…in more ways than one. Putting this down here because 140 characters on Twitter is a pain in the arse sometimes.
The Purpose Of Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down on Greenlight
When you give a game the thumbs up on Greenlight, it’s an explicit endorsement of the game. It is, by design, a button to agree that yes, this game should be on Steam. It has one purpose and one purpose alone.
1. A person, when clicking this button, agrees that yes, this game should be on Steam and that would be a jolly good thing.
When you give a game the thumbs down on Greenlight, it’s… hang on, it could be any number of things.
1. It could be that a person disagrees with the very thought of this game being on Steam.
2. It could be that a person simply wants to shoo the game out of the “unrated” list.
3. It could be that a person simply fancies downvoting something.
4. It could be that a person viciously hates a developer for existing, with or without good reason.
5. It could be that a person thinks that the game is currently not ready for Steam but maybe it will be in the future but for now, let’s just downvote it until changes are made.
6. It could be for the lulz.
It could be any number of things.
Thumbs down is a button without clear purpose
And that makes things awkward because then there’s no way of telling why a game is getting downvoted, only that it is. No-one will ever know if it’s for serious or for frivolous reasons because it’s just a button that gets pressed, there’s no feedback, nothing granular, there’s no reasoning that can be assumed. It’s a button of no certain purpose.
If the purpose of the button is to police offensive or unsupported content then it is duplicating the function of the report button and it can be removed.
If the purpose of the button is to see what people don’t want on Steam, it doesn’t just fulfill that purpose for all the above reasons.
If the purpose of the button is to enable people to dismiss games from their rating pile then it should reflect that, not be “thumbs down” with all the implications that brings.
You don’t have to rate everything up or down.
A simpler and more sensible route would be to offer people a way of ignoring the votes. Under the current system views are split into what you’ve rated/what you’ve not rated. Having a “I don’t care” button of some variety is one solution. Netflix use this system to reasonably good effect.
The ideal solution would be to just remove negative or ambivalent voting entirely and just allowing the games that do get votes to speak for themselves. That way those who don’t care or don’t want a title on Steam don’t have to take any action.
The Other Big Problem With Thumbs Down
AKA: Why it truly concerns me.
When you log into Greenlight as an author, you will see a display of the percentage of pos/neg votes. As an author, you will be fundamentally aware of the amount of negative votes your game has received and it will, for most people, be an overwhelmingly large number in comparison to positive votes. And it will be this way for a lot of developers for no other reason than the button exists with no clear purpose and people will have a thousand different reasons for using it and lo, they will have used it.
It can hurt be just ignored but that’s something a lot of smaller developers already cope with. To have a bar that explicitly tells developers that large groups of people don’t wants their work? That’s way, way different and when someone is already vulnerable, this is one super extra hard kicking that they probably don’t need, right?
Some games and developers are better equipped to absorb these downvotes
I’m 10 years strong FUCK YOU indie. I’m used to people downvoting my games, I’m used to harsh comments and I’m able to tune out large amounts of them because I know and have learned to concentrate on the people who do care. They’re the people who keep me making games, they’re important to me.
But as I say, I’m tough as old boots, my wings are like a shield of steel and I’m more likely to flid over a developer or something. I also have a great support network in place and a reasonable buffer of wonderful people who can always make up for any and all negativity. I’m not so easily bothered by a red bar filling up with votes, I take great amusement in my own, for example. It makes me giggle and I do not consider any negative votes as a problem for me.
But everyone is not me. And that’s super important to remember.
People will get hurt
Thumbs Down is a function that could, and probably will, discourage developers.
Not just discourage developers from submitting games to Steam again in future but from producing games again in future. Because if 1,000 people feel strongly enough to use the button without purpose to say NO SIR, THIS IS A THUMBS DOWN FROM ME then that can hurt. Not to sound like a soppy twat or anything but developers have feelings too and it’s already a massive ask for a lot of smaller developers to put themselves out there in the public eye like this. Just the very act of submitting a game to Greenlight, something I can do without a second thought and on a cheeky whim, is a super big massive thing to many that requires a leap of FUCK IT! that’s not to be underestimated.
No-one likes being told they’re shit
I don’t think this is a healthy thing for games development as a whole. To be ignored is one thing, to have something infer “you’re too shit for Steam” is hard to separate from “you’re too shit” precisely because people don’t tend to be unthinking automatons. People have feelings. There’s many talented developers who only have the scantest levels of self belief and it’s those that we run the risk of alienating from game development in the longer term through systems like this. Things that on the surface, perhaps, seem harmless but come loaded with potential things that can and will cut deep and cut hard for many.
You might well say “well, the developer should know better than to submit to Greenlight then because clearly their game isn’t good enough or they just can’t take the heat” but y’know, bad votes happen to good games as well as bad games. Just by the button existing with the vague-to-none-whatsoever-purpose, people will click it and people will get hurt who don’t deserve to feel bad about themselves.
We’re supposed to be encouraging people to make games right now and sure, someone’s first (or second, or third!) game might be shit and maybe it’s a reach putting it on Greenlight but Greenlight is going to be an important step for many and it’s harmful to discourage them from feeling able to do that if we want a healthy, vibrant and varied Greenlight environment that extends beyond the usual indie heavyweights and big names.
The game they put up there now may be guff but the next one might not be and if they’re already soiled for life on Greenlight or Steam or a large community of players, I don’t see how this can have a happy ending. I’ve seen promising developers quit for less than this because they’re already unsure of themselves and uncertain of their talents. I don’t want to see a system in place to tip that balance further.
Even allowing for all the myriad of reasons a person might hit that downvote button, that it could cost us future games from developers who may never continue after the kicking, I’d prefer to see it shot for that reason alone. I’d just prefer to see less people get hurt full stop, really.
And that’s good enough reason to lose that button, y’know? For the future of games.