Valve’s abdication of responsibility over Steam is the worst possible solution

Valve’s announcement last night that their forthcoming policy for Steam releases is that anything goes, unless it’s illegal or “straight up trolling”, has obviously caused all manner of ruckus. Takes are hot, and coming from all angles. But the main issue, roaring over all other discussion following this peculiar statement and its possible consequences, is that Valve’s rationale for their latest position is incredibly cowardly and stupid.

In a meandering statement, Valve bossman Erik Johnson included the sure-to-be infamous line,

“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.”

Clearly intended to be driven by the billionaire libertarian values that seem to always win out at Valve, the position of “anything goes” is immediately undermined by their own nonsensical exceptions for “illegal”, a word almost meaningless for an international enterprise, and for “straight up trolling”, a phrase that is so ambiguous and unspecific that it covers absolutely anything they fancy. And indeed it’s a statement that tries to abdicate Valve from all responsibility for what it sells, while continuing to happily take a cut of all the money raised.

Let’s be clear: Valve has the right to sell what it wants. That Steam is a monopoly in PC gaming is vastly problematic, and were it housed outside of the US, it’d likely face a lot more scrutiny and perhaps even be forced to separate from Valve. But that’s for another article – for now we just need to accept that it is, and that makes its right to do what it likes a lot more complicated when it comes to all of PC gaming. But, it doesn’t change the facts. Valve can choose to sell anything they wish on their store, including games that promote hate speech, sexually violent content, offensive depictions of people.

We, in turn, have a right to choose from where we buy our games. We also have a right to communicate to Valve our dissatisfaction with any choices they may make. They are not obliged to bow to our whim, although they can choose to, and we remain free not to support them as a business. Publishers also have a right to choose where they distribute their games. We don’t, however, have an overriding right to tell them what can or can’t be sold. And, I would argue, we shouldn’t want it. Because if one reserves this right for themselves, they must surely reserve it for others, and it will – as ever – immediately become a battle of ideologies. When the alt-right gangs together to call for a game about flag burning to be banned, will the liberal left support and endorse their cries? And what about when they want to bring down a game that encourages teaching about homosexuality to children? And so on. No matter how we poke this wasp nest, it remains Valve’s wasp nest, whether we like it or not.

So instead I want to focus on why their statement is so flawed and meaningless, not achieving anything. Let’s begin with their claim that they intend to be so very liberal, but not sell anything “illegal”.

The exception Valve gives for “illegal” might at first seem the more sensible of the two caveats in their latest attempt to divulge most notions of responsibility or culpability from their collecting 30% of the sales of other people’s games. But it really doesn’t stand much scrutiny, in the context of their declaration that they’ll sell games no matter the content. Clearly Johnson included the term to cover the obvious, that they won’t sell games depicting child pornography and the like, and clearly they already tailor content to match regional laws. But while Johnson’s statement acknowledges that local laws are different for each country, and how this leaves things very complicated for them, he fails to properly recognise the inherent problem of this.

He says that in order to enforce this regarding the complexity of varying regional laws, they will more stringently require developers to “further disclose any potentially problematic content in their games during the submission process, and cease doing business with any of them that refuse to do so honestly.” Which, well, let’s think this through…

What’s legal in your country might be illegal in another, and by suggesting they will support legality they suggest they will support the law of any nation when selling within it. And since there are rather a few countries where just being alive for some people is illegal, that’s perhaps quite the heavy lean toward supporting the censorship they’re purporting to be against.

It is punishable by death to be gay in Pakistan (89.4), Afghanistan (13.4), Qatar (86.3), Saudi Arabia (473.1), Yemen (246.4), Mauritania (163.2), and UAE (447.9). Those numbers in parenthesise are the numbers of terabytes of data downloaded in each country from Steam in the last seven days, at the time of writing. And this doesn’t begin to include the countries where it is illegal to “propagandise” homosexuality, including, of course, Russia, responsible for 21 petabytes of Steam’s traffic last week. So… are they going to adhere to these laws, and refuse to sell queer games, or games with homosexual content, into those markets?

More horrifically, does this mean Valve will demand that developers “disclose” whether their game contains content that portrays gay/queer people in a positive light? Will they be demanding that developers declare themselves as gay propagandists, and refuse to work with them should they not? It’s so obviously flawed a notion, and really makes a complete mockery of this presentation of absolute liberalism. If anything, it reaches the point of tacit endorsement of despicable inhuman laws.

And that’s before we even get onto the ridiculous declaration that they won’t allow “straight up trolling”. There’s no attempt to define it, to explain what they consider it to include, and perhaps most importantly, they beg the question of trolling being problematic in the first place.

Does a school shooting sim count as “straight-up trolling”? Is a game about murdering people at a Pride parade “straight-up trolling”? (Both games that have tried to release on Steam in the last year, and been rejected.) Neither would seem to fulfill that category for me, but rather be exercises (at best) in expression of free speech and free art, or (at worst) be expressions of hate. So those are presumably fine to go on sale now, whereas before they were rejected. So is Valve stating that games that primarily exist to promote hate are less problematic than those that exist to cause trouble?

And, um, what about a game that’s, you know, straight-up trolling, for fun? A game that trolls, say, homophobes? Or maybe trolls libertarians and their self-contradictory ideologies? Or satirical games? Are those now banned? Why, when approaching this fraught and complicated topic, use a phrase that’s so ostentatiously stupid?

Yet again, this appears to be Valve’s choosing the most cowardly way to deal with a complicated situation. To pretend it’s not their problem, and to make it ours. Just look at this part of the statement:

“So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.”

When Valve talks this way, they’re so ridiculously dishonest by omission. This pretence that their ultimate goals are to facilitate wonder and sparkles, rather than their taking nearly a third of every sale for the honour, has become deeply tiresome. And when they’re profiting from what they’re selling, of bloody course they should be considering whether they’re comfortable with the sources of that income. This incessant and frankly childish obsession with abdicating responsibility away from themselves and onto those from whom they profit (developer and customer) is outrageously transparent.

It is not our job to run Steam! It is not our job to fix Steam! It is theirs. And their solution, each time they run into anything they don’t know how to solve, is to throw the problem at the user. Thirty barely functional pieces of dross being released onto the store every day? Make the customers curate it! A plague of vile hatred ruling their half-arsed user reviews? Have the same users “moderate” it for them. And now when it comes to the very tricky situation of not knowing how to decide what sort of content they want to put their name to? Try to take their name off it, and make it our problem to solve, while still pocketing the cash.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issue of what Valve should sell. It doesn’t matter if you endorse their selling anything, letting the market decide, or whether you believe they should have a moral position about the values from which they gain their profits. That isn’t the point here. The point is that their stated reasoning is an abandoning of any culpability for their own decisions. Because it’s their store, and their job to decide their position. They need to pull themselves together, and start taking some responsibility for the means by which they make their money, whichever side of the debate they might ultimately choose. If they’re going to sell anything, sell anything, including whatever straight-up trolling might be, and own the fact that this isn’t their act of altruism, but their means of making profit.

Valve must stop pretending everything is our choice, stop abdicating responsibility onto their customers, and start owning the decisions that they make. This current solution is clearly designed to pacify their most unpleasant customers, while avoiding owning any of the responsibility for the result.

324 Comments

Top comments

  1. Bull0 says:

    Not only is it cowardly, it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny; you don't get to sell stuff without taking any responsibility for the stuff you sell. If I sell you a toy for your kids that's full of broken glass, that's not just on the manufacturer for making it or you for buying it, that's clearly on me for selling it. It's a bit worrying that someone so senior at Valve can be this foolish.
  1. calibro says:

    The best possible solution, actually. I’m an adult and it’ll be me who decides what games I buy.

    • John Walker says:

      You might want to read the words in the article.

      • calibro says:

        Words like “Valve must stop pretending everything is our choice”? Everything I decide to buy on Steam *is* my choice.

        • jonatron says:

          But it’s their choice to sell it. That’s what Erik was talking about. It’s also what John was talking about. NEXT!

          • calibro says:

            Amazon is selling Mein Kampf btw. Because even shitty books like that one are considered art, and games are a form of art too. NEXT! or whatever should I say after I “owned” your comment.

          • John Walker says:

            I can only implore you again to read the words I wrote. It happens that I agree Valve should sell anything, if they’re willing to own that they’re profiting from it. I would hold Amazon to the same standards.

          • Rindan says:

            You want Valve to put out an official statement that they are a profit making company and they are making profit on everything in the Steam store, including icky things? Why? After they release an official statement that they are a profit seeking company and that a large part of the reason for wanting to allow everything and and go for a more algorithmic approach than hiring an army of reviewers is because the former is way more profitable… then what? Do you think there will be a surprised gasps from the audience?

            It sounds like you are upset that they are framing this like it is a philosophical choice rather than a businesses decision. It’s obviously both. They obviously were clearly struggling to come up with a coherent strategy both from a moral and business point of view. Are you just upset that they are not talking a lot about how this stance is good for businesses?

        • John Walker says:

          Yes, it is. But what THEY choose to sell is THEIR choice, and not yours. Which would rather be the point.

          • calibro says:

            Yes, so? As I said in the other comment, Amazon is selling Mein Kampf. Didn’t see anyone arguing it shouldn’t. Because as shitty as that book is, it’s art, and so are games.

            Edit: why can’t I reply to you anymore? you too sensitive John?

            >It happens that I agree Valve should sell anything, if they’re willing to own that they’re profiting from it. I would hold Amazon to the same standards.

            Don’t they own it?

          • John Walker says:

            Argh, I give up.

          • John Walker says:

            Our shitty comments system means the reply button only nests so far. But sure, keep assuming that the guy who already agrees with you is “too sensitive” to cope. That’ll be it.

          • battles_atlas says:

            Shame BTL first comment is usually the poster who has spent the least time actually engaging with what was written.

            Excellent piece, John.

          • quijote3000 says:

            Their choice is to sell everything, and that is making “MY” choice, as an adult, to buy the games “I” choose very easy.

            Well, thank you. That is exactly what I want. I don’t want you or anybody telling me what I have to buy.

            Taking a stand and saying that they they Will allow everything in their store, even if it’s only for profit is actually surprising, considering how much extreme right groups like Morality in Media, yourself, Polygon and others want to decide what is allowed and what isn’t.

            I hope the ones that don’t like it, go buy Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and burn in somewhere, or something,and leave us, gamers, alone

          • J-Spoon says:

            Is it? They’re restricted by regional laws, which you also mention. The issue as you framed it is that they place the onus on the developers to determine what is legal where, but that is common to all international business, digital or not. Each country has their own laws, emissions standards, ITAR restrictions, regulatory agencies, infrastructure, social norms, lobbyists, politicians, etc. – things that are produced for sale go through the respective regulatory environments and are modified for the places they are bound for by the manufacturer. If developers want to sell internationally, they need to do their homework, it’s always been this way. Further, you could argue that requiring devs to check off some boxes (initial disclosures) streamlines the process so that they have less homework to do.
            Of course developers have the onus of figuring out whether their material is legal for the regions they sell in; if they don’t have the resources to check, they should just region-lock to their locality and some of the freer markets like NA/EU and be done with it as any producer of products have been doing for years and years. The only reason this is even being argued is that whatever they sell at brick-and-mortar stores have to cross the border first, and those already passed through the regulatory gauntlet/customs etc., which obviates any question whether it can be sold in [country]. Valve already has been doing this, it’s just been invisible until now.

      • bobobo1618 says:

        To be fair, the article is so full of opinion and takes so long to get to the point, it’s a little hard to read.

        The opening sentence is good. It contains information and has value. The quote is good. The rest of the first three paragraphs is opinion presented before any justification and therefore not worth paying any attention to. At that point I very nearly gave up on the article.

        The whole section on illegality is criticizing the validity and apparently morality of their implementation before they even have one.

        Same mostly goes for the trolling section.

        You’re treating an open blog post written to give a general gist of Steam’s attitude going forward as if it’s a legal policy document or a complete plan.

        I’ll be interested to see what the details are and they can be criticized then but for now, I’m happy with their approach. It’s good to see someone not trying to force their values down my throat. I’m more than happy to blacklist some things I don’t want to see if that means I can definitely see the things I do want to see.

        • podbaydoors says:

          Opinion piece contains opinion, therefore bad.

          I’m beginning to worry that my mother was right and videogames really do rot one’s brain.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          “To be fair, the article is so full of opinion ”

          That would be because it’s not an article but an editorial. I realise this is difficult stuff but I’m sure Wikipedia has an article on it.

