Valve take a stand against taking a stand on Steam rules

Steam just got a whole lot wilder.

Good news: Creators of raunchy visual novels and other such things on the fringes of Steam’s content rules can now probably breathe easy, despite Valve’s worrying and unpredictable behaviour recently.

Less good news: In a lengthy and jaw-dropping Steam blog post, Valve’s Erik Johnson has effectively abdicated all responsibility for what is sold on Steam, stating that:

“-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”.

Alright, deep breath… Let’s take a look at this and try to pick apart some of the implications.

The whole statement feels like doubling down on Valve’s laissez faire libertarian leanings. So long as the company is taking its cut from games sold on the site, and no laws are being overtly broken, the company couldn’t care less. One of the most startling parts of Valve’s big blog post is their earnest admission that – even within the company’s bounds – nobody really seemed to have much idea of what could or couldn’t be sold via Steam. To quote:

“-people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups. Nope, it’s just us grappling with a really hard problem.

Unfortunately, our struggling has resulted in a bunch of confusion among our customers, developer partners, and even our own employees.”

The horrible thing is that, on some level, I feel that within the bounds of how Valve is known to operate, this may be the best possible outcome. They’ve at least realised that their content restrictions were vague at best and incoherent at worst, and have just accepted that they cannot handle the situation. Other storefronts such as Itch.io do have hands-off moderation policies, and they’ve become a flourishing ground for weird, queer and often totally explicit games.

You Must be 18 or Older to Enter - Removed from Steam, but, still sold on Itch.io. Can it return?

You Must be 18 or Older to Enter – Removed from Steam, but, still on Itch.io. Can it return?

Unfortunately this also means they’ll likely be taking a similarly hands-off approach regarding wildly sexist, racist or homophobic content. How much of that falls under their ‘straight up trolling’ header is anyone’s guess, but if I were a betting man, I’d say we’re going to see a significant upswing in the number of games that should ideally be sold from a locked vault at the bottom of a long flight of stairs, in a disused storeroom, possibly guarded by a half-starved tiger.

There’s also the question of what happens to games that have had to cut content previously to be released on Steam? Are they now allowed to release the uncut version of the game, or officially publish a content patch on the Steam forums? Will games that were previously removed be allowed back? There are a huge number of questions, and the only one Valve seems willing to answer is ‘Will I be able to make the anime go away?’. The answer, of course, is ‘yes’.

“We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in. So if you don’t want to see anime games on your Store, you’ll be able to make that choice.”

Lupiesoft's Mutiny!! - Currently sold in heavily edited form on Steam. Is that soon to change?

Lupiesoft’s Mutiny!! – Currently sold in heavily edited form on Steam. Is that soon to change?

I somehow feel that they’re not quite addressing the elephant in the room, and may instead be pointing furiously at some large-breasted anime girl painted on a rock. These changes will apparently not be taking place immediately, but once they’ve implemented some new tools for filtering what content you see on your own personal Steam storefront, the floodgates will open. Welcome to a new frontier; Where we’re going, we don’t need anime eyes.

178 Comments

Top comments

  1. Dominic Tarason says:

    Oh yeah, it's also worth noting that Itch.io doesn't allow - and I quote: "malicious, derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, harassing, demeaning content"

    Just because there's no restrictions on sex and violence there, if it's clearly horrible, it's not allowed.

    https://twitter.com/moonscript/status/1004448157776793600

    Full ToS here:

    https://itch.io/docs/legal/terms#3-acceptable-use
  1. dangermouse76 says:

    This is worse for you guys. I never searched for stuff on steam, I come to the press and ask friends for recommendations.

    Better get some coffee in you RPS, many games to sift… tout suite.

  2. Hyena Grin says:

    I don’t know why Valve feels the need to open the flood-gates on all games, when they could’ve just realized that sex isn’t actually, like, bad, and is easily tagged to keep sexual content separate and out of the hands of minors.

    Video stores have had this figured out for decades, I dunno why this is such a big headache for Valve. Put a frigging curtain up, make a good faith effort to keep minors out of the back, and get on with your dang life.

    Doesn’t mean you have to put snuff films on the racks too, out of a twisted sense of consistency.

    The arguments in favor of allowing sexual content on your platform, and the arguments in favor of allowing school shooting simulators on your platform, part ways more than the mere issue of ‘freedom of speech’ brings them together.

    Valve is treating this like a more difficult problem than it needs to be. And one can only assume the reason is tied to cost/benefit analysis more than anything.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malarious says:

      It’s so easy to do “quality curation” incorrectly. Zachtronic’s Opus Magnum (which was on Steam day one) was denied from the GOG storefront and kept off for months because it apparently didn’t pass whatever their shitty glance test is. They came around eventually because of the backlash, but, like, if Zachtronics, with numerous very well received releases can get denied from a major storefront, well…

      Itch.io is a horrible “replacement” for Steam as-is, and it’s never going to approach the features Steamworks can offer, which is leagues ahead of every other toolset I’ve used for gamedev. You really do get what you pay for, and I don’t think Steam’s 30% cut is anywhere near as extortionate as journos make it out to be. Consider what Humble and GOG’s 30%-ish cut get you compared to Steam’s: literally nothing. I’m sure Valve could still turn a profit with a 15% cut, but they just offer so much more than any other storefront in terms of developer support. Itch has good people working on it and a great ideology, but if you want to design anything with multiplayer or a community, the tooling just isn’t there, and probably won’t ever be there.

  3. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    If this is bad, is itch.io not bad? If not, why not?

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Itch.io never made the promise of being a professional and curated storefront that takes a (rumoured) third of your revenue in exchange for its promotional and presentation services.

      If Valve only took a couple pennies off every pound from sales here, then I would have much less issue with this.

      • Xzi says:

        Isn’t Valve’s cut less about strict storefront curation and more about giving greater exposure to your game? As I understand it, anyway.

      • John Walker says:

        It’s definitely not rumoured. Absolutely definitely 30%.

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          I’ve always been under the impression that it’s one of those things that’s common knowledge, but *technically* not meant to be said because as part of contractual agreements.

          Anyway, yeah, 30% seems to be the number that everyone mentions.

    • Ansob says:

      Itch.io doesn’t practically have a monopoly on PC digital distribution.

      Valve have the market share and revenue of an industry leader, but continue to behave like an immature startup staffed by 20-somethings fresh out of university.

      • Blackcompany says:

        So, now letting consumers choose what they buy is acting immature…

        I respect you lot across the pond. I do. I mean, you gave us Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and probably pizza and spaghetti, too…and gyros. I cant pronounce em but I love you. Like I love all of you.

        But for the life of me, I dont think I will ever UNDERSTAND you lot…I just dont. That’s ok. This isnt an “I’m right and you are wrong” post. Its more of a…wow, look how different people can end up seeing the world based on the place of their birth and the society in which they live…

        • dangermouse76 says:

          Not everyone from a geographic location are the same. I think you know that though.

          At least I would have thought “your lot” would.

        • Someoldguy says:

          Flailing around for years to adopt a policy that is even remotely coherent and that you are willing to apply consistently is behaving like a bunch of immature 20-somethings. A multi-billion dollar company ought to be able to formulate a workable policy and employ enough staff to implement it properly.

          I don’t think this has anything to do with cultural differences about things like whether displaying a nipple automatically makes a game AO rated (unless it’s huge like The Witcher) or gunning people down with automatic weapons is suitable entertainment for school age children as long as it’s not set in a school.

          • Chalibard says:

            A private multi billion dollar compagny ought nothing of the sort.
            They are staffed enough to make billions, their policy is working already.

          • battles_atlas says:

            So Chalibard you embrace the selling of crack and weapons of mass destruction right? Both highly profitable activities.

          • LacSlyer says:

            Valve essentially was trying to do what no other digital only service of a similar size has never even attempted to do in trying to regulate what is being sold. There’s a reason why they gave up because consumers can figure it out on their own, and it’s not worth their time to attempt to regulate something that a minuscule minority will complain about.

            Just because they have the money to attempt to do so doesn’t equate to that getting done. You’re falling for the age old assumption that money fixes problems. That’s basic economy 101, money doesn’t solve problems, people do.

          • shde2e says:

            But Steam isn’t even trying to solve it half the time, and the other half they’re trying to find ways to offload it onto their customers and the devs.

