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For many games on my game list, the number of hours I am "on record" for playing are much less than I've actually played.

According to Steam, I have not logged any hours playing the games that I poured my time into 4-6 years ago (Half Life 2, CounterStrike: Source, Portal, and others).

But then, my numbers for the game Altitude (bought 2 years ago, did most of my playing in the month or two afterward) are accurate, while my numbers for And Yet It Moves (bought 1-2 years ago) are about 1/10 of what I actually spent.

What determines whether or not Steam keeps tracking my play-time accurately? Are the actual for-real gameplay hours stored anywhere I can get at them?

Is this behavior intentional on Valve's part, something to improve performance? Or have they been struck by accidental data loss on multiple occasions?

Edit: I always launch my games from within Steam, and I never go into offline mode (yay for living with always-on broadband).

For all the example games I gave (and others I didn't), I have logged in to Steam in the past and had it show me accurate playtime numbers. But then, for some reason, those numbers disappear at some point.

Edit: Here is a screenshot from my games list Altitude and And Yet It Moves

  • Altitude came out on December 4, 2009. I believe the hours played number is correct.
  • And Yet It Moves came out on April 2, 2009 (after the March 2009 date mentioned by Anto). I have beat the game, and logged probably 10-20 hours playing it. I believe that the hours on record displayed in the past was correct, but as you can see, it is not correct any more.
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Wasn't this feature just not in place yet 4-6 years ago? –  goldfire Dec 21 '11 at 18:43
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@goldfire: I know that in the past I have had it show me hundreds of hours played in CS:S. Now, it shows 1.4 hours played. –  TehShrike Dec 21 '11 at 18:47
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@TehShrike looks like you aren't the only one with that problem –  z - Dec 21 '11 at 18:50
    
While this isn't specifically addressing your problem, I've noticed that Steam records the time played when the game closes. This means that if the game crashes, your playtime isn't recorded. –  SaintWacko Dec 21 '11 at 19:20
    
@SaintWacko It's true - I'm not really looking at reasons why gameplay time wouldn't get logged, just for things that would cause it to disappear after it was logged. –  TehShrike Dec 21 '11 at 19:27
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5 Answers

The hours on steam is only logged if you are playing while connected to the steam network. If you are playing while steam is offline or steam somehow loses connection, no hours will be logged. If your game is modded in some way and launched via a third party exe, it will not be counted. (For example, with Oblivion, I launched it with the Oblivion Script Extender and I have almost no hours logged).

For some other games, even though you've exited a game, the background process remains because it didn't shut down cleanly. In those cases, steam may even pad your game playing time more than you really played. This can be done multiple times where you end up with more hours of game play in a 2 week span than it is physically possible.

And lastly, Steam didn't track your hours played until a few years ago so it didn't keep track of your HL2 hours when it was first launched.

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e;f;b. minchar. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 21 '11 at 18:44
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Your guesses are good, but I don't think they hit on what I've been seeing - I've qualified my experiences a bit by editing the original question. –  TehShrike Dec 21 '11 at 18:45
    
@TehShrike Also, I think it's linked to whatever computer you play from. I remember switching computers some time ago and my "hours played" for all of my games were reset. –  Yuki Feb 23 '13 at 18:07
    
@Yawus No, the numbers are global - you can see them on the web site (including in my link in the original question) no matter what computer you're on or even if you're logged in as you –  TehShrike Feb 25 '13 at 21:00
    
@TehShrike Huh, I remember that being different in my experience, although that may have been patched since. –  Yuki Feb 26 '13 at 0:36
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You also have to take into account the fact that since the "Total playtime" feature has been introduce about two years ago, it didn't count all the hours you've been playing before. According to this article, gameplay hours are recording since March 2009 exactly. For instance, I've been playing CS 1.6 A LOT several years ago, and I only have something like 30 hours "on record" (because I don't play it anymore).

You can read players reacting about this over here: http://www.wegame.com/forums/general-gaming-discussion/steam-now-reports-all-time-play-time//#post-439405

Steam now reports all-time play time Finally! The stats seem to have started their count about a year ago, so it's not all-all-time, but it's a welcome addition nonetheless. Other programs like Xfire (and even WeGame!) have recorded and reported this info for quite some time.

I know, it can be kinda depressing for a hardcore gamer ;)

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That's a good find of an actual starting date for the stats. I think there are still cases of missing time on my games list though (link added in op) –  TehShrike Dec 28 '11 at 5:55
    
Thanks for the bounty ;) Glad I could help. –  Anto Jan 1 '12 at 21:30
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It doesn't fully answer the question (which is why I didn't accept), but it does bring the first hard data to the table. Thanks! –  TehShrike Jan 2 '12 at 16:03
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I think that it may be caused by Holiday Sale on Steam. Servers are very busy, even Steam webpage is unavailable few minutes after new sale day begins at 7 p.m. So you cannot expect that it will log your hours played when it can't even handle web requests.

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I've noticed these numbers being wrong for months, it is not recent. I don't believe it has anything to do with server load at the time of loading your games page. –  TehShrike Dec 28 '11 at 7:13
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Another facet to this: games that use loaders don't always detect the original game, and thus don't attribute time spent in that game to your account. An example that comes to mind from personal experience is the 2009 Prince of Persia.

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I can identify two problems with the way Steam tracks play time:

  • Steam tracks play time in online and offline mode separately. This means that when you play offline, your play time won't be recorded when you go back online, and vice versa.
  • Steam counts play time even when the game window is not active. In other words, Steam treats all time where the game is running, even when the window is minimized, as actual play time. While this behavior may make sense for online multiplayer games, it certainly does not for single-player games, leading to gross overestimation of actual play time.
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protected by Community Jul 30 '13 at 21:37

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