hits you hours into your session.
And then the drop rates reset on a specific date every week, so that you know when to spend the most time on the game, so that you can keep playing Valve's little slot machine. The drops are just like that of an RPG - you get little rewards for playing, like new weapons that you can use. Once in a while you get a bum drop, like a crate, so that you're encouraged to keep playing for better items. Rarely you'll get something good like a key or a special item, rewarding you for your continued devotion to the game. And once in a blue moon, you'll get something special, like a brand new hat - the slot machine gives you a jackpot, and keeps telling you to try again for another one. There's no way to stop this from happening. It just does.
And even more insidious is the ability to trade away what you don't want to other players, so that you can encourage them to keep playing the slot machine and help them get addicted to the casino, too, because the more people who are playing the game, the more opportunities there are to interact with them. You want to be somebody, the slot machine realises that, and encourages it by displaying all of your dropped items to everybody in the server, so that you might praise them for getting a "nice find", increasing your ability to show off and feel special. So that you can keep playing and keep trying the slot machine.
This is part of the long game, that goes beyond the simple desire to entertain Valve's players. It's part of a plan to get them hooked on their games without them realising it, making them feel good about things they didn't do, so that they may continue to extract money out of their unwilling customers. The game is no longer the product at this point - you are. Because when Team Fortress 2 stopped costing money and was released for free, it became easier to entrap and fuck over everybody who wanted to just have some fun.
The cult of gambling
Take a look at a site like Marketplace.tf. Securely buy TF2 items from reputable sellers - run by people who are so far into the cult of gambling that they have become the casino owners, and further manipulate people into spending money. It does not matter to me if you think that your users are responsible people who may stop whenever they want, as to do so in a system that is designed to entrap them and extort money out of them for as long as possible is not only hypocritical, but it is also an immoral lie. When somebody like me, a well-reasoned individual (I believe), falls into this trap, then it stops being about individual freedom of choice and starts being about the inability for people to break away from a system that is literally trying to addict them for profit.
Those keys on Marketplace sell for two dollars right now - a dollar less than the store price on Valve's own stores, including the even cheaper Community Market (which was primarily developed as a response to third-party websites taking away their profit). Buy them in bulk like the addicts do, and Valve stand to lose some serious cash from this endeavour. So why would a company as greedy as Valve stand in any capacity to allow companies like this to operate?
Because it doesn't matter if they lose a few dollars, so long as they keep the customers coming back. Think: if a customer was punished for seeking out an alternate option instead of being made to feel smart that they cheated Valve's system, do you think they would keep coming back? Of course not. Valve allows such a thing to happen because they know it makes their customers feel good - and making them feel good through manipulative means is how they stay in business. You lose a few dollars, but you get the slavery of a userbase, and good slaves will more than make up for the lost profit.
They turn a blind eye to raffling and botting and spreadsheets like Scrap.tf and Backpack.tf because it helps boost the economy that Valve has cultivated - the same economy of slot machines and money-spending and trying to be a special snowflake in a sea of millions. The same economy that has made Valve more money in the years after TF2 was made free-to-play than they ever have in the years before it was a paid product, because they would have never gone free-to-play if they didn't know they could make money on it. And they've been in this business for decades - they damn well know when they can make money on something.
Those raffles that you see on Scrap.tf? They're flat-out gambling, illegal lotteries for virtual goods, and if you get a man gambling under your system, you have them hooked for as long as it takes to break their spell, because the allowance of spending more money to get a bigger award is too tempting of a property for most people to simply ignore. And it sure makes the lottery runners a hell of a lot of money, too, which they can then sell on the other website that the Scrap.tf owners run - Marketplace.tf, because if you've already cornered one section of an abusive market, you might as well corner the rest.
This goes beyond Valve trying to be subtle and provide "incentives" for their players - this is Valve blatantly turning a blind eye to actual gambling, with goods bought with real money, most of which are from young adults and teenagers who are most impressionable at this age, and not only allowing it, but encouraging it through the very system Valve has created to benefit them and everybody else who is following their system. I know I've already expressed my opinion, but Christ. I seriously think the only reason that people aren't treating Valve the same way they do Facebook and Apple is because Valve has branded themselves as the benevolent Big Brother of the Internet, but if people were actually seeing what they encouraged, they would be either horrified or so apathetic to the abuse of millions of users that they just shrug it off like the waste of life they are.
Take a look at your empire, Geel and Jesse. Take a good look at all the money you're making, real and virtual, each and every cent, off the backs of people who don't know better than to be victims of a system that they don't even know they're in, and that you have done absolutely nothing to educate them about. Don't like to think about it because you're already satisfied? Took your ball and go home? Fuck you, got mine, don't care about the consequences? Then you're both pieces of human garbage, and there's nothing you can do to atone for your ignorance of your fellow man.
The Crafting Entrapment:
But say you don't buy into Valve's promises of money, instead opting to take advantage of other ways to gain items and fame. Well, they have you covered, because they have other ways to get you to keep playing even without putting your money on the line. Even by playing the game - the literal game - you've put yourself into a position of abuse. The only way to win is not to play.
Crafting systems in multiplayer games have become very widespread as of late, the reason being is that they're effective at conning people out of their time. Let me explain. In Team Fortress 2, you have the opportunity to "craft" items that you gain from the slot machine. This involves taking these items, a lot of them, and putting them into a menu where you can smelt them down into something new. The exchange isn't favourable - sometimes you'll have eight weapons worth of items to even gain one.
See the problem? The crafting system is designed to give you an illusion of choice in how you control your game. Valve is saying that if you don't like what you find, you can make them into something new that you do like. But the innate problem is that it still relies on the slot machine giving you the items you want, which is still an addictive property, because you always have to keep playing in order to find the right items to fit the right recipe to get the weapons you want. This is just playing the same casino game, but you're exchanging your money for your time.
This is how Valve claims that TF2 doesn't fall into the typical "free-to-play" model that most other games do. But this is all marketing, because Valve uses the very same techniques and manipulative practices that other freemium games use, and to claim that they are against it is hypocritical because of how much they rely on this model in order to con their players out of their money. If the service is free, then you are the product - Valve knows this, and Valve will take advantage of this fact to take every last cent they can out of you.
Let's do some practical math. There are, at the time of writing, 1,240 "cosmetic items" that TF2 provides. Assuming that every single one of these items can be obtained, it would take, at an average of eight drops per week, a minimum of 155 weeks to obtain every single item in Team Fortress 2, and this does not include other ides of items such as tools and weapons, which would bump up the actual number by hundreds more. 155 weeks is just under three years of continuous playtime, which I may remind you can be used for literally anything else in your life. Keep in mind though, that this is the best-case scenario, and when the actual drop rates are applied, the number of years you would have to play would increase by decades.
Any sort of claim to TF2 being free to play is a boldfaced lie, as the practicality of obtaining every single item, Hell, every single weapon, is next to impossible because of the amount of time you're required to wait to get new items, as well as the chances of actually getting new items being against you, thanks to the existence of duplicate items and a drop rate which is skewed towards giving you what you don't want as opposed to what you do, which forces you into the crafting system which requires you to waste even more time getting weapons that you need to play the game.
It is absurd to give a man the option to buy every single weapon in a game at an instant, make them wait years on end to gain the same weapons, and then tell them that they don't have to pay a thing. TF2 is pay-to-win, simply, and any claims against it ignores this simple proof. And before you say that such things are optional... keep in mind that some weapons are far better than others in practice, and that there is always a price to pay with free-to-play games, even if you can only buy cosmetic upgrades, as there is always some external pressure, social, internal, or otherwise, which encourages you to buy into the system above all else.
The crafting system further reinforces Valve's myth of fair business by stating that they care about the user enough to not make them spend any money. This would be a horrible business strategy if not for the barriers that Valve have put up, making you spend money to get any progress in the game. I see no difference between what King or Zynga does and what Valve does - it's the same waiting game, implemented in different ways.
And though this is not the end of Valve's addiction mentality, that is enough for now, as to get involved with one topic for too long is a recipe for boredom. If you want a more basic overview, the South Park episode Freemium Isn't Free touches on a wide overview of the basics of addictive design in video games, without getting into too much detail. It's one of their best episodes, if not the funniest, because it manages to be one of the most educational about a specific topic without putting their biases into it.
