Steam Store Opens Doors to VR Porn Games
In the latest victory for freedom of expression and consumer choice, the popular Steam gaming platform will now impose fewer content restrictions — paving the way for virtual reality porn and other adult-oriented material in the video games it offers.
The revelation came from Steam parent Valve’s Erik Johnson in a blog post entitled, “Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?” released following recent criticism over some of the platform’s titles. The post notes that decision making in this space is very challenging and something the company has really struggled with.
“Contrary to many assumptions, this isn’t a space we’ve automated — humans at Valve are very involved, with groups of people looking at the contents of every controversial title submitted to us. Similarly, people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups,” Johnson revealed. “Nope, it’s just us grappling with a really hard problem.”
One of the challenges is clear messaging in order to minimize confusion among customers, developer partners and staff, with Johnson noting this is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content.
“Instead, it’s about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics — politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on,” Johnson explained. “In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games — like what even constitutes a ‘game,’ or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.”
Johnson also detailed how acceptable behavior, discussion and imagery varies significantly around the world, both socially and legally.
“Even when we pick a single country or state, the legal definitions around these topics can be too broad or vague to allow us to avoid making subjective and interpretive decisions,” Johnson added. “The harsh reality of this space, that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad.”
The bottom line, Johnson believes, is that Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this.
“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,” Johnson wrote. “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.”
As a result, everything will be allowed on the Steam Store except for things deemed illegal “or straight up trolling” on a case-by-case basis, with developers required to disclose “any potentially problematic content.”
“So, what does this mean? It means that the Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don’t think should exist. Unless you don’t have any opinions, that’s guaranteed to happen,” Johnson explains. “But you’re also going to see something on the Store that you believe should be there, and some other people will hate it and want it not to exist.”
Johnson was quick to point out that the content choices available on the platform are 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.”
But don’t expect changes to the platform overnight, however.
“Navigating these issues is messy and complicated. Countries and societies change their laws and cultural norms over time,” Johnson concludes. “We’ll be working on this for the foreseeable future, both in terms of what products we’re allowing, what guidelines we communicate, and the tools we’re providing to developers and players.”
The full blog post can be read here.
In a world where our corporate masters take evermore authoritarian stances in regards to their content and usage policies, it is refreshing to see such a pragmatic position that liberates the exchange of ideas — even when those ideas and depictions might be a bit naughty.