You Must Be 18 Or Older To Enter banned from Steam, daftly declared porn

You Must Be 18 Or Older To Enter is a fine free horror game for the digital age, a tale of looking at pornography for the first time and fearing your parents will catch you.
Logging onto AOL, we click through porn sites showing murky ASCII art porn while jumping at every creaking door and passing car. It is good horror, Olivia White and our Brendan have previously told you and I’ll third that. It is also, supposedly according to Valve’s standards, pornographic. Valve have pulled the game from their store and oh, that’s so daft. One of the game’s creators has written a good response to this, using the opportunity to call for us all to break the cycle stifling unconventional games.

If you’ve not played You Must Be 18 Or Older To Enter, hey, it’s still up free on Itch and Game Jolt. It’s a short horror story casting us as someone who, having heard about Internet porn from schoolyard chums, dares to investigate. After our family leaves the house, we crank AOL, search for a term like “porn” or “people doing it”, and get clicking through sites to discover what all this even is while panicking over every creaky door or passing car. Its images are softcore (as far as I’ve seen?) heavily distorted by being processed into ASCII art, enough that I can’t even tell what some are supposed to show. Its brief burst of sexual sound inspires reactions of “OH GOD NO UNPLUG THE COMPUTER NOW” rather than titillation. It’s a game of curiosity and fear, not fuel for a jack sesh.

In spite of all this, You Must Be 18 Or Older To Enter has been removed from Steam. It had been on the store for two months, arriving long after launching elsewhere. Co-creator James Cox says they only noticed it was gone after someone on Twitter asked about it. After nudging Steam Support, he says, “we got an email from Valve informing us they had decided that they view our game as porn.” That’s his paraphrasing, at least.

Whatever Valve’s precise wording, it’s so disappointing that they deem it inappropriate. As Cox says, “It’s a game about porn, but never as porn.” Steam still stocks games which are more sexually explicit and games which are clearly built to arouse, but they dance around this. Confronting these experiences head-on, Cox says, was You Must Be’s downfall.

“With no self-defense of irony, abstracted fiction distancing the game from its subject, or sense of mainstream gamified fun, You Must be 18 or Older to Enter was simply vulnerable.”

Cox ties this into a wider pattern in the industry, where games which attempt to do different things are rejected and mocked and their creators harassed. He connects this to arguments made by Nathalie Lawhead, who became mired in the usual hateful idiocy with her wonderful Everything Is Going To Be OK. Lawhead had written about people at a games show echoing the dismissive and mocking tone towards anything different that’s common in games culture and among influential streamers and YouTubers, and unsurprisingly but disappointingly has been harassed people with insistent preconceptions of what a game should be. I didn’t mention that mess on RPS before because, I don’t know, at a certain point you worry about only making it worse.

This is all part of a cycle, Cox says, which harms both the artistic, cultural, and financial growth of games at a time when many developers are struggling. He says:

“To survive, we need to embrace making new experiences. Ones that players haven’t encountered before. Here lies that problematic cycle: gamers like what they know, and distribution platforms curate to that audience, reinforcing the expected games gamers know, reinforcing what is available for streamers, reinforcing what players will buy, reinforcing the games developers make.

“This means gamers have limited language for addressing games, and that language is curated by the games they play and have access to. If a game like You Must be 18 or Older to Enter is considered porn by a platform, then players lose a non-violent alternative horror. If anyone trying to expand the palate of experiences is being treated poorly on account of untempered yet taught player behavior, that developer is liable to leave the community.”

No one expects that everyone will enjoy ‘unconventional’ games but it sure would be nice if folks would stop trying to stamp them out and chase off their makers.

Anyway. Do read the whole thing. Cox sees hope for the future in eager players and alternative storefronts, as I do too, but he’s clear: we’ve still got a lot to do. We really do.

61 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Kinda odd this got killed, but stuff like Hunie Pop and a pile of VNs are still on there.

    You know, stuff that was legitimately created with lewdness in mind.

    Also thanks, RPS, presumably due to the title of this article, there’s a big fuck-off ‘foot models’ ad to the right of this comment box, with some pretty girl showing me her toes. I’m at work for God’s sake. Filter your ads, or better, get rid of them for supporters.

