There must be something in the water, or else it's pointless ancillary politics.
Seemingly in response to mounting criticism from game journalists and characters like Jim Sterling, Steam attempted to clarify how, in the broadest of terms, it determines what kinds of software are allowed on its platform in a blog post from Wednesday titled "Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store". Here are a few excerpts:
Common questions we ask ourselves when trying to make decisions didn't help in this space. What do players wish we would do? What would make them most happy? What's considered acceptable discussion / behavior / imagery varies significantly around the world, 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. 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.
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. We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you're not interested in. So if you don't want to see anime games on your Store, you'll be able to make that choice. If you want more options to control exactly what kinds of games your kids see when they browse the Store, you'll be able to do that. And it's not just players that need better tools either - developers who build controversial content shouldn't have to deal with harassment because their game exists, and we'll be building tools and options to support them too.
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. If you're a developer of offensive games, this isn't us siding with you against all the people you're offending. 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. However, offending someone shouldn't take away your game's voice. We believe you should be able to express yourself like everyone else, and to find others who want to play your game. But that's it.
Good enough, right? Essentially, Steam has taken all of this commentary into consideration and come to the determination that, despite all of the furrowed brows and handwringing from people whose opinions count for less than nothing, they would really rather continue to do things the way they have been, thank you very much for your concern.
If you haven't been keeping up on this then you may be confused. Why does anyone care about what Steam has on its store other than Steam itself? I asked myself that very question, and a number of answers seemed to filter through. In the last week Steam was host to a game where the player could take the role of a school shooter. It has since been taken down. There is also the genre of "erotic" visual novels, perhaps of questionable taste, to consider. And finally we have the glut of so called "asset flips", otherwise understood as low effort works that rely on pre-purchased assets and therefore require very little creative input on the part of the "developer". For a variety of reasons all of these games have come under scrutiny, and mostly from assorted industry pundits. This may help explain why someone might not be enthusiastic about a Hunie Pop game, but it doesn't explain why so many are so adamant about having it stricken from a storefront that they don't own, operate, or should have any vested interest in whatsoever. But adamant they are. Here are headlines from the last two days. You may notice that the moral indignation on display is coming from many of the Usual Suspects.
Steam's content policy is both arrogant and cowardly - Oli Welsh, Eurogamer
Valve’s New Content Policy for Steam Is a Triumph of Cowardice Over Curation - Joel Hruska, Extreme Tech
Valve's New 'Anything Goes' Policy Fails To Address Steam's Biggest Problems - Eric Kain, Forbes
Valve gives up on responsibility - Ben Kuchera, Polygon
Valve’s abdication of responsibility over Steam is the worst possible solution - John Walker, Rock Paper Shotgun
Steam's Irresponsible Hands-Off Policy Is Proof That Valve Still Hasn't Learned Its Lesson - Nathan Grayson, Kotaku
There's more where those came from. If you elect to check out the twitter feed of some of these goofballs, not that I know why you would, you will find that they care very much indeed about Steam's storefront. The unresolved question yet remains, however. Why? After all, this is the equivalent of me walking into a convenience store and complaining about the adult magazines hidden behind the counter. What would I stand to get out of their removal, other than a sense of perverse self satisfaction? Moral righteousness derived from something so utterly meaningless as controlling the distribution of digital software.
If the comments on Valve's blog post are any indication, the Steam userbase is, if anything, mostly grateful for the decision not to change their standards, perhaps suggesting that Steam is more receptive to their customers than they are to that strangely detached class of traditional games media. In fact, if you visit enough places where this newest argument is being trafficked you can see all of the same tired culture lines being redrawn once more. With a bit of mercy we'll have forgotten about this one in a week, but I wanted to make the thread anyway. Be aware that all of these self styled consumer advocates are advocating on behalf of, well... something else entirely. That much is evident to me. Anyone have a different take?