        • RuySan says:

          You should try some non-english authors sometime.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Oh yeah, it’s also worth noting that Itch.io doesn’t allow – and I quote: “malicious, derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, harassing, demeaning content”

      Just because there’s no restrictions on sex and violence there, if it’s clearly horrible, it’s not allowed.

      link to twitter.com

      Full ToS here:

      link to itch.io

      • mitrovarr says:

        Y’know, frankly, if Steam made such a statement (and enforced it), that would alleviate the vast majority of my concerns.

        I don’t care about dreck. I don’t want Steam to get used as a platform for hate speech.

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          Likewise, I’m fine with games being trashy, but bigotry is where I draw the line.

          It’s why Valve’s ‘Who can say that’s offensive anyway? Not us, so we won’t try’ is so galling.

          • Chalibard says:

            So another Hays code is the solution ?

          • wild_quinine says:

            “I’m fine with games being trashy, but bigotry is where I draw the line.”

            I share the same personal opinion, but I also recognise that the same line can be drawn differently a hundred times in a room full of ten people.

            A lot of bigoted content will be trash, but a lot of everything is trash.

            Meanwhile, some of the great world of art are the most censored in their own time.

            Is a game that explores bigotry without proselytizing an act of bigotry? Trust me, there are fifty answers to that question.

            The postmodern dialectic solution of simply finding the line of best fit is going to throw out a lot of babies with a lot of bathwater.

            More to be gained from making us all part of the ongoing conversation than dictating it’s terms in advance

        • Neutrino says:

          “I don’t want Steam to get used as a platform for hate speech.”

          The problem is that there is no longer any way to differentiate the statement above from the one below.

          “I don’t want anyone who disagrees with me to have the right to express themselves.”

          In the “old days” hate speech used to mean calling for Jews to be exterminated or blacks to be hanged. Unfortunately the left has done such a good job of demonising anyone who disagrees with them (a lesson they’ve learned from early 20th century fascism) that hate speech nowadays means saying anything at all that contravenes modern feminism, denouncing ‘positive discrimination’, or being opposed to the idea of gay ‘marriage’. This is why there is such a backlash against this kind of intolerant neo-liberalism.

          • Rhywden says:

            Well, just to even things out, the right has pretty much done a good job of probing the boundaries and shifting them to the point where they can say: “Hey, I’m not quite using hateful language.”

            It always takes two to Tango.

          • battles_atlas says:

            ““I don’t want Steam to get used as a platform for hate speech.”

            The problem is that there is no longer any way to differentiate the statement above from the one below.

            “I don’t want anyone who disagrees with me to have the right to express themselves.””

            Except there is, of course. It’s what the legal systems of all democracies with laws about hate speech do. They define hate speech, in a manner which differentiates it from ‘I disagree with you so you can’t say it’.

          • Neutrino says:

            “Well, just to even things out, the right has pretty much done a good job of probing the boundaries and shifting them to the point where they can say: “Hey, I’m not quite using hateful language.””

            I don’t see how that evens anything out. The notion of hate speech is a retorical device promoted by the left as a way for forcing their opinions on others in the guise of morality (an age old technique revised for the modern age). That those on the right would naturally seek to resist this doesn’t implicate them in anything. That’s a false equivalence.

            “Except there is, of course. It’s what the legal systems of all democracies with laws about hate speech do.”

            Legal systems do not differentiate hate speech from differences of opinion, because obviously hate speech _is_ a difference of opinion. What they actually do is identify which particular cases of “I disagree with you so you can’t say it” currently constitute hate speech.

            Also in many cases the legal system is not even involved. It’s perfectly common for people attacked with accusations of hate speech to be fired from their employment or to be censured in other ways without the legal system even being involved. That’s part of the power of enforcing your ideology with morality judgements.

          • Megatron says:

            Unfortunately the left has done such a good job of demonising anyone who disagrees with them (a lesson they’ve learned from early 20th century fascism) that hate speech nowadays means saying anything at all that contravenes modern feminism, denouncing ‘positive discrimination’, or being opposed to the idea of gay ‘marriage’. This is why there is such a backlash against this kind of intolerant neo-liberalism.

            This always raises a chuckle. The conflation of the always monolithic “Left” (whoever they are) with not only Fascism, a decidedly Right-wing phenomenon, no matter what the political entities who perpetrate it call themselves, but also the charming use of apostrphes to denote not-quite-air-quotes around rejected concepts like “gay ‘marriage'”.

            It is nothing more than intellectual dishonesty on a grand scale, perpetrated by the righteously ill-informed.

            The only backlash I see is the pissing and moaning of the Right who are finally having their pedestal taken down so everyone can have a go at enjoying what they’ve been keeping to themselves and denying others for so very long, namely equality of opportunity and treatment for women, gays, blacks and any other minority traditionally kept in subordinate positions.

            You’ll find that the TRUE Left is where true equality lies: we sincerely want to have everyone at the same party. The Right only want the party if they get to determine who attends. Hitler wasn’t a Leftie despite the words “Socialist” and “Nationalist” in his Party. Socalism isn’t inherently dangerous, neither is Nationalism; they were always fascism and authoritarism – again, Right-wing concepts – dressed up in Left-wing clothing.

          • Neutrino says:

            @Megatron It’s a well trodden observation that the conflation of morality with modern left-wing/liberal views has given rise to a form of neo-liberalism that is ironically intolerant when it comes to anyone disagreeing with its cannon. You are of course quite within your right to disagree with that viewpoint, and I’m not even particularly seeking to support it myself, but trying to simply dismiss it as ‘intellectual dishonesty’ looks suspiciously like trying to hand wave away an obvious inconsistency, and as for where I put my quotes I’m not quite sure what that has to do with anything.

            And it’s all very well claiming that you aren’t aware of any backlash, and that socialism isn’t inherently dangerous or authoritarian and that authoritarianism is an exclusively right-wing concept, but the backlash is self-evident and you will struggle to provide examples of socialist countries that weren’t inherently authoritarian, leaving yourself open to the very charge of intellectual dishonesty that you made yourself.

          • dbisdorf says:

            If you believe that the left has a monopoly on intolerance and the right is a bastion of civility, you must have exceptionally powerful content filters on your browser.

            I’m also bewildered by the assertion that condemning intolerance is itself a form of intolerance that must be condemned. For instance, I might suggest that using quotes around the word “marriage” to produce the phrase ‘gay “marriage”‘ is at best condescending, and is at worst bigoted and insulting. It’s equivalent to saying ‘women “professionals”‘ or ‘immigrant “people”‘.

            When I suggest that, I’m advocating for tolerance. If someone then shows up and says that I’m being unnecessarily intolerant toward the person who used those quotes, that’s a meaningless accusation. If Bob walks up to my wife and starts shouting all sorts of horrible insults at her, and I tell Bob to stop because he’s being a jerk, I’m not at fault for being intolerant of Bob.

          • Zorgulon says:

            You’re skewering a pretty flimsy straw man of a definition of hate speech here.

            Sure, there are bound to be some hysterical people in the non-monolithic “left” who might hold that “hate speech” is just anything they disagree with.

            The vast majority of people, however, probably accept that “hate speech” is that which sets out to attack a group defined by ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, etc. It is against the law in most countries, and while definitions may vary, I think we can probably agree that anything that incites violence or discrimination, or otherwise intimidates or denies the right to exist of a particular group is not a worthwhile addition to the “marketplace of ideas”.

            It isn’t about hurt feelings, it’s about violence, and is illegal for a reason.

          • Neutrino says:

            @dbisdorf

            “If you believe that the left has a monopoly on intolerance and the right is a bastion of civility”

            I haven’t claimed or implied that anywhere.

            “I’m also bewildered by the assertion that condemning intolerance is itself a form of intolerance that must be condemned.”

            You are bewildered because you are deluding yourself. Censuring those who do not support feminism, gay marriage or various other leftist policies is not condemning intolerance at all, it’s just being intolerant to dissenting opinions.

            Personally I don’t think homosexuals should be permitted to usurp the institution of marriage as I think that shows contempt for what marriage has represented for thousands or years. It might also shock you to know that I don’t think gay couples should be permitted to adopt children. Please feel free to tell me that I’m a sickeningly immoral hateful Nazi animal, but don’t be so conceited as to think for a second that in doing so you are ‘condemning intolerance’ as you are not, you are just displaying intolerance of a dissenting opinion.

            Note that conversely I have no problem whatsoever with you holding the view that gays should be allowed to marry or any other policy that takes your fancy. That’s because I’m tolerant of other opinions.

