2 Years Later, Valve's Hands Off Approach To Adult Games Is Still Confusing, Still Very Much Not Hands Off
from the bright-shiny-lines dept
Back in 2018, after a year of truly hammering down on independent game studios producing what many would consider “adult” or “porn” games, Valve finally relented and said its Steam platform would be more open. As part of the announcement, Valve indicated it would take a hands off approach to game curation and allow more adult-style games generally, later clarifying that it intended to prevent only “troll” games. If all of that sounds incredibly vague and ripe for creating a massive and confusing mess, well, that’s precisely what happened. Developers saw the chance that Steam would accept their games as a crapshoot, with some making it through and others not. The reasons for denials were equally vague and arbitrary.
The dust has settled somewhat in the subsequent years, but the lack of clarity for developers in what is allowed or not continues to rear its ugly head. One recent case is with Super Seducer 3, a game that appears to now be fully denied from Steam despite the developer being way open to working with Steam on any perceived issues.
Valve has refused to approve controversial pickup artist game Super Seducer 3 for sale on Steam. The company says the game breaks a rule, saying that Steam does “not ship sexually explicit images of real people,” according to messages posted on Twitter by game creator Richard La Ruina.
The first game in the series was suspended from Kickstarter and then barred from the PlayStation store back in 2018, but that game and its sequel continue to be available on Steam to this day.
To get it out of the way, Super Seducer 3 sounds almost precisely like the kind of game that I would absolutely not want to play. That being said, just because something is not my cup of tea neither makes it full on pornography, nor does it mean it runs afoul of Steam’s supposedly new lax restrictions. Adding everything up, actually, nothing about what Steam is doing here seems to make sense.
As noted above, the first two games in the series are currently for sale on Steam. It’s also worth noting that the feedback the developer got seemed to indicate that the issue with the game was a brand new standard of not showing any sexually explicit material featuring images of real live people.
In the case of Super Seducer 3, Valve seems to be citing a newly articulated standard of “not ship[ping] sexually explicit images of real people” on top of the “illegal” and “straight-up trolling” standards of the past. The vast majority of games listed under Steam’s “Sexual Content” store page feature hand-drawn 2D or computer-animated images of the scantily clad characters in question, rather than photographs or filmed images of real actors. On the other hand, titles like “Bad Ass Babes” or “iStripper” that do feature nude images of real actors have recently been removed from the Steam Store (though extremely NSFW discussion pages still remain on Steam to commemorate their brief availability).
Notably, the developer claims that the actual images included in the game would pass the Instagram test. This generally means that, while they may be sexual in nature, the images don’t contain anything crossing the arbitrary naughty-lines of nipples, penises, or vaginas. Also notable is that in February the developer and Steam were working together to get the game in a state where Valve felt it could approve its release, before Steam suddenly indicated that, no, all parties were at an impasse and Steam’s decision not to allow the game was now final.
Later in February, La Ruina said he had received “clearer guidelines” from Valve on what changes needed to be made to get Steam approval for Super Seducer 3 and later said he had begun making “targeted cuts” based on that guidance and “lawyer advice.” But over the weekend, La Ruina said that Valve told him they were “at an impasse” and that “we are not going to sell the game or re-review it… this decision is final.”
“I do not feel like we are at any kind of impasse,” he wrote in a message to Valve. “I’m ready to take a butcher knife to the game and take weeks to make all kinds of edits.”
It seems as though he will not have that opportunity, with Steam digging in its heels for whatever reason.
Content moderation sucks and is extremely hard to do in a sensical way. We’ve discussed this over and over again here at Techdirt. But, if you are going to do any kind of content moderation, particularly under the guise of having a mostly hands-off approach, it sure would be nice for developers to have a general idea for what will get approved and what won’t. Otherwise, well, you get this.