Wallpaper app soars up Steam charts thanks to Chinese porn fans circumventing national ban

midian182

Posts: 8,318   +103
Staff member
WTF?! The seventh most-played game on Steam right now isn't what you would expect: a wallpaper app called Wallpaper Engine. It's gained almost half a million Overwhelmingly Positive reviews, more than Elden Ring. But the app is being used for more than choosing wallpapers; it allows China-based users to view and distribute porn.

Steam's most-played games chart shows the usual names: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is still number one; GTA V continues to hang around; Apex Legend, Rust, Dota 2, and so on. But in seventh place sits Wallpaper Engine, which boasts almost 100,000 peak players and 45.2 million hours 'played.'

That's a lot of hours for a wallpaper app. But its popularity comes not only from creating, browsing, and sharing Windows desktop wallpapers but also because it's a way to evade China's ban on pornography, hence why over 200,000 of those positive reviews are written in Chinese.

MIT Technology Review writes that while the majority of user-submitted wallpapers in the app are safe for work, about 7.5% of the over 1.6 million contributions are labeled "mature," containing videos of anime characters having sex and occasionally pornographic photos and videos of real people.

Fan-made hentai videos remain popular on certain sites and subreddits; the genre made headlines last year when someone Zoom bombed an Italian senate meeting and streamed Final Fantasy VII porn. Like all pornography, it's banned in China, leading to many female characters from Overwatch, Genshin Impact, and Final Fantasy appearing on the app in images unsuitable as wallpapers (or maybe they are—no judgments).

Around 40% of the app's users are in China, where uploading or reposting porn can be considered a crime. The country uses a combination of AI bots and human appraisers, called Jian Huang shi, to search the web for images and decide if they contain explicit content deemed illegal.

Unlike Facebook, Google, Instagram, and many other western sites, the global version of Steam isn't completely blocked in China (there's also a version of the platform made specifically for the country).

While Wallpaper Engine is very popular among porn-starved Chinese users, the increasing notoriety of the app means the sharing of these images—or even the non-Chinese version of Steam itself—could eventually be banned.

Earlier this month, we heard about Chinese researchers who had developed a brainwave-reading porn-detection helmet. The idea behind it is to help moderators who may miss any illicit material, but with some Chinese factories already using brain surveillance devices via monitors in helmets to improve productivity and decrease worksite accidents, the implications are pretty scary.

Thanks, Kotaku

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Thanthan

Posts: 95   +201
Boys will be boys.

And you won’t find me surprised if a decent chunk of users are female as well, though attempts at keeping anything sexual an absolute mystery works better with Chinese girls than with Chinese boys in my experience… Something that leads to a lot of avoidable teen pregnancies in the country…

Gods I still remember teaching sex ed for incoming exchange students… 10 香港人 and one mainland Chinese girl… I still remember the expressions on the faces of the 10 from hongkong when they realised she had not the slightest concept of what sex was…
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 2,248   +2,799
TechSpot Elite
LOL I was watching a GPU test from ZwormZ Gaming testing low end GPUs on the top 10 Steam games and he had to dig up the #11 title thanks to Wallpaper Engine not being a game. Now I know why it was there...
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,305   +953
The Chinese people seem very pragmatic - I would imagine their must be black markets with preloaded thumb drives .
Apple already scan their flock for child abuse and porn - in their profiling
How long before the Chinese must instal something on their PCs .
That new OS they are building - will probably have it built in .
Funny as when I traveled in China in 1994 - wondered why the hairdressers at night just sat in their seats polishing their nails .
An english man and myself tried to get a massage after a long day walking in countryside - they only offered special or sleep massage - few westerners then - probably embarrassed not knowing how to massage - we would of been easily pleased ( lots of blind people do head and neck massages in China )
 

Slappy McPhee

Posts: 250   +160
I will say there are some pretty damned detailed and saucy x-rated wallpapers on WE. lol

Why someone would want to go out of their way to use them however is beyond me.
 

Hodor

Posts: 251   +180
I still remember the expressions on the faces of the 10 from hongkong when they realised she had not the slightest concept of what sex was…

It's nice there's still some innocence somewhere on the planet. Girls in most of developed countries have turned into witches (repl. "w" with "b") where all the appeal of chasing them is disappearing. Men are going to other countries just to find some normal girls. But thanks to globalization, this pool of normal girls is quickly shrinking. Damn climate change.