Red Light, Parking Break, another bad car metaphor; why I took an off-ramp away from Steam Greenlight
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On December 28th, 2012, I ponied up $100 to Valve and added I Get This Call Every Day to Greenlight. It was a bit of a lark; I knew the game had limited appeal thanks to its terrible visuals and deliberate focus on mundaneity.
I started keeping a journal of my experiences. Greenlight was a bit different back then, without any relelvant stats for developers. Gamespot let me publish the journal as an editorial of sorts.
On January 29th, 2013, I was fired from my day job because of the game. Many "Let's Play" videos of the game hit YouTube, some by incredibly popular webcasters (the Yogscast has well over 5 million subscribers, and their playthrough video of the game has been viewed over 1.8 million times). Thus came a fair spike in votes and ranking, reaching as high as 90% of the way to the top 100.
On May 31st, I removed I Get This Call Every Day from Greenlight. If you're curious about its final standing, check here.
At the time, I was pretty pissed at what happened to Paranautical Activity. However, it wasn't a single incident that informed my decision. I was already pretty sour on Greenlight as a system, starting from the realization "everything was made up and the votes don't matter." Even now, games are Greenlit at Valve's discretion alone, with vote rankings but one factor used to make their decision. That's a reality I accepted when I paid for the service, but others certainly have not: I've seen my fair share of complaints when games high in the ranking get "overlooked" when new games are added.
Greenlight was also a great source of negativity. I didn't have things as bad as, say, Depression Quest, but there were still a fair number of hurtful comments. Here are some gems:
It is absolutely appalling that a 'game' like this even makes it into Steam Greenlight. What kind of person actually votes for this?
- [ò_ó] Sheepocalypse
'i'm a game developer' you could have at least tried to make it polished, this is just pathetic.
Poorly made flash game with bioware like decision making game that nobody wants to buy. Don't crap up steam with with this shit.
- FEEDel Castro
Ungrateful employee. Will not support ANYONE with this individual's nonexistent work ethic.
Before removing the game from Greenlight, I copied the entirety of the page's comment section and dumped it into a spreadsheet. Then I rated each comment by the emotional reaction it inspired: Positive, Negative, Ambivalent, or Confused. Here are the rather surprising results:
Over half the comments were positive, and yet I still had the impression that the majority of them were negative. Hell, I even tweeted them out under the hashtag #greenlightcomments as a coping mechanism. Even though less than a fifth of all comments were negative, they were powerful enough to overwrite the supportive ones, a lot of the time.
Now, here's the biggest thing. I believe in communities of mutual support. The successful help the less successful, and they help right on back, or pay it forward, and hopefully everyone becomes more successful in the process. When it comes to making games, we aren't really competing with each other. Greenlight is not a mutually-supportive community; it is a competition, where one game's success directly and negatively impacts every other less successful game on the service.
Every upvote received by I Get This Call Every Day knocked other games back in the rankings. Every game that surpassed I Get This Call Every Day in the rankings knocked it back further as well. Near the end, I could watch the ranking drop daily. Some days I could get a few hundred votes and not make a dent; in fact, the biggest jumps would come when other games left Greenlight (either by being removed, or by being greenlit).
It's not a community; it is a mountain for everyone to scramble up on the backs of everyone else.
That's not for me, sorry.
I'd like to apologize for all 14,181 people who said "Yes, I would buy I Get This Call Every Day if it were on Steam". I'm sorry to have disappointed you. Will I ever use Greenlight again? Maybe. The fee's paid, after all, and Valve is still making changes to the service.
There you have it (I'm bad at endings).
EDIT: 30 October 2013
I have made myself a hypocrite and returned I Get This Call Every Day to Greenlight. Since this blog post, Greenlight hasn't improved significantly; rather than fix any of its issues, it has simply greenlit more titles. Unfortunately my financial reality can no longer afford me to pass up the opportunity to potentially see the game on Steam. I have created a new page for I Get This Call Every Day, starting back at 0 votes. You can find it here.
EDIT: 7 April 2014
I Get This Call Every Day has been greenlit by Valve, and will soon be coming to Steam. I reflect on the experience in this blog post: 310 Days in Purgatory