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Why Is Steam Allowed to Publish Such Controversial Games?

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Steam PC Gaming Valve
Image Credit: Max DeRoin/Pexels

You can find anything on Steam from FPSes to RPGs, platformers, and more. After all, that’s what makes it the most popular game hub for millions of gamers around the world. However, a platform that publishes everything often turns a blind eye to explicit and immoral games.

Over the years, Steam has gained a reputation for publishing controversial and offensive games. This leaves many gamers asking: “Why is Steam allowed to publish these disrespectful games in the first place?”

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Steam’s Recent Controversy

Earlier this month, Steam was in the spotlight for nearly publishing a game about raping and murdering women in a zombie apocalypse. Rape Day was scheduled for release in April, but Valve pulled it due to heavy backlash.

On March 6th, 2019, Valve released a comment stating:

We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.

Valve’s ambiguous policies only seem to go into effect when a large audience opposes it. In the same statement, Valve mentioned that its policy is “reactionary,” and described its wait-and-see approach when it comes to evaluating game submissions through Steam Direct. But Valve still lets some games slip between the cracks.

In 2018, Steam actually published a game called Active Shooter, which involved a school shooting simulation. Anyone can see why this game is offensive.

Valve has since removed Active Shooter, but not because of its controversial content—Valve removed it because its publisher frequently trolled Steam. This sort of thing makes us scratch our heads in disbelief. If the publisher wasn’t a troll, would the game still exist?

Valve’s Hands-Off Approach

Last year was tough for Steam. In addition to the controversy surrounding Active Shooter, it also made headlines for its indecisive policies regarding sexually explicit content.

This lead Valve to publish an announcement in June of 2018 that outlines its policies regarding which games it will and will not publish. Valve literally says that it’ll publish “everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”

While there’s nothing wrong with having the freedom to publish games on a variety of topics, aren’t there certain topics that just shouldn’t be available to the world of gamers? Banning games that are “illegal” or “trolling” doesn’t always include games that are disrespectful or immoral.

Instead of taking morality into account, Valve takes a hands-off approach when it comes to the content on the Steam Store:

If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create.

The game giant hopes Steam can be used as a tool for developers, rather than a heavily policed platform that controls the developers’ content. Again, that’s completely understandable, but it doesn’t solve the problem of controversial games.

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Will Valve’s Policy Damage Its Reputation?

With Valve’s “anything goes” policy, it’s bound to repeat the same mistakes. Another game like Rape Day or Active Shooter will inevitably make its way to the Steam Store, only to get taken down after heavy uproar. If Valve keeps continuing in this direction, it could possibly lose some of its supporters.

Their statement last year makes it clear that Valve doesn’t stand behind any controversial games:

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.

Valve wants developers to face the brunt of the controversy, and even warns them about the risks of publishing disrespectful content. In a nutshell, Valve says that a controversial game will anger people, but Valve shouldn’t have to put a limitation a developer’s form of expression.

It’s difficult to separate Valve from the games they publish. Whether Valve likes it or not, the act of publishing games on Steam still involves giving it a stamp of approval. That’s why people attack both Valve and the developer when a hateful game appears on Steam.

If Valve publishes the game for millions of people, Valve ought to share in the blame and controversy.

Should Valve Allow All Types of Content?

Freedom of speech is one of our human rights, but there’s a line between freedom of speech and hate speech. When something’s just outright wrong, it shouldn’t have a place on the Steam Store, period.

What’s your opinion? Do you think that Steam has a right to publish almost anything? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

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