Defamation

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
games, reviews, steam

Companies:
digital homicide, valve



Digital Homicide Sues Steam Reviewers, Steam Drops It Like It's Hot

from the good-guys dept

In recent days, megalith digital games platform Steam found itself making headlines with a tweak to its game reviews system. At issue was Steam's prioritizing reviews from customers who bought a game on Steam over anyone else. Asked for an explanation for the move, Valve suggested that some game developers were attempting to game the reviews system by exchanging download codes for positive reviews. While this explanation omitted the prevalence of crowdsource funding of games, such as Kickstarter funding, Valve at least was putting on a public face of trying to treat its gaming customers well.

And now we have the second such story of Valve looking out for its gaming customers, as the platform has chosen to entirely drop a game developer known for its anti-consumer behavior off of the Steam store. You may recall that Digital Homicide is a game developer that has been featured on these pages before, having decided that the best way to deal with some mildly scathing reviews of its games was to sue the reviewer for ten million dollars, alleging emotional, reputational and financial distress. It seems that lawsuit wasn't a one-off, as Digital Homicide has now apparently filed suit against a whole bank of Steam users (at least 100), who reviewed Digital Homicide games, to the tune of $18 million, with a court recently granting a subpoena requesting that Steam turn over identification data for those users.

And, as a result, Valve has dropped Digital Homicide completely from the Steam platform.

By Friday evening twitter user "lashman" discovered Valve had removed all of Digital Homicide's games from Steam. Games like Wyatt Derp, Temper Tantrum, and The Slaughtering Grounds (the first game Sterling reviewed)—are all gone along with their community pages, reviews, and associated downloads as if they'd never been there. You needn't worry if you've already bought the games in the past. They're still there, accessible through your account's library. But if you have a pressing desire to play Wyatt Derp in the coming days, you'll have to look somewhere else besides Steam.

"Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers," Valve VP of marketing Doug Lombardi told Motherboard in a brief email. He didn't say how Valve plans to handle the subpoena or if "being hostile" even directly refers to the lawsuits.

Valve went as far as to allow community groups and past purchases to remain up on Steam, but everything else is gone. No more games for sale. No more reviews of any kind. No promo videos or early access projects. It's gone.

Digital Homicide, as is its wont, is attempting to wrap itself in the blanket of victimhood, throwing all kinds of accusations at its targets and doing everything it can to pretend that this legal action doesn't revolve around negative reviews of its products.

On Saturday night, Digital Homicide responded with a lengthy post on the studio's homepage, suggesting it targeted Steam reviewers who harassed them.

"The lawsuit recently filed is solely in regards to individuals where no resolution was able to be obtained from Steam to provide a safe environment for us to conduct business," Digital Homicide said. "We submitted numerous reports and sent multiple emails in regards to individuals making personal attacks, harassment, and more on not only us but on other Steam customers who were actually interested in our products."

The post then goes on to show screenshots of posts on the Steam community boards illustrating these personal attacks. Two of the biggest examples, in which one user says he wants "to murder every single person responsible for this [game]" and another that tells Digital Homicide chief James Romine he should "kill himself for making me waste 0.14 for your ****** game," don't appear in the leaked documents from a few days ago.

They don't appear there because these lawsuits have nothing to do with the kind of over-the-top vitriol that any game developer ought to have fashioned a thick enough skin to wave off in this digital era. This is all about the reviews and nothing but. Were the court to suddenly find itself burdened with lawsuits against every game review that included nasty language, the system would collapse on itself. Everyone knows this, everyone deals with this. It may not be pleasant, but it isn't a reason for a lawsuit.

Yet Digital Homicide's suit claims harassment, alongside -- swear to god -- disorderly conduct, stalking, criminal impersonation, tortious interference, libel, unjust enrichment, restitution, negligence, damages, and conspiracy to commit civil rights violations. In its response to being dropped from Steam, the developer goes on to claim that Valve's siding with its customers is an indication that Steam is not a "safe environment", before suggesting that some form of legislation is needed.

It better come quick, along with a win against every John Doe it is suing in court, because the prospects for Digital Homicide making any money from selling its games to a public now informed of these actions are bleak indeed. Valve meanwhile, and its Steam platform along side it, have built up just a little more goodwill with that same public in siding with customers over an abusive game developer.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 1:35pm

    You just can't make this stuff up

    Games like Wyatt Derp, Temper Tantrum, and The Slaughtering Grounds (the first game Sterling reviewed)

    There is just something so very fitting for a company like that to make a game and call it 'Temper Tantrum', given their typical responses to criticism. What next, a game called 'Vexatious Bully'? Or how about 'Victim Complex'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 2:37pm

      Re: You just can't make this stuff up

      Hope this isn't a prediction of their reaction path. They derped, threw a tantrum, and then...

