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Steam Recommendations On Niche Make PC Gaming Great

I’m not a PC gamer. I have a PC that will play video games, but it’s an only-decent gaming laptop that can’t run the most cutting edge games with any degree of smoothness. My PC is mainly used for reviews of indie games I know my lack of power can cope with, as all of my casual gaming time is spent on PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch – consoles I specifically request when review codes come my way. Despite playing video games, I would guess, six days a week on average, the last time I played a PC game was Balatro in February. Even then, I remember being annoyed at discovering it was also on console.


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This means I’m out of the loop on PC gaming. I’ve never really understood the appeal in spending five-fold the cost of a console for the right to have to spend over an hour tweaking settings for every single game you play, deal with games breaking in unexpected ways unique to you, and then have to keep upgrading your graphics card for hundreds of dollars a year lest you no longer have the finest gaming experience known to humankind. I don’t understand the loyalty to Steam over Epic Games when to me they both just seem like shops you buy your games in. It feels like being loyal to Asda over Tesco (for those across the pond, that’s Walmart to… some other American store. McDonald’s, maybe).



Steam Is Usually My Last Port Of Call

https://www.pcmag.com/news/valves-handheld-gaming-pc-steam-deck-lands-in-dec-for-399

All this to say I realise I’m in no position to critique the PC gaming experience too much because I’m not part of it. I don’t understand the struggles, I don’t understand the joys, and I don’t buy into the ecosystem enough for the algorithm to know me like family. But I’m still surprised every time I log into Steam (read: every time my laptop wakes up from a full reset and shoves Steam, Spotify, and Teams in my face) at how on point the Steam recommendations are.

In the current Featured selection, there are some great choices. Animal Well has just come out and is the world’s hot new indie. Pacific Drive is there too, another fairly recent indie that was praised at launch but never found much of an audience – exactly the type of game that should be here. I can allow Ghost of Tsushima being there too, massive though it is, because it’s up for pre-order ahead of its imminent launch on PC.


There are some poor picks, I admit. EA FC, Red Dead Redemption 2, Helldivers 2, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection – anyone interested in playing these games has already done so, and they’re taking up space games that could do with the spotlight would find much more valuable. RDR2 is specific to me and my meagre selection of games, but I’ve got 250 hours in the game on PlayStation already across two playthroughs. On the one hand, you might argue Steam isn’t to know that. On the other hand, it’s Red Dead Redemption 2. One of the best known, best selling games of all time. It hasn’t delved into the depths of its library to pull out a hidden gem here.

Steam’s Niche Slider Is A Lifesaver

necrobarista


However, when I scroll to my personal recommendations, I see a much better selection. Some of these I have played on console already, like The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, Citizen Sleeper, Immortality, or Paradise Killer, but given I loved them all, it’s clearly on the right track. Then there are suggestions like Necrobarista and Inscryption, which have been on my ‘to get to’ list for a while. Beyond that, there’s Decarnation and Stars Will Be Mine, which I hadn’t heard of until I checked for this article, but both sound great.

The reason Steam’s recommendations are so strong is because you can tweak how niche you want these recommendations to be. I have mine two thirds of the way to niche, enough to weed out games I’ve definitely already heard of but not so hipster that it thinks I’m the sort of person who turns their nose up at how mainstream Devolver is. Resetting this slider gives me Baldur’s Gate 3 as my top recommendation, another game I’ve obviously already played elsewhere, so it shows how important guiding these recommendations is, even if you can’t shape the algorithm with every second dedicated to gaming.


It’s a problem across gaming – I’ve written about a similar issue on PlayStation, where the majority of my gaming time is spent. There’s little incentive in curating recommendations these days, best to funnel all players directly into winners they’ve already heard of. But with a little bit of tinkering, Steam can guide you through to some great games you’d never even have noticed, and maybe that is why it’s a storefront that commands such loyalty. Long live Walmart, and all who shop there!

Now For A Dissenting Opinion

Why Are Steam’s Recommendations Dogpoop?

Blindfolding myself and clicking a Steam page at random would serve me better recommendations than Steam’s algorithm



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