            The reason this is all confusing for you is because you are utterly bought in to the ‘politics is morality’ camp. People like you don’t just think of yourselves as ‘liberals’ as opposed to ‘conservatives’ in a political sense. You think of yourselves as ‘liberals’ in the ‘morally superior to everyone else’ sense, and everyone else as ‘morally defunct’ in the sense that they do not buy in to neo-liberal ideology. You literally think of anyone of a different political persuasion to yourself as morally inferior, and that’s about as intolerant as you can get.

            I am to a certain extent playing devils advocate here. The point I’m trying to get across is that without freedom of expression there is no freedom and no tolerance at all, as freedom of expression is the foundation upon which all tolerance is built.

          • Devan says:

            I feel like this thread could be a lot more productive if it left out the labels and accusations toward Left and Right. This blame game really detracts from the arguments themselves.

            Also, I think the word “bigot” is used too easily. It refers to an intolerance, an absolute refusal to even consider other points of view, which is different from disagreement (even passionate disagreement).

          • Neutrino says:

            @Zorgulon

            I essentially agree with your viewpoint. Expressing opinion is one thing (that in my opinion should be extended extreme latitude). However incitement to persecute any group in society is not expressing an opinion, that is incitement to criminal activity which should never be tolerated.

            However I disagree that it only a few hysterical leftists that hold that hate speech is anything they disagree with. There have been numerous cases of men being fired for expressing viewpoints contrary to feminist orthodoxy. A British footballer Paul Gascoigne was convicted of racial abuse by a court in the UK for making a joke about a black security guard having a ‘bright smile’. Nottinghamshire police force have decided to classify wolf-whistling at a girl in the street as a hate crime. A BBC presenter has characterised being told by someone that he found her attractive as ‘sexual harassment’.

            These incidents do not constitute society taking a stance against groups being attacked or persecuted, this is a pernicious and intolerant form of attitude and opinion enforcement that is being whipped up by a certain political segment of our society that risks endangering basic freedoms of expression that we have had for centuries.

          • emotionengine says:

            @Neutrino

            Oh dear. Somebody is very confused and simultaneously highly opinionated. To quote a pretty illuminating article that I suggest you read and try to understand: tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. link to extranewsfeed.com

            You can fashion yourself as the victim all you like while weaponising your sacrosanct “freedom of speech” to wag your finger at the Evil Leftist/Feminist-Equality Industrial Complex that is oppressing your God-given constitutional right to offend and hurt and thrive at the cost of less fortunate and marginalised people, but I fear the only person deluding themselves in this thread is yourself.

          • Neutrino says:

            @emotionengine

            “Here is a random blog that I think supports my viewpoint”[sic]

            Cool.

          • lurkalisk says:

            Neutrino, for the most part I don’t have anything to share that hasn’t already been said, except that Neoliberalism is a generally right-wing economic concept (deregulation, privatization, state spending reduction, et al), not… Whatever you seem to think it is.

          • emotionengine says:

            Neutrino, is that really the entirety of your takeaway from that link? Unable to address anything of substance so that’s the best you can come up with? Disappointing, yet utterly unsurprising.

          • shde2e says:

            Politics, everyone!

          • Neutrino says:

            @emotionengine This is a forum thread. It’s difficult enough to make a complex point without creating a wall of text as it is, so you I kind of expect you to make your own points. Posting a link to some massive article and expecting me to respond to whatever it is in that which you think is particularly relevant is not really realistic. For what it’s worth I have no issue with anything in that article, but I don’t know which bit in it you think is particularly pertinant.

            It strikes me that the main thrust of the article echos @Zorgulon’s point (which I already agreed with) which is that tolerance does not extend to tolerating physical attacks and persecution, but I don’t think that’s relevant here because we are not talking about physical attacks or persecution, here we are talking about intolerance of opinion.

            Just because someone does not support Feminism or a gay agenda does not mean they are attacking or persecuting women or gays. But of course, trying to pretend that they are is currently the preferred tactic of those seeking to supress dissenters, and that is the true intellectual dishonesty here.

            @lurkalisk I would have thought it was obvious I have not been talking about economic liberalism.

    • cekman says:

      Let me flip that question around. If this is good, then is GOG bad? Is GOG censoring games by curating their store?

      We know GOG isn’t prudish. When Steam, in an opposite but equally stupid decision a few weeks ago, tried to kick a clutch of racy visual novels off their store, GOG was eager to scoop them up. But GOG does have high standards of quality.

      So we know that GOG would never sell, to take an example from Jim Sterling, a game like Last Anime Boy: Saving Loli, which you can buy right now on Steam. It is an ugly Wolfenstein clone in which the player must save banned loli hentai from Nazi Muslims. (“Overall Reviews: Mostly Positive.”)

      If the developer offered this game to GOG, and they rejected it, would that be censorious, or repressive, or (God help us) “authoritarian”?

      • phlebas says:

        “GOG does have high standards of quality” – but that’s a very subjective judgement and they apply it very superficially. They rejected Opus Magnum, they rejected Wadjet Eye’s adventure games. It’s a lousy policy from pretty much any point of view – customers and developers both lose out, and GOG loses out too by not selling popular, profitable games for no good reason.

        What it isn’t is censorship – it’s nothing to do with the games’ content or what they’re saying. If I submitted a portfolio of poorly-drawn sketches to the Tate and they declined to put it on show, that wouldn’t be censorship even if the content of the sketches were objectionable – it’s just that they try to display better art than mine.

      • MajorLag says:

        I’ve tried making this argument before, but because GOG isn’t near as big as Steam is it seems that the same rationale doesn’t apply to them for some reason.

  4. Jokerme says:

    Please do some quality control, PLEASE!

    • Godwhacker says:

      Ugh, tell me about it. That Discovery Queue thing is a descent into madness.

      Hopefully the new system will allow me to at least filter out anything with the word ‘pixel’ in the title.

      • Syt says:

        Fat chance if it works as well as the current filter for the discovery queue.

        Example: I’ve asked Steam to exclude any title with the tag “VR”. Steam says, “Ok. Anyways, how about these lovely games tagged as VR?”

        Not to mention that the tagging system has been abused to hell and back – just see what shows up under “psychological horror”, or what silly tags some popular games have. I think it might become better if the community could “vote” on tags assigned to a game (e.g. 95% agree this is “action” and 3% agree this is “visual novel”).

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Maybe it depends on how you use Steam but I’ve not had any problems with the Discovery Queue. When I’ve looked at it, 8 out 10 games are things I’d be interested in playing if I had time and did not have a 100+ backlog of games already owned.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mikemcn says:

      Curation requires someone to look at a game and make a choice, those people have weird demands for “food”, “clothing” and “shelter” which costs money.

      Valve is not about spending momey, it’s about making money! Same problem with facebook and twitter, improving the community woulf require moderation that they won’t ever pay for.

    • Lord of Beer says:

      This marks the death of any hope that Valve will ever manually curate the store. If they can’t be bothered removing school shooter or hentai games, they will definitely never be bothered to remove games that are just plan bad.

      The best hope of cleaning up the store is to increase the Steam Direct fee to $500 (its currently a measly $100 to list your game-shaped object on the store). This will remove the low-end junk that is clogging it up and allow more breathing space for legitimate commercial games. I don’t see how having thousands of games which sell single digits worth of copies is beneficial for anyone – Valve, Game Devs, or Gamers.

      Valve should also have an annual clear out of games which have sold fewer than 50 copies.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Whatever you feel about this particular turn of events, anyone who was holding out hope Valve were going to start manually curating games again has not been paying attention for the last couple of years.

        It has been their *outright stated policy* since Greenlight that they literally DO NOT WANT to be the ones who decide what goes on Steam. It has nothing to do with lack of budget to hire staff or just not caring enough. They (rightly or wrongly) literally *do not believe* they are good judges of what should be sold on their platform. Watch any Dev Days businesss update or Newell interview on the topic and this is blindingly obvious. It’s not that they CAN’T, or can’t be bothered, it’s that they think top-down curation doesn’t work (for them or for developers). No amount of shouting or hand-waving is going to sway them on that one.

      • phlebas says:

        Van Gogh reputedly sold less than 50 copies of his paintings during his entire lifetime. Less than 2, even. Quality is hard to judge, and if a game doesn’t impress at a glance it’s still better for it to be available as long as it doesn’t make other things harder to find.

        An obscure developer posting a crap game isn’t a problem – even if there are hundreds of them it shouldn’t be a problem. Vile content is worth keeping out; deliberately misleading information about a game shouldn’t be allowed. If a game’s just crap, that doesn’t hurt anyone and the system should allow it to sink without trace without needing to block it.

