Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: June 15th, 2018
Steam recently had a major authoritarian fit where games were banned after they had already gone through censorship to be on the platform in the first place. Most of these games were anime-styled in nature while Western titles got a pass for much worse content and it seems pretty obvious some very precise bias and targeting was at play. After massive backlash, they announced that the games were not being censored after all but were going to undergo re-review but while all this seems good, as Anime News Network pointed out, the entire event highlighted how small developers and those outside the mainstream sphere are at the mercy of super-corporations and their whims. Anime News Network also cautions against giving the religious anti-porn group (National Center on Sexual Exploitation) who claimed responsibility for the event more credit than they likely deserve.
Anyways, after this, GOG announced that it would start hosting some of the banned game, such as several titles of Sekai Project and MangaGamer which includes Fault: Milestone, Sunrider Academy Trilogy, Eden and Higurashi: When They Cry. MangaGamer also announced that they are working on several new titles to release on GOG. Recently, Agony was also forced to fold content from its uncensored patch on Steam due to undisclosed “Legal issues” and that game could also possibly go uncensored on GOG as well. It seems that all of these developments spooked Valve as their next move was to announce a new policy to allow everything on the platform that is not illegal or “Straight up trolling”.
Further adding plans to stop policing the platform and focus on giving people tools to curate and filter their own content instead. The only disturbing part of that otherwise fine statement was:
So if you don’t want to see anime games on your Store, you’ll be able to make that choice…
I’m struggling with the implication that anime-styled games specifically would be singled out. I mean, if you don’t want them you should have the option to remove them from your own account sure, but I find it a bit precise and a weird example from Valve considering everything else they could have picked.
People should be wary of rejoicing too soon though, as Valve says it still plans to conduct review of new titles and reject games that don’t meet as of yet undisclosed standards (So less censorship, not its complete abolition) and the newly announced standards won’t take effect for a while as well.
Soon afterwards, the usual suspects showed up. The mainstream media, seemingly angered by people’s rejection of authoritarian censorship and borderline thought control, decided to respond. Patrick Klepek of Vices Waypoint said the following regarding the development:
Originally posted by Patrick Klepek
One of the biggest problems with Steam is how little Valve does to make it a better place, outside of generating more money. Their response to criticism of this policy: double down on doing nothing.
Essentially taking a hard and “brave” stance in favor of censorship and against people making their own choices on what content not to be exposed to. Meanwhile, Nathan Grayson of Kotaku also had a few choice words:
Originally posted by Nathan Grayson
this is all just so exasperating. valve finally acknowledges that there are human ethos underlying steam, but then posits that this decision frees the platform of overriding influence when in fact it’s just putting steam’s levers in different hands
another thought: valve dedicates so much of this post to talking about how allowing a game onto steam doesn’t constitute an expression of values or taking a “side.” but the knowing creation of an all-is-permitted libertarian paradise ABSOLUTELY constitutes an expression of values
I’m puzzled as to how taking a stance of giving people a choice and an open platform to create and share without censorship and thought policing constitutes a moral failure unless you openly support an authoritarian police state as a proper social and political system.
Grayson then went on to write:
Robert Yang, a developer of queer sex games who’s had a bumpy relationship with Steam in the past, said on Twitter in response to the idea that it could be bad if corporations got to decide what was and wasn’t moral. “They’re already picking bad moral norms, they’re already governing, they’re already giving tacit support to steam nazis to call me a degenerate.”
Corporations, deciding what’s moral and just in a corporate oligarchy near you. Amazing how these people always support censorship and oppression at the hands of unquestioned entities with little to no qualifications for being moral guardians and even less of a legitimate right to do so.
Games with racist leanings do not even remotely pose the same kinds of problems as games about sexuality.
Interesting that he think games about sexuality pose a problem at all. He then goes on to praise the communist style censorship that social media outlets are attempting to enforce to prevent people from freely sharing ideas online:
Valve refuses to acknowledge the political context in which Steam exists, even as other social platforms like Facebook face a cultural and political reckoning after embracing similar technolibertarian ideals.
And then goes on to dismiss freedom of speech using the same “Corporations are not government” logical fallacy we’re now used to:
It frames the whole issue in almost freedom-of-speech-like terms, even though Valve is not a government body, and in theory a game that can’t hack it on Steam can just be published elsewhere.
