The Practice of Review Bombing

Let’s rip the bandaid right off of this one, shall we? I don’t mind the practice of review bombing. In fact in many cases I would even go so far as to say I am supportive of it.

Review bombing is not a new practice, nor is it the exclusive domain of gaming. Movies and even Amazon products have been subjected to it well before it entered the parlance of the general gamer.

It has become a common enough ‘problem’ that the usual extreme libertarian stance and slow to move nature of Steam has been overridden and they determined to take ‘corrective’ action. A period of ‘off-topic’ reviews will essentially lead to all reviews over that time being ignored for the purposes of the score calculation.

None of the reviews so marked will be deleted, so those that care may dig into what they were all about.

Insofar as such a policy goes, I think it reasonably fair and balanced. But of course the devil is in the details. Valve will be the sole arbiter of what is, and isn’t, ‘off-topic’. In the blog post they outlined that EULA changes and DRM based reviews will be examples of off-topic. The rationale being these are not, ‘things a general gamer would care about’.

With the recent Borderlands example, they have also set precedent that undesirable publisher actions will also be considered ‘off-topic’.

So, Why Support Review Bombing?

Actually let me start with my understanding of why most people don’t support the practice.

The gist of it is that review bombing is punishing titles for actions unrelated to the quality of the game or series in question. That a undesirable action on the part of the publisher doesn’t have any affect on one’s ability to enjoy the game itself.

Not an entirely unreasonable view. I just don’t think it is a complete one.

A review in my opinion is for the very purpose of establishing whether or not the game or product in question is one you would want to spend your money on. Of course the actual merits of the game are one of the main factors, but they’re not the only one. And I don’t agree that consideration of the developer or publisher actions, business practices or ethics are somehow out of bounds.

This is not a standard we apply to any other purchase or support decision in life. Sure, not everyone cares about whether their eggs are free range or cage farmed. But you won’t hear anyone telling someone who does care that they’re only allowed to hold opinion on the quality of the egg itself and that anything speaking to the practices of the corporation behind it are irrelevant.

If a publisher or developer takes money to make their game exclusive to Epic, after first making commitments to the contrary and taking money from backers in order to even have a game in the first place? I want to know.

Things like that affect my decision to purchase. Therefore they have a place in reviews. Exposure of this kind is one of the few voices left to the consumer. One of the few ways we have to affect change. We’ve seen it in games when Bethesda attempt to sell ‘premium’ user-created mods for Skyrim in 2015, with the outcry then turning this around.

We’ve seen the power of the voice of the customer in overturning other, more important issues in the world, such as the reliance on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores. At first but a rumble, with not enough people actually caring to bring change. Slowly a momentum builds and now all of our big supermarket chains have dropped plastic bags.

So I don’t think we should be so quick to silence, write-off or ridicule those with a different set of standards for publishers than what we may be held at present.


Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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