    • aepervius says:

      The difference I think is that 1) hunie pop and the other while lewd, are not despicting sexual act, e.g. porn and 2) the said game here is actually doing so *even* if the picture are terrible, it is clearly recognizable as picture of sexual nature, e.g. link to youtube.com 5:15 of that video is clearly porn. 3) did the game advertise itself as adult only ? Nope ? Then I can see a clear problem with an adult themes potentially being offered for free to children. And probably did valve too.

      • thenevernow says:

        Have you actually played HuniePop? Go to a search engine and search for “HuniePop nude” (SafeSearch off) and tell me what you think.

        Valve’s reasoning, which I personally disagree with, is that HuniePop’s core loop is a match-three game/dating sim, so it’s fine, while games like this, where – in a completely different way – sexuality is the core element, are not.

        • Jalan says:

          Not to side with anyone on either end of the argument, but HuniePop is up on Steam in a censored version. Like most games of its ilk, it can be patched otherwise but it’s not as if Valve went “Match 3 with naughty bits? Seems fair enough to remain on our storefront!”

          At the same time, that lesbian-centric visual novel that had an army of mouthpieces lobbying for it to be sold on Steam uncut/without the need for a censor patch really put the whole “why this and not that?” situation into a confusing mire of Valve can’t pull its collective head out of its arse to, at the very minimum, lay out where the line is drawn in regard to games showcasing this type of content.

          • thenevernow says:

            You’re right about pointing out the censored version bit, which I neglected. Having “uncensored” the game right away I am not sure how the censored version looks like, but I think my main point still stands. Also, considering that the uncensoring process consists in creating an empty text file, I think we should bring hypocrisy into the discussion. I don’t want to overplay the American bigotry card, but well… it’s on the table.

          • GDorn says:

            I’m a little confused by the logic of Hunie Pop being allowed because it is censored.

            Is ’18’ not censored?

        • jasta85 says:

          From what I’ve seen, I don’t think valve actually cares about whether the games on steam count as porn or not, but they do care about public backlash and and their image so they remove anything that might result in that. And yes the VN’s and stuff are the censored versions, they remove the actual sex scenes (although it’s completely obvious what happened when you basically have the foreplay leading up to it and then it immediately cuts to the pillow talk afterwards) but so long as those games are not breaking the letter of the law they won’t care. They just don’t want lawyers and angry mothers creating news articles about them selling adult content.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Dude, Hunie Pop (and the other Hunie whatever games) are litearlly straight out porn. Don’t just make stuff up and pretend you know what you’re talking about. Yeah yeah, they require a (free, no age verification) patch to be like that. It’s pinned in the game forum.

        This game shows grainy ascii nonsense. Even comparing them is crazy.

        That’s what I was aiming at.

        • Deano2099 says:

          There are only two Hunie games. And yes, HuniePop has porn scenes in the uncensored version. But HunieCam studio doesn’t have so much as a bare nipple. It seems like you are making stuff up too?

    • Pogs says:

      Particular browser ads appear based on your history of browsing! I see clothes, Destiny 2, Ebay and funerals. Guess they are trying to tell me something.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        No, I only started getting these after this article, and only ON this article. I do not spend my work hours looking up feet. Cool attempt at shaming though.

        I also do get the ads you mention.

        • ADorante says:

          I recommend installing a browser add-on like uBlock Origin (available for Firefox and Chrome) to block ads – even on my working place computer.
          You can claim towards your employer that you did it to protect your workstation against malicious ads with a virus payload.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Ha, I’m getting that same ad on the mobile site. And I have no internet history of foot problems or fetishes.

      Also, VNs built around Steam’s rules, right? Seems like they’re designed to be as explicit as they can get away with without technically being explicit, whereas this game is the exact opposite.

    • Hans says:

      Love these kinds of comments where it’s a websites fault that they don’t make it convenient enough for you to slack off at your fucking job.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Dude what. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying I don’t expect fucking foot fetish ads on a gaming website. Why? Do you?

        • Hans says:

          “ I’m at work for God’s sake. Filter your ads, or better, get rid of them for supporters.”

          There’s literally no other way to interpret this than you were looking at this at work and were embarrassed that that popped up while you were looking at gaming sites during work and are mad that they didn’t filter it for you, but ok, I guess I JUST DONT GET IT!

