Valve has responded to the recent controversy surrounding the removal of several ‘adult themed games’ on the Steam Store.
The blog post by Erik Johnson directly references the issue, and an admission to the confusion surrounding the whole controversy among Valve and developers such as HuniePot, Top Hat Studios and Winter Wolves.
About a month ago, a number of adult-oriented Steam games received communications from Valve stating that they must change their games or face removal from the store.
The main focus from Valve specifically refers to games on the Steam store that deal beyond claims of adult content. “The challenge is that this problem is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content.” write Johnson. “Instead, it’s about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics – politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on. In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games – like what even constitutes a “game”, or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.”
Valve has struggled with this issue for some time. Many of the issues stem from asset-flipped games that are constantly banned on the platform. Others have been banned previously due to their controversial subject matter. For example, last week the developer Revive Games, behind several asset-flip titles, had their upcoming game Active Shooter banned from Steam. The game was designed to be a simulation of a school shooting situation, where players can be police or the school shooter. It was seen as incredibly distasteful due to the recent issues of gun violence in North America.
Valve notes that the growth of its company and a full range of issues, from international laws and customs as a persistent challenge. Johnson admits that Valve has no way true way to make everyone satisfied with their decisions due to this. Valve has decided to take a simpler, more hands-on approach on the subject.
“We’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” Stated Johnson. “Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see.”
Valve has been fairly hand-off regarding what is posted on Steam for a while now. And vows to continue to do so for practically all content on the platform that doesn’t fit the “illegal, or straight up trolling.” criteria.
Valve also believes that it should not be them deciding what is on the platform, but the players on Steam itself. “If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.”
Valve plans to review games on a case-by-case basis still, meaning some games that are tagged to fit their explicit criteria may be still be flagged. This implies, however, that they can be challenged by the developer team, although success is not guaranteed, with Valve attempting to remain as impartial as possible in the process. The company will also be implementing more tools into the hands of the user base to moderate content found on Steam for themselves, such as the ability to override the recommendation algorithm or give players the ability to hide games based on keywords within the Steam store.
Johnson was quick to point out that this does not mean the games are given approval by Valve. “To be explicit about that,” he said. “If we allow your game onto the Store, it does not mean we approve or agree with anything you’re trying to say with it. If you’re a developer of offensive games, this isn’t us siding with you against all the people you’re offending.”
For the short term, Valve will be reviewing current games being released on Steam individually until the promised tools are fully developed and released to the public.
What are your thoughts on all this? A good direction for Valve and Steam? Leave your comments below.