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What just happened? Following the controversy surrounding its decision to ban an FPS about school shootings last week, Valve has now clarified what it will allow on Steam: everything, pretty much. The company has announced that the only content it will restrict is anything deemed to be illegal or “straight up trolling.”
The move comes after a number of games, particularly Japanese visual novels, were threatened with removal from the platform unless their sexual content was censored. Valve later told the publishers and developers of these titles to disregard the warnings and apologized for the confusion caused.
In a blog post announcing the change in policy, Valve’s Erik Johnson writes, “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.”
Johnson said that Valve doesn’t rely solely on automation for curation; “groups of people” examine the content of every controversial game submitted through Steam Direct. He added that disagreements over topics such as politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identify, ec. have led to Valve’s “employees, their families, and their communities" getting “mad.”
It's possible that Valve will be changing its Steam Direct rules and guidelines, which state that hate speech, pornography, and patently offensive content shouldn't be published on Steam.
Valve didn’t say what games constitute trolling, though it did use the word to describe the aforementioned school shooting simulator. Johnson explained that Valve was considering a system where it asks developers to highlight any potentially controversial content in their games during the submission process. Any that fail to do so may be banned from the platform. “We'll still continue to perform technical evaluations of submissions, rejecting games that don't pass until their issues have been resolved,” he said.
To make sure Steam users don’t see titles they might find offensive, Valve is adding new tools that allow them to override the recommendation algorithms and hide certain types of games, such as anime titles or anything parents wouldn’t want their kids to see while browsing the store. “And it’s not just players that need better tools either — developers who build controversial content shouldn’t have to deal with harassment because their game exists, and we’ll be building tools and options to support them too.”
Johnson said there wouldn’t be any significant changes to Steam until these tools are complete.