Valve forced Steam onto its users
Let's step away from the present for a moment, as we are all aware of it and have little to learn from it. If we instead go into the past, a domain which we are ignorant of and we have much to learn about, then we may see just how bad things have changed.
Steam has been around since 2003, and even since that time, it took away the freedom of its users by being designed to prevent piracy, which is an incredibly stupid thing to do seeing as piracy is so inextricable from gaming culture that it's been around for over thirty years and has shown no signs of stopping. But whatever - companies are dumbasses who don't know their users, that's not news. But was is news is the subtle way that Steam was shoved down the throats of gamers.
In 2003, when the Steam client was being beta tested (read: outsourcing your bug testing to hundreds of thousands of unpaid users), it was shoehorned in as a required component for Counter-Strike, similar to current-day Steam giving us software we never asked for so that they may control their users by forcing them into a corporate ecosystem where all content only gets in or out with the approval of Valve. 300,000 players fell for the scheme, and as a result of which, Steam was popular enough to get off the ground and start selling shit.
Then Half-Life 2 came around, and Steam was required, absolutely required, to play the copy, even if you bought it at a retail store. Let me repeat this: if you buy a physical disk with your own goddamn money, you still have to get Valve's approval to play the game by installing Steam, a seperate piece of software, onto your computer, for absolutely no reason than to "stop piracy". You ignorant cumsluts, if I bought the fucking disk at a fucking physical store, then why the fuck are you concerned about me stealing your game? The leap of logic that Valve has displayed was like that of a retarded man yelling at an egg and expecting it to hatch into a chicken.
The only reason that Valve has forced Steam onto the will of millions of legitimate, paying customers, is so that they may force their users into a situation where Valve controls what you get to play, when you get to play, and that they can shut off your account at any time and for any reason if they don't like what you're doing on it. It's DRM, plain and simple, and it fucks you over even if you're a legitimate customer because Valve is so greedy that they can't even support the users who actually pay to use their services. You take their money, and you don't even fuck them gently. What a douche.
By 2007, 13 million users were infected with Steam, which shows the massive amount of power that Valve has over their customers, similar to the massive amounts of power that Microsoft and Facebook have over their users. They can do whatever the fuck they want to their service, their users, and everything that the users do on their service, and milk it for as much profit and as much positive press as they possibly can. And while most of this involves shoving advertisements down the throats of users who support Valve the most (exploting the whales who pay thousands of dollars for games they will never play), the fact that Valve has the capability to abuse so many people on such a large scale is a worrying sign of the amount of trust and power we have given to companies who want nothing more than to make a buck. No regard for the users, no credit for the cradle-to-grave fanboy. It's all money, dear boy, and lots of it.
The worst part about this ordeal is that gamers let it happen. They were so blinded by the games they enjoyed that they forgot to clean the babys bathwater and let it infest their home. Steam isn't a service. Don't ever let a man convince you that invading your computer and forcing you into a system where Valve has all the power is in any way a fair trade. Let's examine all the ways why that is.
Defective by Design
Steam was designed to stop piracy, make it easier to sell things to customers with addictive tendencies, and to put customers in a system where Valve can do whatever they want to their account without any reason whatsoever. While Valve sucks dick at stopping piracy (go to KickassTorrents and see how many torrents are listed under "games", even after all the forcible takedowns), their customers are being exploited by being encouraged to buy games in a manipulative way (more on that later), and customers have been banned by Valve for no reason whatsoever. The fact that a company has the power to take away an entire library's worth of games, costing thousands of dollars, at their whim, shows just how much power they have over you.
The piracy myth
Let's talk about piracy and rip the bandage off early. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that piracy hurts video games sales, and plenty of evidence to suggest that piracy supports the arts by saving customers money that they can spend on concerts and souvenirs which cost much, much more than what a simple digital download would cost. It is also the opinion of several artists like Seth Godin, Grateful Dead, Trent Reznor, Death Grips, Macklemore, Dennaton games (the Hotline Miami guys), Randall Monroe, and even Mr. Fucking Rogers that piracy is beneficial to their industry, and they all have wide and varied reasons as to why that is.
When the Web came along, it didn't kill games. When television came, it didn't kill movies. When radio came, it didn't kill music. When libraries came, it didn't kill books. And when books came, it didn't kill oral stories and traditional myths. Whenever a new device is developed that allows media to spread from person to person in an easier way than the last, it enhances that medium by allowing ideas to spread and for customers to have greater liberty in decided what they get to buy with the money that they earned doing legitimate work, and to give them the power to decide what they want to spend their money on provides an incentive for companies to do their best work, and not the restrained, profit-driven work that is the hallmark of a company that's in it for the money and not the actual work of releasing a great product.
Why do I support it? Because everybody, regardless of id, income, or social status, should have the chance to view whatever they want, whenever they want it, for free, so that they can be inspired and change the world. If it wasn't for piracy, I wouldn't be writing today. I wouldn't be making games today. I sure as shit wouldn't be half the man I was today without all the books, movies, music, and video games I've downloaded off the Internet. And to this day I still can't afford to pay for them, but I'm giving back by recommending all of the artists that inspired me so that they can inspire you to create something, the same way that I hope to do with you. Why do you think I'm giving it all away, for free, without any chance of getting a red cent? Because there is no amount of money in this world that will prevent your death, and when you do die, the only thing that matters is how many people will miss you when you're gone.
But I guess some people are in it for the money, instead.
The Steam Virus
Steam is DRM, and like all DRM, it takes away control from the user in order to facilitate the producing companys greed. Despite the fact that DRM does nothing to prevent piracy, and instead damages your business by pissing off your users and making them pirate your games instead of dealing with your shitty DRM system. The idea that a company can prevent piracy because they will it is like expecting the moon to be shot out of the sky because you don't like the way it shines. To put it bluntly, the war on piracy is like the war on drugs: costly, ineffective, and has done absolutely nothing to stop the spreading of the goods. No matter how many people you arrest or how many threats you make, you'll never stop pirates from pirating. It's an ancient and proud history, and you'll never take that away from us.
Steam can't stop piracy, as shown by the many piracy sites which still exist today. What it instead does is prevent users from using their games in the way that they intended. Want to copy your game to a hard drive? Better have Steam installed or it won't work. Want to share games with a friend? Better give them access to your account otherwise Steam will call you a pirate. Want to stop your games from updating and keep it on a certain revision, say, for speedrunning reasons? Too fucking bad. Steam will update your game for whatever reason, and won't let you play it until you agree to the updates. Once again, the control that Valve has over their users veers into Big Brother territory.
Want to play offline? Can't do that! Steam won't let you, because if you're not connected to Valve's servers, they might think you're a pirate for buying video games. So fuck people with no Internet access, I suppose, even if they're dirt poor and just want to play some video games. Funny how the Xbone pulled this same shit, everybody called them out on it, and yet nobody calls out Valve for being just as abusive. Even if you bought a game like Metal Gear Solid V at a physical store on a physical disk, you still have to connect to Steam and download the game (and be forced to make an account, and give Valve all your data, which is one of the reasons why you might want to buy a real disk!), which kills everybody who might be on a data cap with slow Internet, even if they can't get it at all. The idea that game publishers think that this is in any way an acceptable way to treat their customers shows just how far away we are from the golden ages of gaming.
There is absolutely no way to remove DRM from Steam games without the permission of both Valve and the Publisher, and any games that have DRM disabled aren't advertised as such. And if you try to circumvent that DRM in any way, you're labeled as a criminal and can be tried in court for what you have done, not that this stops the hundreds of thousands of pirates from easily downloading the thousands of (cracked) Steam games from online. You can be prosecuted for wanting to break out of a virtual jail, and all you can do about it is to cover your tracks. The amount of power that our governments have given companies and not the customer is a symptom of an increasingly plutocratic world, but I suppose this isn't the place to get Lawrence Lessig on your ass, now is it?
