Emoji Evolution is a puzzle game on Steam about combining weird symbols. Or at least it was: Valve recently removed it from the storefront and banned its creator’s developer account after apparently discovering how they were exploiting Steam’s layout to try to trick people into playing the game.
“Valve has banned my developer account due to the ‘review manipulations,” Emoji Evolution developer Very Positive wrote on Twitter last Friday. “Absolutely disagree with this accusation.” Very Positive sounds inoffensive enough as a name, but in the context of Steam’s store pages, it ended up being easily mistaken for an actual Steam review rating of “Very Positive.” The developer even made sure the name matched the font and color of Valve’s official ratings. It was a cute prank and a funny riff on the ways developers try to game Steam’s marketplace.
At least I thought so. Valve? Not so much. In an interview over on Vice with Patrick Klepek, who was one of the first people to discover the trickery, Very Positive originally said they didn’t think it would be an issue. “Valve fully understands how minor this trick is,” they said. “It’s more important to have a famous brand name like Obsidian there.” Apparently not.
Originally born of a conversation about the nature of emoji online and their ongoing transformation and proliferation, Emoji Evolution ended up being an interesting art piece highlighting some of the absurdities and shortcomings of Steam. It remains to be seen if it will ever return, or inspire other small developers to try to take advantage of Steam’s laissez faire approach to curation.
“I’ve made a really bad game—this is the only thing I’m guilty of,” reads Very Positive’s latest tweet. “If making awful games is not allowed on Steam, why haven’t they already suspended the CDPR account?”