          • Premium User Badge

            Drib says:

            Right, that’s true. And sorry, my response was a bit more angry than intended. I mostly read RPS at work. I am not able to install adblockers here due to some weird corporate security.

            The issue here is less “it’s not easy to screw around at work” and more “NSFW ads on a (generally) SFW site”.

            RPS broadly paints themselves as fairly socially progressive (read: anti-exploitation) and generally worksafe. Then they have foot fetish ads due to whatever. This is the concern.

            Me being at work was more, yeah, it’s kinda more fireable to have porn on my screen than it is to have news about videogames.

          • Rindan says:

            I read crap at work all the time. It’s called lunch break. It’s okay. Everyone has a manager. You don’t need to help the manager. They got it. They are paid for this. It’s okay for someone to wander into RPS and be mildly annoyed that the video game website is serving up foot fetish ads. Yes, website owners are in fact responsible for the ads that they allow up and the correct people to complain to if you don’t like them. Well, that or you can just block everything. That probably isn’t the solution they want you to use.

      • mechavolt says:

        Maybe someday you’ll be lucky enough to get a job that includes a lunch break.

    • SaintAn says:

      Ad blockers are your friend.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Right? I’m a supporter because I want to throw money at RPS and I don’t want to see ads. I send them money directly, I block tracking and ads, they still get something, my experience is better all around.

        I’m assuming Drib’s making it a big deal because their employer doesn’t let them install browser extensions… but that’s an issue to take up with your employer.

        • Premium User Badge

          ooshp says:

          Probably one of those incredibly unreasonable employers who expect their employees to actually work, and search for foot fetish pages on their phone during a break.

          So unreasonable.

        • Premium User Badge

          Drib says:

          Yep. I work for a bank. IE only, because it’s “more secure”, and no extensions, because those are “unvetted applications”.

          Yes.

          I can’t change their minds, it’s a trillion-dollar bank. No matter how moronic it all is.

  2. and its man says:

    And to think that I found it ̶s̶e̶m̶i̶-̶c̶h̶u̶b̶b̶e̶d̶ mild, even in its depiction of an ordinary discovery of porn.
    That’s just lame.

  3. Halk says:

    It’s Valve.
    I long since stopped to expect any form of rhyme or reason from them while they are busy turning Steam into a monstrosity.

  4. satan says:

    Just wanted to say that statement from James Cox was well written and convincing.

  5. kalirion says:

    Simple solution – censor the naughty ascii with ascii black bars, and offer a free downloadable patch to unlock the naughty ascii again.

    • and its man says:

      Yeah I know. Some people feel their filth is more enjoyable when they have to venture out to a filthy, dark alley of the internet to snatch some filthy uncensor patch from an obscure dev’s website.
      Well no. I’m 40, and even when it’s for a porn game, that doesn’t arouse me.
      Also, having to take the convoluted road feels freaking infantilizing.

      Truth is, Steam’s current way of handling mature/nudity/sexual content is all over the place.
      Be it for a porn game, an erotic one, or an interactive fiction about the intimate experience of discovering sexuality, they should take a clearer stand. Sell it as it is, or don’t.
      It’s ridiculous that devs have to go for get arounds.

  6. vorador says:

    Valve has been all around the place with risqué content. Some stuff is fine as long as the dirty bits are kept hidden (like some games that have uncensor patches distributed outside the store) but other aren’t.

    I think they should directly acknowledge the need of making an Adult Only category for the store.

    Americans are weird. They’re fine with games that depict killing hundreds or thousands of digital people in plenty of different and bloody ways, but show a pixelated nipple and all hell breaks loose.

    • Ghostwise says:

      A wild nipple once destroyed most of Colorado, y’know.

      • vorador says:

        Let me tell you about the time a runaway nipple stopped a country on its tracks. In was on the Super Bowl of 2004 and a woman named Janet Jackson….*rambles incoherently*

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        I thought that was an escaped engorged breast. Mad science from the 70’s and all that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      I worked at a Wal-Mart when I was younger. I can’t tell you how often people would come in to buy GTA 4 for their five year olds, and just wave me off about the game being about murdering people. But if I mentioned you could (sorta) have (offscreen) sex with women? “How could you sell this filth to CHILDREN?!”

