As long as it’s not illegal or “trolling.”
In the wake of recent controversies about what sort of game content should and should not be allowed on Steam, Valve has decided to “allow everything.” In a post today, Valve’s Erik Johnson explained that only game content that they decide is “illegal or straight up trolling” will be banned from the store once the new policy is enacted at an unannounced future date.
“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,” explained Johnson. “We already have some tools, but they’re too hidden and not nearly comprehensive enough. We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in.”
The new tools are meant to benefit both customers and developers. Customers will be able to block games with certain types of content from appearing, while developers will have a shield against harassers who think their content is controversial. Valve sees these tools as necessary since, as Johnson admitted, controversies will continue under its new policy.
Johnson acknowledged that Steam “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. 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.”
In what feels like an echo of the popular Twitter saying “retweets do not equal endorsements,” Johnson made clear that approved games “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.”
Settling on this new policy was difficult for many at Valve. Johnson said humans — not algorithms — currently review every controversial title submitted to Steam. Naturally, those humans come from varied backgrounds and often have opposing views on what should and should not be allowed on Steam. This leads to a lot of internal debates about what sort of political, racial, violent, sexual, etc. content should be banned.
Just last month, the results of those debates made headlines twice. The first was when Valve threatened a number of erotic anime games with take-down notices. Less than two weeks later, school-shooting game Active Shooter was taken down. At the time, Valve said Active Shooter was banned in part because the developer was a “troll,” which would seemingly indicate it will remain banned under the new policy.
After taking down Active Shooter, Valve also said it would soon address its broader content policy. And while Johnson wrote today that no significant changes will be coming under the new policy until Valve deploys its updated curation tools, it has now made good on its promise to address the issue.
Once Valve does roll out the changes, it anticipates regular reevaluations to keep up with ever-changing international and local laws and norms. The games Valve allows on Steam, the tools it provides and the guidelines it communicates will all be in flux as Valve tries to keep up with those changes.
Nick Santangelo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He loves video games and sports, but not sports video games. Follow him on Twitter.
Source: IGN PC Articles