Steam Queues Revisited
I felt that after last week’s post regarding the somewhat lame recommendation engine that Steam uses to put products in front of us, I had to come back and talk about the feature that I stumbled upon quite by accident.
Although Steam doesn’t seem to quite use the data it collects on us to make recommendations, it does now allow us to opt out of seeing products with certain tags. There’s two ways of getting to this*:
The first is when you’re in the queue. Right above the NEXT IN QUEUE button is a link that allows you to customize the kinds of products you’ll see.
The second method is accessible once you complete a queue, by using the CUSTOMIZE YOUR QUEUE button.
The customization isn’t super-robust. You can filter out all EA, software, and Unreleased Products as a rule, but beyond that you can enter a tag (with autocomplete, so you just need to know a ballpark), and theoretically you’ll no longer see products tagged with those words. So far, I’ve had good luck, although the downside is that a lot of games that you might decide you don’t want to see either don’t have a specific enough label that wouldn’t block other potentially interesting products, labels are mismatched because someone wanted to get cute, or labels that really should be applied simply aren’t (if you don’t want to see visual novels, I didn’t see very many examples marked as such). Personally I think that “VR” should be a checkbox because of the number of people who don’t own VR headsets, but if this feature is in its infancy, then maybe Valve will get wise over time and beef it up a bit.
Note that this is for your discovery queue and doesn’t seem to have any effect on what you see on the front page either normally or during the Steam sales. Still, using the discovery queue to actually, you know, discover stuff is probably the best way to find games that you might not have known about. This filter will only omit certain products with the tags you specify, but it still doesn’t do anything about the “because it’s popular” reasons for surfacing titles, which is still a really big issue.
A Strange Detour Into History
I haven’t picked up much this Steam Sale, so far. My daughter wanted Hatoful Boyfriend so I got that for a whopping $2 and change. I also picked up Dead By Daylight because the “slasher film killer vs campers” conceit sounds way more interesting than any other 4 vs 1 titles out there (we’re still waiting for the game to get the bugs ironed out).
One game that I did pick up — and stick with me here — is called 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. This came into my discovery queue some time ago. It’s a choice-driven narrative (CDN) game in the vein of The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands from Telltale Games, although this title is from INK Stories. I like the choice-driven narrative games, although TWD and TftB are, of course, cherished fictional universes. 1979 is a semi-historical narrative taking place during Iran’s Revolution in the eponymous year.
Really, the only “historical” games I own have been wargames like Crusader Kings or Sengoku. I’m also only slightly versed in the Iranian Revolution (i.e. I know it happened). I had no overwhelming desire to get anything beyond “a decent game”, but I ended up really liking this episode a lot. Like other CDN games it’s short — Steam has me clocked at about 1.9 hours, and I completed it in one sitting — and it ended rather abruptly so I assume that there’ll be more episodes.
What was really strange (to me, at least) was that amidst all of the other games in my library that featured space marines and dragons and other totally off-the-wall, made up worlds, a game set in the real world about a real world event and the people it affected, I went for this game anyway and was not disappointed. I mean, it’s got great reviews on Steam (Very Positive) so I figured it’d be a good bet anyway, but it goes to show that while sticking to a single or a few genres is totally OK, there’s a whole lot of other interesting stuff out there that we might not ever see or ever consider. Initially I had decided against this game because of the obvious political undertones (and I ain’t gonna lie…is this shit going to get me on a watch list? You never know these days), but stories are stories. The background event happened and we can’t get away from that. Yeah, it’s political, and yeah it’s been a major sore spot for a whole lot of nations, but we tend to forget that nations aren’t sentient entities; they’re actually people. They are individuals who are being asked to make long-term decisions based on information — fact and fiction — that’s constantly changing around them. Some people let themselves go with the flow and don’t bother to think beyond ideologies, but this game shows that although we find it convenient to consider certain blocks of people under a single umbrella, there are always individuals at the heart of any matter who are just doing the best they can with what they have to work with at the time. Sometimes it works out for them, and sometimes people get plowed under by the weight of circumstance.
I’m certainly not saying that I feel better about myself for taking the plunge on this “edutainment” product, nor am I attempting to entice others to do the same, although if you’re looking to get out of the sci-fi-slash-sword-and-magic rut, here’s An Option. The game itself is really well done, especially the voice acting. A lot of the decisions you have to make in terms of responses are timed, which adds to the feeling of pressure that surrounds you as Reza, a freelance photographer whose pictures are being used by the revolutionaries to support their cause, entirely unbeknownst to him before his friend Babak drags him into the center of things. I know political topics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (they’re certainly not mine), 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is actually pretty good as a game in its own right.
* I say “two ways” but it may be available on the desktop Steam client version on the main page. Screenshots above are from the Steam web-store, which may or may not differ from the desktop version.