        • Billybobjoeshabadoo says:

          To be fair, he’s straddling that fence so hard I don’t think he actually has a point. He’s pretending all the people are “actually agreeing with him”…but like they aren’t he’s not reading them as much as he’s claiming not to have been read.

          Just like he’s crying in the article about “while then implement international anti-homosexuality laws” all the while ignore the previous proposal meant that any sexuality based game would have been removed regardless of those laws, no tears shed, certainly didn’t seem to care then.

          Like the passive aggressive fence sitting here, where he’s pretending not to be mad that a heavy handed rule removing any and all games he doesn’t like (screw collateral damage, right?) is why most people are “missing his point”…he never made any such he’s trying to pretend like he did so he could appear so smug and superior and have “won”.

      • owlnout says:

        The article is conjecture, full of loaded language.

        • airmikee99 says:

          What is missing? Conjecture is an opinion based on incomplete information, so what information is this opinion missing to make it conjecture?

          I know you just learned that word, but you’re using it wrong.

          • Stevostin says:

            Assuming devs who will in good faith offend this or that country’s law would get into trouble is conjecture, and not a terribly smart one. Assuming that trolling against the right would be as hardly punished as trolling against the left would a) if false be acceptable, it’s already how google, facebook & twitter work and the earth is still spinning b) if true would… actually be a good thing.
            Etc.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          It’s not an article.

          Come now, at least understand what you comment on.

          • sorian says:

            On the page I am reading on it says “Featured Articles” at the top as the section this post is listed under, so I can understand the confusion.

      • rubmon says:

        @John Walker: You’re good at writing criticism, but really bad at coming up with solutions. Exactly how do you suggest they’d go about this?

        • mpk says:

          “Hi, we’re Valve. We’ve opened up our store to any and all content, including that which may be illegal in your country, generally immoral or just a bit shite. We’re taking a 30% cut of every sale but don’t complain to us if you don’t like what YOU choose to buy.

          Got it? Got it. Kthxbye!”

          • aniforprez says:

            Seems reasonable actually. Except they also explicitly say illegal stuff will not be sold where it doesn’t comply with local laws

          • frenchy2k1 says:

            They *HAVE* to respect local laws if they want to do business there.
            American companies are now mostly respecting European privacy laws because the law specifies it. Similarly, if companies want to do business in China, they’ll respect local laws, so to sell in Russia or some of the Arabic countries, they will have to censor homosexual content or not sell there.
            I mean, Germany gets special versions of most violent games with the blood censored, how is this new? (see: Wolfenstein, Carmageddon…)

            Few companies take a stand and refuse to do business in those states, but most just comply.

      • Exzodium says:

        Reads like a buch of communist bs.

      • Stevostin says:

        I read them. They’re not as smart as you think.

        Each and every ppl from Valve who I encountered was unusually smart and/or talented. When you come up with an article that all discount them as a bunch of idiots, you’d better have clever argument, nor remarkably irrelevant ones.

        I don’t think you could get hired at Valve. But hey, you can write.

      • aweigh0101 says:

        Any kind of censorship is always bad.

      • Billybobjoeshabadoo says:

        You seem so upset that the new rules that would’ve wiped out minority sexuality based content on steam and made it impossible of any new ones to get on there aren’t being implemented. Because apparently that’s literally the only option people like you wanted (certainly shed no tears over queer content creators being targeted by the rules you called for…yeah I see you, keep crying those crocodile tears over “muh hate speech”, you don’t care unless you can profit of it…turns out you and valve have lots in common hey?)

    • Neutrino says:

      Agreed.

    • mitrovarr says:

      It doesn’t quite work that way for some of us. Selling something is endorsing it. And a lot of us will feel extremely uneasy about giving money to a company that openly endorses hate speech. Which they haven’t done yet, but the policy makes it sound like they will go there.

      Try as they might, Steam isn’t the only game in town. And this kind of thing has the potential to drive off a lot of the userbase. Particularly since, as people leave, the racists and trolls will make up a proportionately larger part of the userbase.

      • Blastaz says:

        But amazingly then you have the option to not buy stuff from Steam. If you feel that Valve’s laissez faire approach to content creations means that they are selling homophobic games (or ones which are “homosexual propaganda” if you are that way inclined) and supporting that makes you feel queasy, then don’t support them.

        That’s the beauty of the free market you can take your business elsewhere, just buy from GOG, and lose nothing. Maybe if the boycot is big enough Steam will change tack.

        Steam is not big government and it shouldn’t act like it.

        • airmikee99 says:

          Except for the thousands and thousands of games that are only available on Steam, right?

        • mitrovarr says:

          I mean, I could stop using Steam. But I like Steam in a number of other ways, so I’d prefer it if they’d back away from this stupid, stupid decision and implement some oversight. It doesn’t have to be a lot – the itch.io statement from the previous thread was plenty.

          But anyone who plays games should be worried about this, really. If really vile games get into Steam and get mass exposure, it could create a public outcry that could bring legislation or mass public disapproval of PC gaming. The fallout from that could affect everyone on the platform.

          • Distec says:

            They only get mass exposure when every pearl-clutching gaming outlet decides to simultaneously post front-page articles condemning any given offender. And yet, even those games don’t exactly swim in circulation forever. What exactly was the long tail on Hatred, exactly? Despite some very public displays from journalists, the devs, and Valve themselves, that title is a footnote with no cultural currency any more. The threats posed from these games seem minimal at best.

            I’ve long stopped caring about the wider society thinks about gaming, PC or otherwise. That has consisted of a constant rotation of moral panics and baseless gripes over decades, and gaming is more mainstram and ubiquitous than it has ever been in history. It has succeeded despite their naysaying.

          • quijote3000 says:

            It’s their store. You don’t like their policy, don’t buy games there.

            Or you can do as everybody else, buy the games you are interested, don’t buy the games you don’t like.

            And don’t worry about any fallout. You can buy the book written by Hitler himself in Amazon, and nobody wants to ban Amazon.

            This is just the agony of some people who want to decide, or at least to be consulted about what I, as an adult, can buy or not buy.

      • Asami says:

        “Selling something is endorsing it.”
        Hardly. Plenty of companies sell things they don’t endorse. If you saw a company selling, say… Band tees, do you assume they all like ALL the music of the bands whose tees they sell? Or do you, like most reasonable people, assume they just sell the tees customers seem to want?

        “And a lot of us will feel extremely uneasy about giving money to a company that openly endorses hate speech.”
        Ah, here we go, that old classic “Supporting free speech is supporting hate speech.” Well, yes and no, actually. In the US at least, hate speech is considered free speech, but just because you allow it, doesn’t mean you support it. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” THAT is the meaning of free speech, and while certainly not as altruistic coming from Valve here, still represents a perfectly valid position. As the article mentions, Valve basically IS a monopoly in this space, and thus, even if they also have a financial interest in doing so, are taking a reasonable stand by allowing whatever people want to buy onto their storefront. In essence, they’re creating the only bastion of free speech in games on the internet, because they’re the only ones too big for others to take down by going to e.g. their ISP, hosting provider, etc.

        • BooleanBob says:

          I agree. My local supermarket sells milk, and it also sells a milk-substitute oat drink whose packaging decries the production, sale and consumption of milk as unethical and wrong.

          It’s impossible for the supermarket to endorse both products simultaneously, and yet both are on sale. Is this an ‘abdication of responsibility’ on their part? Or is maybe a willingness to let customers make their own decisions about what they consume?

          • JustAName says:

            These are insufficient analogies. A better one is whether or not a bookstore sells pornographic material. They may or may not endorse it themselves, but having it on the bookshelves can have an impact on their reputation.

            A lot of what Steam sells now is the equivalent of “smut”. I don’t think that phases most of us, as we all have our short lists in mind before we log in. But I certainly don’t browse Steam titles in the same way I used to. My trust in Steam has diminished a bit, but not enough to pack my bags.

        • Optimaximal says:

          This whole debate has raised up the point across several sites and channels – hate speech is free speech in the US, but in most EU countries, its actually illegal, punishable by jail time for the most egregious examples.

          RPS is a UK-based site and John lives in the UK, so maybe that explains his view?

      • Rindan says:

        I hope you are not vegan or vegetarian. If you are, I bet shopping is pretty hard. Buying celery at the super market is basically supporting cattle slaughter. You certainly can choose to take that view. I don’t think many people are going to follow you.

        I’m happy with Valve’s new policy. It means that games that I might like are less likely to get blocked. I actually might want some queer adult games. If some asshole wants to sell some alt right crap, I’ll be as upset at Valve as I am at Amazon for selling Sarah Palin’s book; which is to say I won’t give a shit. It’s unfortunate that there are assholes and people that I dislike in the world, but trying to punish them by trying to keep them from being able to sell stuff in markets is stupid.

      • MajorLag says:

        “Try as they might, Steam isn’t the only game in town.”

        Sorry, I lived through the 90s and Microsoft’s anti-trust case. I know what it looks like when a company is actually trying to stamp out all its competition and Valve’s business with Steam doesn’t look anything like it.

      • quijote3000 says:

        Selling something is endorsing… No

        Amazon sells Lolita, Mein Kampf, atheist Books, Christian Books, whatever. Leftish Books, alt – right Books. And what people do is ignore what they don’t want

        I support Valve New policy

    • Beefenstein says:

      Make it so that people can sign up to a ‘Steam Grab-bag’ where three random games published that month are delivered to you, hot and ready, and you have to play each for two hours or you pay the full price for it. Perhaps also you need to stream playing it on Twitch and it is verified that you spent the time playing it, not merely having the .exe open.

      I suspect this would make more people want a well-curated store.

      • ravenshrike says:

        That would certainly be useful as part of a review system in return for an additional discount on stuff you buy. Say 15% applied after all other discounts. The gameplay would have to be recorded of course so as to ensure you were playing the game, and 240 or 360p clips attached to the review itself in steam so that people could see what you actually did. Hmm, the more I think on it the better of an idea it is.

    • DanMan says:

      I agree in general that a “hands off” approach is largely the best course of action. Unless it’s illegal, stuff should be allowed, basically. You can never please everyone.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      In a perfect world, they’d be able to set up a system where they can’t even touch or see what is or isn’t sold on Steam. Revolutionary literature, children’s animated TV shows, hardcore pornography, interactive car repair manuals, disk images of Atari ST software, the lot.

    • nononsch says:

      That’s the best policy indeed. “When people can’t deal with their own emotions, they tend to control other actions / choices

  2. Bull0 says:

    Not only is it cowardly, it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny; you don’t get to sell stuff without taking any responsibility for the stuff you sell. If I sell you a toy for your kids that’s full of broken glass, that’s not just on the manufacturer for making it or you for buying it, that’s clearly on me for selling it. It’s a bit worrying that someone so senior at Valve can be this foolish.

    • MrUnimport says:

      That would plainly be illegal though.

      I think basically nothing has changed as a result of this announcement except that Valve is claiming to take a more liberal stance with regards to sexual content. I don’t think there’s much of anything to worry about.

      • battles_atlas says:

        You’re right nothing has changed, in the sense that this announcement does nothing to change the fact that Valve’s content policy remains ill-thought out and ridiculously vague.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Are there games that are demonstrably causing as much harm as toys made out of broken glass on Steam? Hell, are there any games on steam demonstrably causing harm? This seems like a pretty extreme analogy.

    • ChocolateWaffle says:

      They already said they won’t sell anything straight up illegal, like a toy filled with broken glass would be. If your concern is low quality content bloating Steam, news flash, it already is, and this policy doesn’t make it worse. Steam needing QC/QA is not the same as freely allowing games regardless of their subject matter. Crappy asset flips already make it onto Steam and have since Steam Direct. You can get your very own achievement idle simulator published for only 100 bucks.

      If your concern is impressionable youth being affected by questionable content, that’s where proper filtering/gating and good parenting comes into play. Currently any 12 year old with mommy’s card can go on Amazon and get a copy of Mein Kampf and a dildo, and it’s entirely not Amazon’s fault. Same for Google, what you search and find is up to you, not them. “Google should control which websites you can find and ban any adult or controversial content from its searches” is an equally dumb statement.

      In short, allowing anything? Yes, it’s good. But Steam needs better tools to separate the good QUALITY from the bad quality, REGARDLESS of morals or personal views.

    • Blastaz says:

      Actually sellers have fairly limited liability under U.K. law link to nibusinessinfo.co.uk

      If you were selling a pot of broken glass with a picture of a kid on the side and the slogan “glass – it’s fun to eat!” Then you would be liable. But if you were selling a teddy stuffed with broken glass by accident rather than foam, then you wouldn’t be liable until after the product recall notice.