  5. mitrovarr says:

    I bet this policy makes it less than a year. I’m sure developers will be working round the clock to out-offensive each other. Someone will make the news, a bunch of parents will look up and say “wait, this is on Steam? The Steam my kid uses?” They will write angry emails, bottom lines will be threatened, and then there will be rules again.

    • battles_atlas says:

      This. Someone will set out to push the boundaries, there will be a moral panic about it and resulting pressure on Valve, they’ll invoke their “trolling” clause and kick the game off Steam, at which point we’re just back were we started, except this time arguing about what “trolling” means.

      I do not understand how Valve manage to make content moderation this much of an issue. That there is no perfect solution does not mean that there aren’t a bunch of workable ones just sitting out there ready to be copied from pretty much any other relatable commercial service. This wild swerving between puritanicalism and everything-goes is embarrassingly half-arsed.

    • LacSlyer says:

      Please. Do you realize the average gamer is in their 30’s now? I’m sure my mom will call when she sees that story to tell me to stop using my steam account.

      This asinine assumption that under age gamers make up the majority of gamers is beyond absurd and needs to die off.

  6. cekman says:

    “How much of that falls under their ‘straight up trolling’ header is anyone’s guess,”

    Well, that’s the thing – who knows what this means? A rule against “straight up trolling” gives no useful guidance to anyone. It doesn’t even answer the question of whether a game like Active Shooter would be allowed. Valve only booted Active Shooter because of the prior infractions of the (ha ha) “developer”; they never addressed the content. Given how easy it is to cobble together a shitty FPS, I expect Valve will be getting dozens of “school shooter simulators” over the coming weeks. And what will they do? We have no idea.

    Some people are cheering this move because they think Valve shouldn’t have any restrictions at all. They’re ignoring the fact that a rule against “straight up trolling” is still a form of content restriction – it’s just a particularly lax and arbitrary one. It invites just the kind of endless, pointless debates that trolls live for. And it invites legions of shitheads to flood in and test the boundaries.

    • Blackcompany says:

      This I agree with.

      They should have simply stopped with “…unless its breaking the law.” If its illegal, remove it. If it contains nudity, sex or even overtly graphic, realist violence, put it behind an age verification wall.

      Otherwise, leave it alone and let the consume decide. Hint, hint…let us ACTUALLY DECIDE. If I say I dont want to see visual novels – or RTS games, or Point and Click Adventure, etc, on my storefront…then let me remove them.

      I am never going to buy one, and if I change my mind, you can bet I will know the name of that specific title. You wont need to sell it to me; I will find it. And this would make it MORE likely that I will find things I DO want, before I get tired of looking.

  7. jack4cc says:

    As a citizen of germany suffering the censorship of any games involving swastikas i actually welcome this move, i see no reason why a platform like steam should try to shape public opionion or try to educate the consumer by limiting choice.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Because otherwise people will deliberately fill it with things offensive and shocking enough to drive customers away.

    • airmikee99 says:

      Valve has already said they will still follow specific laws in some countries. They’re not going to violate German law and start selling Nazi games in Germany.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        Yeah, the swastikas in Germany thing falls under their ‘illegal’ header. Which is a reasonable restriction for the company – some countries (China springs to mind) will happily cut off entire store networks if they don’t offer regional filtering like that.

        • Ser Crumbsalot says:

          Actually it doesn‘t anymore – unless i‘m wrong, games have been recognized as art a while ago in germany, and as such, should allow the use of nazi symbolism. I think. Problem is, the ratings board is hella behind

          • napoleonic says:

            German law only provides for the use of swastikas if it is proportionate, necessary, and not promotional of Nazism. A lot of use of swastikas in games falls outside those bounds.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Wolfenstein II was released seven months ago and had to remove all images from Nazi culture, and I’m unable to find anything in the news that Germany has relaxed their anti-Nazi laws. Do you have a source, other than what you’re sitting on, to prove your claim?

          • Ser Crumbsalot says:

            @airmikee99 the point is less about different law, and more different application of law to games. There is an interesting video by superbunnyhop, titled Age Ratings Around the World, which around 18.15 and 20.20 explains what I mean better than I did. link to youtube.com

    • ulix says:

      Lots of confusion about the German law, as always. Theoretically using Swastikas in video games has always been legal… it’s just that nobody wanted to challenge their case in court. This has been remedied now. Someone reported “Bundesfighter 2 Turbo” to the police (a satirical game about German politicians fighting, SF2-style), but the complaint was rejected by the court on the grounds that the game clearly constitutes art, thus creating legal precedence.

      Here’s what the law says and said for decades:
      §86 StGB outlaws the depiction of certain symbols. Section 3 reads:
      “(3) Absatz 1 gilt nicht, wenn das Propagandamittel oder die Handlung der staatsbürgerlichen Aufklärung, der Abwehr verfassungswidriger Bestrebungen, der Kunst oder der Wissenschaft, der Forschung oder der Lehre, der Berichterstattung über Vorgänge des Zeitgeschehens oder der Geschichte oder ähnlichen Zwecken dient.”

      I’ll try to translate:
      “Section 1 [outlawing the depiction of, for example, Swastikas] is not applicable if the propaganda-instrument or act serves the purpose of civil education, the defense against unconstitutional endeavors, ART or science, research or teaching, reporting on contemporary events or the history AND SIMILAR PURPOSES.”

      The grammar on that last part isn’t very clear in German either.

      • airmikee99 says:

        How is it legal if someone has yet to challenge it in court? Doesn’t the court challenge necessitate that it be illegal first?

        • shde2e says:

          Not really.

          They can make a law that outlaws X, with exceptions for A, B, and C. The question then is if something falls under A,B, or C. That often requires a court decision for clarification.

  8. bacon seeker says:

    As someone who doesn’t like Steam, this seems fine to me. I don’t see why the effective monopolist on PC games distribution should be in the business of curating or enforcing morality standards. Just take your pound of flesh and get out of the way.

    • bacon seeker says:

      Valve actually made this exact point last year, which I respect: link to venturebeat.com

    • fish99 says:

      Agreed, but I do think they should restrict access based on quality. We really don’t need 100 new terrible unity games made with unity shop assets appearing every day. They’re just clutter.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        And how do you automate the detection of those games? Where do you set the bar?

        It’s easy to say casually like that, but putting those ideas in practice is hard.

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          Valve make billions upon billions of dollars. They could easily hire enough professionals to vet everything posted to the site three times over, 24/7, and it wouldn’t put a noticeable dent in their profits.

          Not everything should be solved with algorithms.

          • Don Reba says:

            Who are these game-vetting professionals you imagine them hiring?

          • April March says:

            Someone similar to the people who do QA for any major-ish developer? Only their job is easier because they don’t have to decide if the game is good, only if it works?

            Not that I’d like this to happen, just that I think this is a silly sticking point.

          • Herring says:

            But that would be inconsistent and Valve would be back to square one. Each of those professionals would have a differing idea of what shovel-ware is and so _either_ Valve would need a detailed, prescriptive list OR they’d have to live with it being a judgement call.

            Neither sounds like a recipe for a quiet life.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            They have repeatedly said they are extremely bad at deciding what games should or shouldn’t be on Steam or predicting which ones will make money (giving Stardew Valley as an example of something they would’ve passed on). They have no interest in being a bottleneck to games getting on their platform. It’s not they CAN’T, it’s that they DON’T WANT TO because they think it’s a bad idea.

            Everyone decrying the lack of quality filtering seem to be convinced that somehow THEIR favourite sleeper indie hit would’ve totally made it through the filtering. It would not. For every shitty clone or asset flip there’s two wonderfully inventive tiny unknown games that would never have been on Steam otherwise.

            Remains to be seen how this new policy is going to shake out, but if anything, quality control won’t be the issue.

          • Blastaz says:

            The thing is, to what standard do they vet them? People have already suggested two, do they just need to work, objective, or do they need to be better than just using basic assets, subjective?

            How many games are released on steam each week? A couple of hundred? An objective test would be cheap and easy, twenty guys in a call centre in India installing and playing a game for two hours to make sure it runs, and the controls work as advertised. But what real benefit would that bring? There are only a small handful of games that would fail that test, they each only sell a handful of copies, and for the tens of victims of these broken games the refund button is right there…

            A subjective test would be more difficult. You would need a week to review a game at the very least, and obviously much longer for something like an rpg. So Valve has now hired a couple of hundred journalists and leveraged its position as largest game retailer to become largest game journalist too. That sounds much more like an abuse of monopoly power to me! And what happens when the review goes “this is only a 4/10, can’t go on the store” people are going to complain to high heaven about subjective bias. Surely a website like this one that celebrates the subjective nature of reviewing games thinks such an idea would be silly.

