Valve is rolling out a new feature on its Steam gaming platform called Steam Tags. If you have a blog on the Internet, or visit sites that use tags frequently, you know already how this works.
Basically, instead of just adding a game to a category, you can use tags that describe it in detail. So, instead of calling Call of Duty Ghosts an action game, you can add descriptive tags to it that fit the genre better. From shooter over military to fps for example.
What makes Steam Tags special is that it is entirely community based. If you are a Steam user, you can tag any game you want, even those that you do not own, with anything you want.
Yes, that led to abuse already but more about that later.
Tags can be browsed just like categories, which is probably the most important feature introduced here. If you like Tim Schafer, 4x or medieval RPGs, then you can use tags to browse only games that have been tagged this way.
And since you are more likely to trust the tagging of your friends, you can filter by those tags as well.
Whenever you open a game on Steam, you see a selection of popular tags on the right. While limited here to a handful of tags, there does not appear to be a tag limit which means that games can theoretically have hundreds of tags assigned to them.
You can click on the plus icon to open a list of tags, which also displays each tags popularity to you.
And as you can see from the screenshot above, most of the tags do not really describe the genre or theme of the game at all.
This is not the case for all games, but if you check out Call of Duty Ghosts, you will notice that the top five tags displayed on the game's store page are all non-genre descriptive in nature. They are: garbage, dog, bad, fish ai and poor quality.
Another example? Game Tycoon's top five tags are: rip-off, Don't buy this!, broken, crap and junk.
Unrelated to specific games are tags such as beard simulator, not Shenmue, or Put Flappy Birds on Steam, which you also find assigned to various games on the site.
That's a problem, since tags have been designed to help you find games faster, not browse games based on player perception, ratings or totally unrelated words or phrases.
Now, this is not an issue for all games that you browse on Steam. Many are tagged appropriately and you won't find unrelated tags listed on the store page directly.
It is likely that time will sort out these issues, as the majority of Steam users are likely going to assign proper tags to games.
It does not stop here though. Steam displays a new "For You" section in the client. It highlights games recommended by Steam, by your friends, and also displays five or so tags that Steam recommends for you.
If you take a look at the screenshot above, you will notice that one of the five tags is not really descriptive at all. This tag seems to make the rounds on Steam, as it is used to tag a wide variety of games on the platform.
Another issue that you may run into is that games that you already own are displayed when you browse tags. This may not be a big issue, but an option to filter out those games to improve the browsing of the remaining games would help.
Steam's tagging feature is in beta right now, and rightfully so. Once it gets over the initial trolling phase, it is likely that it is going to be a helpful tool for users of the platform to find games that they are interested in. For now, take it with a grain of salt.