    • bacon seeker says:

      Video games aren’t real. Nobody will be choking to death on broken glass regardless of Valve’s policies.

    • yonsito says:

      That would be the Amazon school of thought. “We’re a market place, not a store.”
      Not sure if this holds water in case of dispute.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      I think you didn’t read the part of the announcement where words were written. They said as long as it’s not illegal. Selling dangerous toys to kids is illegal.

    • zaldar1978 says:

      So glad to see the others giving the true legal arguments (at least in the US) here. Sad that the top comment choice is so obviously so biased. But not surprised as it has been obvious Rock Paper Shotgun is trying to battle Waypoint for the most ridiculously leftist/socialist video game website.

    • Xzi says:

      This isn’t really the best analogy to make. Retail stores sell cheap ‘made in China’ products all the time, and they always tend to break right after the store’s return policy stops applying. It’s up to the customer to curate products for themselves in retail storefronts just as much as digital storefronts.

    • Camilitus says:

      not sure why the top comment is err. top. The example given – toys with broken glass, would be illegal. Steam are against illegal things (shock!). If it kept happening (or was even part of the product in the first place), the responsibility would lie with the manufacturer for a recall not the seller.
      I prefer the hands off policy. I saw that a school shooter game was removed (asset flipping i think) but many wanted it banned for its content/theme. I stopped playing Max Payne 3 because it was just an exercise in killing poor Brazilians. Older, White N American, goes to another country and massacres the younger, poorer, browner inhabitants, no questions asked. “Firstly, I think the relocation to Sao Paulo (there are still New York scenes, too) works well. This is down to Rockstar’s virtuoso environmental design, and flare for place and detail, as well as their execution of the cutscenes.” (Jim’s article from 2012) Maybe RPS should take responsibility for promoting a morally odious title and totally ignoring why it might be odious.

  3. Jaeja says:

    Data point, from first-hand experience: if you are registered in Germany, you can only buy the German-language version of the new Wolfenstein games, which have the swastikas removed for legal reasons. Further, this is not based on IP, this is based on where your payment method is set up, and it’s non-trivial to change. Valve can and do already manage which titles are available in certain countries based on legal criteria. That’s obviously not the whole picture, but I think it’s an important point to keep in mind :)

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, I should make it clearer that they already do. It was their bewildering claim that the onus should be on the dev that I was trying to highlight.

      • thenevernow says:

        Yep. Steam already does (at least tries to) not sell “illegal” games on a regional/national basis, so articles like this calling out that word as complete bullshit sound like they have a bias that neglects facts.

      • Archonsod says:

        Why is it bewildering? It’s no different from material goods – it’s not usually the checkout clerk at the local Tesco’s who’s checking merchandise for CE compliance.
        In fact it’s probably little more than good business sense (as is the whole non-curation stance to be honest). By placing the onus on the developer to disclose potentially problematic content it gives Valve a defence, should something illegal ever manage to find itself on a store front somewhere, that it was the developer’s fault for not disclosing said content rather than Valve’s for making it available. That can be used to claim a neutral facilitator style defence and if nothing else would give them a basis for a lawsuit should they incur any losses due to such an incident. In that respect they’re no different from say E-bay which likewise places the onus on the seller to ensure the item is legal to be sold both in their own jurisdiction and the one they’re selling into if necessary.

        • battles_atlas says:

          You’ve picked a rather terrible analogy to support your case there. No of course the Tescos check out kid isn’t responsible for product compliance, because the massive procurement dept does that. Which Tesco’s has because as a traditional retailer it cannot hide behind the bullshit “WE’RE JUST A MARKETPLACE” excuse that every tech platform has hidden behind for the last few years, to excuse the fact that they make money whilst taking no responsibility for what they sell. The jig is up now though, Facebook’s use of it failed to save them from the shitstorm they find themselves in, and Amazon and eBay are now rapidly heading into the same territory, with regular press coverage of the illegal/fake/dangerous/untaxed stuff you can buy on their sites that they profit from.

          This argument is one that has limited mileage at this point. The time is rapidly approaching when platforms will have much clearer legal responsibility for what they sell/”host”.

          • Archonsod says:

            Said ‘shitstorm’ for Facebook amounted to nothing more than a telling off from some politico’s in suits (you seriously think there’s anyone willing to be the politician “that banned Facebook”?) and some vague promises of better behaviour. Problem is as long as you have people willing to sell things and other people willing to buy things then someone is going to come along and figure out a way to bring the two together while making money from it. It’s not really something it’s possible to prevent or police.

          • battles_atlas says:

            Said shitstorm amounted to huge reputational damage, which will have repercussions on user numbers and ultimately the bottom line, the (at least temporarily) ending of Zuckerberg’s political ambitions, and is exactly the kind of event which led to GDPR in Europe, to likely be followed by similar bills elsewhere. The effect of that law, and Facebook’s hurried changes to their systems in response to the scandal, will constrain Facebook’s capacity to collect and monetise data in both near and long term. None of this is fatal to Fb obviously, but it go far deeper than the circus of Zuckerberg appearing before Senate.

            On your second point, the key distinction is between ‘someone’ selling what others want to buy, and a global platform selling it. This is why child porn and contract killings were available on Silk Road but not Amazon. Despite what the last twenty years has suggested, the tech companies do not operate in a moral vacuum. The clusterfuck at Uber is Exhibit A. Slowly, societies have wised up to the fact that this lot are just an industry like any other, and require regulating like any other.

          • wonboodoo says:

            “Said shitstorm” for Facebook is nothing to do with delivering content to consumers, it was about violating user privacy. But they’re both tech companies so it’s analogous? What?

            Look at Amazon, Netflix, … etc if you want to reach for analogies.

            Also, being a illegal child pornography and contract killings won’t be sold on Steam.

            Keep reaching for straw men.

      • zaldar1978 says:

        Onus should be on the dev to tell them what is in their game. Now it should not be on the dev to know the laws of every country in the world certainly. If THAT is what they are doing then that is wrong – but I haven’t gotten that feeling from what they put out.

      • Rindan says:

        Why do you think this is weird? This is pretty normal. When two companies are doing businesses it isn’t strange for one company to ask the other some questions to figure out their compliance with various laws. Companies have to follow laws. It isn’t optional.

        I literally do this all the time. I have to send out samples to other companies and they have to send them to me. When you fill out the paper work, there is usually a whole bunch of boxes you need to check disclosing various things about whatever you are shipping, who you are sending it too, and what it will be used for. This is all for compliance for sanctions and technology sharing laws. I don’t like them all, but I can’t beat the government, so what can you do? I fill out the boxes honestly and move on with life.

        It’s ridiculous to be upset that Valve is asking companies to self report their compliance to the various laws in the various markets they wish to sell their product. It isn’t Valve’s job to pull apart your code and figure out if you have swastikas in your game and so can’t sell it in Germany. It’s obviously the the job of company that wants to to sell on Steam to disclose accurately if they have swastikas. Even if you think having swastikas is essential for the pure essence of your game, it isn’t Valve’s job to fight the freaking German government on your behalf.

        Valve’s job is to make compliance with the law easy. Anything more than that is for you and your lawyers.

      • ravenshrike says:

        The onus is on the dev, unless you think id software made that version of the game after the retailers told them the normal version couldn’t be sold in Germany. It’s not like it would be that difficult to set such a system up either. You have a menu that goes through all the different countries and a short overview of the specific laws that apply and by clicking on a country you get a more in depth explanation and links to the full text of the laws themselves.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I’d be more on the side of “if you don’t like it, don’t look at it” if their damn filtering worked.

    I have, for instance, “Visual novel” tag filtered. What does this mean? It means that Steam recommends them to me anyway, with a little note on the side saying it contains tags I’ve filtered out.

    Good work, Steam!

    That said I quite like Steam and personally believe art (games in this case) with basically any statement should be allowed. But I do wish their filtering actually worked.

    • calibro says:

      With Valve’s approach, discovery on Steam won’t ever be good or at least mediocre. Just use other places like reddit or gaming sites to find new games to play, then search specifically for them on Steam.

    • MattM says:

      I have Early Access, Videos, and Unreleased Products deselected in my queue settings but E.A. and Unreleased games keep showing up.

  5. c2z4s9 says:

    I agree with calibro here. I think they took the right position.

    • John Walker says:

      I get that people are going to just assume this article states that Valve shouldn’t sell anything, despite its saying nothing of the sort, and despite my personally thinking they should, and I’m going to give up correcting it after this time. So last time, as the article states:

      “It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issue of what Valve should sell…”

      That’s not the point here. The point is, well, what’s actually written above.

      • airmikee99 says:

        Don’t worry, John. Reading, especially on the internet, is hard.

      • Doogie2K says:

        Silly John, thinking people who comment on the article actually read and comprehended it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Malarious says:

        Okay, presumably you support extraterritoriality when it comes to things like GDPR compliance — Valve, despite being an American company, should bend the knee to EU privacy regulations, right? But Valve making some concession to the Russian government and not selling games they forbid, like those propagandizing homosexuality — well, that’s immoral and “supporting inhumane laws”?

        Your position is literally, “Valve should enforce the laws that I agree with and ignore the ones I don’t.” Which would presumably entail Steam pulling out of every market controlled by regressive conservatives who are presently on the “wrong side of history”. (Sure, they could continue operating in these countries until the governments took legal action against them, or just blocked every Steam IP, but the end result is the same: no more Steam in these countries). Your opinion is the one that’s illiberal and, frankly, almost colonialist! It is the duty of the citizens of these countries to agitate for political change (if they so desire it), not for some American company to come in and spit on their laws, assuming their beliefs and ideologies are the correct ones for every culture and every country. It’s not Valve’s job to wage the culture war at all, and certainly not everywhere, across the entire globe.

        • battles_atlas says:

          Feels slightly ironic to be invoking colonialism whilst taking it as a given that it should be an American company who is dominating the market in all these foreign territories. Economic colonialism is cool, just not cultural colonialism? British Empire would have been fine with that.

          Also you could do with going back and reading what he wrote – he’s attacking Valve’s reasoning for their policies, not the policies themselves. Hence “We don’t, however, have an overriding right to tell them what can or can’t be sold. And, I would argue, we shouldn’t want it.”

        • John Walker says:

          My favourite thing about this comment is that you say, “I assume this thing I’ve no evidence for, and therefore based on that, you’re a hypocrite.”

          Good stuff.

      • Bedlam11 says:

        Every disgusting subhuman games journalist on the internet has just thrown a baby tantrum at Valve in lockstep, you seriously expect people to charitably pick through your garbage hysterical propaganda piece and choose to interpret it in a fashion that makes you seem less of a shrill mindless thought-policing worm than you obviously are?

        • John Walker says:

          Yeah, you’re right. It’s outrageous of me to expect people to read what I wrote!

          The only sensible thing is for people to assume I wrote something they disagree with, and then spend their time writing why they disagree with it below, even though they’re repeating what the article actually said. That is absolutely the only rationale course of action.

          You should be in charge of everything!

        • battles_atlas says:

          Genuine LOL at a post attacking a “shrill mindless thought-policing worm” which opens with “Every disgusting subhuman games journalist”. Magnificent absence of self-awareness, bravo!

      • J-Spoon says:

        Look, I have no problem with your opinions, but if X% of people failed to grasp your point after you went on for several pages, that’s a problem with your writing, not reading comprehension. If you bury your lede 5 paragraphs deep of course you’re going to get people missing your point, you buried it, what did you expect?

        • Zorgulon says:

          No, it proves that certain subjects and breaking news stories are such dog whistles for certain types of commentor who assume what the article is going to say without having read it.

          It’s not about John not being clear enough, it’s people who literally haven’t read what they’re commenting on.

      • quijote3000 says:

        If you support that Valve sells everything, maybe “Valve’s abdication of responsibility over Steam is the worst possible solución” is no the Bñbest title

  6. geldonyetich says:

    It might not be that Valve is washing their hands of the responsibility of curating the Steam store because they’re a morally bankrupt company looking to make money.

    It might be that Valve is washing their hands of the responsibility of curating the Steam store because they feel it is well and truly beyond their capabilities to ever successfully accomplish.

    • Sandepande says:

      Just hire folks to go vet every game that wants to be on Steam.

      They can afford it.

      • ChocolateWaffle says:

        They have, and that’s a problem. Because if you ask someone to decide whether an individual game gets in or not, they will mix in their views. Valve’s article said as much, even among employees and their families they had disagreements. A game reviewed by vetter A might get through, where otherwise vetter B would’ve rejected it. It’s almost impossible to keep opinions and personal views and morality out of any evaluation or review, and this is not the first time Valve made a mistake. Back when they allowed VNs for the first time they said “we didn’t consider them games, didn’t know people actually wanted these”.