            Broadly there seem to be two strands of objection to Valves open the floodgates approach: that this creates too many games and that this permits objectionable “art” to be sold.

            To the first I ask – did you ever complain that HMV or virgin megastore didn’t recommend a niche Indy game for you to play? If a dev did you ever complain that Tower Records didn’t promote your game for free? Steam is a shop, not a journalist to review a game for you the consumer or the state to give you welfare just for creating a game. “Discoverability” is a problem for devs to solve not market places, marketing should just be another part of the business plan. Steam has a benefit in putting consumers in touch with stuff they might want to buy, in order to sell it to them, but has very little benefit in putting them in touch with the nichest thing they might want to buy.

            To the second I would say tolerance is tolerating things you disagree with, free speech being able to say what you want. Sure a succession of edge lords will probably try to outdo one another to create the most offensive things they can. But no one will see it, buy it, or care. Unless some people pearl clutch and Streisand effect that bile out of the gutter and into public consciousness – in which case some people will hate buy it “to get back at the sjw snowflakes”. There isn’t much of a market for this stuff so live and let the snuff live next to the porn.

            Practice suggestions to get rid of the clutter 1) let the already existing “show me less of this” buttons expand to include “show me none of this” which Valve say they are already working on.
            2) raise they buy in to £5,000 up front – but then Valve now take a penny of its cut till this has been paid back. That way a game will break even at 15 grand of revenue or around 1000 ish copies sold depending on price. That way you will quickly exclude all those truly rubbish games that only ever sell a handful of copies as they will just be totally economically unviable and they can go and live on itch or something. Games which the devs have a thousand copies of faith in will consequently get that bit more exposure.
            3) valve partner up with those websites they already work with (rps, pc gamer etc.) and have an Indy spotlight section. RPS already have a five cool Indy games of the week article, the press just need to be encouraged to shine a bit more of a spotlight on stuff the algorithm might miss. Now i don’t think there is too much of a market for these sorts of games but a little bit of exposure coupled with a small revenue deal couldn’t hurt, although again it raises some genuine questions of abuse of monopoly power in selecting which games suddenly get a dollop of exposure…

          • cekman says:

            Blastaz says:

            “Discoverability” is a problem for devs to solve not market places, marketing should just be another part of the business plan.

            And also says:

            How many games are released on steam each week? A couple of hundred?

            Probably more. I just checked the New Releases listing, filtered for games only, and there have been 150 just since Monday.

            You’re arguing that that’s too many games for Valve to sift through and make judgements upon. But if it’s too much even for Valve, then what hope do customers have? What kind of magic marketing plan will help a game stand out when it’s one of 40 released in a single day?

            More and more, indie devs are complaining that they barely get any exposure on Steam. The ones lucky enough to get their games onto consoles, especially the Switch, are selling much better there.

            You’re right that the sales of any particular game isn’t Valve’s problem. But this free-for-all approach doesn’t seem sustainable to me. Not when there were 2900 games released on Steam in 2015, 4200 in 2016, and 7600 in 2017. I fear that PC gaming is going the way of mobile gaming, where anything half-decent is swallowed by the kudzu of cheap, cynical crap.

          • Blastaz says:

            How should the consumer do it? Maybe they should find a couple of websites/reviewers/you tubers they like and see what they recommend. Then if they like the look of those recommendations they could google them and have a look for more articles/let’s plays etc. Valve can then act as the shop where they buy the games they decide they like the sound of. Problem solved!

            There is no need for anyone to feel obliged to keep abreast of every game in the world, why on earth would they need to?

          • cekman says:

            The websites, reviewers and YouTubers still need to find the games to recommend to regular consumers. Here’s how one of the YouTubers I follow, Many A True Nerd, reacted to Valve’s announcement.

            Steam actively backing away from any form of curation is an awful decision.

            I don’t think many people appreciate just how flooded Steam already is with absolute utter zero-effort garbage.

            On average, we immediately discount about 90% of Steam’s new releases, with ‘this isn’t enough of a game to even make a decent video’ the most common reason.

            Active curation is not anti-developer. Plenty of developers have publicly said their games have got lost in a never ending avalanche of awful shit games clogging up the new releases.

            The best thing for any game with even the slightest talent behind it would be Steam stepping up.

            I hope you’re right, and everything will be fine. But I keep hearing from devs and others that it’s harder and harder to make it on Steam.

        • Lord of Beer says:

          You don’t even need human curation. Just increase the Steam Direct fee to $500. Half of the Unity asset flips will disappear, whilst the legitimate commercial projects (even one-man Indie games) will flourish, like crops that have had the weeds around them removed.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            No, that will just hurt talented indies with no money, and have *no effect* on professional clone factories that churn out empty crap to make a quick buck. They can easily afford a higher fee.

        • MajorLag says:

          Quality is a very subjective metric. There are those around here who would tell you anything that doesn’t require a 1080ti to play is low quality.

        • Tanneseph says:

          I’d argue for an iterative approach instead of nothing. From my admittedly low understanding, you could start by barring anything that crashes in under an hour…..

      • Crafter says:

        Who is the judge though ?

        There is no absolute metric for game quality.

        Would Undertale/Axiom Verge/Hyper Light Drifter/Dwarf Fortress have passed curation ? or would they be rejected with “go make real graphics lol” .

        In the previous model where Steam was curating the games, it was a big gamble to get accepted on Steam.
        In the end, it all depended on whatever whichever curator reviewed your game thought of it.

        • bacon seeker says:

          Yes, exactly. Quality standards are subjective. If it’s not illegal, let it be sold, and let people filter by score, genre, inappropriate for children, etc so they don’t have to look at what they personally consider to be garbage. Granted, if a small distributor wants to have strict rules, that’s one thing, but Steam has over 50% market share.

        • brucethemoose says:

          I know it’s not a Steam game, but Minecraft wouldn’t have made a curator’s cut either.

        • shde2e says:

          Then they just keep their guidelines really wide. Only reject stuff that doesn’t work, is a blatant copy-paste of an existing game, has massive technical problems or clearly has such a low quality or level of content that it would be nigh-universally considered trash.

      • Daemoroth says:

        You carry on as though that’s all you’ll see in the store, and I bet you don’t see a single ONE of those in the first three pages of your Steam homepage.

        Sure, there are some that I’ll filter out (F2P games in particular) and with Valve adding the tools to do exactly that, I really don’t see how there’s a problem.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Yes, they filter stuff out for the New Releases tab. The filter is so aggressive that I see maybe one new game per day out of the dozens that are released. That thing filters not just asset flips but a LOT of proper games and if you want to see any of those you’ll still have to dig down into the unfiltered depths which are cluttered by trash.

          Basically if it isn’t a top 10 seller you need to know of it from another website to find it.

    • sosolidshoe says:

      How about just quality standards, can they enforce those? Because while the whole Andrew Ryan/Atlas Shrugged thing I’m sure sounds great to some people, having to wade through chin-deep rivers of s*** asset flips, zero-effort clones, and games that don’t even include the .exe necessary to launch the program to find new stuff to play is not worth the bother.

      • bacon seeker says:

        I leave that unenviable task to the staff of this website!

        • KDR_11k says:

          XBLIG, which was a notorious pile of low quality games exploiting current trends still had a rigorous approval process that made sure the games at least worked. Steam has literally managed to sell games without an EXE file and of course scams like Journey of the Light. That’s unacceptable for any store.

          • bacon seeker says:

            Ok, I would obviously concede that if a “game” literally doesn’t work, or has a virus, then steam shouldn’t be selling it. But that’s not the same as refusing to distribute games that some might consider “low effort”.

    • Faxanadu says:

      Agreed! Great move from Valve.

      My valve fanboism just got reinforced. In a world where people are freaking out over a pug dog doing a na*i salute, it’s really nice one company hasn’t gone bonkers.

      I have absolutely zero fear that we’ll suddenly get a culture of homophobic/racist games like RPS fears. Like come on.

  9. airmikee99 says:

    I think Valve has finally realized just how many wannabe fascists and uberlame Nazi’s actually use Steam, and they don’t wanna lose any major revenue streams.

    • Faxanadu says:

      Or they realized the fascists are the people who don’t want others to have games, and that those people don’t buy games anyway, just spend their time on social media sucking on the next outrage to feel morally superior.

