Anything goes on the Steam Store now after Valve said it will stop policing games – and that’s not OK
The Steam Store was the target of public outcry last week when the divisive school shooter simulation game, Active Shooter, was added to the PC game marketplace.
The company subsequently unlisted the game from Steam and promised its users it would be addressing “the broader conversation about Steam’s content policies”. Now, in a roundabout way, the company has followed through with its promise in a lengthy 1,200-word blog post, but not in the way you may have been hoping, or expected.
To summarise the post in a TL;DR fashion, Valve will be taking a complete hands-off approach. From here on out, Valve will not be policing content on its store – no matter how tasteless the game is or how much backlash the game receives.
“We’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam store, except that things we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling,” Valve engineer Eric Johnson, wrote. “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 controls over what kind of content they see.”
The tools will seemingly allow you to filter what content you see in the store through granular categorisation. If you don’t want to see anime games, you can make that choice; if you want to restrict the kinds of games your children see, you are responsible for making that choice.
The Active Shooter controversy came about just as Valve was seemingly wavering on implementing a content policy, having sent out removal emails to developers of adult visual novels weeks before. It’s clearly a tricky subject for the company, when it really shouldn’t be.
According to Johnson, Valve has to decide on whether to allow games “within an entire range of controversial topics – politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity and so on”. Instead of having to deal with the complexity of policing content like Active Shooter, Valve has said it will just take its hands off the deck and allow everything.
That said, the company will require developers to “further disclose any potentially problematic content” when it submits its games. Disclosure certainly doesn’t mean removal, however. So what does it mean?
“It means the Steam Store is going to contain something you hate and don’t think should exist,” Johnson wrote. “But you’re also going to see something on the store that you believe should be there, and some other people will hate it.”
“To be explicit about that – 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.”
In other words, Valve is absolving itself of all responsibility for the games that end up on its platform. Besides being the Steam Store’s gatekeeper – it wants nothing to do with the content. Except the cut of the money, of course.
Does Valve have a duty to remove harmful, tasteless content from the platform? It technically doesn’t, but by allowing the content onto Steam, the company is telling the world that they agree with it – no matter how much they try and convince us otherwise. By taking a significant cut of the money from games that promote tasteless, racist, sexist and homophobic content, Valve is saying “Yes, we support you” – and that’s not OK.