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Chaturday: The One in Which I Get Myself Blacklisted, And That’s a Good Thing

I had some extra time to work on today’s Chaturday article, so I thought I’d make this one extra long. Sit back and enjoy.

This week I’d like to take a look at Valve’s recent decision to no longer curate games on Steam, barring games that are illegal or blatantly trolling. This has prompted an immediate and unsurprising backlash from a population of the internet whose income and livelihoods are directly proportional to the amount of drama that they can stir up. The doomsayers came out of their holes to proclaim that the service is now damned to be a hellscape of disgusting pornographic games where Nazis and white supremacists murder babies! The National Center on Sexual Exploitation claimed that there were one thousand games on Steam with sexual content, and every single one without exception was objectifying in nature.

It’s important to note here that none of the games journalists you may have seen talking about this are trying to take your games away, and I know this because they’ve been telling us repeatedly for the past five years. If I am repeatedly slapping food out of the hand of a small child, it doesn’t mean I’m against that child eating or trying to control him, I’m just saying that his hands can’t hold the food that I don’t personally like.

And for what it’s worth, I think that a lot of these recent decisions at Valve come down to the flat corporate structure. The decision to remove Hatred all those years back was done and then reversed because there is no real managerial structure in the company. Nobody to come out and squarely lead with a vision for how the Steam store should exist. As a result, factions form with differing opinions which arguably led to the warning letters being sent to certain developers a few weeks ago, and you have a company that massively disagrees on how to police the store with nobody around to pull rank and say “my word is final.” Nobody can agree on who gets to push the big shiny “approved” button, so nobody gets to push it at all.

I could spend a year going over quotes from our friends in the games media losing their collective sanity over this announcement, but I don’t have that kind of time. Inverse posted a piece saying that Valve’s response to trolling was to monetize it, despite that being a complete lie, saying that Valve’s answer to bigotry is to monetize it, despite not having any evidence of games genuinely advocating bigotry appearing or attempting to appear on the platform. Polygon’s Ben Kuchera wrote a piece with the subheading “anything goes as long as you give Valve a cut,” a blatantly false statement followed by paragraphs of trying to connect how Valve is wrong for deciding what constitutes an “illegal game” as it makes them the arbitrary decision maker, but also wrong for not acting as arbitrary decision maker on which games pass muster for the store. Freelance writer Nick Capozzoli compared the statement to Valve essentially saying “We believe we should bring Nazis together,” a flagrant misrepresentation.

Even the founder of Itch.io got in on the salt-throwing, posting “A platform that allows “everything, unless it’s illegal or straight up trolling” is ridiculous. Please keep your malicious, derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, harassing, demeaning content off . Our ban buttons are ready.” Incidentally, within five minutes of searching, MMO Fallout had managed to pick up a lengthy list of titles hosted on, and thus presumably endorsed, by itch.io, including hentai games with less-than-consensual sex, games where the objective is to beat up aggressive, beautiful girls, and a game that simply describes itself as “Learn Japanese You Faggot!” Itch.io is a veritable dumping ground for virtually everything that would never make its way on to Steam, be it meme games, troll games, outright piracy, and unfettered copyright infringement. If there are any stores that have no standing to criticize Valve’s curation, it’s itch.io.

It’s not entirely surprising to see outlets deliberately misinterpreting Valve’s statements, bringing up titles like Active Shooting Simulator and conveniently passing over either the fact that the game was removed, or why it was removed, and presenting hyperbolic questions on whether or not Valve will accept certain games, pointing to titles that a reasonable person could conclude to fall under the trolling rule. I say unsurprising because many of these writers are the same people whose bread and butter lies in outrage bait, throwing out accusations and feigning offense to drive hate-views by the thousands, otherwise known as trolling for profit. If these articles had been video games, they’d be banned from Steam.

One subject in which I will agree with my fellow press on is this: If Valve is claiming that they are going to only block illegal games and troll games, they damn sure better start actually doing that. As I said previously, Valve has pretty explicitly stated that they had no intention of selling Active Shooter Simulator on Steam, a statement that would hold more water if Valve weren’t clearly getting ready to sell Active Shooter on Steam. The same goes for titles like Aids Simulator, Gay World, and that shooting game where the only goal is to kill gay people. Titles that are so obvious from the slightest glance to be troll titles and yet they managed to get their way on to Steam before being removed.

In reality, the media should be happy about these changes, as should Youtubers. After all, the idea of Steam being flooded with dozens of games on a daily basis just means that people will be going back to modern and traditional games media in order to find the titles worth playing. It also grants a fantastic opportunity to the portion of games media that really likes writing troll bait but hates actually playing games. If Steam actually becomes the cesspool that you predict, you will have a lifetime of articles to express faux outrage.

The only people who have a genuine right to be angry about these changes are the developers, for whom many this open door policy means drowning in an even larger ocean of competing voices.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter.

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