      Oh dear.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:52pm

      Re: You just can't make this stuff up

      There is just something so very fitting for a company like that to make a game and call it 'Temper Tantrum', given their typical responses to criticism. What next, a game called 'Vexatious Bully'? Or how about 'Victim Complex'?


      It's more than that... the company calls itself Digital Homicide, and is responding to reviews telling them to kill themselves.

      And they appear to have committed Digital Suicide here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 4:39am

        Re: Re: You just can't make this stuff up

        --And they appear to have committed Digital Suicide here.

        I'm sure they will claim that all these malicious reviews caused the Digital Homicide of their business.

        I'd this an example of the self fulfilling prophecy?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 2:47pm

    If I play the world’s tiniest violin for them, will they sue me for emotional distress?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:12pm

    Here's hoping

    Let's hope valve keeps this up, and bans failed ex devs like derek smart, and 3000ad for this stuff too

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:22pm

    What? No RICO?

    Digital Homicide's lawyer is obviously not up to snuff. All lawsuits of this ilk (ie, utter bollocks) have RICO in 'em.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Krysta, 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:39pm

      Re: What? No RICO?

      Their lawyer is, in fact, the same as their game devs. They can't afford one on their own. Attempts to crowdfund legal representation has gone nowhere for them, at best. So they've been electing to go the route of self-representation in all of these rather misguided legal endeavors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 6:15pm

      Re: What? No RICO?

      They don't have a lawyer, and according to the gofundme page they cannot afford one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:23pm

    I'm confused. If this is a 'fairness in game reviews' kinda thing, does that make it "GG vs SJW"? If so, which is which?

    Does Digital Tantrum ... er Digital Homicide need a 'safe space'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 5:08pm

      Re:

      they have the insane idea that any review that says they are bad is unfair and therefore not a fair review. IN their small minds a fair review is one that only says nice things about them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:23pm

    i suppose in an environment when some vendors offer compensation for good reviews, bringing suit (or threatening such) over bad reviews or negative commentary is simply par for the course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:27pm

    Digital Homicide?

    More like "Digital Suicide!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      I doubt it. Gamers are very stupid people and they absolutely LOVE to patronize companies that rip them off, lie to them, and abuse them. We see fresh evidence of this every week: heck, merely the survival of some of these companies proves this point, as there's just no way they would if gamers had any sense.

      If Digital Homicide's games are attractive enough, then gamers will continue to provide them with a revenue stream NO MATTER WHAT ELSE THEY DO. They may squander that revenue on lawyers and lawsuits, but they'll have it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re:

        Uh huh.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 4:55pm

        Re: Re:

        And people who buy software of other types, hardware, movies, books, any number of other products and/or services... huh, you know it's almost as though it's a people thing rather than a gamer thing, but nah, can't pass up a 'those stupid gamers' opportunity now can we?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 7:24pm

        Re: Re:

        If Digital Homicide's games are attractive enough

        Well, except they aren't. That's kinda the whole point.

        According to nearly every review I've seen, they're basically single-level maps that would shame even a beginning Half-Life modder, using stock (some claim stolen) assets developed by others, with counter-intuitive and unexplained game mechanics.

        You certainly have a point if we're talking about AAA games (or even good indie games), but this ain't them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:54am

        Re: Re:

        It's so cute when Whatever posts as Anon.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Desolo Sub Humus, 22 Sep 2016 @ 6:02pm

        Re: Re:

        Go ahead, see if you can find anything attractive at all. http://www.digitalhomicide.ninja/

        Notice how they are claiming damages as well? I'd guess it's because their revenue stream is pretty close to being a dry riverbed by now. If they can't even afford a lawyer as a game developing company with the ability to bundle 'over 50 games' (as per their website), then clearly, they aren't selling too many games at all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ryunosuke (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 1:02am

      Re:

      more like "Digital Seppuku"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 4:20pm

    we can only hope they are stupid and arrogant enough to try and sue steam and get stopped from ever trying to scam anyone again in the video game industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Spyder, 21 Sep 2016 @ 5:44pm

    Counter-sue

    Claim disorderly conduct, stalking, criminal impersonation (of a games company), defamation, libel, unjust enrichment, restitution, negligence, damages, and conspiracy to commit violations of 1st amendment rights. Ask for $10million plus costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 21 Sep 2016 @ 6:44pm

    Wait a second...

