In recent times, Valve has struggled to draw a line in terms of what’s allowed on Steam. Controversy has raged over the removal of games with explicit sexual content as well as objectionable themes like the glorification of school shooters. In response to all of this, Valve has decided to open the floodgates even wider.
In a blog post musing on the difficulty of deciding on a case-by-case basis what should and should not be allowed on Steam, Valve’s Erik Johnson explained that the company does, in fact, have a team of humans that looks at “every controversial title submitted to us,” and employees frequently disagree like Steam users do. “The harsh reality of this space, that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad,” Johnson wrote.
And so, Valve has come to a conclusion: allow everything, but give users tools to avoid the games they find most egregious.
“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,” said 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.”
He said that some of those tools already exist, but other new ones will allow users to override Steam’s recommendation algorithms and hide, say, anime games—which strike me as the least of Steam’s potential problems under this new policy—from your store page. In addition, Valve plans to improve anti-harassment tools for developers, so as to prevent them from being mobbed for creating controversial games.
All that said, laws across the world mean that “everything” may not be allowable in some places, so Valve’s still gonna have to handle some submissions on a case-by-case basis. “Our current thinking is that we’re going to push developers to further disclose any potentially problematic content in their games during the submission process, and cease doing business with any of them that refuse to do so honestly,” Johnson said.
He concluded by explaining that Valve will certainly not approve of everything it, well, approves, but The Market Will Decide or whatever.
“If you’re a developer of offensive games, this isn’t us siding with you against all the people you’re offending,” said Johnson. “There will be people throughout the Steam community who hate your games, and hope you fail to find an audience, and there will be people here at Valve who feel exactly the same way. However, offending someone shouldn’t take away your game’s voice. We believe you should be able to express yourself like everyone else, and to find others who want to play your game. But that’s it.”
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