      America’s weird, yeah.

      Edit: Yeah, it’s rated MA. Parents still constantly buy those for their kids, ’cause videogames are for kids, evidently.

  7. Hans says:

    I’m guessing with how big Steam is now they probably don’t even have actual people moderating the constant flow of games coming in anymore do they? Some algorithm just saw PORN and decided this was bad.

    • Baines says:

      Some users probably reported the game.

      Like aepervius said, the game *is* displaying nude images. It might be ASCII conversions, but they are still nude images of real people. The “real people” part matters as well, as both laws and interpretations vary based on whether or not the source is an actual human being.

      Of course it does not help that Valve, as always, has been horribly inconsistent. Some games get away with nudity, while others don’t. Some can openly promote patches to uncensor their game, while others are warned away from such promotion.

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    There’s an exasperating pattern of avantgarde game devs whining that their avantgarde game is rejected in mainstream forums. Guys, that’s not very punk.

    • Beefsurgeon says:

      I hear you, but this guy isn’t complaining because his art game didn’t sell a million copies. He’s just trying not to be censored.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        As other pointed out above, YMB18oOtE might not be a ‘porn game’, but there sure is porn in the game. Depictions of erections or penetration, ASCII or not, is fair game.

      • Cederic says:

        The rest of the article does however focus on that issue. Although in response, I did go and read a couple of posts from Nathalie Lawhead. I haven’t experienced her game/not-game “art” so I can’t comment on it, but her own writing conveys tremendous confusion on whether she thinks it’s a game or not, and explicitly states that criticism “damages the medium”.

        Maybe she and Cox should consider that many people don’t particularly want artistic and cultural growth of games in the directions they’re taking.

        That doesn’t justify targeted abuse, and shouldn’t stop them, but some humility and understanding that they can’t dictate culture would help.

        • and its man says:

          That last paragraph asking Nathalie Lawhead and James Cox to show “some humility and understanding that they can’t dictate culture” was a f*ing awful thing to say, given both the circumstances, and what they actually express in the texts linked in this article.

          • Cederic says:

            My comments are a response to other writing as well as this article.

            You find it awful that I’m challenging someone that’s effectively saying, “Gamers don’t know what a good game is” and “My art must be permitted, whether it’s wanted or not”

            That’s arrogance, and that’s why I suggested some humility. If you want to show your game at E3 then expect the mass gaming market to pass judgement on it, and if you’re not meeting those mass market expectations then you’re going to get some responses you don’t like. That doesn’t mean gamers are limited, that doesn’t mean that they can’t judge a good gaming experience and it doesn’t even mean that they don’t welcome exploration at the boundaries of the medium.

            Games are diverse and so are the people that enjoy them. Find your audience and let them enjoy your work. Let everybody else play Call of Duty or whatever works for them.

          • and its man says:

            Oh please, cut the schematics. Before all that, Nathalie Lawhead’s case is one of an individual being targeted by a frighteningly innumerable crowd of people. That’s a truly dreadful situation. Noone wants to experience that.
            Sure, her writing can be clumsy at times, but I’m not asking any sculptor, painter, performance or digital artist to be an ace at verbal communication. What stands out of her text walls is that she is deeply perturbed by the situation, and got mired into this.

            And it looks like it exploded when she dared raising a very adequate question about what could be coined the “entertainment of mocking” on the internet, or how an increasing number of news and informations are now served to the public in a mandatory soup of schoolyard pranks, mockeries, and armpit farts. And this is particularly true in video game culture.

            It’s not “kids” that threw trash at her. It’s adults role-playing bullying kids. As a social phenomenon, it can be worrying.
            So let’s talk about how it comes we switch off half our reasoning capabilities and common sense when we turn on the internet. Let’s talk self-infantilization.

  9. napoleonic says:

    They should send it to Nutaku.

  10. durrbluh says:

    “It’s a game of curiosity and fear, not fuel for a jack sesh.”

    Hey now, Alice. Some people were pubescent when this sort of masturbatory fodder *was* the best they could hope to find, and they made do.

    They made do.