    If Digital Homicide's definition of harassment is 'talking about someone', does this mean that DH intends to commit harassment whenever they talk about reviewers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2016 @ 7:25pm

    Probably self-interest

    Probably self-interest on Valve's part. Sending lawsuits to Valve creates work for them, probably pissing them off. Easier to drop problematic publishers to keep lawsuits away. That it benefits customers too is a bonus.

    But seriously, customers aren't stupid. We know a dodgy review when we see one. If a game is genuinely bad, it's going to get bad reviews. Nothing will prevent that. We can tell the difference between a review that explains why it's bad and a review that's "omg i hat thsi refnd pls".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 1:48am

    Yet Digital Homicide's suit claims harassment, alongside -- swear to god -- disorderly conduct, stalking, criminal impersonation, tortious interference, libel, unjust enrichment, restitution, negligence, damages, and conspiracy to commit civil rights violations. In its response to being dropped from Steam, the developer goes on to claim that Valve's siding with its customers is an indication that Steam is not a "safe environment", before suggesting that some form of legislation is needed.


    /armchair lawyering it up here, but lets take a look shall we?

    Disorderly conduct.... on the internet... let that sink in. That would include ALL of (number)chans, no less than 9/10's of reddit, among others.

    Stalking - *possible* but... gonna be kinda harder to prove if it was just on steam.

    Criminal Impersonation - Of who exactly, and in what capacity, if comments were made by devs whose assets DH "appropriated"....

    Tortious Interference - Steam isn't exactly like that, good games sell well, while bad games are... well they kinda get buried. Even games that are decent or even good gets buried after a while, it's called consumer demands.

    Libel - holy hell where can i go with this, well, lets go with asset forfeiture, From what I watched and read thus far, this isn't gonna stick because.. well, it's truth.

    Unjust Enrichment - (See: Tortious Interference)

    Restitution/Damages - (See: Tortious Interference)

    Negligence - How can Steam be negligent in this case, the very fact that they dropped DH like dropping the mic should be proof that Steam isn't negligent.

    Conspiracy to commit Civil Rights Violations - Seriously? They are trying to compare Steam with Hitler, Stalin, Mao? If anything, it is DH trying to commit civil rights violations by shutting down speech that they don't like (Read: The Truth and Facts). And also, if you are making such shitty games, then being called "The Jewish offspring of a slutty whore" should be the least of your worries.

    of course any actual lawyers can weigh in with thoughts and actual experience :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ben S (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      It's not Steam they're suing, they're suing users who use Steam. They simply subpoena'd Valve for the real identities of Steam users. A nice little point by point on the merits of the lawsuit, but you've got the wrong defendant which makes a real difference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ryunosuke (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:16am

        Re: Re:

        parts of it are construed as valve being the defendant, but the points are more of "How can users be negligent, How is grade school name calling a civil rights violation?" kinda argument.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Avideogameplayer, 22 Sep 2016 @ 5:06am

    And they wonder why people pirate games...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      I'd say anyone who pirates one of their games should be exempt from any legal punishment, as they've suffered enough just playing the things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 6:29am

    Prove em right!

    We submitted numerous reports and sent multiple emails in regards to individuals making personal attacks,

    Just because somebody calls the developers idiots in an online forum, doesn't mean you have to go and prove them right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Desolo Sub Humus, 22 Sep 2016 @ 5:47pm

    Users that did not like the games could have simply deleted them from their library ... and probably did. Reviews are just there to help possible future buyers make a more informed decision, and as badly worded as some were, they did just that. Looks like other than Digital Homicide's massive overreaction, all was working as intended.

    On the flip side, Digital Homicide could have simply stopped selling through Steam (and every other seller that allows reviews, aka pretty much all of them to some degree) on their own ... which they didn't do. They could have simply stated that they disagreed with the review system Steam has in place on their own site (even though posting that they are butt-hurt over negative reviews is like a neon, blinking, full-page GIF proclaiming that they only make crappy games, not good ones), but, of course, they didn't. Looks like nothing at Digital Homicide is working as intended.

    You can't judge a game by its cover, but you can judge a game by the developer's theme of sue-all-the-people-that-do-not-bow-before-me pretty easily.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digger, 23 Sep 2016 @ 3:12pm

    Digital Homicide sues John Does, gets court to rote issue a subpoena. After the law practice of Digital Sue-icide gets real names and locations, is the next step sending settlement letters?

    Holy Prenda Law!

    Did John Steele clone himself??
    http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2016/09/21/yuma-digital-homicide-video-games- sue-users/90742572/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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