        So their answer is to put a little faith in humans being grown up and able to choose and find what they want without throwing a hissy fit over what the next aisle in the bookstore has.

        • John Walker says:

          Well, no. What a grown up sensible company could do is agree on a set of rules for what they’ll sell, and then employ people to apply those rules.

          • Blastaz says:

            They agreed on a set of rules “anything goes”, just because you don’t like the rules, doesn’t mean they aren’t a set…

          • battles_atlas says:

            And yet if you’d bothered reading John’s post you’d recognise that its new policy is actually far from being “anything goes”, and that is exactly John’s criticism.

            For fucks sake, I get John could have written this more clearly, but its not that complicated that a good third of commentators here should be missing the point entirely.

          • adammtlx says:

            What a grown up sensible company could do is agree on a set of rules for what they’ll sell, and then employ people to apply those rules.

            Sure. That’s worked out really well for Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Great idea. Why don’t you get Valve started with a few suggestions on the rules? Mind posting them here?

          • battles_atlas says:

            adammtlx the problem on Youtube, Fb et al is far less to do with their policies, and far more to do with their attempts to enforce those policies with cheap but ineffective algorithms, and indeed their use of recommendation algorithms and monetisation systems which actually promote a good deal of the most toxic content.

            I don’t think anyone is pretending that there is *a policy* which will uncontroversially and consistently solve Valve’s content, that does not mean that what they have come up with isn’t weak.

          • shde2e says:

            Besides, those sites are dealing with massive amounts of user-generated content being added every second, and don’t directly involve financial transactions.

            Steam sells about thirty new games per day. You could easily hire thirty people and have them judge one game per day by pre-established guidelines. If there is doubt, kick it upstairs to more senior employees who can do a more thorough analysis, speak to the devs, or alter the guidelines as needed.

          • J-Spoon says:

            “…don’t directly involve financial transactions.”

            Sure they do. Most of the hoopla about YouTube is about demonetization and the effects of takedowns on the people that make their livelihood from the platform. FB is about selling ads to foreign entities that go on to directly foment civil unrest and (foreign) disinformation campaigns because FB sold them the ad space and visibility. It’s all about financial transactions. It’s all about money.

          • adammtlx says:

            I don’t think anyone is pretending that there is *a policy* which will uncontroversially and consistently solve Valve’s content, that does not mean that what they have come up with isn’t weak.

            I disagree that it’s weak. I disagree with you, and John Walker, and all the other people complaining that it’s Valve’s responsibility to protect us from content someone might find offensive. Valve’s policy is pretty clear and reasonably unambiguous. They’ll remove illegal content, and they’ll remove content they judge is clearly designed to just cause trouble. That’s about as non-subjective as you’re going to get without saying “anything goes.” But you seem to want them to go further, for reasons I’ll never understand.

            You could easily hire thirty people and have them judge one game per day by pre-established guidelines.

            Like what? Be specific. Let’s see some of these guidelines. Or are you just going to punt, like John, and say “it’s not my job to figure it out”?

  7. InfiniteSubset says:

    Does a school shooting sim count as “straight-up trolling”?

    Considering they literally called the developer of that game a troll, it seems like that may be exactly the sort of content they are considering.

    While I think being mad about unclear guidelines is fair, being mad about your assumptions for how unclear guidelines will be implemented is a little bit silly. Additionally, these aren’t actually their current guidelines, this is an announcement that they will be changing their guidelines, we can hope that they make these definitions more clear when they take effect.

    • battles_atlas says:

      … but, they’re guidelines. If they’re unclear, then how can the implementation of them be satisfactory? Isn’t the point that they ‘guide’? Unless, as you seem to assume, those vague guidelines are defined by a second set of guidelines. Unless and until such a set of guidelines are publicly availability, why on earth shouldn’t we criticise what *is* available?

      • shde2e says:

        Also, we can already see how Steam uses their existing vague guidelines: not very consistently or transparently. Which causes a lot of problems and uncertainity, as the whole visual novel affair showed.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Its probably worth clarifying that Active Shooter wasnt taken down because of the content of the game but because Valve banned the developer account associated with it, because the guy who set it up violated other unrelated rules. If he hadn’t done that, it would still be up.

  8. Freud says:

    My biggest issue with Valve’s hands off policy is that it makes the store less and less user friendly with so much junk clogging it up. It should be in Valve’s interest to clean up the store so it’s easier to find good products but I guess that would require them to hire more people to have an idea of what they are selling.

    Every year we see a massive rise in number of games added to Steam and it’s not good games contributing to those numbers. It’s asset flips, achievement stuffed games and generally amateur hour.

    • Sin Vega says:

      This is extremely true and makes my job really quite irritating at times. It certainly wastes a lot of my time and wouldn’t be necessary if they hired someone to actually look at the games they let through. It doesn’t even take long to identify some of the worst examples – one guy has been releasing the exact same terrible non-game with marginally different sprites every few weeks for as long as I’ve been writing UP. It’s a blatant con and aside from anything else, they ought to have some damn self-respect about the goods they sell.

      • death_au says:

        I know this comment may sound inflammatory, but I don’t mean this to be a personal attack.
        Your job is to report on PC games coming out. Steam is probably the main tool you use to see new games as they come out. If Steam curated the games as they come through, filtering out the dross according to their standards, the list of new releases would be better making your job less irritating and time-consuming. I get that. But wouldn’t it make your picture less complete?
        I always read your recommendations and the recommendations of this site, and I understand that you’ve filtered through the rubbish to pull out the gems. I understand (to a degree) your tastes and trust your opinions.
        If Steam hired someone to do that and filter their own store, that opinion would be relegated to some faceless employee who I will never get to know in any way and can be swapped for someone with different opinions without anyone knowing. In fact, there will be a team of faceless people with varying opinions. Some of the games that are ‘decent’ or ‘fun’ in my opinion or yours would get stuck in the net because they don’t pass muster in Valve Employee #6101’s opinion.

        It’s not an easy problem to solve, and maybe abdicating responsibility isn’t the right way to go, but I do like the idea of having the freedom to choose whatever I want to play and to use whatever filters I choose to trust. And I trust RPS writers’ opinions as filters more than I trust Valve’s.

      • Jerkzilla says:

        Hahaha! I’m sorry but I can’t help reding your post as “My job would be easier if they hired someone else to do a part of it for me”.

        • MajorLag says:

          Have to agree, I’m afraid. Yes, Valve’s system sucks at helping people find “good” content, but that’s because “good” is a highly subjective metric. Google has some of the best data gathering and analysis on the planet and even they can’t make a recommendations system that doesn’t suck.

        • Premium User Badge

          zapatapon says:

          It largely depends what Sin’s job description is exactly, doesn’t it? And, as far as I know, you’re not the one to decide that.

    • Blastaz says:

      Except they are pretty good at pointing people at the things that sell. Every new AAA and AA release is well displayed through “featured and recommended” “trending among friends” “new and trending” and “top sellers”.

      Every popular game on sale is well advertised through the occasional pop up “special offers” and “top sellers”

      These features clearly advertise the sorts of games that people actually buy – games that advertise themselves and generate a buzz, and games that did that once upon a time and are now cheaper.

      What steam isn’t good at is telling you which of the couple of hundred random games released that week suck the least. But amazingly there isn’t much of a market for zero buzz, low production value games, so why would they bother?

      • Sin Vega says:

        You’re right, why would a shop want to sell the things they stock? What a barmy notion indeed.

        • Blastaz says:

          Well when all the goods they sell are digital, so they can’t gave left over stock and marginal costs of production are zero they are basically a volume business that wants to sell as much as possible. Thus pointing people at stuff that is already popular is a fairly good marketing strategy. Further the stuff with enough money to actually advertise (the 3 and 2 As) also has better production values, graphics voice acting etc. So, in the main, it’s better quality too.

          I mean (and no offence) most weeks even the stuff you have curated for UP isn’t really that great. There is occasionally some cool stuff there, but frequently not. None of that stuff is going to sell buckets just because it has a slightly more prominent place on the store front…

          • Sin Vega says:

            It’ll net them more than filling up that space with the stuff that everybody already knows about. Besides, if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, surely it should be that all sorts of random weird shit can suddenly take off if people are made aware of it.

            Valve aren’t pushing the super popular safe bets because it’s the best way to handle their store. It’s sheer complacency.

          • Blastaz says:

            The most successful video game store in history has no idea how to market games? What a barmy notion indeed!

          • Sin Vega says:

            That’s not what I said.

            And in any case, even if they got where they are solely on the merit of their flawless business skills (which, come on), having a near monopoly changes things. It leads to complacency and lousy practices that are bad for everyone, which is one of the major reasons why monopolies are generally a Bad Thing.

          • Blastaz says:

            Well, you did say that they aren’t pushing safe bets through strategy but complacency and that they would make more money through pushing random Indy games. That sounds awfully like you are saying they don’t know what they are doing…

            Steam isn’t a games mag, it’s a store. It’s not its job to educate its readership in offbeat Lo-fi Indy hits like a modern day, mid 90s NME but to sell them stuff. Their pitch is – “you know that game you have seen advertised on every bus stop, billboard and website? That game all your friends are talking about? Did you know you could buy that here?! Please give us your money. Thank you.”

            If they just crammed their store front with Indy games “no one had heard of” they would make as much money as, well, itch…

          • jrodman says:

            Steam really does do a poor job of showing interesting games, regardless of whether you think it’s the most important thing they should do.

            I’ve hit Not Interested on hundreds of big budget boring games, but Steam keeps on trying to present them front and center in preference for other games I would actually be interested in every day. I say I’m “not interested” in a variety of tags, and yet if something seems popular they push it onto my screen regardless. Maybe in aggregate across the world of players this strategy might be reasonable, but for me it’s pretty much garbage, and it wouldn’t be too hard to do a better job at it. If this was their first year running such a store, then I’d understand, but at over a decade in, it’s a rather surprising gap, and one that smells of complacency and mediocrity.

            So regardless of your point, I think Sin Vega is on the money.

        • ravenshrike says:

          Fun fact, before inventory was reclassified from being a liability to being an asset in the US stores used to carry a lot more older and oddball products because the only ding against their bottom line was space. This was also a significant part of the impetus for the rise in the big box chains, especially in literature with Barnes and Noble and Borders. There is no significant inventory on the internet which means the oddballs are allowed to come out and play without fear of being taxed.

  9. wild_quinine says:

    You’ve certainly highlighted a lot of logistical problems with their statement, its ambiguity, its wooliness. These are going to come back on them time and time again. But I take issue with this:

    “Because it’s their store, and their job to decide their position.”

    Theirs is not a lack of position. They have a position. They have decided that their position is to be an open platform, with all of the problems that this entails.

    One of those problems is an inherent ambiguity. (Not that they’ve done anything to help themselves in this regard.)

    Personally, I support an open platform where (almost) anything goes. (Ambiguity again).

    The reason is that society’s best gatekeepers are the whole of society, and when you let in the whole of society, it’s not one gate, it’s a whole city, with gates, and doors and windows.

    Their eventual solution is likely to involve further promotion of sub communities – like Reddit – where fans in minorities can be the biggest voice, as well as a generalised overview that hopes to cater to all comers (and probably fails about as often as Reddit does).

    (Note, – i mean minority opinions, but i realise that this is a loaded term, and there will certainly be plenty of discussion on the wider meaning, too)

    On objectionable content, I don’t think that people who set themselves up as gatekeepers have ever done a historically good job. It’s always been the case that the best stuff is on the fringes of society.

    The mainstream will steal it, of course, and neuter it, and make it its own – in time – that’s culture for you.

    There are some terrbile people doing terrible things and (usually) making bad art, and we’ll hear all about this in the months to come.

    But don’t think of the worst things in society, when you look at censorship. Instead, think of the things that challenge us most.

    • Jaeja says:

      Part of their problem is there’s no distinction between Steam-the-platform and Steam-the-storefront. Steam-the-platform is incredibly powerful and valuable for developers – it handles publishing, distribution, billing, achievements, analytics, cloud saves and so on. Steam-the-storefront is I think a rather less valuable resource – useful, but I suspect a decent number of people mainly visit Steam to buy a specific title rather than to browse, and let’s face it the curation on the storefront isn’t amazing.

      One logical endpoint of the position they’re taking is to make the platform available on the terms they’re describing here – you can go to steampowered.com/app/[gameID] and see the game’s steam page for any game that meets the basic criteria they lay out – but curate the storefront so that only games they deem up to snuff show up there.

