Steam's new trading card system was brought out for the recent sale, and at first I was excited - the ability to display certain cards on one's profile, which I assumed would be associated with feats of gaming prowess, would be pretty cool. Perhaps even give us a reason to care about Steam profiles - or maybe just a way to differentiate ourselves. But after looking into the confusing trading card system, I was left disappointed.
The idea is, after playing games for a while, cards will drop. But only a certain amount - to get the rest of the cards in order to complete a set, you'll have to trade with other players. Completed sets turn into badges, which can be displayed on your profile, and Steam has vaguely mentioned some possible future discounts that may be attached as well. But for the time being, the only addition a badge will make to your profile is "I have spend a lot of time and/or money."
Trading cards were promoted quite heavily in the last sale, but on the Steam trading cards community page, they don't actually tell you how to get them. A look at the FAQ reveals this answer:
That doesn't actually tell you much.
But a little further down...
For free-to-play games, cards are based on how much money you spend. Buying games will also get you cards (at least in the sale). And for normal, participating, paid games, cards drop due to how much time you spend in the game. It's not connected to achievements, or feats of skill, or score, or anything like that, though they say in the future they'd like to include community events.
Fair enough if the achievement system could be manipulated, and therefore wasn't included. But at the moment it feels like we're the ones being manipulated, and I'm not inclined to care about any system that only tracks how much time I'm spending in it. Especially if it only starts tracking from July 2013.
Given the amount of hours we've already put into our favourite games over the last decade, it feels like the new system is ignoring our gaming history. You get a badge for years of service, but seriously - this isn't a fair system until you give me literally everything there is to have in Counter-Strike. I've done my time, and taking hours out of my day to reinstall and play an older game just for my Steam level is just not in the cards.
Valve is searching for ways to make their social functionality count for something - a reason for you to share your experiences on Steam, as opposed to Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube - and it seems odd that this is how they choose to do it. By attaching a broad term like "Steam level" to nothing but time and money spent, they cheapen their brand. They confuse us as to what Steam is about. They might as well call it "Diamond Premium Tier Customer".
The only virtual numbers I care about are my bank account and KDR. But I know there are those out there that see achievements, and levels, and cards, and just can't help themselves. So go on - enlighten us, Kotaku. Do you care about Steam trading cards? And why?