Steam's introducing a way for players to easily trade 'gift' copies of games and, of course, their fine collection of Team Fortress 2 items. It's now in public beta testing, if you fancy a go. Valve hopes to roll it out to Portal 2 "reasonably soon" and plans to get third-party games in on the fun too.
Trading lets Steam users swap 'gift' copies of games (either received or bought) and TF2 items, mixing and matching to get the game or hat of their dreams. You can only swap unused games which are expressly gift copies, not just any old thing on your Steam account. Steam will be getting an easy option to buy gifts without sending them, if you want to stockpile bargains for future trades.
Trading's done through a natty special trade window (pictured above), initiated though a Steam chat. You can also view players' inventories of tradeable games and items through their online Steam Community profile, and drag items into chat windows to show them off. Check out the FAQ for more details.
Previously, TF2 hat fans had to arrange trades in-game on servers, and use community-run sites like TF2 Items for online inventories. There was no official way to trade games, so you'd have to trust the other party.
Right now, you can only trade gift copies of games and TF2 items, but, Valve notes, "Portal 2 should be reasonably soon and we hope to have several third-party games in the next few months."
You can join the trading beta through the Steam Settings page. It also brings goodies including organising your Friends list through tags, a separate tab for Steam Groups, and a fix for offline mode.
[Thanks to Shacker supreme Felicia for posing for the image up top. She's available to hire for hand-modelling, fitting bathrooms, and squishing cane toads.]