Steam is a virus - it makes unauthorised changes to your system, falsely advertises what it does, takes control over the goods that you paid for, arbitrarily restricts what you can do with them, and forces you to accept its terms or lose access to the service forever (more on these terms later). It has infected the machines of a hundred million legitimate gamers, and have falsely taught the industry that it's okay to fuck over your customers, because if Valve does it, then it must be okay. I don't even need to say this at this point, but screw it. Fuck Valve. Fuck everybody who works there for systemically ruining our medium.
The DRM myth
Some people will falsely tell you that Steam is "DRM done right". This whole statement is absurd. DRM isn't right - it never is right. It isn't right to take money from your users and restrict them from doing whatever they want with their product. In literally every other realm except digital, if you spend money on a product, it's yours - you can do whatever you want with it, for whatever reason, at any time. If you bought a physical video game like Paper Mario, you could share it, use it on any Nintendo 64 you wanted, give it away, sell it, open up the casing and see what's inside, and even mod it if you had a development kit and a great PC. It was a product you actually owned, and could do what you wanted with it for whatever reason. These were the golden ages of gaming - where games were an actual commodity and not just something to churn out for soulless profit.
With Steam, you get none of that. You can't sell your games (no refunds!), you can't share them with whoever you want, can't use it on whatever systems Valve doesn't want you to, you can't mod the game without Valve and the publishers permission, and you certainly can't give it away, because to do so might mean a loss of profit for the blubbering pile of cysts that is Valve. There is no freedom when you buy into DRM, and "DRM done right" is a myth made by company men and brainwashed users to make you believe that this is an acceptable way to treat your customers. It isn't. It's bullshit, plain and simple.
For the sake of argument, as this is a very good sake, let's take some of what they're saying and dissect them, shall we?
"Steam syncs all your games"
No shit. No fucking shit. If I log onto Google, it syncs all my preferences. If I log onto Neocities, it save all my sites. If I log onto my VPN, it saves my account information. If I log onto e621, it saves all my porn. No fucking shit that Steam saves all my games - that's what it's supposed to do! If it didn't, and I spent money on a product that I couldn't even use on my own account, then that would be scam, and then they would lose all of their business in a day because they didn't deliver on the goods that they are legally supposed to deliver.
If I logged onto my Runescape account from 2003, then it would still be the very same account with the very same character, the very same items, the very same clothes, the very same experience points, in the very same location, because that is what my account is supposed to do - save my fucking progress. And I know this is true, because for many years, I have played Runescape on and off, and my character was the exact same every time I logged off. It doesn't matter if years have passed, if I knew my password, I could play. Until I eventually scrambled my password and then closed my account for good, because despite all the fun I had with Runescape, I knew it was time to move on to different games.
Runescape, Facebook, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Dropbox, Neocities, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Pornhub... if all of these accounts failed to remember what you put into them, what you bought from them, what you spent good money for, then the entire Internet would collapse for failing to provide one of the most basic functions that any web host can provide. This is not an exaggeration - if websites and services failed to remember the accounts of their users, then every single company that relies on the Internet to function would cease to exist because one of the most basic things you can do online have failed to function. We have built an entire world around this use of the Internet, and we would be back in the Dark Age without it.
Valve isn't special for doing what it's supposed to do. The idea that a company performing the basic minimum function that it is required to do isn't worthy of praise, especially when it doesn't sync any free-to-play games you've downloaded, so that it doesn't even meet its minimum required function. The idea that this is a selling point shows just how far Steam has manipulated us into falling for their system.
"Steam syncs all your save data"
...except that it doesn't.
Here's a true story: every time I installed a Steam game onto another computer, it would, without fail, reset all of my data to the state it would have been if I had just deleted it from my hard drive. Every single time, even on Valve's own games, even on games that were advertised as having the feature of being able to sync your data, it never worked for me once. Which, naturally, was a complete bitch when I lost all of my Civilization V games.
Even with something as basic as syncing my preferences for DOTA 2 or Team Fortress 2, it would never, ever save my controls correctly. It would either be all wrong, like it would if I had altered them months ago, or would be reset to their default settings. If you can't even sync a single text file with all the controls properly, then how the fuck are you going to sync a twelve gigabyte game with all of its save data intact?
Valve's system is broken, and even if it functioned properly, it would still be giving up control of your data to Valve and Valve alone. We were taught to suck and swallow this system, this Industrial Steamworks, so that we can be manipulated into giving up our freedom to use our games for whatever purpose we like, just so Valve can make a quick buck. Money isn't evil, but I can see why people would consider it such.
"Steam stops viruses"
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin.
It's pretty fucking hard to get a virus when you're in a situation where you can only ever alter your files if Valve gives you permission to. Chaining your users to a wall so that nobody but you can beat them isn't being generous. It's luring your users into a false sense of security by sacrificing all of the freedom they're used to so that they can get a tiny bit more security - the same security that would be gained by installing a free antivirus.
Using Steam because you don't want viruses is like wearing a chastity belt all the time so that you don't get raped. It's giving up your liberty in exchange for the extraordinarily small odds of something bad happening to you. Stepping out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to things you consider dangerous is one of the first steps to becoming a good human being.
This also doesn't count when you consider that Steam itself is a virus, that users are still vulnerable to phishing scams (that Valve won't fix because they let anybody open up an account so they can cast as wide of a net as possible), that it doesn't stop cheating in games, such as when everybody on Reddit jizzed themselves that LMAObox was detected (after two years) only to not realise it was back online after a month because they're too stupid to understand that hacking will always be a thing (please no hackerinos), won't stop accounts from being hacked (or Valve's servers), and won't stop the rogue developer who decides to go tits up and just straight up scam everybody out of their money, because Steam has no quality control whatsoever and Valve will let any old piece of shit cross their storefront, which Jim Sterling will happily tear apart given the chance.
Security, am I right, fellas?
"Steam sells you games for cheap"
Do you perhaps know why freemium games always offer their virtual goods at a dirt-cheap price, say ninety-nine cents or so? Because when you're spending that small of an amount of a game, it doesn't feel like you're spending anything stantial. This is why you probably buy coffee every day, if you live in Seattle and are a generally unpleasant person - because despite the fact that spending three dollars every day adds up to over thousand dollars over the course of a year, it doesn't feel like a thousand dollars. It's the death of a thousand cuts, and is part of Valve's business strategy.
Of course Valve sells you games for cheap - because they want you to spend more money over time than you ever would making a few big purchases. Their focus isn't cashing out on you right away, their focus is costing you hundreds of dollars over the course of months so that you don't realise how much you spend, keeping you in a cycle. If three dollars every day is bad, try fifty dollars every week. And some people spend that much every day, because they're encouraged by Valve to build up a library full of games through various manipulative means.
It's the idic freemium game scam - you get a free download, say the Steam client, pump the client full of advertisements pressuring you to buy virtual goods, and milk the 1% of gamers who will spend tons of money on your application for all they're worth, without regard for their mental health or how much time they're spending on your client instead of doing literally anything else, because it doesn't matter if you only get a few dollars from 99% of gamers if you take advantage of the 1% who will spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars on virtual goods. There is no difference between what Valve does and what other manipulative mobile games companies do - it's the same system, just formatted in a different way.
And Valve has figured out how to milk this 1% like an assembly line of cows, by giving them badges and buttons and Steam levels and virtual goodies to display on their user profiles, all encouraging them to spend money on the games that Valve sells so that they can grow even deeper indebted to Valve. Think: if a user happens to be level 500 on Steam when most people are in the tens, then how likely is it that they'll abandon the service and stop spending money? They're a whale - and Valve depends on them for their profit models. Just like casinos, just like beer companies, just like tobacco dealers, and just like drug pushers. The actions that Valve does damages the users which want to support them the most, because even though they're a multi-billion dollar company who isn't using that money for anything that benefits society, they still want more.
This isn't a myth. If you give a man rewards for following your system, they will be far more likely to be a part of it and do whatever you want them to. In an innocent system, like in The Legend of Zelda, the rewards come from new characters, new locations, new items, new gameplay, new levels, and new plot developments. This is an innocuous system because it gives you all of these to entertain you instead of addicting you to spend more money. The bargain for traditional video games is this: if you like our game, pay us and we'll give you more games that you enjoy. In today's world, the deal is buying into a system that exists to extract as much money out of you as possible, without regard for the quality of the product or the enjoyment that the user gets out of it. You might think that addicts actually enjoy their work, but the difference between an addict and a healthy user is that a healthy user knows when they're being taken advantage of.