      Who knows.

  10. EthZee says:

    Presumably the ability to hide anything anime related will also mean the converse is true, and you will be able to hide anything not anime related.
    …Is this the mythical city on the hill once spoken of by Aquinas?

    • napoleonic says:

      You can already do that. Just select “Anime” in the list of tags. The problem is that they only allow tag selection, not tag exclusion.

  11. CoreWolf says:

    On the one hand this is kind of good. They’ve censored a few games which, whilst I have no interest in playing them, I really don’t feel needed to be censored. And improved filtering would be useful – if I can just opt to filter out all games below a certain ratings threshold, so just pick say a 50% positive ratings filter – that sounds great. All the obvious trash just gets rated down, disappears from my store view completely, and all is well with the world. Then just add a few genres I have no interest in ever playing, and I get a much more useful list of games.

    And then on the other hand – yeah, it does feel lazy. Totally understand that different things offend different people, but there are some definite lines to be drawn – e.g. the obvious school shooter. They say illegal/trolling – but I don’t believe that game classes as either.

    It also introduces new problems, they’ve got to ensure ratings can’t be gamed, and if they want genre-filters to be of any use they need numerous specific, accurate sub-genres / description tags for each game. The other problem is that really genre isn’t the issue, there are trash asset flipped games in ever genre that most of us have no interest in seeing.

    Either way – waiting for Jim Sterling’s inevitable YouTube reaction to this…..

  12. lancelot says:

    from a locked vault at the bottom of a long flight of stairs, in a disused storeroom, possibly guarded by a half-starved tiger

    “Beware of the Leopard” proved to be inefficient?

  13. jsauce says:

    And now you know why Steam has turned into the giant dumpster fire it has, because valve is a feckless waste of a company not interested in taking out the trash.

    Seriously, have you tried looking through new and upcoming games, almost all of it is asset flips. I mean seriously valve is useless.

  14. The Sombrero Kid says:

    It shouldn’t need said but apparently it does-
    Profiting from something is endorsing it.

    • Vinraith says:

      Damn right.

    • DefinitelyNotHans says:

      You mean KNOWINGLY profiting from something I hope. Otherwise you’ve almost certainly sold goods of some kind to a racist or criminal during your life and you probably saw and liked a movie that had a director or star that’s been revealed to be a rapist or pedophile, so…do I really even need to finish this sentence?

      • The Sombrero Kid says:

        Endorsing the commodity not everything tangentially related to it.

      • zabieru says:

        Also “profited from” is not the same as “had contact with.”

        I’ve seen Roman Polanski’s films. I have mixed feelings about that fact, and there did come a point at which I said “nope, done with that asshole.” I’ve even paid, indirectly, so you could argue that I’ve supported him financially (something I definitely regret).

        That’s different from agreeing to distribute or produce his work. I hold people to a much higher standard as far as their business partners than I do concerning their movie watching, y’know?

        “You sold a sandwich to a racist” is a funny one. To a large degree I’m willing to let a sandwich-eater be a sandwich-eater even if, at some other time, he’s also a racist (as long as he’s not spouting off in my sandwich shop). But there are limits: as above, Roman Polanski is a great director and a rapist. Partly, I think rape is a bigger deal than spewing racist garbage, but also Polanski has made decisions that implicate his artistic career in his crimes. If he wasn’t a great director, he’d be in jail, and he knowingly trades on that fact… So shouldn’t I consider it when I think about his art? I might sell a sandwich to Roman Polanski, but I won’t buy his movies.

      • AngoraFish says:

        It’s an established legal principle that ignorance is no excuse. If ignorance became the standard then people would pull their head in and deliberately never ask a question about anything.

        People do have a responsibility to make reasonable enquiries about the consequences of the choices they make.

        None of which implies that inadvertently buying a stolen DVD from ebay warrants a prison sentence in the same way that money laundering might. There are consequences though, in that you’d have to hand back the DVD and you’d have very little recourse to get your money back.

        ..and one still needs to deal with one’s own moral boundaries. Tshirts made by Indian bonded 12 year old labourers, anyone?

        • wild_quinine says:

          For service providers, ignorance of user generated content can indeed be a defence, otherwise the Postal service wouldn’t work

          See also section 230 protections in the modern age.

          Regardless, the idea that ignorance is no defence applies only in a legal sense, and valve have indicated that they will comply with legal requirements

          • popej says:

            Key difference (as opposed to the postal service) is that Steam ‘ought to know’ what they’re publishing and selling so any defence on the basis of ignorance would be a poor one for them to make

          • shde2e says:

            Steam also seems to try and offload the legal part to developers. Putting the responsibility on them to inform Steam whether or not their product breaks any laws, instead of Steam confirming this themselves.

  15. anHorse says:

    Wow they bravely took the stance that involved the least amount of effort and expense.

  16. geldonyetich says:

    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

    Door’s open, boys!

    *porn avalanche*

  17. Edgewise says:

    Steam is going to be criticized and damned by edge cases no matter what policy they choose. This site shows its distinctly European point of view by worrying about what kinds of content other people will be permitted to consume.

    If it gets really bad and malicious parties take advantage of this, I’m sure Valve will revisit this decision. If only due to the negative press.

    I don’t have a problem with content moderation, and if it causes Steam to be flooded with terrible or offensive games, then I may welcome it. I’m just not going to wring my hands over the idea that someone is going to be able to say something offensive on a public platform.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      “This site shows its distinctly European point of view by worrying about what kinds of content other people will be permitted to consume.”

      It’s not a European view. It’s an authoritarian ‘nuprogressive’ view, which was a view very much born on US campuses and sadly imported here.

      It’s been interesting reading the comments in here as RPS’s choices in the current cultural climate come home to roost. You’ve got people actually lamenting individual freedom of thought and pretending it’s concern about subjective ideas of sexism, homophobia etc, even to the point one of its (latest in a long line of ‘who the fuck are you?’) writers is saying ‘use this site instead, don’t go to terrible valve and the evil hands-off but lawful policy!’.

      It’s like watching this once great site eat itself.

      • cpt_freakout says:

        When your “individual free thought” implies groups of people should die, not exist, or not exercise any agency, it’s a piece of shit thought and it belongs nowhere.

        • napoleonic says:

          die, not exist, or not exercise any agency

          Two of those things are well-defined things that I have never in my life heard anyone suggest with regard to any minority.

          But one of those things is not like the others. It is an ill-defined attempt to lump “views I don’t like” in with “calls for mass murder”.

        • Edgewise says:

          “When your “individual free thought” implies groups of people should die, not exist, or not exercise any agency, it’s a piece of shit thought and it belongs nowhere.”

          I’d tend to agree, but I question the utility of attempting to eliminate thoughts. Also, I worry that being able to label other peoples’ thoughts as unacceptable creates a precedent where the same can be done to me. Then it comes down to arguing what are acceptable thoughts, but once an idea is considered unacceptable, it can no longer be discussed. This process is great if it only eliminates thoughts that are truly bad, but I have no faith that it will be so restricted. This approach is highly resistant to future amendment.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        Ooh, would I be that new ‘Who the fuck are you?’. Because yeah, I recommend people go with Itch.io before other stores because
        A: Bigger cut for the devs
        B: More traffic for a great site run by great people

      • April March says:

        If you’re angry at RPS for suggesting itch.io over Steam, you never liked what they did in the first place.

      • Edgewise says:

        “It’s not a European view. It’s an authoritarian ‘nuprogressive’ view, which was a view very much born on US campuses and sadly imported here.”

        It seems rooted in the (previously) unintended consequences of hate speech laws. Once those are acceptable, the rest eventually follows. We don’t have those over here and I hope we never do.

        • shde2e says:

          Because heavens forbid we try to stop people from being douchebags.

          Honestly, this handwringing about free speech often looks just as moralising and open to abuse as the moralising it’s supposed to be railing against.

  18. brucethemoose says:

    This would all be a non-issue if Valve just enforced tagging and properly sorted their dang games.

    Don’t want to see homophibic or Nazi games? Filter it out. Don’t want to see anime? Filter it out. Don’t want violence? Same.