      Or, more coherently (and as the logical conclusion of the curator systems they’ve already created), build the official Steam storefront on top of the platform using a properly-documented API, and then allow anyone to build their own store on top of it, letting them take a small slice of the revenue. That seems about the squarest you could make this particular circle.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Your last paragraph is actually exactly what Gabe Newell claimed to want to make, some years ago now. It remains the best possible scenario, I think, but it doesn’t sound like Valve is all that keen on doing it.

      • battles_atlas says:

        I think you both make good points, and that the platform element is really key here. Historically, content at the margins of acceptability would be sold by specialist niche vendors. But platform capitalism is all about the monopoly position. You maximize network effects by offering everything to everyone.

        This is potentially problematic in many ways, but the key issue here is that twenty years ago a dominant industry player would serve the mainstream, and at best have a token offering towards edgy content. If that is what you were really interested in, you’d go to the indie options elsewhere. Now, the platform holds everything, and Valve are seemingly trying to adopt a position of selling Minecraft to kids, and a whole bunch of niche content to incompatible niche audiences. The obvious problem here is that many people will be uncomfortable using a store that also profits from trading content that they find outrageous.

        I do not think a mainstream industry player can be everything to everyone. The number of people genuinely committed to libertarian ideals, willing to defend the sale of anything no matter how distasteful they find it, is itself a minority.

      • Kollega says:

        I think the issue right now is that Steam is a monopoly, and as any monopoly is wont to do, it can easily strangle all but the biggest of competition by using its position as the top dog to capture its userbase in what is basically a digital equivalent of a company town. I think I wouldn’t be using Steam anymore, if not for the fact that I have many my games on it (even despite buying on GOG more and more), and cannot move them to another service – as well as the fact that some games are literally only sold on Steam, and I can’t buy them anywhere else.

        If the Steam backend (i.e. the DRM and multiplayer and analytics framework) was separate from the Steam store and communities, so that the devs could use the backend but let me buy the game via a different store and use different community features, that wouldn’t be an issue. Neither would it be an issue if I had the legal right to take my purchased licenses off Steam and move them to another platform free of charge. This would be a true implementation of free market principles, and would allow me to choose where to buy based on price, or morals, or basically anything else. But considering that right now, there is precious little opposition to forces that want the world to be a monopolistic capitalist dystopia, and that we already are suffering many of the effects from that… we can’t really have that, can we?

        • wonboodoo says:

          Steam is not a monopoly. People here keep saying it is.

          monopoly: the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.

          It has a dominant market position, yes, but I can buy nearly every game they sell elsewhere. Can you name a game (that a significant number of people have played) where that’s not true?

          If the Steam backend (i.e. the DRM and multiplayer and analytics framework) was separate from the Steam store and communities, so that the devs could use the backend but let me buy the game via a different store and use different community features, that wouldn’t be an issue.

          That happens now. Often the games you buy elsewhere come with a Steam key.

      • J-Spoon says:

        I agree for the most part, but wouldn’t the 30% cut, the fact that they are on a poorly organized storefront, the fact that they are on that storefront with niche content – isn’t this all part of the costs of using Steam the platform? And if none of that is worth it, what’s stopping a developer from NOT doing any of those things?

  10. satan says:

    I wonder if this was a the result of a long, heated, deadlocked meeting, and Gabe finally just threw his hands up after several hours and yelled: ‘FUCK IT THEN! JUST LET EVERYTHING IN!’

    • teije says:

      You know, that’s exactly what happened! And then they went to back to swimming in their pools of gold.

      • battles_atlas says:

        To be fair to Gabe and Valve, when the preceding seven years of meetings have been concerned with how much bigger their pools need to be to fit all the money in, its perhaps to be expected that they struggled when they arrived at this one to find they were expected to make a hard decision.

  11. Neutrino says:

    When they say we aren’t going to sell stuff that’s illegal, I think it’s pretty obvious that they mean stuff that’s illegal in an average western democracy.

  12. felipepepe says:

    I can go right now to Amazon and buy as many copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf as I want, or even books about denying Holocaust, and yet you don’t see people saying Amazon is lazy or endorsing Nazism. Why?

    The problem here is that gamers are used with things like Nintendo curating games & being careful to be family-friendly, and they think Steam should do the same. Valve just said they won’t.

    And I don’t see how this will hurt anyone. The school shooter simulator was banned by Valve, but HATRED – that super-edgy mass murder simulator – has been on Steam for years now. And the only impact it had was on launch, riding its shock value to get A LOT of free press.

    The moment the press stops giving these games all this attention, they’ll just vanish into the endless void of Steam shovelware. That’s a far worse fate that being the “banned game that SJW don’t want you to play”.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Because Mein Kampf is a historical artifact. And it actually serves to oppose nazism because it reveals what a load of rambling, tedious bollocks his thoughts were.

    • Gormongous says:

      “Stop giving toxic things attention and they’ll just go away” has been rather explosively debunked in the years since 2016, if not before then. If a twelve-year-old child buys or gets gifted Holocaust Simulator and the only conversations about it online are approving chuckles and tips from trolls, edgelords, and neo-Nazis, the absolute pie-in-the-sky best-case scenario is that the child somehow intuits anyway that this is not normal and ignores it. More likely it is the first step of indoctrination or recruitment into those communities.

      A better world doesn’t just happen on its own if we speak out less and take on less responsibility. I really don’t understand how Valve and many of the commenters here have come to the opposite conclusion, except by ignorance and wishful thinking.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        “. I really don’t understand how Valve and many of the commenters here have come to the opposite conclusion, except by ignorance and wishful thinking.”

        I mean, it’s a lot easier to not do anything, you know? That’s why so many people come to this conclusion. Drawing a line on what forms of expression are acceptable, and then enforcing that in a clear, consistent manner is extraordinarily difficult, so people prefer to pretend like things will get better if they just don’t do it.

        I’m not justifying the position as valid, just… you know full well why people end up saying that.

        • battles_atlas says:

          God its nice to still find people on the Internet that recognise that shouting “libertarianism!” and “free speech!” doesn’t magically solve all questions of morality.

      • bacon seeker says:

        So where does that logic lead? Should Steam ban Stellaris, which does simulate genocide, or the Total War games, some of which simulate slavery? I sure as hell wouldn’t be on board with that. Those of us who aren’t twelve years old do have the capacity to distinguish fantasy from reality.

        • battles_atlas says:

          Its much easier separating fantasy from reality if the setting is literally fantasy, what with occurring amongst space slugs and galactic empires and all.

          As for Total War, the sum of slavery there is a box to tick at the end of some Rome-era battles, whereby you enslave the defeated army. The mechanic is no deeper than that. Notably, during TW Empire CA purposefully didn’t include slavery due to the far too close proximity to still-consequential history.

      • Abacus says:

        Please for the love of god, go and ‘make a better world’ somewhere else.

      • felipepepe says:

        If a child is playing “Holocaust Simulator” and thinking it’s normal, the his parents, school and community already failed. It’s not a ban on Steam that’s going to change that, especially since he could just download it somewhere else.

        By your logic you might as well ban GTA and violent video games, since they “lead to school shootings”.

      • Touchstone says:

        “Stop giving toxic things attention and they’ll just go away” is exactly what people seem to be suggesting that Valve should do instead of what they decided. The answer to how we get people to understand what is unproductive and what is worthwhile is never less knowledge or awareness of what exists.

      • AtrusHomeboy says:

        ““Stop giving toxic things attention and they’ll just go away” has been rather explosively debunked in the years since 2016, if not before then.”

        …What reality do you live in that equates “the media giving Trump/alt-right/etc. near-endless coverage throughout the entire election cycle and beyond to this very day” to “not giving toxic things attention”?

      • wonboodoo says:

        If a twelve-year-old child buys or gets gifted Holocaust Simulator and the only conversations about it online are approving chuckles and tips from trolls, edgelords, and neo-Nazis, the absolute pie-in-the-sky best-case scenario is that the child somehow intuits anyway that this is not normal and ignores it.

        But they wouldn’t be the only comments online, would they? Quite frankly the comments would be overwhelmingly be on the other side, like the anti-Nazis outnumber the Nazis at Nazi rallies, & more likely teaching that child how abhorrent those values are.

        Lets talk about adults here, not 12 year olds. Steams rules are for adults. 12 year olds can’t buy them, and adults can tell the difference between fiction and reality.

  13. BaaBaa says:

    Do you really want to see Valve in charge though? Do you really? If you’re someone who ever had to go through the approval process for publishing a game on Apple’s App Store, you will know how arbitrary their judgement can be, which, despite written guidelines, is still largely dependent on whichever employee happened to review your game at the time.

    Now I’m not going to dispute that running away from hard problems like this is Valve’s modus operandi. But I have yet to see anyone devise a system that is objective and just and doesn’t leave some unlucky dev burnt eventually through no fault of their own. So I don’t blame Valve for thinking there is no way they can handle this without getting their solution criticized for being less than perfect, and then choosing the cheapest option.

    I have a couple stakes in this: as a gamedev, this is the preferable solution for me, because at least it means I’m not going to be shut out of the biggest digital storefront because of a single capricious staff who doesn’t understand my game and its audience. As a parent, it means a whole lot of filth can find its way into Steam now, but I never considered Steam to be a safe place anyhow in that sense.

    As old and annoying Valve’s libertarianism is getting, so is yelling at them and expecting them to change. Let’s be realistic: nobody’s motivated to change when they are raking in money the way Valve do. They won’t.

    Some day some other platform might kick their asses of that throne, and it would be far more productive right now to discuss how that new platform would solve this really hard problem.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    The question of legality across borders is a horrendously complicated one for pornography and child pornography too. There are a lot of sexual visual novels on steam and some that feature characters that at least look very young. You might think as long as it’s not actual photography of children that wouldn’t fall afoul but in many countries drawing can be considered child pornography too. In Ireland people have been convicted of child pornography production for writing explicit text.

  15. H. Vetinari says:

    I say Kudos to Valve.

    It is punishable by death to be gay in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, and UAE.

    well, according to regresives it’s their culture and we, the outsiders who don’t understand it because we’re not part of it, shouldn’t judge it. I once quoted the exact same countries and was deemed an islamophobe – go figure.

    Because it’s their store, and their job to decide their position.

    and it’s their position to sell everything.

    this isn’t their act of altruism, but their means of making profit.

    since when is Valve a charity organisation and not a regular business?

    show your disagreement RPS, and stop having steam charts/sales etc. on this site. show you have a backbone – be altruistic and don’t support such an evil business that only has profit in it’s viewpoint

    • H. Vetinari says:

      Clearly intended to be driven by the billionaire libertarian values

      should it instead be driven by genocidal leftists values, or would you prefer the equally genocidal extreme right wing values?

      • Doogie2K says:

        Who are these fictitious genocidal leftists you’re referring to here? Genocide doesn’t fit any properly leftist agenda I’ve ever read.

        • H. Vetinari says:

          “Who are these fictitious genocidal leftists you’re referring to here? Genocide doesn’t fit any properly leftist agenda I’ve ever read.”

          I should think that the survivors of labor camps of Stalin, Mao (et al.) would strongly disagree about the “fictional” part.
          maybe genocidal was a poorly chosen term – since when we think of genocide we usually think about people of some race, religion, nationality, etc. and not about “class enemies” – which is such a vague term, that you can throw basically anyone you want in labor camp. we can agree that when it comes to killing people, Stalin and Mao were not as picky as Nazis were, but once you start piling up bodies, the absolute number doesn’t really matter does it.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            Ah yes, the alt-right chestnut about communism = leftism when Stalin and Mao were very much extreme right wing facism using communism for propaganda. They were as leftist as Hitler was “socialist” (aka not at all once he was in power.)

            You guys really need some new material. And history lessons.

          • shde2e says:

            Even funnier when some of the people making those comparisons also claim that they’re not Nazi’s, despite throwing around Nazi rethorics, terminology, iconography, and talking about how great Hitler was for fighting the global Jewish-Marxist conspiracy.

          • Blastaz says:

            I was expecting some sort of “not proper communism” response to this but to suggest it’s “alt-right” to label communism as left wing is just fantastic!

        • ravenshrike says:

          And we have liftoff with a No True Scotsman fallacy. Always fun to see. Ignoring the fact that fascism is nothing more than communism at one remove with a dash of nationalism thrown in and so is neither right on the European scale given the whole monarchy thing nor on the US scale given the whole individual rights thing, communist governments have killed at least 6-8 times as many people as fascist ones in the 20th century, ignoring wars. If you include wars the disparity gets worse unless you do something moronic like attempt to lay all war dead at one party’s feet.