And yes, some of the games that Valve sells are actually good, because the developers, unlike Valve, aren't malicious, and instead want to make games that you enjoy. It's statistically likely that any random game out of one hundred will be a decent product because of the sheer volume of the games that Steam sells - they're like the Walmart of video games. They're cheap, so you have to go to them, even though your money could be spent on other companies who could use it more ethically, and they don't give a single shit about their users. You can justify going to Walmart by saying it's cheap, but at the same time, you have to think about the consequences of your actions when you decide to do something like that. No snowflake ever felt responsible for an avalanche.
And if you think the "giving rewards" thing is bullshit, then I have some evidence which might change your mind. We have known for decades that conditioning somebody to do something with positive reinforcement is a surefire way to manipulate their behaviour, and it doesn't even have to be subtle, either. Napoleon knew the power of positive reinforcement, and gave his soldiers medals of honour for their bravery, giving him one of the most loyal armies in history. "Men are ruled by toys", he said, and Valve knows this. Even if the rewards are inconsequential, like a virtual emoticon or a new background for your steam profile, one of the quickest ways to addict somebody is to praise them and reward them so they keep coming back to your service for some of that good feeling of accomplishment.
Remember those virtual goodies that Valve gives you? There is no way to opt out of them. You get all of the goodies, trading cards, and badges as soon as you start playing a game on Steam, and to fight the constant stream of rewards is something that few men can resist. Even with something as subtle as "achievements" (which Valve integrates into every single one of their games) can cause you to feel good, indebting you to the game and giving you something to work towards. Achievements which do nothing but reward you for doing things you've already done is blatant psychological conditioning, and is completely separate from working towards in-game content during the regular course of a game.
Valve has figured out how to stuff their bullshit down our throats more effectively than almost any company, and they're a model for abusive companies everywhere. If you want to make a profit through soulless means, then follow Valve's example. If not, and you want to be somebody who will be remembered for their outstanding ethics and care for their users, then don't base any part of your system on what Valve does. It's a thankless job, but in the long run, remember: People do not like being fucked.
DRM done wrong, in so many ways.
Valve can't keep a schedule
The quickest way to spot a liar is to see if they make do on their promises. No excuses, no bullshit after the fact, no stories of what might have been. If a man doesn't do what they say, and doesn't do it when they say they will, they are an unreliable person, and should never be trusted. You could spend a lifetime telling the truth, but if you lie once, you'll be forever known as a liar.
If you can lie once and never be trusted again, then Valve can lie dozens of times and still be trusted by millions of gamers. This is a real fucked up, post-ironic society we live in.
Let's start out the obvious gag: Valve Time, brand-speak for Valve's consistent failures to deliver on their promises. Valve knows that they're complete shit at keeping a schedule, and they know that it is absolutely unacceptable behaviour for a games company to pull this type of crap. And yet, through the efforts of Valve's spin doctors, they turned it into the same behaviour you would expect from a retarded dog. You can't yell at it, because it's retarded, even though it's a worthless creature who you should have never let into your house.
Even from the beginning, from before their very first game, they fucked up. The Half-Life demo was released eighteen months after it was originally planned to, and Valve made every excuse they could as to why that is. To their credit, they didn't bump up the release date, until they did with the full release of Half-Life where they moved it three times in increasingly vague due dates, until they said fuck it and released it ten months after it was planned to be.
Remember when they picked up Team Fortress for a sequel? You know the idic gag: development hell, vaporware, and years of jokes about it never coming out. Nine years of bullshit. Was it worth it? I couldn't wait to get a blowjob for nine years and still enjoy it more than I would if I was getting a blowjob every day for half that time. Also, there is no fucking way in hell you were developing it for nine years straight. If you were, it would have been released years ago, you condescending twats.
And you remember when Valve promised that they would release a new episode of Half-Life 2 every three months? The punchline writes itself. Half-life 2 was late by fourteen months, Episode 2 was late by another fourteen months (Episode One was released on time by some Chaotic miracle). That isn't even mentioning the Half-Life 3 fiasco (Christmas 2007? Seriously?), but let's do that, since it showcases Valve's disregard for their customers perfectly.
It has been ten years. Within ten years, we have seen the rise of a brand new generation. We have seen two presidential elections, two new generations of consoles, and two smartphone manufacturers who want to take away money from the traditional gaming industry. We have seen the rise of Steam from thirteen million users in 2007, to hundreds of millions of users in 2015. We have seen the dozens of other promises that Valve has broken over the years, all of the Steam breaches that Valve has failed to prevent, and the rebirth of the PC as the gaming console of choice. An entire culture has been born while Valve has failed to deliver on their promise, and the idea that gamers let Valve slip through the cracks is a symptom of a complacent and apathetic userbase.
This video from CrowbCat says it all: "Half-Life 3 through a decade by Gabe Newell". In it, you can see Valve's headmaster make definite claims about Half-Life 3, then getting more and more vague as time goes by, eventually dropping the subject all together because he knows that he'll never be able to make up for it. He puts minor features like graphical improvements and ways to further screw over his userbase before the very games that the userbase knows them for, but I guess Valve isn't a games company, now is it? "why make games when you can make billions with virtual cards and paid mods?" - Edd360.
My favourite part is the reporter at 2:19 not even giving Gabe the time of day. Doesn't matter if it's rude. If a man says he's going to do something, and represents his entire company while doing so, then the dick deserves all the criticism he gets. He's going to carry his sins to his grave, and he'll deserve every single joke he gets.
Money over Art
The fact that Valve has fucked over Team Fortress 2's deliberately solid design by adding garbage like hats is not news to anybody. You don't have to be a developer or a designer to understand that TF2 was designed to make it easier to play TF2. Every id was designed from the ground up to be instantly recognisable, and that's what separated TF2 from its competitors like Call of Duty and Quake. The art style was designed to be unique, and so it was, to their credit.
In 2009, hats came, which was added as a profit booster for Valve, to provide incentive for players to keep playing TF2 by giving them a slot machine to gamble with, as I have described before. The insipid part about that was that TF2 was already a paid product, so if that doesn't show the amount of disrespect that Valve has for its paying customers, I don't know what does. Everybody wants hats, because everybody wants to feel special, and so they get addicted to collecting as many spectacular hats as possible so they get that feeling of accomplishment.
There is a fundamental difference between the accomplishments of being good at a video game, being good at something in real life, and being good at collecting a bunch of things that's inconsequential to both the video game and real life. Some people will spend tens of thousands of dollars on virtual weapons to get that feeling of accomplishment, and the fact that Valve lets them shows how fucked up their business model is. People don't go into a game expecting to go that far into it. But Valve makes sure that it happens without you even noticing.
In essence, Valve has changed TF2 from a game where your accomplishments come from getting good at the game (which I don't blame you for playing, as everybody has a hole to fill and video games, even non-artistic, competitive ones that are designed to be as addicting as possible, can provide some relief from daily life, even though I think it would be better for you to try some enriching games), into a game where your accomplishments come from how much you have pimped out your inventory by spending real-world money on Valve's system, and this is a far more profitable system for them than a system that actually cares about its users.
No company should ever provide the capability for a user to waste their life in a narcissistic fantasy, one which benefits the company more than it ever would benefit the user. In exchange for a game whose design was among the best that games have ever seen, they have created a game that any third-rate developer would laugh at due to it's complete failure to complete the goals that it had originally set out to do in the first place.