    I think it’s great they aren’t booting games off Steam. It’s fair. But holy hell, Valve makes boatloads of money, they can afford to categorize it so people can filter the crap out.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I bought Dragon Ball FighterZ and I’ve gotten endless “anime/nudity” recommendations on my feed ever since. Even though DBFZ has nothing to do with the “nudity” tag, I thought it wasn’t a big deal at first so I started to tag myself out of it. Surprise, surprise, after months of tagging all those shitty games out of my feed, I still get them. All. The. Time. The invisible hand of the filter is a fantasy… or maybe they’re just completely useless at coding an effective one, but I doubt it.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Those tags are probably “user tags”. I don’t fully understand the system (I can’t even see all the tags a game has), but whatever it is, it sucks.

        IMO, they need to hire dedicated staff to tag games, but they could at least improve the user system.

    • napoleonic says:

      Here’s one thing relevant to your comment that has always baffled me. No one mainstream has ever condemned Amazon for stocking books that have controversial political views or sexual content. But for some reason games journalists, the same people who claim that games should be seen as art, suddenly want to treat games differently than any other form of art. I find it confusing, but perhaps I am easily confused.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Amazon is no saint when it comes to properly sorting and tagging their stuff either.

        But yeah. Books are in this total freedom of expression, no questions asked zone. It is kinda strange, when everyone complains about other media so much.

      • shde2e says:

        I don’t see people demanding that Steam ban games with controversial or sexual content. But I do see a lot of people demanding that Steam create clear and consistent guidelines and actively enforces those.

    • Nevard says:

      Enforcing tags for bigotry is a non-solution if they’re still user tags because fans hate it when you tell them they’re playing something racist or sexist or transphobic and will absolutely outweigh the people trying to tag content appropriately.
      This would just mean they would have to hire the moderation team they so obviously don’t want to pay for even though algorithms are so clearly not an adequate replacement for human curation.

      Plus ever with human curation, any game getting a “racist” tag would create a massive online backlash, media thinkpieces, etc.

      Plus how would it differentiate between “this game is spreading a message of hate?” and “some of these characters express racist views because this game uses racism as a theme”.

      • brucethemoose says:

        You could have different tags/categories for different degrees of “badness”, just like they do with rating sex in games now.

        Sure, it’d have to be arbitrarily decided by some Valve moderator, but that’s OK. The worst case scenario (a label being too severe or too lax) won’t purge the whole game from the Steam store.

        And, just like rating sex in games, of course the devs AND fans are going to tag the game as leniantly as possible. They have a motivation to. That’s why you need a (more) neutral 3rd party, like a Valve employee, to do it instead.

      • Archonsod says:

        User generated tags will have a problem since it’s fundamentally a subjective judgement to begin with. What one person calls sexism another may call erotica and vice versa. Might work if you could filter to tags by a specific group of users or curators, since that would allow calibration.

  19. transientmind says:

    “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”

    The funny thing is that I’m so very in favour of this because hopefully it means I will FINALLY, FINALLY be able to block all the types of games I don’t want to see. Racing, MOBAs, PVP survival, sports, visual novels, MMOs, platformers, bullet-hell, walking simulator, etc.

    The best they’ve been able to do lately is ‘three tags’. Why three? That’s so bloody arbitrary… and woefully insufficient.

    With any luck, the incredibly demand to block out big anime tiddies will benefit me as a bonus.

  20. Sly-Lupin says:

    Given that the Steam Communities are a haven for alt-right nincompoops, I’m not surprised. Valve seems very committed to creating the worst possible environment.

  21. SaintAn says:

    That’s great news. With a bigger market that means more sexy gay games are likely to be made.
    I do hope these visual novel games still get put on GOG and other sites that had their backs when they were being treated like crap by Valve. And who knows when Valve will change their minds and kick them off Steam again or force censorship.

  22. April March says:

    About fucking time.

    This has always been Steam’s stance. It has never been a curated store. Its dream world was one in which every time anyone wanted to buy a game, they’d go to Steam, find it there, and buy it there. They don’t care if it’s good, if it’s moral, if it’s well done. They care that, if people want to buy it, they buy it from them.

    Before the explosion of the indie scene, that was easy. A game was either an AAA game with a quazillion dollars in marketing or a free flash game on Newgrounds. So by securing distribution deals with every major publisher, 99% of gamers would find literally anything they’d ever want to buy on Steam. Since there was a very palpable gulf between those two camps, Steam could believably claim that any game not available on it was not there due to its lack of quality.

    As the indie scene grew and grew, the falsehood in this statement became more and more visible. A new indie darling could sprout up anywhere, and it was impossible for Steam (or anyone, really) to figure out which one it would be. Every system Valve devised to add new games existed only to assure that as many games as possible would be available, while also mantaining the illusion that games denied entry had not met some sort of criterium. Greenlight may have been a disaster, but it fullfilled these needs brilliantly; since it gauged nothing but a game’s popularity, it made sure that any game that was about to blow up and become popular would be available on Steam by the time it had done so.

    The opening of the floodgates was Steam’s first step towards admitting to be doing what they had been doing since the first non-Valve game was sold in it, and this statement just cements that position. The people who complain about the amount of thrash on Steam are just people who drank the Kool-aid for so long they internalized it. Steam has always had copious amounts of thrash; it’s just that it no longer exclusively takes in expensive thrash backed by publishers. In Steam, all thrash is now equal.

  23. woodsey says:

    I could go along with this a lot more easily if great swathes of the Steam community tab didn’t look like post-WWII Argentina. There’s (almost) always room for interpretation after all, but seeing games of already dubious political content alongside xxxSNIP3RSNEKSxxx’s Neo Nazi Club is less tenable, to say the least.

    That aside, this basically just reaffirms the current policy, and not defining “straight-up trolling” is surely the exact problem to begin with.

    And as others have pointed out, taking a cut from a product is an endorsement of it, however passive or silent.

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  25. kalirion says:

    I … don’t have a problem with this. If it’s not illegal, let them stock it. I’m sure there’ll be a hatespeech tag soon enough, and people will be able to configure their recommendations to ignore it.

    • wild_quinine says:

      Personally I think that would be a fantastic tag, as it would be useful for people who are very sensitive to such content, and would also help to evidence what types of things are considered hate speech, and on what contexts. It’s not actually black and white, despite what a lot of people think, and this is something you don’t really get to explore when content is removed.

      Or put another way, you don’t don’t know if decisions are consistent, contextual, abused, etc where there is censorship.

      But with tagging, it can be brought into the light and discussed

    • Nevard says:

      The idea that a tagging system will ever be effective for filtering out bigotry is naive at best.
      Developers won’t want those tags on their games and as gamers tend to be a fairly regressive crowd then typically there will be enough people who disagree even in the case of flagrant and obvious bigotry (this is a progressive site and the comments are still filled with bile every time any of it i seems brought up) that such tags will only stick for things nobody is playing anyway.

  26. Sandepande says:

    Makes Steam’s own storefront useless, but that’s why we have reviews and all that.

    Greedy fuckers in any case.

  27. Ultrazero says:

    Here’s a stupid concern but with no affirmation anywhere.

    If, hypothetically, I’d make a virus, trojan, keylogger, ransomware, … And place it under the steam store using another game’s images as bait. What would stop me from doing this? As Steam’s stance is “we don’t care unless trolling”, would there still be a check to make sure at least there are no viruses on the storefront?

    I’m afraid we’re going from “steam is safe, all errors you get from your av are false positives” to “you got a virus? What games did you download on steam?” leading to “steam is full of viruses” and thus the death of this platform where another will gain more momentum

    Who can quell my fears?

    • napoleonic says:

      Don’t worry. If you actually read the Valve comments rather than the scaremongering “oh noes, someone somewhere might say mean things about someone I like!” reporting of it, you will see that they are absolutely testing games to make sure they do not have viruses, that they are store-ready, etc. They have not abdicated all responsibility for curation: they’re just not going to force the views of an unrepresentative minority onto everyone else.

      • Ultrazero says:

        Ok thank you! Seeing as people were shouting stuff about games being released without .exe files, I assumed they didn’t test and steam would become some kind of Google Play store from pre-2014 where everything goes and there was no curation. So thank you for clarifying this :)

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      When you submit a game to Steam they test it to see if it runs and is not a virus etc. It’s possible something could slip through the cracks maybe, but they do test stuff.

      • shde2e says:

        Some stuff still managed to slip through that though, which is rather suprising. You’d think that that would be a fairly simple test, and that they had enough layers of testing to guarantee that basically nothing slips through.

        It also makes it even more baffeling that they refuse to do the most basic of quality control on asset flips, copy-past titles, and controversy seekers.

  28. Eleriel says:

    if we were allowed to add tags like “blatant asset flip” and then filter out any game that had been tagged as such by more than say … 200 people? that would alleviate 99% of my problems with steam.

    but as it is now, Steam will delete tags that they deem ‘not useful’.

