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Valve: We shouldn't be choosing what you're allowed to create or play

In a post shared to the Steam Blog today, Valve details why its official stance is to offer devs systems and tools while leaving the content-policing to players and devs.

Alissa McAloon, Publisher

June 6, 2018

3 Min Read

With the exception of things that are “illegal or straight up trolling”, Valve now says it doesn’t plan to police the games that release on its massive digital storefront Steam and will instead focus on creating tools that allow players to filter games they aren’t interested in from their own personalized feeds.  

In a post shared on the Steam Blog today, the company says that this policy likely means that the Steam Store going forward will most certainly contain games that varying individuals “hate and don’t think should exist,” but that Steam hosting these games is “not a reflection of Valve’s values, beyond a simple belief that you all have the right to create and consume the content you choose.” 

“If you're a player, we shouldn't be choosing for you what content you can or can't buy,” reads the post. “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.”

While it now plans to allow most everything, save for the aforementioned illegal or “troll” content on Steam, the company notes that it will be expanding on existing tools that allow players to filter their Steam feeds and tailor those to their own interests. This includes options to override the store’s recommendation algorithm and hide games containing individual topics.

Valve notes it believes developers of “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,” though specifics on those tools weren’t yet offered. 

Additionally, Valve says it is looking to developers to disclose any potentially problematic content in their games during the submission process to make this filtering easier on everyone, and warns that it will "cease doing business with any of them that refuse to do so honestly."

This, of course, comes shortly after two notable incidents where Steam’s content policies were called into question. Early last month, Valve threatened to remove a number of games, largely visual novels, from Steam for “sexually explicit” content, though those threats were later rescinded. 

Just last week, Valve kicked the developer Revived Games off of Steam and delisted its upcoming game Active Shooter after the in-development title drew ire both in and beyond video game communities for allowing players to take on the role of either a mass shooter or law enforcement personnel in an active shooter situation.

The post, which can be read in full on the Steam blog, Valve notes that the problem isn’t so much if games with adult or violent content should be allowed on its platform but rather if the store should contain “games with an entire range of  controversial topics - politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on.”

Valve says that, even within its own company, there are disagreements and debates over what games should and shouldn’t be on Steam and that the people behind this decision know firsthand that “there’s no way to avoid making a bunch of people mad when making decisions in this space.”

“To be explicit about that - if we allow your game onto the Store, it does not mean we approve or agree with anything you're trying to say with it. If you're a developer of offensive games, this isn't us siding with you against all the people you're offending,” closes the post. “There will be people throughout the Steam community who hate your games, and hope you fail to find an audience, and there will be people here at Valve who feel exactly the same way. However, offending someone shouldn't take away your game's voice. We believe you should be able to express yourself like everyone else, and to find others who want to play your game. But that's it.“

About the Author(s)

Alissa McAloon

Publisher, GameDeveloper.com

As the Publisher of Game Developer, Alissa McAloon brings a decade of experience in the video game industry and media. When not working in the world of B2B game journalism, Alissa enjoys spending her time in the worlds of immersive sandbox games or dabbling in the occasional TTRPG.

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