  16. bacon seeker says:

    I think you’re making too big a deal about the difficulty of using legality as a standard. Lots of big international companies are able to and do comply with local laws. And for electronic games distribution, it should be easy: either don’t let, say, German customers buy games that are illegal in Germany, or only sell a country specific version with the illegal content removed.

    • bacon seeker says:

      And why shouldn’t the developer have to disclose that their content is illegal in certain countries if they want to publish globally?

      • shde2e says:

        Because unless you’re a major AAA company with a whole department of lawyers, that demand would be ridiculously complicated to fulfill.

        The average video game studio just doesn’t have the resources to extensively study over a hundred different lawcodes and figure out which parts of their games do or do not violate various laws. That’s what Steam should be doing if it wants to support people selling stuff in those countries.

        • Jimbo says:

          Do you not think it’s more likely to take the form of Steam requiring the developer to complete a ‘Does your game contain any of the following?’ checklist, which Steam will then use to determine which regions it can and cannot be sold in?

          Developers won’t be expected to know every law in every country, but they will be expected to know what content their game contains. If they answer dishonestly then Steam won’t work with them again, which seems fair enough.

  17. TheButler83 says:

    Twas only a couple of weeks a go I saw several articles regarding Steam take downs of some potentially problematic anime digital novel type titles.

    Not really my genre but lots of outraged tweets from various people I respect even though I would personally not consider their contents “wholesome”. But that judgement is my cultural bias, and maybe even prejudice at work so I did not judge.

    I assume that Valve has decided they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t and perhaps the lesser of two evils is to take a libertarian approach rather than have to determine which way to fall on sensitive topics. Plus it has the happy advantage of also being better for their bottom line.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      You seriously can’t distinguish between art that is banned for being sex-positive and art that is banned for advocating the extermination of groups of people?

  18. crazyd says:

    Ugh. You guys freak out when they do make subjective calls about what they want to sell, and they freak out when they don’t. Pick a damn lane. I don’t see an issue with a private marketplace making subjective calls on what they want to sell, and I also don’t see an issue with a private marketplace just selling anything. This is a damned if they do, damned if they don’t scenario.

    This site gets really stupid when you guys go editorial about shit like this. The truth is there is no solution that will please everyone, and I see no issue with just being as open as possible and providing tools to allow users to customize their personal experience.

    • John Walker says:

      Be fascinated if you could point us toward the article you’re replying to here.

    • bacon seeker says:

      I think part of the reason people are getting emotional about this is that Steam, like Amazon, isn’t just “a private marketplace.” It’s basically THE marketplace in its field. So I don’t think the arguments based on how things should or do work in a competitive free market are necessarily relevant.

      • Archonsod says:

        As John points out in his article, Steam isn’t a monopoly. It’s also hard to argue the free market wouldn’t apply even if it were; videogames are not a necessity; Valve is still dependent on us voluntarily buying from them to make money (doubly so, given this is a market where gaining access to the product without purchase isn’t exactly uncommon).

        • bacon seeker says:

          Maybe in the most pure, economics 101 sense of 100% market share it’s not a monopoly, but it’s basically a monopoly. It has enormous power over whose games reach customers and who plays what, not to mention it takes a huge cut of the money involved. Personally, I don’t think such an entity should exist, but since centralization seems to be the way of things in the digital economy, the next best option is for it to exercise that power as little as possible.

        • bacon seeker says:

          I mean, “we can stop buying from Steam” sounds nice, but I woudn’t bet any money that a “boycott steam” campaign or GOG is going to knock it off the throne. Maybe some killer app we haven’t thought of yet, but what’s the likelihood Valve won’t just buy that app?

          • J-Spoon says:

            They can. Or they might choose not to. It’s not relevant though, no one seems to care enough to actually go to a different platform though there’s no consequence to it other than having to open your previous Steam games in Steam. Either it’s THAT onerous (for me, no, I patronize every store) or Steam is a superior platform. It’s not a cable company with a captive audience, it’s not (American) insurance that should be a public good, it’s just a store that happens to be patronized more than the others and gained a lot of market share. It doesn’t matter that it’s “monopolistic” by some vague, unspecified (and certainly not valid, from a legal or economics perspective) sense – there is literally nothing preventing you from buying from another place.

          • bacon seeker says:

            Replying to J-Spoon: “there is literally nothing preventing you from buying from another place.” -> actually, many games are steam-exclusive.

          • J-Spoon says:

            replying to bacon seeker:

            I actually did some cursory searching to see if I could possibly find a list of “Steam Exclusive” games, but had some trouble – most hits were forum posts where people give some (sometimes accurate) examples. FWIW most of the accurate examples tended to be older titles where the other stores didn’t exist or were sufficiently threadbare (or completely exclusionary) at the time – some of those devs don’t exist anymore so it’s unfortunate, but unsurprising, that they never got to put their stuff up on other stores. I definitely concede that there could be some lock-in, as many indie games do not seem to be found on other sales platforms. I’m not sure, however, if this is a result of others (GOG, Origin, etc.) just refusing to list smaller games or devs simply not choosing to list them on other plaforms – I think this makes a semantic difference though you are correct that it doesn’t make a functional difference.

            I have noticed (though this is not a comprehensive observation) that the popular indie games like Crypt of the Necrodancer end up elsewhere, big PSN and XBL indie games obviously are on other platforms, so barring some kind of a comprehensive list it’s hard for me to say what the degree of the problem is. But this isn’t a case of blacklisting or something, my understanding is that this is just what the devs have done because it made the most business sense for them, unless there is some Steam Exclusive payoff that hasn’t been publicized widely (if anyone knows differently please correct me). At any rate, I’m not sure you can blame Steam when devs haven’t set up any other channels (including direct sales through their own servers/transaction schemes).

  19. BockoPower says:

    This is even worse for developers. Steam is steadily turning into a PC version of the Google Play store which is a total mess. All kind of clickbait, copy-paste and barely working titles in there due to almost 0 moderation from Google. Now Valve are going the same route. Currently there are approximately 50+ games released on Steam, half of which are troll jokes like Deep GachiGasm or Putin run away from Trump. When this number increases to 100+, the smaller indie devs will be forced to release F2P or move out from that platform due to oversaturated market and competing with Russians and Chinese who make 1 minute worth of gameplay games.

    • Halk says:

      Agreed! It will soon be difficult to find anyhing on Steam.
      Also a big shame that Valve who started it all with digital distribution goes to this lenght to let others offend people.

      Lets see how they handle all the shit that is coming their way. It will be interesting, I mean their “administration” and qualitycheck has been record low and now they just decided to dont give a fuck and leave it all over to the users..lol. Like they have missed the average commentsecion on the internet last 10years..

      With their current system all kinds of crap goes through, what will happen when the system just stops checking anything?
      And how on earth will they check if anything is illegal in a country or not? The answer is that they will not until shit hits the fan on a certain title.

      Looking forward to (no not really) “Raping jews as Hitler”, “Killing feminists with dual dildos”, “Pepé the annihilator” etc.

      Also disturbing that Valve might alienate a big part of their customerbase with games that specficic will target some of the userbase (women, black people etc). When that happens I am out of Steam.

      Why have games that are just there to offend? I am not talking about games like Postal, Manhunt etc those are fine by me, they actually have something. But the true crap on Steam, that are just there to hurt others?

      And for those who even think that this has to do with free speech it does not apply to corporations and their products! Free speech is to say what you want about your government etc, not to harass others due to their sexual orientation, skin colour or religion.

      Gaben..how the mighty have fallen.

      Well, nice article! To bad some did comment without reading it first. Maybe you should have some questions about the article first, before being able to post?

      Oh a last thought, what if..suddenly on Steam a ton of “white genocide” titles showed up. And in the comment secion a lot of users are cheering it on, with symbols of hate encouraging this?
      Still freee speech? Still muh freedoms? Still something you all would support, “gamers”? No of course not!

      /”Halk”

      • Rindan says:

        I’m pretty sure most of what you describe clearly counts as “trolling”, but let’s say they let White Genocide: Revenge of the Libtard onto the Steam store. Who cares? If Steam never even shows it to you, what does it matter to you? Stop giving it attention. Banning it, blogging about, and in general screaming into the ether is literally, no, LITERALLY promoting it.

        I find this stuff gross and worthless too, but stop letting yourself get baited in by trolls. It’s a stupid and pointless fight to make every single trolling game release a fight over where the line of censorship goes. It literally helps them. Stop it. Let them release whatever dumb game they want and ignore it. You can still talk about why it is bad to be a douche bag, and why people should be good to each, and all of that fun stuff, but trying to somehow stop the stupid from spreading by begging Valve to institute some sort of arbitrary system of censorship is counter productive.

        Even if Valve could write criteria that perfectly meets your required things to censor, and could write those rules in a clear way, and then enforce those rules in a clear way, you are not going to get what you want, and you are not going to stop right wing douche bags from existing.

  20. jyrik says:

    This is the exact right approach. Valve has to comply with laws that apply to them, or at least show a good faith effort, but beyond that I DO want Valve to completely abdicate any responsibility over deciding what I can buy from them.

    GTAV literally has a quest where you hunt down illegal immigrants. I think such a thing would be atrocious in real life, but that doesn’t mean Valve should refuse to sell it to me. Others might contest the fact that you murder untold number of police, who were recently ruled a protected class under hate crime laws in a US states with other states looking to follow suit.

    Valve should just do the barest minimum to stay legal. Beyond that, I’ll decide what games I want to buy, I just want Valve to be the platform that facilitates the process and transaction between me and the seller.

  21. Dorga says:

    They want to become the whole market for pc games and so first they behave as if they already were. It’s quite similar to Facebook trying to become the internet, by which I mean, a place that gets you whatever you need without ever getting off it.

  22. Chaz says:

    I think the main reason for Valve taking this stance on curation, is that sorting this problem out would take a huge amount of effort and money. Two things they clearly don’t want to expend. The cowardly option? Possibly. Certainly the most lazy and cheapest option.

  23. White Whale says:

    This is a bad take with a lot of bad faith arguing. Valve is an American company, and despite reports to the contrary, is still a classically liberal Western country with clasically liberal Western values. I predict all this change will really mean is that there will be a bit more anime smut, but with the caveat that they “are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in”.

    Call out the garbage that is put on Steam as a result of this policy. Use your platform to let people know, and use your power to spread the word to organize a boycott or whatever it is you busybodies do. That power will not be taken away from this new policy. Pretending it will be is arguing in bad faith.

  24. indigochill says:

    I suspect this is a result of their “no gods or kings” approach to management (i.e. what management?). My understanding is unless someone “volunteers” to censor things, it isn’t going to happen. And even the censorship they do need to exercise is going to continue to be inconsistent (unless legally forced otherwise, such as by Germany’s laws for video games) because there is no concrete policy.

    A while back a studio I worked at was told by Steam that their game didn’t comply with Steam’s guidelines for sale on their store. The process of getting within the guidelines then took months of back and forth, miscommunication, shifting standards, and general lack of accountability from all involved. So abdication of responsibility (at least insofar as they legally can abdicate it while being an international company) just seems in-character for them from my perspective.

  25. adammtlx says:

    It seems John’s solution to Valve taking an ostensibly arbitrary stance on what’s allowed on Steam is to… take an explicitly arbitrary stance on what’s allowed on Steam?

    There’s no question that what’s “illegal” is a difficult issue to untangle, and that “straight up trolling” is not clearly defined, but Valve at least recognizes that trying to arbitrate content is an impossible task, so a hands-off (as much as they can manage of it) approach is prudent.

    Mr. Walker, on the other hand, appears to believe there’s some magic solution by which Valve can “assume responsibility” (whatever this means) for what appears on Steam while also not making the mistake of refusing games that have as much right as any other to appear there. Mr. Walker suggests no metrics by which such decisions could be made, so it’s left to us to assume that he trusts Valve’s “libertarian” sensibilities to come up with such metrics, and that he would agree with them (while at the same time he is openly distrustful of Valve’s ability to do either of the two things they’ve said they will actually do).

    What, exactly, are you after, John? A set of rules against which all video games can be tested for their fitness to be sold on Steam? A ruling body that makes subjective decisions about what is or isn’t appropriate in the realm of video games?

    It’s easy to sit there and say there’s a solution here within reach, accuse others of abdicating their responsibility for developing this solution, while studiously avoiding the question yourself. Who’s shirking responsibility, now?

