Post Valve's 'Hands Off' Games Curation Announcement, Everything Is A Mess
from the shrugging-emoji dept
Back in June we discussed Valve’s somewhat odd announcement that it was getting out of the games curation business, and opening its platform to what it said would be far more games. The restrictions on what type of content would now be allowed on the gaming platform was said to mostly be limited only to games that are “trolling” or “illegal.” As with all things Valve, this apparent announcement aimed at transparency and making sure developers knew what expectations Valve had for games on Steam mostly achieved the exact opposite, with everyone wondering immediately what qualified as “trolling.” Nobody could really agree on where exactly Valve would be drawing the lines on the types of content it would allow. That said, most people, including most of the participants of the podcast we conducted on the topic, essentially agreed that this would chiefly allow more games with sexual content onto the platform.
And, yet, it seems that even that hasn’t been true thus far. Kotaku has a post up discussing the many, many sexuality related games that had been disallowed from Steam, but which were gearing up to be included based on the new policy. It seems the policy hasn’t opened up the platform to many of them after all.
James Cox was finally feeling optimistic about his game’s chances on Steam. Last year, his horror-inspired exploration of what it’s like to look at porn for the first time, You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter, got booted from Valve’s walled garden, but then, earlier this year, Valve said it was getting rid of all the walls. His game was neither illegal nor a troll job, so it should have fit into Valve’s “allow everything” policy. Months and a rollercoaster of policy changes later, however, and Cox has no idea where his game stands. Its release is on hold indefinitely.
Cox is far from alone in his confusion. In the wake of a fiasco in which Valve apparently erroneously targeted a bunch of previously approved sexy games for removal from Steam, the company said last month that it was holding back games with suggestive content from release while it planned a new suite of filtering tools for the Steam store. These tools, which still are not available, will allow users to decide what kinds of games they see on the store.
In our podcast, I pointed out that this would be a problem. Valve essentially rolled its new policy out before it could be put into place, basically doing things exactly backward. If Valve had developed its filtering tools first and then rolled out the policy, allowing these newly allowed games onto the platform, much of the current confusion wouldn’t exist. Instead, it told game makers the good news of the policy prior to them being able to make any use of it. What the hell was the point of that?
And even the policy doesn’t seem to be cohesive within Valve itself.
Except that, according to Cox, Valve is still insisting that developers censor games that contain what the company perceives to be objectionable material. He said he spoke with Valve shortly after the company announced its anything-goes policy.
“I asked Valve if I needed to resubmit the game for it to be reinstated or if it would automatically be unbanned once the content control tools were released,” he told Kotaku in an email. “They told me that they still consider the game to be porn and that they can’t sell or distribute porn or content that is illegal.”
Which is leading us right back to a discussion as to what constitutes porn. Which, if you’ll recall, is where this all started in the first place, as one person’s porn is another’s art. Cox’s title, for instance, is a horror-type game based on the character’s first life experiences with pornography, which is represented in text-based images. Valve told him he had to remove the porn parts of his game, to which he asked if just removing the ASCII art would be enough. It’s been over a month and he hasn’t had a response.
Meanwhile, other porn-y games are currently on the store. Some visual novel style games, however, are not. In other words, this has become a nightmare for developers, their having no idea what is allowed or not on Steam.
“I as a developer have no idea what the rules even are anymore, how to follow them, and what happens on Steam just seems to change day by day,” said Peter Rasmussen, of visual novel developer Lupiesoft, in an email. “If Valve gave us clear guidelines to follow, then we would, as we much prefer the security to what we have now. My biggest fear is that Valve washes its hands of the entire [visual novel] genre because of a few who are abusing it to pump out cheap achievement games.”
Again, adult-themed visual novels were supposed to be the shoe-in for inclusion after the policy was announced.
Honestly, whatever you think of Steam’s new policy, it’s clear at this point that it screwed up the rollout. This has become enough of a clusterfuck at this point that I’m not sure how it gets cleaned up, unless Steam decides to impliment the policy now and rollout the filtering features later. And it will be much later, as Valve recently admitted that the filtering tools are still months away.