  11. MrUnimport says:

    Really confused about why this got flagged as porn where there’s literal porn on Steam, but ho hum. Not sure it’s to do with any kind of bias against ‘interactive experiences’.

    • Baines says:

      It got flagged because it contains literal porn.

      It isn’t much of a mystery. The “porn” images used in the game are actual porn images.

  12. BaronKreight says:

    plenty of unconventional games around they just had to make a game with porn in it. One russian site posted news about steam banning a game for pedophiles. You gonna defend that as well RPS?

  13. teamcharlie says:

    You do all realize that, while the age is not specified, this is clearly intended to depict an underage kid finding porn, right?

    Pretty sure that’s Valve’s problem, if I had to guess. Sexualizing minors is kinda a no-no.

    • Cederic says:

      Even without that, game containing porn gets removed from a platform that doesn’t allow porn due to containing porn.

      I’m really struggling to see where the story is.

    • Rindan says:

      Dude. Every single male and a goodly portion of the females with an internet connection and enough hormones to produce sexual arousal has watched porn, regardless of age. Seriously. People need to grow the fuck up and stop acting shocked that people with their hormones cranked to 11 and in the middle of their peak sexual function are interested in sex. It’s okay to make video games about this subject. This game will have literally no effect upon the youth of the world. Anyone who plays this game will have already seen porn and survived.

    • punkass says:

      I don’t want to be antagonistic in any way, but I do want to echo the bizarreness of this. Can I ask if you’re American?

      I haven’t played this game, so I may be 100% off base, but I can’t believe there’s a ‘minor’ in this world who would discover porn through this game, and not through the usual channels. It’s also a pretty universal experience, even if in my case, it would be ‘finding it in the woods’ (still not sure how that was such a universal British experience)/ ‘watching late night channel 4’ / ‘perusing the weird graphic novels my brother had in the attic’ simulator rather than some dogshit ASCI bullshit.

      It’s a fascinating thing to explore – that weird mixture of fear, fascination and a misunderstood arousal. I would also reckon it is far less harmful for kids than faceshooting.

      I still wonder how civilisation would be if we’d gone down the alternative (French?) path of using sex as our exciting cultural touchstone rather than violence…

  14. Rindan says:

    I wish Valve would just make an adults only section. Just segregate it from Steam. Hell, make an entirely different launcher if they want to be 100% sure the streams don’t mix. It would be nice to have a vaguely reputable place to find adult games.

  15. grrrz says:

    think of the poor children who will develop a super-weird ascii fetish because of this.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    a tale of looking at pornography for the first time and fearing your parents will catch you.

    Brings back fond memories of Dreamcast’s web browser.

  17. Hyena Grin says:

    Hey, you know what’d be kinda cool?

    If America could get over the idea that sex is bad, and nudity is bad, as if we all live in 1950’s christian suburban hell.

    I’ll never understand why so many people think that a thing like sex which is a product of love and the act which procreates human life, is something to be ashamed of and hidden. Meanwhile Steam is full of murder simulators depicting every possible gory detail.

    God this society is so messed up.

    (And no, we shouldn’t ban games with violence and murder either. I’m just pointing out the sheer absurdity of our priorities as a culture)

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      I’ll never understand why so many people think that a thing like sex which is a product of love and the act which procreates human life, is something to be ashamed of and hidden.

      If you read your Bible, this is precisely why Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden. America’s still pretty big on religious fundamentalism.

      • Hyena Grin says:

        This is a myth, or at least a very sketchy interpretation. There is literally nothing in the bible which says they were kicked out of Eden for having sex.

        The nudity/sex shame in the west is definitely a consequence of the Catholic church’s domination over morality in the west for so long, however. It just has nothing to do with Adam & Eve.

        • Premium User Badge

          Don Reba says:

          I’m saying they were kicked out for judging (eating from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil), not for sex as such.

          7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
          8 And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.
          9 And Jehovah God called unto the man, and said unto him, Where art thou?
          10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

          It clearly says that if you know what’s good and what’s evil, then being naked is definitely the latter.

          And, sorry for the “if you read your Bible” phrase. Re-reading it now, it sounds pretty condescending.

  18. faircall says:

    “Its images are softcore (as far as I’ve seen?)” Some of it is but some of it definitely ain’t.

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