Why I Hate Steam

Earlier, I posted a rather longish rant about Homefront, a video game that squandered so much potential. Now it’s time for another rant, but instead of a specific game, I’m ranting about a game service: Steam.

Steam acts as a store, multiplayer venue, and digital rights management system. By linking your game through their online portal, it ensures you haven’t pirated a copy. You buy games there, download the files, and there you go.

Or rather, there you almost go. See, if you buy a game through Steam, you need to run Steam in order to play it. (Hell, sometimes you buy a game in the store like Civilization V and you still have to play it through Steam.) This is part of the anti-pirating effort. Playing the game through Steam more-or-less validates the game as a legitimate, payed for product and not a pirated copy.

I don’t mind game companies protecting their games. DRM is necessary. So, in theory, I approve of Steam. What I don’t approve of is their consistent updating of games and Steam itself.

What’s wrong with that? Imagine you opened your RPG book and, instead of finding the character generation rules you need, you find blank pages with a note from the publisher stating, “We are updating your game. Please wait.” Then you have to wait 15 minutes to several hours before the text appears.

Video game companies issue patches all the time, and not just because they ship the damn things way too early. No one can anticipate how every single PC reacts to the code, nor every possible exploit or game balance issue. Those need to be corrected. However, most game companies offer the patch and give you the option to download and update.

Not Steam. Want to log on quickly for a short deathmatch? Not if Steam decides your game needs an update. Or if Steam itself needs updating. You legitimately purchased a game and Steam makes you wait. I have no control over my game–Steam will let me know when I’m ready to play it.

Another point: By making me open Steam before running a game, they force me to watch ads for their online store. No! I don’t want to purchase Worms Armageddon at your low, low price! I just want to play Civ V!

This is why I hate Steam. They take control of the game away from the customer/player and keep it to themselves, then they fire advertising at me. Again, it’s not the DRM component I mind. It’s how Steam decided when I can play a game; what updates I should install; and shoves marketing in my face. The ads wouldn’t be so bad if they would stop updating the damn games and platform every other day!

Thank God for tabletop rpgs! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go play Civ V some more. Damn my addiction!

PS: The ironic thing is pirated copies don’t require Steam to run. That means illegal copies are easier to deal with than legal ones. DRM or not, that’s not good business.