Valve Removing Paid Mods Is Everything Wrong With Gamer Entitlement

Last week Valve unrolled a feature that would allow people to sell Skyrim mods on the Steam workshop. It wasn’t a mandatory requirement all mods be paid or listed on the marketplace, but there was now a legal infrastructure to allow modders to be paid for their work. A few hours ago Valve announced they would be removing this feature and issuing refunds to anyone who had purchased a mod.

This post isn’t specifically about paid mods, as despite the features brief existence it’s been covered extensively by those both for and against it, but about what caused Valve to backpedal and remove the feature entirely. I have little doubt that we’ll see paid mods again in the future on Steam, but again this isn’t about paid mods or what I think about them. It’s about how gamers as a collective voice have become so entitled so as to feel they can command companies to do whatever they feel is best for them, the consumer.

If you haven’t kept up with the unveiling of paid mods, the response has been…unpleasant. Though personally I felt it was a great idea, as did many others in my social media circles (and especially those involved with game development interested in new monetization options), you’d be forgiven to have heard nothing but the cries of rioting commenters who seem to view paid mods as the end of modding, and possibly gaming as a whole.

Wander into a discussion thread about paid mods, or look through the comments on a paid mod itself, and you’ll see people calling Valve, Bethesda, the modder, and anybody that disagrees that paid mods aren’t the literal worst idea ever things like “shills”, “sellouts”, “whores”, “the harbourers of gaming’s destruction”, “nazis”, “Hitler”, urges to commit suicide and get raped, etc etc. This isn’t confined by any means, it’s everywhere and in unbelievable quantity. It’s some of the most disturbingly prolific vitriol I’ve seen in a long time, which is saying something given how online harassment seems to have become the new normal.

And this is the problem. Harassment and hate filled comments, yes, but more directly that this is how gamers have come to collectively demand a change when a company does something they dislike. It doesn’t matter that there are genuine problems with how Valve had implemented paid mods and that people had articulated them without resorting to hate speech. The voice that is the loudest is the only one that’s going to be listened to, and in this and so many cases it’s the one that causes the most uproar, causing others to join in for fear of being the mob’s new target if they say something that runs afoul their narrative.

Roll back a few years and you see this same mentality attacking Bioware after the release of Mass Effect 3, and the outcries that the ending wasn’t up to snuff. There were certainly people writing solid criticisms of the endings and suggestions for how it could be improved, but the people Bioware heard were the ones threatening and harassing them and their families. All this, because a video game ending was unsatisfactory to the mob. And by now the mob knows how to get what they want and how to get others to help them achieve it. Sure enough an extended ending to Mass Effect 3 was released shortly after.

This has to stop. Gamers firstly have to stop turning into rabid hate filled animals when they don’t get exactly what they want. It’s absurd and horrible and quite frankly makes me wish I didn’t like games as much as I do and could just leave all of it behind. Secondly though, companies need to stop giving in to these demands. I’m disappointed that Valve removed paid mods, but if that had been their decision or one brought about by level headed discussion from the community, fine, I’ll live.

The fact of the matter is though that the hate won out. People yelled long enough and at enough people that Valve decided it wasn’t worth it anymore, and thus reinforced the idea that this is how gaming culture operates. That there is no room for civil discourse because the only person who gets a word in is the one who can rally the most people to flame the most forums until they’re satisfied and move onto a new target.

There were a lot of ways Valve could have remedied the issues people had with paid mods, but in removing them entirely they’ve both reinforced a toxic element of gaming and now made it that much harder to start a similar program in the future. Because now it’s shown that all it takes to change a company’s mind is to call them an “asshole” several thousand times; that the most hateful element of gaming is the one that ultimately matters most. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but I want to believe it’ll be one of the last.

5 thoughts on “Valve Removing Paid Mods Is Everything Wrong With Gamer Entitlement”

  1. You make so many great points Nate, and i back them entirely. Unfortunately that means that the gaming industry really is in sad times indeed.

