What just happened? A video game called Active Shooter has been pulled from the Steam storefront. The game reportedly started as a SWAT simulator but recently added school shooting scenarios that allowed users to play as civilian, police, or shooter.
Valve told The Guardian, “We have removed the developer Revived Games and publisher ACID from Steam.”
The developer/publisher was apparently just one individual named Ata Berdiyev. According to Valve, Berdiyev had previously operated under the developer name Elusive Team and publisher name [bc]Interactive. Under those accounts, he released Fidget Spinner Simulator 2 and Piccled Ricc. Polygon reported that the latter game was pulled due to copyright violations, and his dev/pub accounts were removed from Steam.
Active Shooter released only a few weeks ago, but on May 24, Berdiyev announced the addition of the new civilian and shooter modes with screenshots showing tallies of the number of civs and police killed.
According to The Guardian, shortly after the update went live, an online mob formed asking Valve to remove the game. The movement was reportedly headed by Ryan Petty and Fred Guttenberg, who had children killed in the Parkland school shooting.
The removal brings up hints of censorship and free-speech concerns. However, what most people forget about the First Amendment is that it only prohibits the government from interfering with an individual’s right to free speech. Private establishments can create and enforce as many rules against speech as they want, but it is a tightrope that many are careful to tread.
"This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc]Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team.’"
In this case, Berdiyev was not being prevented from creating his game. Valve was merely choosing not to sell it anymore. This was a business decision and nothing more. Berdiyev is still completely free to go peddle his less than mediocre “shovelware,” somewhere else.
Forbes summed up the situation very succinctly saying, “Active Shooter's developer had every right to make the game. You, as a consumer, have a right to buy and play it or not. And Valve, as the owner of the storefront, has a right to choose whether or not to sell the game in the first place. They chose not to. That's not censorship, as some are proclaiming, it's just a business decision — and likely a very smart business decision.”
Berdiyev was already skirting around Valve’s previous ban. His sub-par games have a history of relying on shock value for sales and rode on the edges of copyright law. Active Shooter was doing just fine ripping players off until he decided to add the school shooting update. The addition was like a big bullhorn saying, “Hey Valve! Remember me?”
Did the public outcry influence Valve's decision? Sure, but that has little bearing on whether or not Valve has the right to choose which products it sells. It is the same concept behind the prohibition of AO-rated games. Stores are not forbidden to sell AO games; they simply choose not to.