  26. Jaeja says:

    OK, so having thought about it a bit more, thoughts on the points the article makes:

    – Regarding legality:
    — I assume we all take it as read that companies (including Valve) should not be above the law
    — It’s at least not obvious to me that withdrawing completely from any country whose laws are deemed sufficiently objectionable by… somebody at Valve… is a particularly big win. Obviously it’s a revenue loss (and opportunity for potential competitors) for Valve, which no doubt is a factor in their decision, but on top of that, there’s a clear downside to a lot of gamers in said country, and not obviously a big upside in terms of influencing lawmakers. I don’t, for example, imagine King Salman or MBS are going to say “oh, we can’t get Steam any more, that’s really an argument in favour of letting women do… well, anything”. Yes, ideologically it’s a missed opportunity, but in practical terms, IDK if it’s actually changing anything.
    — The infrastructure that Valve would require to properly vet the legality of each title, to a degree of rigour that would make it a sane proposition to take legal responsibility for the legality of every game sold in every territory (ie, check every single bit of content in the game) is, frankly, absurd. Doing a quick quality check, sure, they could do that. Preventing the next Hot Coffee? I’m not sure I’d ever want to commit to that. As a result, making developers contractually responsible for this is at least “not insane”. A sensible approach would be to have a “which countries would you like to release in? Oh, you checked “Russia”? You should know the following laws apply…” system so it’s not a complete shitshow for developers.

    Regarding “straight-up trolling”:
    – Yeah, this is a silly rider without a really clear explanation of what this means.

    Two big overarching things that are affecting my general attitude to this thing:

    – Firstly, it’s not obvious that there’s a good solution to the dilemma presented by trying to manually curate/gatekeep at scale: either you let your curators use their judgement, in which case enforcement is inconsistent and arbitrary, or you make them follow strict criteria, in which case enforcement is bureacratic and arbitrary. Developers have complained for years about dealing with Apple’s approval process, and it doesn’t seem likely that Valve would do a substantially better job.

    – Secondly, the distinction I made in an earlier comment about steam-the-storefront vs steam-the-platform. The storefront, yeah, that should be curated (or opened up to others to do a better job of). The platform, though? Even tied to the awful storefront, it is a major, international platform that delivers the rent for a lot of (non-Valve) developers and serves a huge number of customers with disparate views. We can see from the visual-novel palaver that their initial impulse was to ban things they thought morally wrong… and as a result created a lot of backlash from people who had different moral assessments. And it was a big backlash because steam is a big deal. Getting kicked off the platform is a big deal, in a way that getting kicked off say GoG, isn’t. They’re not “just another vendor”, they’re the big dog with the power to destroy games and developers at whim.

    And the rabbithole they’ve fallen down is “when it really matters, who gets to decide what’s OK?”. Yes, it’d be great for me if Valve enforced *my* morals on everyone… but it sucks for me when Valve enforce *their* morals on me when I don’t agree with them.

    So, they’ve decided that the only reasonable answer is “the government at point of sale, because it’s the closest thing to an accepted authority on the matter”. It’s not a great answer – and a lot of governments have laws that I regard as inhuman – but I don’t see a reasonable, workable alternative. Yes, we can always pick out games that are so extreme that we think they should “clearly” be banned, even if they’re legal… but then, away from the headline-grabbing outliers, they have to deal with a substantial mass of less clear-cut cases too, and then we’re back to Valve making arbitrary judgements on what a handful of guys in Bellevue think should be the global standard for morality, and I don’t think that’s a good outcome.

    What they’ve decided to do seems (to me) to be about the most sensible response that a platform of their scale and impact can make, even if it makes a fair number of people unhappy, because the other options aren’t workable and/or ultimately desirable. And I do feel that it’s grossly unfair to say (as this article and others have) “ignore what they say their reasoning is, it’s clearly about this”, not only because it’s unjustified, but because it implies “ignore the arguments they’re making because they don’t mean them so it doesn’t matter if they’re valid or not”, which is unsound.

    All that said, the steam store still sucks and they should still fix it.

  27. pguyton says:

    I think the “worst “ thing would be for them to pull down anything anyone complained about for any reason . I greatly prefer them allowing anything that that they aren’t compelled by law to remove.

    I like Rome total war even though it deals with slavery which some might find offensive

    I like dragon age and mass effect even though they both depict sex even possibly with people of the same gender (and aliens ! I don’t know how the southern baptists around me would react to that ! )

    What I see in this is “ after the backlash from taking down sexually explicit anime games we relalized we shouldn’t try to be the moral police “

    • SaintAn says:

      I live in the south where there’s a church on every block to bring hate to every heart, and they would not take it well at all. These people are fucked in the head. My grandma once threatened to disown me if I ever had a relationship with a black girl (she had no idea I’m gay and have had black boyfriends), so knowing I play games that allowed me to have a same sex relationship with an elf with a leather fetish, magical Freddie Mercury, or a giant devilman named Bull in a game might have given her a stroke.

  28. danwassington says:

    I do find it ironic that so many game review sites are freaking out about this. The more of a mess the Steam storefront becomes the more people will need to use sites like RPS to find good games. I haven’t used Steam’s storefront to discover new games in years.

  29. Rince says:

    Why people are raging about this now?
    Steam already block some games which are illegal in some countries, while still selling them on others.
    What changed? Nothing.

    They sure will keep deleting games without any explanation like before. Because reasons. And will refuse to say anything afterwards.

    • Halk says:

      hmm..maybe you are right, they just posted it to pretend like they did something but everything will be the same?

      Even if Valve did make it big with digital distribution we cannot forget that it took most of their existence before they even agreed to something as basic as a refund system. That and some lawsuits do not really come of as user friendly. And how in the world could EA and Ubisoft create better clients than Valve? Steam needs a makeover, and fast!

  30. Biggus_Dikkus says:

    vote with your wallet.
    If Valve will increase playtime to 10 hours before being able to refund – i am fine with their decision

  31. Abderansophist says:

    I can’t agree with this article at all. “Obvious trolling” means content that will primarily have the effect of and is probably primarily intended to cause trouble for Steam, and of course they need to have a policy for that, even if unavoidably it must be vague, because the internet is sadly full of terrible people.

    I really don’t understand what Walker wants Steam to do about countries with bad laws. I don’t feel like it is the job of a game distributor to be on the front lines of fighting against tyranny. And what are they supposed to do, anyway? The only sense I can make of what’s posted above is that it’s being recommended that Steam be vague about content, to make it easier for subversive games to sneak into oppressive countries. But the predictable effect of that is that such countries will ban Steam, while being vague about content will make it harder for people in other places to find the games they want. Labeling games with gay content admittedly allows bigots to more easily avoid them, but it’s unlikely they’d open anyone’s mind anyway, and of course the label makes it easier for those seeking that sort of content to find it.

    The other big complaint people seem to have about the Steam policy is that it doesn’t keep out crappy games. Of course, there are review sites (like this one) to help find the better games, and Steam has search functions (which don’t work fabulously, but the solution to that is obviously that Steam needs to make better search functions, not restrict more content). So I don’t see much merit in that one either.

    So put me down as one of those who is all for the new billionaire libertarian policy. If billionaire libertarians always had such good ideas, I’d join the cheerleaders for the Koch brothers.

    • adammtlx says:

      One thing I glean from articles like John’s (several similar articles have been published in the last day or so over this issue) is that these journalists have a secret (or not so secret, in a few cases) desire for Steam’s catalog to expressly reflect their personal and political values.

      Is there any doubt that these same journalists would be singing Valve’s praises if they’d announced that Steam will no longer allow racist, homophobic, hateful or bigoted games of any kind? That sounds great, right? Except now someone (or rather, a group of someones) at Valve has to decide exactly what those words mean and weigh those definitions against the particular content of every single game, taking into account context, intent, nuance, satire, artistic value, etc, as well as how the offending content balances against the rest of the game in which it appears.

      Which means that what these journalists are actually after, whether they realize it or not, is a filtering system that fits their own personal definitions of those terms and assessments of the games that are measured against them.

      It is then not surprising they’ve reacted as they have.

      • Archonsod says:

        I’d have to disagree; John’s argument makes equal sense if we change the subject to Walmart and ask why they comply with UK law when it comes to gun sales. It seems to me his point there was more along the lines of the problem with asking a developer to declare content which may breach such laws given the developer may not necessarily be aware of said laws to begin with, and having them have to declare the game may contain ‘criminal’ content because it has gay content could be construed as tacit support for the notion of it being ‘wrong’.

        • adammtlx says:

          I’d have to disagree; John’s argument makes equal sense if we change the subject to Walmart and ask why they comply with UK law when it comes to gun sales.

          But Valve already complies with regional laws as necessary, don’t they? So they’ve just reaffirmed what they already do, and John is just now wringing his hands over it. Why?

          It seems to me his point there was more along the lines of the problem with asking a developer to declare content which may breach such laws given the developer may not necessarily be aware of said laws to begin with, and having them have to declare the game may contain ‘criminal’ content because it has gay content could be construed as tacit support for the notion of it being ‘wrong’.

          I think Valve is already on the hook to screen games for illegal content. If they don’t then they could be liable in some way. Or they may have to comply with a government-ordered takedown notice for that region. Is this not already the case? What has changed?

      • Halk says:

        So what do you suggest? That we just casually allow homophobic, racist an hateful content all together? It is abusing free speech, not endorsing it.

        Why is hate, illogical hate something that needs defending?
        Do not be an asshole, simple as that. It is not fucking ok to call someone a whore or a fucking fagget, do you really not get that?

        • adammtlx says:

          That we just casually allow homophobic, racist an hateful content all together? It is abusing free speech, not endorsing it.

          You appear to have missed the part where I pointed out how difficult it is to objectively classify content as any of these things. You think it’s easy, and you are mistaken.

          Why is hate, illogical hate something that needs defending?

          “Illogical hate.” That’s subjective. Unavoidably.

          Do not be an asshole, simple as that. It is not fucking ok to call someone a whore or a fucking fagget, do you really not get that?

          Valve has already stated that games that are “straight up trolling” will not be allowed. If a game that “calls someone a whore or a fucking fagget” doesn’t qualify, then that’s ultimately their decision. But don’t act as though your own standards for what should or shouldn’t be allowed on Steam should be everyone else’s standards as well.

        • therickmu25 says:

          Sorry, but you contradict yourself and don’t understand what free speech means. Free speech doesn’t mean that you get to hide from points of view you don’t agree with or words that upset you. Free speech doesn’t blow one way to those that have put themselves on the moral high ground over the rest of society. One you go down that path, it’s a slippery slope to authoritarianism.

          Calling someone the words you mentioned is wrong, society knows that and judges them accordingly. That’s democracy working.

  32. Tasloi says:

    I very much doubt Valve decided this on a whim given the current broader social context. So yeah they’re obviously comfortable with this position. The same way reddit is comfortable with a more hands-off approach.

    I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow for those concerned with “curation”, “responsibility” and other euphemisms for corporate censorship in this debate but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

  33. podbaydoors says:

    Won’t someone stop the big bad games journalist from attacking the poor defenceless multi-billion dollar corporation!

  34. Plok says:

    Thanks for writing this John. You bring up some excellent points and you actually understand the bigger picture here separate to the “I get to decide what I want to buy” rhetoric that people are latching onto as if that’s the only thing at stake here.

    I particularly like the modified stock image of the woman screaming at the store front page for PUBG whilst angrily gripping onto a joystick. That’s my spirit animal right there.

  35. lasikbear says:

    Damn, everyone thinks they’re wicked smart for saying “amazon sells mein kampf”,
    guess checking to see if amazon has publishing guidelines was too hard or turned out not to support that argument

    • rochrist says:

      To fall beneath Amazon’s publishing guidelines is a VERY low bar.

    • Doogie2K says:

      It would also require knowing that the only version that is currently being sold is a heavily annotated scholarly study of it – not exactly the most flattering portrayal of his rambling horseshit – since the copyright held by the Bavarian state government only expired very recently. (Death of author + 70 years?)

    • thelastpointer says:

      Same with the “games LITERALLY without an exe” anecdote. I guess that happened to… someone? A few years ago? Before refunds?
      (…are there Linux-only games on Steam?)

  36. causticnl says:

    John always bring the best “Debate Me!” crowds

    • H. Vetinari says:

      John always bring the best “Debate Me!” crowds

      well, nobody likes virtue-signaling, which is basically what John is doing; with even vaguer statements than those of Valve.

      • lasikbear says:

        which virtue?

      • Archonsod says:

        None of his statements are virtue signalling. Virtue signalling is usually superficial statements designed to do nothing more than advertise one’s allegiance to a group or ideology. John’s arguments here aren’t superficial, and while one could certainly say some of his arguments stem from a particular ideology they’re not dependent on that ideology alone for validity; arguing from principle and virtue signalling aren’t the same thing.