    There is this strange (in the background) war going on between devs/pubs, consumers and modders.

    Devs want to milk everything they can and seem to take quality of their product less and less into account. Consumers don’t seem to like this and will turn more and more to Modders for help correcting/patching/extending their poorly developed games. Modders are getting increasingly bogged down by the sheer amount of effort and teamwork it takes to fix these poor excuses “finished products”.

    But no one wants to pay the modders, modders don’t see why they should fix these gargantuan games without a return, and devs continue to churn out garbage and expect top dollar for it.

    Something has got to give!

  2. You already know my thoughts on the paid modding thing, so I won’t get into it much except to say after reading Valve’s announcement I’m a little impressed and relieved that they did what they did, and more importantly, said what they did regarding Skyrim’s mod community, i.e. it was a poor choice to stick a wrench in such an intricately entrenched and established ecosystem. I think there’s damage done in that arena, but hopefully the modders and users can put it behind themselves. I still don’t think the companies should inject themselves into the modding aspect of games, but that’s me.

    But your post is top to bottom 100% spot-on: gaming’s culture of violent, hateful, xenophobic hysteria has a stranglehold on the chances of any civil discourse arising during one of these “controversies”, and the worst offenders really and truly don’t seem to see anything wrong with their behavior. It is a horrible social landscape compounded by the jealous protectiveness gamers have for their “hobby” and the myopic idea that they’ve been “oppressed” from the days of the first X-Boxes and Playstations, and twisted again by the free-for-all anonymity of the internet, which came into its own in the public eye just about the same time gaming did. Gamers are a pure distillation of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory and that’s the sad truth.

    My only hope is that people, here and there, remember how vicious each new dramafest is and for their own selves decide to stop the knee-jerk hate. Won’t happen overnight, but maybe it’ll get better.

    1. That’s really what I was trying to get at with this piece. It doesn’t really matter what the change people are bringing about is, it’s that the way they go about achieving it is through hate and dogpilling. Then when they get the change they want, it reinforces the idea that they were right all along. Combine that with (as you pointed out) most of these people not understanding how horrible their behavior is, and it’s a recipe for it continuing indefinitely. I don’t think companies should be sticking their fingers in their ear and ignoring feedback, but they need to put down their foot and clearly state that the way people are attempting to bring about change is not how we should be going about it.

      1. No offense, but you act like that was the only kind of argument/discussion transpiring about the thing the entire time. That’s just not the case. And then on top of that you lump all of the assholes on the internet into the “gaming community” like that’s the only place they exist. I’ve been around since before the days of BBS systems, and there are a few things I can’t stand.

        One, I can’t stand this notion that gamers are what’s wrong with the net. Assholes on the net existed as soon as the net was the net. And they’ve been here ever since. I am nearly 40 years old and I’ve been gaming my entire life, from 2600, coleco vision, turbo graphx 16, etc. And I know a TON of gamers. And NONE of them behave in this fashion.

        Two, I can’t stand your assertion that this change came because of the assholes blaring their horns. I saw LOADS of intelligent discussion on this in many, many places on the web. And by and large, the argument AGAINST it was far better than the argument FOR it. And the largest problem (at least where I was) was that the modders made too SMALL a cut.

        So a couple of things come out of this: You and your ilk that constantly lump gamers into this “entitled” category apparently hang around these douche bags non stop. Go somewhere else. Hang out with adults. When I see nonsense and hate filled garbage on my screen, I click something else. The worst people on the net get the biggest voice because of people like YOU who put them front and center. Where is your opinion on all of the highly intelligent and thought provoking discussion that happened on Reddit? Elsewhere? You are no different that major media outlets that give the biggest morons the most screen time! It’s like a virus.

        So like I said, stop lumping me and the other 80% of the gaming population into this pigeon hole you and people like you create. Honestly, you are no better than the screamers. You dish out on opinions that you don’t like by lumping the majority (that’s right, the MAJORITY) of the voices into the subset of the voices. Where I did see hate, I saw it on BOTH SIDES of the argument.

