Valve has had some trouble figuring out exactly how to police Steam, their massive digital storefront. On the one hand, with video games gaining more and more acceptance as a form of personal expression, there are those who say that banning any games from Steam is unacceptable. On the other, Valve has had to put its foot down in the past with games that were just outright trolling. Games like Active Shooter, a game that put players in the shoes of a school shooter which hit Steam just days after the Parkland, Florida shooting ended up getting pulled from sales.
However, not everything is so clean cut. In recent months Valve issued warnings to publishers of eroge games threatening to take them down unless their content was censored. Eroge games originated in Japan and typically contain what would be considered softcore pornography. However, most of these games are already censored in order to appear on Steam. Valve’s problem seemed to concern the fact that many of these games can be patched to be uncensored, though the files needed to do so lay outside of Steam. While Valve apologized to the developers who received the warnings, they did state that the games were still under review.
– IMPORTANT NOTICE –
I’ve received an e-mail from Valve stating that HuniePop violates the rules & guidelines for pornographic content on Steam and will be removed from the store unless the game is updated to remove said content.
— HunieDev (@HuniePotDev) May 17, 2018
It’s a tough situation, especially given that there is a large and growing eroge game fanbase. Getting banned from the largest digital distribution platform for PC would be disastrous for these smaller, niche developers. However, instead of banning these games, Valve has come to the opposite conclusion.
Valve will now permit “everything” on the Steam store except for “things we decide are illegal or straight up trolling.” Instead, of continually fighting to police material that some may find offensive, Valve instead will concentrate on providing tools that people can use to remove products they find offensive from their view. That means that you’ll be able to get more control over how Steam recommends titles for you, including overriding the algorithm, and the ability to hide vast swaths of games that don’t interest you entirely.
Why Steam Allowing “Everything” is the Fairest Outcome
So, if you don’t like games with “anime tiddies” in them, you’ll be able to hide them from your sight. New parental controls will be a part of the implementation of these new filters, so your kids can have their own accounts and not be subjected to “anime tiddies” either. Those who love “anime tiddies” can be showered with them to their heart’s content, and as long as the filters work as Valve says they should, then everyone can be happy.
Steam reaches people all over the world and is the primary storefront for PC games, period. This was an incredibly mature decision for Valve and will ensure that everyone can get a fair shake. After all, instead of smearing a game you don’t like on Twitter, you can just hide it on Steam and go about your business. Consumers don’t have to be subjected to the material they find offensive and developers are allowed to make controversial content without the fear of having a misfiring algorithm throw it in everyone’s face and distort the author’s intent.
So, what does this actually mean? Will there be thousands of games with talking boobs and wee-wees with swastikas tattooed on them slamming our senses? No, it means things will go on mostly as they have for years. Steam has never been too heavy-handed when it comes to banning games, and although for a moment it looked like they were going to crack down on eroge games, the decision has apparently been made to continue business as usual. Those games that target specific groups with hate speech for the purposes of trolling will still be rejected as they are today.
What this announcement means though is that developers from cultures all over the world can continue to make games as they see fit. As long as they’re not explicitly trolling and their game doesn’t contain illegal material, they have the right to put it on Steam. Instead, Capitalism and the free market will be their judge and jury. If a game is good and people want to play it, then the developer will do well. If it doesn’t then people will filter it out and the developer will flounder.
Capitalism might not be perfect, but this is an instance in which it makes total sense to let people vote with their wallets. Some may be upset that Valve isn’t taking a more heavy-handed approach to moderating the content on Steam, but this is likely the only approach that is truly tolerant and will allow all those who submit to do so under clear and fair rules.
Simply put, it’s impossible for Valve to make everyone happy, but it is possible for them to provide tools for each user to look after their own happiness. The crux is that no one person (or even a small group of people) can dictate what is offensive to the rest of the world or not. Too much of a heavy hand would end up with Steam starting to weigh games not because they think you would like them, but because they find it acceptable for you to like them. Instead, now you’ll be the one to decide, and I for one enjoy that kind of freedom.