  37. aniforprez says:

    I think this opinion piece is more partisan than Valve’s take. Valve is being incredibly neutral here. It’s not leaving it up to the customer to decide what goes on the store because they’re letting anything go up on the store as long as it’s not illegal which is decided by the countries in which the games will be sold and usually in very strict terms. It’s leaving it to the customer to make informed choices on what games they choose to buy. They will not stand by what a game says but will defend the right of the developer to say it through the game. I don’t see how that’s cowardice. It’s a brave enough stance for standing up to people like you who WANT to curate what Valve does and doesn’t sell. Even the stickied comment betrays the author’s clear lack of objectivity which details an absurd scenario of toys with broken glass being sold which has no basis in fact because
    A) such a toy would be illegal to sell in the first place
    B) creates a false equivalency that anything on Steam is even close to being as harmful as actual broken glass
    You even go so far as to somehow come to a conclusion where Valve ISN’T a profit making entity?? None of what Valve says is them pretending to be altruistic in the least and as a corporation their end goal is to make money.

    It’s absurd how so many news sites have taken it upon themselves to decry Valve’s policy when in truth nothing has essentially changed. Valve is as vague as ever, declining to define what “trolling” even is and the storefront remains messy as ever until these fabled curation and filtering options materialize. This policy was to prevent things like the anime games apocalypse from happening again and to protect their right to be sold on the platform. But I think it should be clear that Valve has NOT opened the floodgates to waves and waves of supposed “hateful” crap because such crap neither exists in the measure that all these fear mongering articles claim, not will sell in the capacity that these articles claim. Unless these sites provide publicity to such trash, like they all did with the stupid Hatred game, they will not sell and will be relegated to the depths of Steam hell, doomed to sell maybe tens of copies at most.

    How about RPS continues to do a decent job of covering games that deserve to be covered, Valve continues to do it’s job of being a storefront for PC games, developers continue to make an effort to market good games and all 3 parties trust the customer’s ability to decide what they want to buy. Until then, all these articles calling a large corporation “cowardly” seem very orchestrated in nature and come off as patronizing and cheap

    • Biggus_Dikkus says:

      +1

    • adammtlx says:

      Valve is being incredibly neutral here.

      Recognize that to ideologues and partisans, neutrality is unconscionable.

      • khamul says:

        What makes a man turn Neutral?!

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        Nah fuck that. If someone is advocating straight up murdering entire ethnic groups, and your reaction is to stand back and be “neutral”, you are taking part in the genocide.

        This was all worked out back in the 1940’s. I can’t believe we’re having to explain it again.

    • username7 says:

      the article you are replying to states:
      -the author would prefer that the commentariat (including him!) has no control over what is and isn’t banned
      -valve can choose to sell whatever they want
      -their statement says they will sell anything except for things that fall under two policies, one of which will be nigh impossible to manage, the other which is almost impossibly ill defined.
      So valve is saying it won’t judge what can and can’t be on the store whilst also DOING EXACTLY THAT.

      Basically John agrees with steam’s rhetoric but thinks the path they’re taking to get there is, bluntly, stupid and dishonest (as it will result in basically what they’re doing now).

      Do you have opinions on this?

      • H. Vetinari says:

        Basically John agrees with steam’s rhetoric but thinks the path they’re taking to get there is, bluntly, stupid and dishonest

        perhaps I’ve missed it, but where in the article is Johns proposed solution or path to getting there?

        • aniforprez says:

          I think the article makes it clear John is not proposing any alternative to what Valve is doing but expects Valve to come up with the solution. Which is fair because John’s not being paid to do their job for them but I think the issue is that he doesn’t like what Valve have come up with as a solution and demands that Valve take a stance. It’s a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation. Valve were the antichrist for threatening to remove games like Huniepop and now that Valve are essentially allowing games like Huniepop on the store, they’re being too “hands off”. Nothing will ever satisfy some of these people except when Valve fully complies with their world view. Apparently it’s supposed to be perfectly acceptable that a game not disclose potential illegality in regions it’s being sold in and Valve should be responsible for selling games that are illegal to sell as long as it’s a game that has content that they agree with

          • khamul says:

            Yeah… Personally, I think it’s a very bad thing that there are places in the world where people are killed for their sexual preferences. But I’m not sure that megacorporations sticking their oar into that particular problem is what the world needs? I tend to the opinion that that’s what governments are for. I mean, it’s not that I think they’re doing a great job at it, but I’ve read enough Gibson that the idea that corps should be exercising *more* political power gives me the heebie-jeebies.

            And beyond that: well, I can see a strong argument that if you’re in a minority, particularly one that the state disapproves of, getting emotional support and validation from cultural artifacts, like games, that normalise your group, can be tremendously important…

            …the problem is, I don’t know where that stops. I think pretty much everything you can imagine has been authorised by some state, somewhere, and been judged deviant by another 10 others. Putting together hard evidence which attitude is right is tough – and based on what moral framework? *I* value freedom, but it’s not the only moral option, and I can’t *prove* I’m right.

            So I think ‘comply with the law’ has to be the right answer for any business, and if the laws are wrong, that’s what politics are for. If Valve cares – and they should – big chunks of that 30% to amnesty international, or some such, would be a much better answer.

            On the ‘except trolling’ thing: I’ll just point out that RPS’s policy against abuse is “be excellent to each other”. I do completely get John’s point, and mostly agree – but a degree of pot/kettle is going on here. Moderation is hard, very general principles (which therefore sound dumb) is probably the only real choice going.

        • username7 says:

          John’s solution to his complaints as listed in the story is just to get them to be upfront that they ARE making curatorial choices of some sort, as the ending makes clear.

          Valve must stop pretending everything is our choice, stop abdicating responsibility onto their customers, and start owning the decisions that they make. This current solution is clearly designed to pacify their most unpleasant customers, while avoiding owning any of the responsibility for the result.

          What I got from reading the article is that he understands generally that no matter what decision they make they’re going to get flack for it. He just wants them to make … a clear decision, and not hide behind “we’ll allow everything, except for two categories that are either really hard to moderate or have a ton of nuance inherent in the words”.

      • aniforprez says:

        The difference now is that Valve will not be the arbiter of morality and simply let the legality of the country and the nature of the DEVELOPER decide what sells and what doesn’t. Valve no longer decides WHAT games they will sell rather decides WHERE they will sell the games and WHO. The games themselves will be free to be put up on the store as long as the developers behave and the countries where the game is to be sold allow it. The legality in countries is usually well defined and Valve will essentially acquiesce to legally binding requests to not allow certain games to be sold in certain countries. As for “trolling”, as vague as it is, I assume this covers developers who send death threats to Valve employees, flood the store with trash under false names and threaten to sue customers and reviewers and make games that purposely poke at hot-button issues.

        I don’t think any of this is stupid or dishonest. I don’t see how this is stupid or dishonest at all.

      • ravenshrike says:

        John is, quite frankly, wrong. It would not be particularly difficult to set up a menu that determines what games your country sells in with the known applicable laws for that country with the developer choosing which countries to sell their game in after reading what laws apply where. Being extremely pessimistic it would cost them 1.5 million to set up and all of 50 grand a year at most to maintain.

        The trolling thing would be different of course, but that was not the primary thrust of the article.

  38. rangent says:

    This is the kind of writing I come to RPS for. Thanks for the writeup and break down of Valve’s new policy. Great work!

  39. rochrist says:

    Somehow, I’m pretty confident that no matter what stance Valve took, there would be outraged howls.

    • Hybrid Salmon says:

      This goes for anything. But there’d probably be a lot less flak if Valve would actually bother to attempt to do something instead of doing nothing by pretending they do it for the greater good.

  40. RealJCK says:

    Does an Unity asset flip that pops 10000 achievements on launch made by a russian teenager count as “straight up trolling”? That’s the main question actually.

  41. DatonKallandor says:

    Regardless of the moral implications in Valves decision, it’s a shitty decision for the customer. Because relying on curation and tags simply does not work – something that’s been demonstrated repeatedly on Steam even. And that means the whole “just get informed before you buy” does not work, because Valve is clearly saying we’ll not bother putting up information or requiring it.

    • Abacus says:

      I struggle to see how any of this is different to how things were before the Greenlight wave of games. Before Steam ‘opened the flood gates’, I was using YouTube and gaming publications and word out mouth to find the games I wanted to play. Steam’s store was just a way of seeing newly released games.

      Now, in 2018, most people are still doing that.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Before Greenlight there was barrier to entry that required a minimum amount of competency and quality. During Greenlight that barrier was mostly maintained even though the amount of games landing on steam increased massively. When Valve just gave up any attempt at curation Steam was flooded with shit. If you don’t see the cause and effect there, I don’t know what’s up.

        Before the shit-wave you could actually look through steams new releases and be reasonably sure that, even if the games weren’t great, at least they weren’t outright scams, asset flips, trolls or perverts.

  42. Solar Mechanic says:

    Interesting article with some good points almost completely let down by an idiotic click-bait title. Do try harder next time or consider jumping ship to buzzfeed.

  43. Discalceate says:

    You claim that Valve have every right to sell what they want, and then take several hundred words to say why they shouldn’t sell certain types of games.
    Which position do you actually believe?

    • riedlj says:

      He’s not saying that at all.
      “Valve can choose to sell anything they wish on their store, including games that promote hate speech, sexually violent content, offensive depictions of people.”
      He just wants them to state explicitly what they find acceptable and what they do not. In short, to take responsibility for the games they publish.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        They did. Anything that is not illegal. Do you have a question about whether something will be allowed? Ok; Is It Legal? That’s your answer.

        Steam already supports blocking games in countries where their content makes them illegal, so there’s your answer to the differing laws conundrum.

        The trolling comment is vague, yes. I imagine that’s just their wiggle room.
        It’s not like the new rules go into effect as of this informal posting.

        • Cross says:

          Did you actually read the article? “Is it legal” is a very complicated question, which depending on your answer might well outlaw anything from Mass Effect to Wolfenstein.

          • hungrycookpot says:

            Did you read my comment where I said steam already has and utilizes the ability to address issues of legality of content in different regions? If Mass Effect is illegal to buy where you live, then steam will not sell it to you there, just as is the practice today. If it is legal for you to buy and own Mass Effect, then steam will sell it to you. I feel like we’re just making up problems that have already been solved here.

  44. yonsito says:

    Very thought provoking article.
    After some consideration I find myself more in agreement with Valve’s approach. My main reason for this is the importance of Steam for budding game developers. Because of their (near) monopoly position I believe that Valve also has a responsibility to game designers, to allow them (continued) market access.

    Given the recent incident about adult visual novels I find the blog post actually reassuring. Judging the legal aspects of a game is preferable IMO to banning it from the plattform completely because someone objected to it on moral grounds and wrote a complaint.

    Total agreement on the fees. 30% is highway robbery.

    • Hybrid Salmon says:

      “Given the recent incident about adult visual novels I find the blog post actually reassuring. Judging the legal aspects of a game is preferable IMO to banning it from the plattform completely because someone objected to it on moral grounds and wrote a complaint. ”

      Except that those legal aspects can be the same as someone objecting to on moral grounds. Anti gay-propaganda laws and such.
      The difference is that if someone is complaining on moral grounds you don’t need to comply with them. Now whenever a government says no and they have some law(even if it is vague), they’ll do it for ALL the games that have that certain tag(for the sales in that country, not globally).

  45. Aleph says:

    “…is that Valve’s rationale for their latest position is incredibly cowardly and stupid”.

    And that’s how I knew for sure that this article was written by John.

  46. Preciousgollum says:

    This is symptomatic of USA-Europe trade wars yet to come, while the world experiences patterns of mass Anime flooding and Waifu/Husbando migration.

  47. yarshman says:

    30% off the top? That’s vicious. It explains the existence of Uplay – Dammit, Steam!! Think of the children!! When will the madness end!?!?

  48. riedlj says:

    Great article. Valve needs to be honest with the people they count on as customers and take responsibility for the content they decide to publish.

  49. khamul says:

    With great store comes great responsibility.

  50. kalirion says:

    Until I see Valve’s solution generating any real problems, I’m going to support it. Free Speech and all that.

    • Shinard says:

      OK. How about the games sold on Steam missing executable files? How about the series of games with the exact same gameplay, but different shop bought art, sold separately for full price? Leaving aside games with controversial issues, I’d call those two pretty big problems.

      • Chalibard says:

        You can be refunded and if you don’t inquire a bit about your purchases before buying you probably get scamed by AAA titles with lootboxes and microtransaction even on Origin or Uplay.

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