        The more reasoned argument won out. I can’t come to intelligent people and say: WE WANT YOU HARD WORKING PEOPLE TO GET PAID FOR YOUR HARD WORK! And them give them a pittance of that work. That kind of nonsense doesn’t fly with people with half a brain cell. And you know what, THAT is why Bethesda is introducing their own model with Fallout 4, in order to remove Valve from the equation, so that modders can ACTUALLY be reimbursed for their content (and then Bethesda gets their cut, because it’s THEIR MEDIUM and THEIR TOOLS) if they wish it so.

        THAT is reasonable. And if I like it, I’ll pay for it. If I don’t, I won’t. Entitled? No, reasonable.

        AND… P.S. As a gamer, in some form I understand the outrage in the community right now, although I don’t condone SOME (Again, small portion) of the way it’s conveyed. You buy a lemon car, you can return it. You get a car that’s got a part so broken that it affects a ton of people, it gets recalled and fixed. You buy an appliance and it’s broken, you can return it. ONLY IN GAMING can you sell a broken, buggy piece of crap product and “get away with it”. Gamers the world over are abused for their passion, and every single time they turn around, someone is finding ANOTHER WAY to charge them for something else related to something they have ALREADY PAID FOR. DLC content already on the disc, etc. But again, you don’t see people writing about the reasoned discussions happening all over the net about this, because quite frankly that’s not click-baity enough.

  3. I don’t know Valve’s exact reasons. Perhaps there are details running in the background you/we don’t know about. But I am not actively seeking out information about this. If it weren’t for your activity feed and some reactions of other people on my friends list this topic would completely past me by so I’m speculating.

    Anyway: Valve hasn’t started business just yesterday. I assume they know what they want and what they are doing unless someone proves the contrary. What would be their loss had they retained that system? Even though some people leash out into other platforms like GOG Steam still seems to be the dominant one. Where would these hateful people go if things didn’t go their way? Nowhere. All popular games are released on Steam, and god forbid anyone relating to the “PC masterrace” would ever – *gasp * – turn to any console of some kind. So, I’m not sure if it’s really just some supposed majority crying the loudest or Valve actually having other, better, proper reasons. I bet they’ve always been getting hate about other stuff one way or another and by now know their way around what makes sense and what not. If they couldn’t they probably shouldn’t and wouldn’t be in the position they are in right now.

    Them refunding money which was already paid sounds like an insult to the players who were willingly spending it and like a slap to the face of the modders. Like some silly paternalism: “You gamers don’t now what you are doing, so we can’t let you pay these guys!”. But even then I wonder: If people really want to spend money why not simply pay (or donate, or whatever – its the same thing just in a different color) some other way? With PayPal and the sorts anyone could easily send them what they feel to be right. It doesn’t require Steam. It’s not necessary to get pennies into some modder’s pockets. It would be a convenient tool, I guess, but it shouldn’t be overrated in it’s importance either. Perhaps, in the long term, it’s for the better even because Steam perhaps shouldn’t be the dominant platform for modders to get some revenue. Even now – though I generally have positive feelings towards Valve – I am already sufficiently worried about them being the ruling DMR platform.

    I see analogies to “free-2-play” games and the massive sales and bundles you’ve been criticizing through which people can play or obtain games for (almost) free. There, in the aftermath (and theoretically), they can still spend what they feel to be reasonable. That’s basically how this modding works too.

    As for the hate itself: Maybe it’s just the Steam community. Or the “PC masterrace”. Or it’s the Internet as a whole. There is so much bullshit drama going on there – I sometimes wonder why I still try to take part in some discussions. “Just leave it be and do what you’ve initially come here for: Playing games” I occasionally tell myself.

    In this manner: What’s the point of this? What do you hope to achieve? It’s an honest question. Though I suppose you can reach out farther than let’s say I could ever do I still doubt that those who are hating around – or Valve – will suddely have a change of heart and mind for your statements here, regardless of how unsurprisingly well written this text of yours is.

Leave a comment