And yet people still swallow this load, because they're in too deep to quit (note: still a good video). All the gambling, hats, and virtual items, all the forsaken aspects of good gaming, have all been instead traded away for revenue enhancing devices that gives you more access to the game than a free playing user ever would. I understand that paid users should get more privileges than free users - they support the company, and as such should be given priority. This is why I'm okay with membership schemes. I do not accept that free users should be given the middle finger when compared to what paying users get, and to fuck over paying users by destroying their game with a game that's designed to hook in and addict rich and desperate people, and there is no doubt in my mind that Valve has no soul if they allow this to happen on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
The TF2 cancer
TF2, a paid game, introduced hats to make more money a year and a half after its release. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive only lasted for a year before they made the game their bitch and gave gamers the option to pay absurd amounts of money for, of all things, weapon textures. That you can mod yourself in the game for free. But it is naive, as we have seen, to assume that people are paying that much money for themselves. Valve knows this. And so they make damn sure that everybody can see your nice and shiny textures through in-game deathcams and giving you the opportunity to use other people's weapons. I would think that paying $1,000 for a knife (that you can't transfer to real-world money, only Steam funds, because that might mean you take your money elsewhere, and Valve can't have that!) would mean that you wouldn't want some random asshole to pick it up and use it. Clearly, Valve doesn't care about you. The bottom dollar is the bottom line.
The influence and profit of TF2 is undeniable to Valve, and as such the system must be implemented into whatever games Valve produce, because to fail to do so would be to lose the opportunity to create profit. The comparison between games like Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and DOTA 2 are striking, and I assure you, are not coincidental by any means. The TF2 economy was an experiment to see just how far a company can take a game before their users get tired of it and move on to other things. The users never did, and because the system worked so well, Valve implemented it into all of their other multiplayer games. Even Portal 2 had hats - a feature nobody asked for, wanted or used, but because it was there, somebody paid for it. Portal, of all franchises. If EA had pulled this, the Web would have flamed them out, but because Valve has such a stranglehold on our industry, they let it slide. That's the power of the brand.
The TF2 addiction system worked so well that other games, like Payday 2 and Super Monday Night Combat apes Valve's system, and are even sold on Valve's own storefront. You can't find a competitive multiplayer game that doesn't have some form of gambling, and if it isn't part of the Old Guard of games like Quake and the older versions of Counter-Strike, then you can bet your ass there's going to be some way to extract more cash out of their users. It's a cynical industry we live in, and though there is some magic in it, it will be found so far outside the mainstream that it exists in the nascent dreams of an old man and his old PC.
It is a cancer, to put it simply. It spreads without your knowledge, and by the time you see it, it is too late to operate. Valve should gain no praise for this infection, as to ruin an industry would kill off most companies. But Valve is king, and their minions, their unfortunate users, will forgive them no matter what they do. It is much like abuse victims forgive their abusers because they don't understand what's going on. That's real sad to me. If I had the opportunity, I'd go out and talk with each and every one of them, because nobody ever did that for me.
Work is Hell
In general? Sure. But apparently so is working at Valve.
The company is secretive about everything it does - from its revenue, to its taxes, to the contracts it signs with developers, to the share it takes from Workshop contributers, to the company staff (Valve only lists a third of its staff on its website), to how many games are on Steam, to the exact statistics of what games are being played and when, and won't even publish an exact number of how many people are working for it. A company with secrets is a company you cannot trust, for if they cannot be reviewed and looked at fairly, then it gives them opportunities to do only bad things to their industry.
Valve runs a flat structure - nobody is better than anybody else. That means it lacks leadership. That means it lacks vision. Whatever claims it has from its handbook about innovation are false - Valve hasn't innovated anything in the past five years beyond ways to extract money from a userbase than lets them abuse them. Their hardware projects are going nowhere (who gives a shit about Steam Machines?), the last game they made was DOTA 2 (and they're on par for Left 4 Dead 3, for some ungodly reason, even though the only people who asked for it were people desperate for ANYTHING from Valve), and the only impact they have had on their industry in 2015 and onwards was a series of drama alerts and further complacency with the Steam monopoly. No leadership, no way to change the world, nothing.
The problem with flat structures? When nobody is in charge, people start forming their own little governments, their cliques, and this isn't just me saying this. A former Valve employee described it like high school. Just like Matt Groening said, School is Hell. Doesn't matter if nobody is in charge if you aren't popular enough to make a change in your building. And if you can't make a change in your building, then how are you going to make a change in a multibillion dollar industry? Valve has the potential. Valve did it before. But Valve ain't doing shit right now because they just want to rake in the cash and not do anything with it. Where's the Valve Washington State Library? Nowhere. Because they don't want to give back to the people who brought them to this level. Selfish fuckers.
And I guess Valve will hire anybody for their offices, even if they're a scumbag, seeing how a transgender lady sued Valve for three million dollars. Confirmed? No, that would be stupid. Almost as stupid as Valve defending the manager who fired her for no reason - the same manager who uses free child labour to translate projects under a sheet of lies. The same story says that pretty much anybody can be hired for Valve if the organisation, I'm sorry, the high school cliques allow it to, meaning there's no quality control whatsoever going through Valve. Innovative? Innovative in hiring transphobes (though the entire thing could be a hoax by a disgruntled employee, and as such might be a bunch of media spin meant to bring bad press to Valve. Just as a "what if" scenario, for the sake of truth).
That is, if you even get to stay at Valve, because they can fire entire teams of developers for no reason whatsoever, as part of a "Great Cleansing", which sounds like something you'd read as part of Nazi propaganda. Valve is abusive, selfish, and secretive, but they aren't Nazis, and to use terms that sound like they come out of the words of Hitler himself shows us that they're deliberately fucking with us. "You can't do shit about this", they seem to say. "We have the power, and we'll use it however we want". Fuck us in the ass, then, much like you fucked over twenty-six employees as part of their Nazi ideology.
"Valve promised me the world and then backstabbed me," says former employee Jeri Ellsworth, and I'd be bitter too, if I was her. That sounds just about the type of thing you'd expect from a company which backstabs their users, their developers, and their most loyal fans on a daily basis. But now, their employees as well? This is how empires fall, Valve, and I'll be happy when you're as sacked as Rome.
It doesn't have to be this way, Gabe. You own 50% of the company. You can make it great, just like you wanted to when you left a company like Microsoft to form your own venture. You left Hell for the road to Heaven, but you repaved it with bad intentions. Think, Gabe. What's the alternative? Wallow in your own misery while your company becomes less and less relevant by the day? Disappoint your oldest and most loyal fans with shit they never asked for? Disappoint your employees by making an unsafe and unproductive working environment? You have to decide now, Mr. Newell, as to take inaction in a situation like yours is a fatal mistake to make.
But I guess Valve was built on mistakes, wasn't it?
Valve's history of dead projects
Any person who earned their success will tell you that it takes a lot of tries to get something right, and even if you make a mistake, then you should learn from it and try again. But that doesn't apply to companies, who exist in a half-baked reality between profit and innovation, only barely looking towards innovation as a means to make more profit. A man can innovate better than any company because they have the opportunity and the freedom to do so. A company can't because they need to make money, and so need to pander towards what they consider "safe" ventures while saying "fuck you" to anything that might be a risk. Not even Valve is immune to this mentality.
The meme machine
Let me ask you: was anybody scrambling at the gates for a Steam Machine? A less powerful version of your PC with a clunky controller that won't let you run anything other than what Steam lets you? I guess not, seeing at it's been six months and it only sold 500,000 copies of the controllers, let alone the ugly boxes. The problem with the Steam Machine? Nobody asked for it. Nobody wanted it. There was no reason to put it out there. There was no unique selling point or "wow!" factor which made you think "Yes, I totally need this right now". It was barely marketed, didn't appeal to the customers it was supposed to, offered no compelling reasons to switch to it from your PC, and especially provided no reason to drop a thousand dollars on what is basically a PC with one program without the mouse and keyboard. And let me tell you: $1,500 can build a kick-ass computer.
So the Steam Machine is deader than the PS Vita (except in Japan for some ungodly reason), another bland and uninspiring console which nobody asked for and had no compelling reasons to buy into it, and at least the Vita had Persona 4 and Danganronpa (so that's why it's big in Japan!). It was declared dead 30 months before the funeral, and this time we weren't as wrong as we were about the Wii. The Wii was a games console that found its calling in ways that nobody except Nintendo expected, and as such everybody was surprised (shocked!) when it became Nintendo's runaway hit. The same can't be said about Valve's console, which has no audience whatsoever and has utterly failed to take away from the PC market it tried so hard to take a chunk out of. So what about Valve's other compelling hardware endeavours, none of which have impacted gaming culture in any way?
