Steam announces hands-off content policy

I miss you Flappy

I miss you Flappy

Piotr Trojanowski | Dreamstime.comVideo game company Valve-which last week was weighed down with the controversy over its hosting of the virtual school simulator Active Shooter (since pulled)-is out with a new content policy.

So, some decision-making process will be ongoing, and "trolling" is such a wide-open term when it comes to interpretation that it could mean anything, let alone the fact that Valve seems to be saying that IT is the final arbiter on legality.

It all started in late May, when images of a game named "Active-Shooter" went viral.

The images, like the one above from the game, depict a player taking on the role of the shooter in a school shooting.

As if to prove Valve's point that there is no way to make everyone happy, video game journalists have reacted with near-apoplectic rage that the company will be less-than-proactive in telling its customers what kind of games they're allowed to play.

"We've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling". Everything else, though, will be fair game.

"Recently there's been a bunch of community discussion around what kind of games we're allowing onto the Steam Store".

"We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you're not interested in". Posting basic free speech somewhere online and dumping software into Steam's heavily sorted marketplace (from which Valve takes a 30-percent cut of every sale) are very different things.

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"Valve shouldn't be the ones deciding this", Johnson wrote.

In a blog post announcing the change in policy, Valve's Erik Johnson writes, "If you're a player, we shouldn't be choosing for you what content you can or can't buy". "It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve's values, beyond a simple belief that you all have the right to create and consume the content you choose".

"Those choices should be yours to make", said Johnson.

"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". There will also be new tools for developers as well to help deal with harassment. Of course, that doesn't mean that games that shitty games are above reproach and just criticism - and it's okay to call out games and other media that are racist and sexist and all of the other unwanted ists.

Johnson assures users that tools to extensively filter the store for content that suits one's tastes are in the works. Valve's new guidelines have sparked a predictable backlash for shirking responsibility for the content it carries.

Dealing with controversial content is "messy and complicated", Johnson wrote. While the number of games on storefronts like PS Store, Microsoft Store, Nintendo eShop, and GOG are nowhere close to what Steam has to offer, each of them hold themselves to a higher standard, which is why a game like Active Shooter or Fight of Gods never land up on their stores.

But complaints haven't all been about adult or discriminatory content - the new policy says nothing about quality control, which is a growing problem as the volume of titles coming to the platform skyrocket (over 10,000 games are expected to be added to Steam in 2018).

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