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Rape Day puts Steam's minimal moderation in the spotlight again

Valve’s lasseiz-faire attitude towards moderation has earned Steam a place in the headlines once again, thanks to the listing of upcoming game Rape Day. First covered by Polygon’s Patricia Hernandez, the less said about the game itself, the better – it’s a pointlessly edgy visual novel filled with awkward, too-shiny 3D character models. Its very place on the store highlights that people are going to keep pushing at boundaries until something breaks. It’s a concern that I brought up last year, as developers were still trying to figure out what Valve would allow – the answer, since then, has been ‘nearly anything’.

The game, sadly, isn’t too unusual – there have already been several games released on Steam with issues regarding sexual consent, but I feel this one is actively courting controversy. The developer has openly stated that they’re working within Steam’s threadbare rules, and have removed a “Baby killing scene” so as to not be classified as ‘child exploitation’. Rape Day’s creator has even expounded on their (likely erroneous) belief that the game Active Shooter, previously removed from Steam, was axed due to its creator’s abusive attitude towards customers rather than its content, and argues that Rape Day should be no problem to sell.

The game itself technically does follow the rules as Valve have outlined so far, with its store page only visible to those who opt in to seeing “adults only” content, and its page containing a detailed set of content warnings. While it could be argued that its very existence is testing the limits of what Valve defines as ‘straight up trolling’, the ball is entirely in the distributor’s court here. I have a feeling that this is going to continue until Valve aggressively walk back their plans for an ‘open’ Steam, and it’ll be the developers of raunchy (but otherwise harmless games) that feel the impact worst.

I’m just trying to decide if this is worse than “Genius Nazi-girl Goeppels-chan”. And no, I’m not going to link to that one, either. For some longer thoughts on the matter, I refer you to John Walker’s breakdown of the situation shortly after Valve announced their new hands-off policy for the store.

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Dominic Tarason

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