The VR regrets
You might think the HTC Vive is doing pretty good, based on mainstream reviews of it, but then trusting companies to give an opinion on a product is like trusting a drug dealer to give you a medical opinion. Reviewers who rush to review a product without putting any consideration onto the societal and historic relevance of a product is not in any position to give an opinion on it, because in the desire to rush for clicks, you miss out on giving an objective review that weighs the pros and cons of the product compared to its forebearers and what's come afterwards.
This is why you must never believe reviews about games unless they're made some time after the fact, not even on Wikipedia. A deliberate review of a game gives people time to deflate their hype balloons and not be blinded by novelty, which is why games like Watch Dogs, The Division, and Assassin's Creed were all given "mostly positive reviews" even though the gaming community considers them all to be overhyped piles of crap that nobody mentions anymore except to display how mediocre they are. It doesn't matter to a company how good their product is if they create enough hype to make a profit and then create the next barely palatable pile of garbage, like how Batman vs. Superman grossed 900 million dollars (I get the feeling I'm going to date this article a lot, aren't I?), which "smart" people thought was a pile of hot ass, yet went to see it because everybody they knew believed the hype and then paid money to see it. It's hard to believe we aren't all fucking sheep based on how often we continue to make mistakes like this.
Even the Kinect earned "mostly positive" reviews, according to Wikipedia, even though when people think about Kinect they know how much of a fucking joke it was, especially with all the drama that Microsoft generated with their increasingly stupid decisions with the Xbox One. Fuck, even the PlayStation Move was reviewed positively, and who the fuck remembers that sex toy? It doesn't matter that it sold fifteen million units - people will buy anything because of hype. What matters is that nobody gives a shit about it or any of the games that were released on it, and that's far less valuable to your brand than sales ever will be. The Wii is still fondly remembered to this day because of all the great games that were on it, as well as the backwards compatibility with the Wii U. Can the Kinect or the Move put that in their advertising?
Reviews are typically only made within a week after the product's launch, and that includes reviews of virtual reality headsets like the Vive. We haven't had time to savour and appreciate the good parts of virtual reality compared to all the downside of it, and boy, are there a lot of downsides right now. No compelling games (all of which are expensive tech demos), clunky and sometimes unresponsive hardware (which costs eight hundred bucks), the constant fear of tripping over the same hardware, the extreme price of the system (thousands of dollars for a decent setup), and the lack of mainstream appeal (who cares about this stuff right now except as a novelty) all provide compelling reasons to stay away from virtual reality.
This can change in the future, but for Valve to put their time, money, and advertising into developing a technology that isn't ready to be sold is a waste of their time and effort. And while this is more of a complaint about virtual reality in general, Valve is buying into the Vive pretty damn hard, and so far it isn't paying off for either them or their users (not that they give a shit about their users). Virtual reality in 2016? It's a meme, and I don't see it getting better in 2017.
"2015 was an undeniably huge year in Virtual Reality, breaking down the doors and setting the stage for an all-out 2016 consumer VR frenzy". Whatever you say, mate.
(in case you want my prediction, and you can shove this in my face if I'm wrong. By 2017, the oversaturated VR headset market will fail to make an impact in the mainstream market due to consumer ignorance about the practical and entertaining uses of VR, as well as high prices, too much choice, and complicated setup with none of the satisfaction of building IKEA furniture et cetera. The market will also fail to make an impact on gamers, who are satisfied with their traditional setup of mouse / keyboard / monitor, as having a headset is too impractical for most uses, much like controlling your PC with a GameCube controller is impractical and hard to set up, and so would only be used for hardcore emulation fans, as well as a lack of compelling games for the system, much like that of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Its use would be relegated to hyperspecialised areas like the sciences and the military, much like that of haptic and biofeedback today. After 2017? I have no clue. Times change fast, you know.)
While blaming a company for making a few bum projects isn't anything to be riled up about (companies pull this shit on a daily basis. eventually some sticks to the wall and we get a good new product), it's still worth putting the final nail in this section's coffin. To list all of the promises that Valve has made to their users and has then broken could fill up an entire article of their own, and as such I'll list some of the major ones.
The J.J. Abrams motion picture. Talked about in 2013 and then promptly forgotten about. So we can assume it's pretty much dead, just like all of the shit that Valve likes to talk about and never does.
Novint Falcon support for Half-Life 2. Why did they update a five-year-old game with this shit? You don't update Doom to include support for whatever fad of the year comes along, and every day Valve wastes on pimping out a dead franchise is another day you could spend doing anything else. I guess they gave up on the haptic feedback idea, until they decided to steal it for the subpar Steam Controllers.
Valve's canceled games. Do you know one of the biggest problems of being a secretive company? Because you have absolutely nothing to show to your customers when you say that you made some "internal projects" and then say you gave up on them without revealing a single fucking detail to anybody but yourselves. We have no idea whether or not you're lying, and that further damages your reputation. Never trust a company that refuses to be open with the public.
And that's not even getting into Valve's biggest fiasco...
I don't even have to get clever with the title for you to feel a chill.
Let's ask ourselves, what are mods? Well, mods are when members of a gaming community want to improve video games they like by adding new content and experience to a game. Modding is a tight-knit culture unique not just to the PC scene, but to the gaming scene at large. It's a community of individuals who develop this content out of charity, not profit, and release all for free, because they know that the mods users are just as big of a fan of the game like they are, and to betray the community by making falsely advertised products is one of the greatest sins you can commit.
It's a thriving, legitimate, creative community full of true fans. They spend all their time, sometimes months as a side job, to create mods for the sake of getting even more enjoyment from a game that they care about very much. They do so because they want to be able to spread their talents and ideas about what a game should be to members of the community, as well as opening up new doors to get more value from the money you spent on a game by releasing it all for free. Most of them don't even ask for donations, and they never expect to get paid for their work. It's a completely altruistic scene, and is one of the oddities of the Web.
Now we must ask ourselves, what are paid mods? A legal, ethical, and creative disaster. A system where a company steals content that they didn't create from an amateur community that's against profit in order to line their pockets with the blood money of other people's work, including assets that are plagarised from other sources, and provides next to no benefit to the modders who support Valve's revenue enhancing scheme, only getting 25% of the profit for doing 100% of the work, without any help from Valve at all.
Let's back this up a bit. You took a community that was completely content in creating work for free, decided to entice some of the members of the community with the promises of fortune, refused to tell the community at large about the system you were setting up, and then manipulated them into giving up control of their work to you while giving them a bum deal that only the most desperate of creators would take? This was a disaster on the face of it, and it's no wonder why everybody freaked the fuck out.
So here's Valve's deal: you upload a mod to the workshop (without checking if it's actually yours, because Valve has no quality control), you set a price for it (that Valve and friends get 75% of without negotiation), and you leave it there and pray it gets money (because the workshop is an oversaturated piece of shit to this day). When you install the mod, if it even works (because delivering a working product is too hard for Valve), you have twenty-four hours to get a refund (which is their half-assed solution to the endless amounts of non-functional mods on display), and if it breaks after a day? Fuck you.
The decision to target a market that had the entire world on a platter at their leisure was an incredibly retarded one, equivalent to advertising Origin on the Pirate Bay, which hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure Valve has a "bad ideas" list somewhere so they can troll their users like they have for the past decade. Why the fuck would anybody pay for mods when all the modders already went through the bother of installing separate software and learning how to configure their mods just right? For them, part of the experience is trying a bunch of different things and seeing what works out in the end. They would never give up their expertise in exchange for convenience, because they don't want all of it to be irrelevant. This is the reason why the Bloomberg system still exists on Wall Street, and why techies like doing things the hard way - because they learned that way, and they'll be damned if they'll give all that up.
This same system is what Valve has already done for TF2 and DOTA 2 - they let their users create cosmetics for their games, give them 25% of the profit for doing 100% of the work, force them to sign non-disclosure agreements about the exact details of what Valve said to them, and then laugh as they make billions of dollars off a system that outsources their labour to their users, giving them hundreds of thousands of items to choose and cherry pick at their leisure made by users who pray that they win the Valve lottery, a lottery where the actual quality of your item makes no difference as to whether it gets picked (including a FUCKING BANANA), meaning they have no incentive whatsoever to create new content to support the same users that have carried them through the years and have given them all of their profit.
