Steam Trading Cards: Cynical Exploitation or Harmless Metagame?

Features, Games and Gaming

If you’re reading this, you probably know what Steam Trading Cards are. They’re a metagame recently introduced to the Steam platform, and they tie into the also-newish Market (where game items like TF2 weapons and hats and, to a lesser extent so far, in-game digital goods from other games can be bought and sold for real money that can then be used within the overall Steam walled garden). They also tie into the until-now pointless Badge system, where you are awarded icons on your profile for participating in betas or sales or interacting with the community or just buying MOAR GAMES, and include abilities to customize your Steam profile page with backgrounds, use emoticons in chats, and other silly crap like that.

Cards come in sets, like physical trading cards, can be ‘crafted’ to upgrade them, and are ‘dropped’ — like weapons and hats and other things are dropped in Team Fortess 2 — when playing games that have them. They can be traded, bought and sold. They are also dropped when voting on games to be offered at discount in the current, massive Steam Summer Sale 2013, and more worryingly, when buying games. And that’s where things, for some, get a little… icky.

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