    • Excors says:

      But then trolls would add that tag to perfectly legitimate games that e.g. were developed by someone who had the audacity to be a woman, in the same way they might currently flood them with negative reviews, to hurt the developer financially. The fundamental problem is that you can’t trust the general public.

      I wonder if you might be able to trust the public when combined with some sort of moderation. For example, RPS has a Steam curator group, but all it can do now is recommend a list of games. Maybe Steam could allow curators like RPS to set up a sort of moderation community, where their whole community can judge games (allowing the system to scale) but the group’s admins set the tone and standards. Anyone can join the community; members can tag games, review games, etc, like they do now, and Steam will recommend and filter games based primarily on the input from members of the communities you’re in, not from random strangers.

      If a member is trolling or not following the right standards, the admins can ban them. If a member is doing good work, admins can promote them and give them powers to ban other members etc to continue spreading their standards. Or some more subtle system where you can upvote/downvote other members’ contributions, and people with more votes get more influence. Hopefully you end up with a large group of likeminded people, providing meaningful tags and reviews across a large range of games. And if you don’t like RPS’s standards, you can go and join some other community that better matches your tastes. (These don’t have to be draconian standards – even something like “don’t review a game positively just because it’s cheap and has trading cards” would be an improvement.)

      It wouldn’t be perfect – but without something like that, it seems your only choices for finding games are Steam itself (which is terrible because it assigns equal weight to the opinions of sensible people and awful people) and external sites like RPS (which have sensible people but don’t scale to the huge number of games being released nowadays).

      • Eleriel says:

        wow, that really got you going.

        I added the “…more than say … 200 people?” as a means to make it less likely for trolls to get a game banned for having a female developer, as you mention. The exact number could obviously be changed to be much larger than 200. I doubt trolls would make thousands of accounts just for something like that.

        If that is naïve of me, then either increase the number or make it so that only accounts that have spent money on the game in question and played for more than two hours can suggest tags (that way, the developer being dogpiled at least makes some money out of the debacle).

        • shde2e says:

          I think the problem is that there are far more people who would abuse it, than people who would use it honestly.

          A decently sized lynch mob of gamers will vastly outweigh the small group of people willingly going through asset flips and tagging them appropriately.

  29. napoleonic says:

    Unfortunately this also means they’ll likely be taking a similarly hands-off approach regarding wildly sexist, racist or homophobic content.

    As a queer person from a minority background, I say good. (Yes, it’s a crying shame that I have to clarify that up front in order for my comments to be legitimate, but that’s the world we live in.) There should be no restrictions on expression placed by organisations with major rule-setting power, like governments, public bodies, or large corporations. These organisations all have immense power over our lives and must at all costs be kept at arm’s length from any infringements on our speech. If I don’t want to play those games, no one is making me.

    • wild_quinine says:

      Gaming still suffers from the perception of being straight white men against the world, which in itself tends to guide popular discourse.

      If its controversial, it’s often either something straight white men don’t like, or something they do like and “shouldn’t”.

      But I’ve learned a lot more about myself and my place in society from works deemed controversial than I ever learned from things considered safe.

      Great art will often challenge.

  30. Suits says:

    Praise the almighty Algorithm!!

  31. bill says:

    Muppets.

    Valve remind me of my youngest kids… spending huge amounts of energy and time trying to avoid just actually doing something that’d probably actually only take a few minutes.

    It’s amazing the lengths they’ll go to to actually avoid doing some work.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      If we’re talking “quality control” it’s not the best analogy: they’re not trying to avoid work… They think the end result of that work would be bad (poor selection) and the work itself is a bad idea.

      If we’re talking policing offensive stuff… that’s a whole other story and might well spiral wildly out of control. I guess we’re going to find out.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Since they’re committed to blocking anything illegal, a complicating factor might be that the US and the rest of the world seem to have very different laws regarding hate speech.

        So is US Steam just going to be a hate-filled free for all, or are they going to still enforce a more general set of rules?

    • itsbenderingtime says:

      Valve isn’t afraid of work. It’s a tech company – it’s afraid of responsibility. Just like every other tech company, it will work harder then you would ever believe to ensure it’s not held responsible for the things it creates or does.

  32. Pogs says:

    This approach from Valve really does them no favours. Internet companies are already the subject of increased amounts of scrutiny and this will just bring the focus on to them.

  33. Dewal says:

    To all those that are shouting against this, please tell me where is the Objective and Universal Moral Code that you seem to imply Steam should use ?

    What is immoral in a place isn’t in another. Steam is an international platform and have absolutely no way to implement a morality curation that could satisfy everyone.

    Should have Wolfenstein been banned worldwide because Germany banned it ?
    In China it’s impromer to show corps and blood, should Steam delete every action game on its plateform ?

    Go and check this list first and come tell me exactly which rule should Steam follow, I’m all ears :
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      No one (reasonable) is worried about some games being a bit offensive to someone somewhere. They’re worried Steam is going to turn into a recruiting and propaganda platform for MRAs and alt-right nazis like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Because when you don’t actively ban hate speech that seems to be what you get on today’s internet.

  34. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Quick, someone make a “Game Storefront Curation Simulator” game and whack it on Steam!

  35. btonasse says:

    What a crazy world we live in, where thousands and thousands of games about simply murdering everyone on the screen is ok, but sexual content sparks so much controversy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with games about murdering everyone, but if you really want to go the morality route, which of the two is worse: two people shooting each other in the face with a shotgun or two people giving each other pleasure? It baffles me how many people can’t see this contradiction.

    • sg1969 says:

      It has always been the case in the US. Violence = OK, sex = evil.

      At the other extreme, you get countries like Germany where blood is censored, but they have the weirdest porn on the planet….

  36. MajorLag says:

    Frankly the recommendation algorithm, like every recommendation algorithm I’ve ever seen including Netflix’s, Amazon’s, and Youtube’s, is worse than useless. They should just ditch it and try to find a better way to get content to users. I think the curators idea is a good one, but now the problem is matching people up with curators who’ll recommend things they like, and incentivisng the curators to find new content to recommend.

  37. sg1969 says:

    Not a fan of the wording… “except for things that we decide are illegal”

    Why should they decide what’s legal or not? They don’t make the laws. Also, I guess they could just argue that something is trolling if they don’t like it and remove it from the store. Again, not much different from what they were doing before…

    • DeepFried says:

      I think they just mean things that they recognize as being illegal. They’re not deciding what is or isn’t legal, but someone has to check that illegal stuff isn’t going on the platform.

      Given how many countries and legal jurisdictions steam operates in I imagine they’ll take a pretty broad brush approach with that.

  38. DeepFried says:

    I actually think this is a good move, Valve have never really done curation and when they’ve tried they just tend to cock it up and make odd decisions. So long as they give us decent tools to filter what we see, then i’m happy for them to open the gates.

    I think it will be a problem if the font page gets drowned in asset-flips and other low quality dross, but as long as they keep that under control and somehow keep the new games list in order, i’m happy.

    • DEspresso says:

      Here is what I don’t get. Valve is sitting on what is probably the biggest data mountain on PC Gamers that ever existed yet they can’t seem to manage to get a decent recommendation algorithm together.

      At this point it is incredibly hard to discover new games on steam you might be interested in not only because the recommendations aren’t good but also because the amount available is intimidating.

      To further open that floodgate of worse titles just begs for better filters. Most will agree that currently the filters work iffy at best.

      Valve as a company seems to be a true believer in swarm intelligence yet if we take a look a for example the tag system we see the inherent problem with relying on data from noncommited sources. Steam users have exactly zero stake in providing ‘correct’ tags.
      Valve should either reward caring users or punish trolls because those joke tags got old really quick, while due to the massive amount of games nontop100charted games usually only have 2-3.

      Which means they cannot be filtered because they are not tagged.

      Currently this makes for a horrible shop experience, the curator feature seems a bit unsupported and does not really help either. (What motivation is there for curating anyways? Are there Kickbacks?)

      To get back to the algorithm at this point it seems more like it is mocking the customer than anything else. ‘Oh you got the complete … Gold Edition? How about the Base game (again)’ or the always hilarious ‘Your friend played half an hour in this Freetoplay shooter.. how about all the DLCs for it?’ Meanwhile I just want it to recommend me a good new Business Sim :/

      I digressed quite a bit there but the essence is this: More Games need more Filters. Reliable Filters. Filters working with correct Data.

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