25 June 2017

Steam support: the new ouroboros...

Steam support has always been dire. At best, it might be described as "poor" or "sub-par" but the usual user experience is "terrible". I've not had to deal with Steam's support for a while now but an incident happened that made me question what was going on with my account and I needed some help with that.

Cue this particular turn of events:

"That's cool an' all... but I didn't play this game?"

I logged into Steam for the first time in a while and had the green 'mail' notification gleaming in the corner of the screen. I figured that these were one-time, limited offer notifications that I could get such-and-such at a discount as they usually are when I have no interactions with the service. Instead I was greeted with these four game cards (above).

I was immediately taken aback because I haven't played this game since 2014 or 2015.

I know that Steam trading cards are awarded on time played but, since I haven't been playing this title, I couldn't understand how I had come about them. My first instinct was that my account has been compromised, someone else has been playing my games and that I should change my password. But, what if these are postgamingly* awarded cards for the time I did spend in the game? I've never heard of that but it could be a thing. Then I thought, "Let me contact Steam support to confirm this".

Steam support used to be a combination wiki/human endeavour. Now it has evolved to become a service that is part-phone banking automated system, part-wiki and all-hellspawn. Let me introduce you to the current Steam support:

Seems simple enough...

"What?", I hear you say out loud. "That is really clear!"

Oh, but don't be fooled, my pretties. Steam support has many surprises in store for your naive minds... You see, I have a query about an account. MY account, to be precise. So I enter said "genre" of problem.

Seems simpl-... waitaminute...

Okay, I have what some people might term (myself included) 'suspicious activity' on my account. However, there's no option for that. These are all issues that deal with being able to use my account. So, maybe, it's in a different section and I'm not following through the Steam tech support designer's thought processes here: let's try "Trading, gifting, items, community market".

This leads me through several pages of different lists that vary between "I've been scammed" and knowledge base articles such as the supreme gem "I'd like to learn more about Steam Gifts".

So, maybe it's not in there either. Let me try "Games, software, etc.". It might be in the "etc."!

Yeah, you can see the last five games I've played and judge me too... In my defence, I wanted to kill some time whilst trying to be quiet. That's why I was playing RISK!

This takes me through to a list of games you've recently played (none of which is Baldur's Gate) - which could be assuring. But let's continue on and check anyway...

The choices on offer vary from "I didn't mean to purchase this game" to "I want to permanently remove this game from my account". There's also the option for technical or gameplay issues with the game. I choose this because, 1) I did intend to purchase this game and 2) I do intend to play it again at some point in my life.

I am then presented with the option of stating that the game won't install/download, won't launch/crashes or runs poorly with a sixth, catch-all option of: "I am having another problem".

"GREAT!" I think to myself. "This is where the automated system shunts me to a real, live human who I can speak to and work on the issue with constructively.

*Reuh-HUUUR* "-And the answer was..."

Oh dear.

So basically, Steam will sell me a game but not support it. Fair enough - for issues with crashes to desktop or performance issues. However, THIS ISN'T ABOUT THE GAME! It's about Steam and their support for their platform.

Choosing other options takes me around in a cirlce back to the main page. Like I said in the title: an ouroboros. I can't make headway because whoever designed the system never envisaged that their precious Steam could be opaque or unintuitive and clearly had it in their design specs that no human support should be required.

Now, the overly cautious of you might say - go ahead and change the password. Why?! Why should I do that? The recently played games list has no mention of the game in question but then I still have the question as to why these cards have been issued to me now.

So, as per the Steam support system, I can only ask the question of the people available to me: Beamdog.

Steam won't help me with this quandry - can you do tech support for them despite them getting millions upon millions of monies from consumers worldwide who they don't give a crap about?

So what am I to do?

Well, for starters I've been transitioning off of Steam for quite some time - hence why I haven't been logged in for a couple of months. At the end of the day, their platform is good for people who play together but not so much for someone who plays single player games - especially when they provide no support. I've spent hundreds of dollars on their platform and yet out of the three times over 17 years I've needed to really get some feedback from them, I only got good customer service once (and even then it was slow). God help those who actually need that help today because Steam just doesn't want to know.

It's amazing that Comcast et al. continuously get the lowest scores in the USA consumer feedback surveys but, lets be honest here: Steam support is a big stinking pile of crap that is dragging the platform down. For the amount of money they make and the amount of goodwill Valve have squandered over the years this is not the service gamers want or deserve... 

*The gaming equivalent of 'posthumously'...

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