This is exactly the same scenario that companies like Bethesda was trying to accomplish - they were trying to outsource their labour on Valve's storefront so that they wouldn't need to make any new content or updates for their game, because if something's broken, a mod will fix it, and they get a chunk of the profit for doing NOTHING for their users. It's an abusive system that can only occur if the users let it happen, and by God did they make sure that Valve wouldn't let it happen.
Despite the fact that nobody has asked for such a system, Valve went ahead with it anyway (it's just like Macklemore said: make the money!), and every modder that fell for Valve's scam by nuking all their free mods from the Skyrim Nexus was immediately executed from the community, and even those that didn't and still used the system were distrusted because they betrayed the modders who did it all without regard for money, being seen as sell-outs looking for a quick buck. To divide a years-established community for your own selfish ends is for dictators and manipulators who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of their success, but Valve has no morality, because if they did, they would have already foreseen the consequences of their actions.
Less than four fucking days after they unleashed this Hellhole into the world, they axed it. Why? Maybe it was because they were getting more negative press than Digg after the release of the HD-DVD key 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 (fuck you, MPAA), having their own system overrun by gamers releasing mods that demonstrate just how shitty of a system it would be. You can see the aftermath of the system in Valve's own page - a graveyard of bad intentions.
My favourite part is Erikat Shills' "apology" on Reddit (because of course it's fucking Reddit), which does nothing to make up for the irreversible damage of Valve exploiting their power to unfairly manipulate content creators into a system where they have all the power, dividing a steady and faithful community into lines that it still hasn't recovered from to this day. You have done nothing to apologise to, make up for, or provide anything to the modding community ever since your modding swindle, and to do nothing but make a post on Reddit is a sign of a company that not only has no respect for their users, but also has contempt for them that they would be so bold as to question the decisions of the giant that is Valve.
You're in luck, Erikat (use hyphens in your username, dumbass). I don't give a shit about you on a personal level, and I have no idea what you do at Valve (spin doctor? only God knows!). But today the almighty Froghand is going to give you his attention and tear apart your post into itty bitty babies. Habeeb it.
"We're going to remove the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop."
And not the rest of your workshop, which exists to generate content to be cherry-picked by an elite few individuals so that you don't have to do any work? Fuck nuking mods - nuke the entire goddamn workshop. If you want mods, go to the Nexus, not a situation where Valve has all the power and will try desperately to profit off of it by any means necessary, because to go from a community which actually cares about its product to a business which only cares about its sales is a stupid thing to do. I'm not mincing words, here. If you've seen Valve's complete distaste for the very same people who keep them in business, you must have some extraordinary line of thinking that's so far beyond my understanding that to entice me with it would be like getting a revelation from the angel Gabriel in my own little cave of insanity.
"For anyone who spent money on a mod, we'll be refunding you the complete amount"
And that's all you'll ever do, because that is the bare minimum a company can do without seeming like they're pandering to their audience, because Valve has to always maintain their position of power over their users in order to further drive them into the ground, because any sort of weakness might mean they take their business elsewhere. It's the same thing that Apple does - they are never humble. They never go above and beyond for their users except where profitable. They exist only to take money from their users, and if they make a mistake, they will never own up to it. There's no promise that "we'll never do this again" or "we'll improve ourselves in the future". Nope, just take your money, your non-refundable Steam Wallet money, and fuck off.
"We talked to the team at Bethesda and they agree."
They didn't agree on shit. They saw your company get fucked every which way, and decided they didn't want the same thing to happen to them. There was no negotiations or helpful talks - they bailed out before they lost face. If they really agreed that this was the wrong thing to do, which they don't, based on their ignorance of their own modding community, they would have never bought into your scam.
"We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing."
No shit. But you weren't blissfully ignorant about all the harm you would do - you were aware that you had the potential to break apart an entire generation of modders with the flick of your wrist, as well as targeting specific modders into your scheme despite any reasonable modder politely telling you to go fuck yourself. You had the opportunity to jump ship at any moment, but you continued to charge for the sake of your own ends. It was an incredibly stupid decision on your part, and you had all the information needed to prevent it.
"We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards,"
The same features that serve to maximise your product by giving false hopes to your users, telling them stories about fame and riches and being a part of something big, which never comes to light for 99.9% of your users, instead preferring to favour a select few modders who might as well be on your staff roster based on how much shit you accept from them. 25% is by no way a fair share for a userbase that does all of their work for you, and the only reason they do it is because you've sold them a lie so convincing that your users have no choice but to believe it. Don't ever pretend that you're in it for the generosity of your users - you're in it to create a labour force than benefits you while paying lip service to your biggest profiteers (fuck wat da dictionary said).
"and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different."
Whenever you release anything for your fanbase, they bitch and whine and complain about it until you make something that fits their arbitrary needs. That's what happens when you try to please the masses instead of pleasing the audience you want to - you end up creating compromises that benefit nobody, but they'll still give you money for because people need validation and will happily spend money on what everybody else likes. This case was no different - you tried to please the masses, and you failed because the niche market of modders rejected it like Apple rejects apps that offend murderers.
"To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea,"
Anybody in the modding scene would have told you this was a terrible, terrible idea. All you had to do was ask. But instead, you decided to ignore it, and create a shitstorm. The stupidity of your company barely registers with me.
"our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to,"
By giving them a quarter of the profits and pushing them into a system where they'd be lucky if they even get one paid download, let alone enough to make a living? This is either hopelessly optimistic (as is the case with many of Valve's predictions), or complete bullshit. If you really cared about modders, you'd give them a much bigger share of the profit, without screwing them over. But as has been demonstrated, you didn't even care about to ask them their opinions on your scheme. You expect to give them a full-paying wage? Fuck you, liar. And fuck what Penn and Teller said about getting sued. Send me on one of your famous arbitration committees if you're so bold, bitch.
"and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities."
Which developers? Bethesda, who got 45% of all the profit (more than the people who make the mods!), or you, who have failed to "provide better support" to your modders by giving them the same fucking tools for the Source Engine that they've had since 1998? If you want to provide support for your modders, which you don't, because you don't give a shit about your modders, you're doing it in the most half-assed, no-hearted, fuck-you-got-mine way that would make even the recording industry shut up and take notes. If you want to provide better support, give them better tools, give them more ways to publish their mods beyond your platform, stop censoring content that you think is "inappropriate", and stop putting your users into systems where you get all the benefits, and your users get nothing.
But you won't do that, because you're scared of what might happen if you were honest. You're scared that you'll lose all of your money if your users discover just how far the rabbit hole goes. You'll lose your entire business, because you rely solely on users who are too ignorant to realise they're being played like a fiddle, and milk them for all their worth. Just like your competitors, you manipulative band of cumsucking cunts.
"We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid."
How? Seriously, how? Do a fucking Web search before you spit shit out of your mouth. Out of all of the top twenty-five Skyrim mods that are available on the Nexus, FOR FREE, you thought you were so arrogant that you could encourage modders, these very same modders, to do better work than what they are already doing, FOR FREE, just because you paid them to? Just because you give them a bum deal, they'll suddenly suck your cock and create the very same magic that you've failed to? How demented is your mentality that you thought this was in any way a reasonable proposition?
"We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor,"
All of which were originally released for free, just like the same mods that you cashed in on. It's fucking ironic that you bring up DOTA and Counter-Strike, because while you're saying how releasing free mods were a mistake, you rely on these very same franchises that you stole from the Web to generate your most massive profits. The hypocrisy in what you are saying is incredible, and the ignorance that you have of the very same company that you work for is a skullfuck. But I guess you don't even believe the same bullshit you're peddling, now do you Erikat?
"and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it."
You want organic fucking mods? Look around you! It's happening on a constant basis, whether or not you're a part of it. The Nexus is probably the most influential modding site of all time, and it's getting upadtes on a literally by-the-minute basis. Not all of those mods are going to be massive, once-in-a-lifetime holy-shit cash cows like the very same mods you sell, but they're from the heart, God damn it. And if you want organic, it's right in front of your fucking face.
