Smooth Gaming‘ is a new column to ValueWalk which will discuss various aspects of the video game industry. From AAA titles, business aspects, and independent developers who often go under-reported. ‘Smooth Gaming’ will take a multi-pronged look at the world of gaming. This week we look at Valve and their management of the popular gaming platform, Steam.Valve, the company behind the popular gaming platform Steam has had to deal with controversy in the past. Unfortunately, for the company which has altered video game distribution the past several weeks have seen them face self-imposed issues.
As spoken about in an earlier Smooth Gaming entry, the video game industry deserves better treatment and to be treated as mainstream pop culture. However, with that recognition means those within the gaming vertical have to accept objective criticism as well.
Why Even Let This Become An Issue?
Steam opens itself to issues with their ‘hands-off’ curation process. The platform charges $100 for a company to list a game and last June released an explanation of their curation policy which leaves the door open to a slew of potential issues. Part of their statement is quoted below.
..So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: 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. 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.
With that principle in mind, 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. Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see. We already have some tools, but they’re too hidden and not nearly comprehensive enough…
What could go wrong with that approach, right? Insert the absolutely disgusting title game ‘Rape Day‘ which is nothing more than a rape fantasy which saw the player rape and murder women at their will. For obvious reasons, I won’t be stating the publisher or going into any further detail about the game. Yet, Steam’s approach to the situation allowed for such a game to be listed on their platform.
They obviously couldn’t have seen then issue coming…
Yes, that’s complete sarcasm. It wasn’t until a Change.org petition gained a lot of *clears throat* steam, that the platform decided it may be a good idea to reject the game from their platform. Their full statement on their decision can be seen below.
Over the past week you may have heard about a game called ‘Rape Day’ coming soon to Steam. Today we’ve decided not to distribute this game on Steam. Given our previous communication around Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?, we think this decision warrants further explanation.
Much of our policy around what we distribute is, and must be, reactionary—we simply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judgement [sic] call about any risk it puts to Valve, our developer partners, or our customers. After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think ‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.
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.
As you can see, Valve didn’t really even take a moral stance or address the issues with such a ‘game’ with no content besides violence against women. To boil the decision down to basically a business decision isn’t the best of look for the company.
This Isn’t The Best Look Either
According to reporting done by Kotaku, “Early this morning, 66 profiles claimed the alleged shooter’s name, and in just three hours, that number inflated to over 100,” the outlet began in reference to the recent terrorist shooting in New Zealand which took place at two separate Mosques. “Hours after Kotaku reached out to Steam for comment, however, the alleged shooter’s name disappeared from those profiles’ main pages, but still remains under a list of previous aliases. Still, new ones are appearing.”
The reporting would continue, “In addition to nearly 100 pages that referred to or venerated the suspected New Zealand shooter, hundreds of pages continue to nod toward past mass shooters including perpetrators of massacres in Charleston, Isla Vista and Parkland and of the 2011 mass killing in Norway.”
Steam has an estimated 90 million monthly users, so it’s acceptable to have a few profiles slip through the cracks. However, the ‘hands-off’ approach Valve takes with questionable and morally reprehensible behavior allows for such individuals to feel welcome on the platform.
These are problems the platform along with Facebook and Twitter open up to themselves by not taking a stance against clear examples of bigotry, racism, and sexism. They could make it a lot easier on themselves by creating policies which create a peaceful environment where users won’t be confronted with pure examples of hatred.
Until they make that change the platform will continue to face problems like these.