"But we underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop."
No, you didn't. You knew full well that people would contribute massive amounts of content to your store if you promised them the world. You wanted another repeat, another easy source of cash so you don't have to put any effort into your storefront. But this time, you fucked with the wrong crowd, and you got bit hard, and now you're walking away with your tail between your legs because you're so out of touch with your users that you had all the opportunity in the world to prevent this disaster, and you still let it happen.
"We understand our own game's communities pretty well,"
"but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating."
"Probably"? Is that damage control code for "we fucked up so badly that no amount of words can describe the hatred we have brought upon our graves"? Once again, Valve is trying to minimise the damage they have done by using deceptive language that's designed to take power out of the hands of the users and relieve Valve of any of their wrongdoing - just like Apple.
"We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."
"We fucked up. We're going to pull this same shit on you when your backs are turned, and you can't say we made any promises to the contrary". More understatements, more deceptive language, and more damage control from Valve. No, Erikat, you didn't believe in anything. You blissfully ignored all the warning signs, and went ahead with it with your dick limp and your ambitions sweaty.
"Now that you've backed a dump truck of feedback onto our inboxes, we'll be chewing through that, but if you have any further thoughts let us know."
Is that passive aggression I hear? Is this whining that you didn't get your way? Is this your way of saying "fuck off and stop calling us" without getting fired? Maybe it'd be good for you, based on the complete lack of effort you put into this post. Maybe you'd be my own personal spin doctor, where instead of calling me a cunt, you'd call me a "forceful presenter", where you'd write for me "apologies" that didn't even have the balls to say "sorry", ONCE, in the entirety of your contradictory and barely-sensible middle finger to the modding community that Reddit swallowed like the oily, off-colour, piss-mixed santorum that you're so fond of giving them.
You know why it's so damn hard to apologise to somebody? Because it shows humility. Because it shows you fucked up. It shows that you admit you were wrong, wholeheartedly, and without mincing words. When you apologise, you bare yourself to your audience and ask for forgiveness, and promise that you won't betray their trust again. And if you're lucky, they'll believe you. They'll be willing to admit your wrongdoings, because they actually care about you, and given you their blessing to try again and succeed.
But Valve? Valve can't have that. Because they don't have the trust of their users - they betray it time and time and time and time and time again with their false promises and abusive business model. They can't apologise, because their users won't forgive them. Not for all the time they wasted in Valve's honeypot, not for all the days they spent addicted to Valve's games, and not for the thousands of dollars that they wasted on virtual goods that does nothing more than give them a false sense of accomplishment while making Valve rich. You are a company that has damaged our industry more than any other company has before. Not even Atari fucked up this badly - because at least Atari killed off the industry instead of letting it crawl with both its legs amputated with keys, its arms shot dead by all of the narcissistic weapons your customers bought, it's heart replaced with a crate, and it's head with a hole where its common sense should be, because you lured them into a situation where they never even knew they were being taken advantage of.
And the mouth was replaced where a soul should be, because instead of having your users speak your praises, sing about how much you've impacted their lives, how much you got them through the tough times and saved their lives, how much your employees have done for society with the money you made, and how much the world will miss you when you're gone, you replaced all of that with a hollow gag so you can spurt more hats into their throat where a soul should be, because you stole their soul for money instead. What a world you made happen, Valve. What a fucking world.
It all bottles up
I can't speak with any more hostility. I'm over that. I'm done spending all of my time researching and writing about a company that doesn't even deserve my attention, let alone my respect. But I do so because I know there are people out there who feel that they're wasting their life on things that don't really matter to them. Things that they thought mattered, but didn't once they took a step back and realise just how far deep they're in. All the money that you got, gonna be gone...
So all I can do is speak honestly. Because I spent four years of my life falling for Valve's system, falling for the hats and the glamour and the virtual riches. I fell for the idea that who you were could be represented by your avatar, and that your worth in life depending on how well you can impress strangers you'd never meet again after you log off. I fell for Valve's scam, and I fell for it deep. Thank Christ I only wasted my time and not my money, because I don't think I could ever look at my parents if I told them I spent thousands of dollars on a game that stopped being fun a long, long time ago.
I fell for it by installing Steam and trying out Team Fortress 2. I was younger than I am now, and I fell for it hard. It was new, it was exciting, and it was one of the most unique things I had ever seen. It was a once-in-a-lifetime holy shit experience. And it was carefully crafted by Valve to get me hooked. And I guess being young and stupid, I didn't know better. I'm just grateful I'm a little bit wiser now.
TF2 was the big thing in my life. Valve became my shrine and TF2 its prayers. Every spare moment I'd get, it'd be playing TF2, because I didn't know what else to do but to try to get good and be a part of what I thought might be an okay community. But even though it wasn't, and I said a lot of things, vicious things, that I wouldn't even say today, I didn't know better. Because I was a young man new to the PC scene, and I didn't know that being an asshole wasn't a cool thing to do.
I'd be late for ides to play TF2, and I'd skip out on family events just to play some more. There were other games, sure, but none of them messed up my life like TF2 did. I'd pull acts of trolling and hacking in TF2 just to get some more enjoyment out of it, but all I got was a high, and then the high fades away and you're desperate for more and more outlandish things. You can't get rid of the naggling feeling that you're not having as much fun as you could be, and so you just keep playing until it returns.
I was addicted, all part of Valve's plan, and though it's easy to blame a company for personal responsibility, what else could I do? It was designed to keep me playing, and so I kept playing. I'd work towards the achievements and the rewards and the chances of getting a cool new hat. I'd spend money on it so that I could get some keys to buy loadouts that made me feel special. I'd travel around servers, wait to get banned, and then keep traveling so I could keep being an obnoxious cunt, and I wasn't trying to be a cunt, I was just trying to get that high that I came to expect from the game.
TF2 became the biggest time sink of my life, and I'd do whatever I can to play more of it and get more stuff and be a part of Valve's little skinner box. But then a time came about four years after I started playing, and I looked at the reviews of Team Fortress 2, I looked at my three-thousand, five hundred hours wasted on this game I spent so much of my life obsessing over, and I realised that this wasn't the man I wanted to be. There was no a-ha moment. There was no sudden depression that caused me to realise all of the mistakes I made. There was nothing.
All I did, and I kid you not, all I did was change my e-mail address. Valve sent me an e-mail asking me for a code, and I found out that because I made a mistake with Lastpass, I had lost my e-mail password forever. I didn't bother calling Steam Support, because I knew they wouldn't do anything for me. I didn't cry. I didn't worry about what would happen. All I did was sat down, leaned back in my chair, and stared at my monitor. I lost it all, and I didn't even care.
All the thousands of hours, years spent playing TF2, and I had lost it all in an instant because I had made a mistake. And I didn't even care. I swear to you, if I hadn't made that dumb mistake, that innocent mistake on a complete fluke, I'd still be trying to score hats on Team Fortress 2 to this very day.
You don't understand what addiction can do to you, until you take a step back and realise just how much damage it's done. I'll never get that time back. 3,500 hours could do a lot of good for a person... but I'll never get that time back. Not me. Not anybody else. Because it's gone. And all the money that you spent gonna be gone...
That's why it's such a big deal to me. Not because I'm a white knight who wants an easy target. But because it's important to me that nobody follows the same path I did and makes the same mistakes I did.
But the closest thing to a wake-up call for me? When LazyPurple said he had the same problem as me. Even looking at that video now fills me with the nascent emotion of regret. And I don't know if you're out there doing something that makes you proud, or fuck, even reading this blog if you can believe such an astounding thing, but I pray you're doing something that makes a lot of people feel good about themselves.
I still like video games, and I say that only because there are very few things in this world which I love. But when it stopped being the most important thing in my life to being just a part of me, I felt more like a whole man than I ever have before. Writing this article today made me realise that you could spend your entire life thinking you were one person, but then once you understand what's really important to you, and not just what somebody else suggests is, you think of life not for how you think it is, but how it actually is. That's one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Thinking of things objectively.
Four years of bullshit... It wasn't worth the weight.
Trust me if you want - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on 2016-06-07.
Nobody expects to be a bad person. It just sort of... happens.