Interesting implications here. Namely, that only the government should value free speech and that big companies like Valve should deny access to certain games out of some vague sense of social responsibility so those games are only allowed on smaller platforms where they won’t get their chance to fairly fight in the market with the other big titles of the industry.
Next up we have Ben Kuchera of Polygon:
Originally posted by Ben Kuchera
This isn’t a free speech issue, because Valve isn’t a government entity. This isn’t an issue of lack of resources, because Valve makes enormous profits from Steam and could easily afford to put more robust vetting in place. It isn’t an issue of lack of people, because more people could be hired to work on the problem if it was something Valve actually cared about solving.
Making the all too familiar fallacy that free speech is only in danger when the government attacks it in spite of the fact that the recent decade made it clear free speech can be threatened when so called independent entities such as journalists, the media, corporations and other organizations (Including social media) all collude to adopt the same censorship and repressive standards, making it de facto impossible to express free speech due to a lack of free alternative in a monopolized market and society.
Making this communist stance even clearer amongst the mainstream media establishment is Brendan Sinclair:
Originally posted by Brendan Sinclair
Frankly, this is nonsense. Valve does not get to have its cake and eat it, too. This is absolutely a reflection of Valve’s values. Yes, the company values people having the right to create and consume content of their own choosing. It values that so much more than it values people who have survived a school shooting, or people who have lost their friends and family members to them. More than it values an entire continent of people being demonized on top of an epidemic on top of a history of exploitation. More than it values its position as a representative of the medium of video games. More than it values basic human decency.
You’re not reading it wrong, he is talking about having the right to choose and how that’s apparently a bad thing. All he can muster for his defence is some vague pseudo-argument about needing to “Protect” people from seeing “Bad content”, perpetuating the age-old practice of advocating for censorship for “The good of all”. Censorship has never led to anything but oppression, tragedy and tyranny, end of story. Case in point: As One Angry Gamer pointed out, if Steam were to start banning everything someone somewhere has a problem with, then we won’t have anything to play anymore except Tetris and Pac-Man (I’m operating under the more than likely mistaken assumption that ghosts won’t get offended by Pac-Man).
We’re not done though. These “Journalists” have more to say:
Originally posted by Garett Martin
…if Valve’s allowing a game on Steam, and sharing in its revenue, it’s effectively endorsing that game’s values, no matter how much Valve wants to argue that it doesn’t reflect the beliefs of the company or its employees. This decision underscores that Valve is a company that cares only about making money, with no concern for any responsibility it might have as a retailer. Valve fails to understand that claiming to not have any kind of value system is in itself a value system, and one that doesn’t make the company look good.
That these people are serious is probably the most amazing thing about all of this. A company doesn’t support the values of everything posted on its website because it’s allowing it, that’s pure lunacy. All they are doing is supporting open and unrestricted distribution of content as it would be quite impossible for them to support all the content on their platform (Does YouTube support both conspiracy theorists and mainstream journalists as well as SJWs and Nazis because they all post on their platform?) nor can they automatically be assumed to support content they had no hand in creating.
The now infamous anti-porn National Center on Sexual Exploitation also got seriously riled by the event:
Originally posted by Dawn Hawkins
In our current #MeToo culture, Steam made a cowardly choice to shirk its corporate and social responsibility to remove sexually violent and exploitive videogames from its platform.
There are currently over 1,000 games on Steam with nudity or sexual content, all of which are sexually objectifying, and a disturbing number of which are designed so the player rapes, sexually coerces, and commercially exploits women. In the past 2 years, thousands of individuals have asked Steam to remove these games through the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s campaigns. In May, Steam reached out to some small gaming developers to ask them to remove sexual content and received some pushback from the developers. Now it appears that the company is capitulating to the loud complaints of the few gamers who cannot enjoy videogames sans-sexploitation, instead of standing by its full right—and duty—as a private company to monitor and restrict the content it promotes.
Interesting how the radical left and its 4th wave feminism and the radical right and its Christian values have finally come into complete unison after all these decades; heck, they’re even using the same language. In any event, they apparently believe that corporations have a moral imperative to uphold thought control, moral policing and censorship. I must have missed the meeting where corporations were burdened with such responsibilities.
He further adds:
Companies across all industries—including Google, Hilton Worldwide, RevContent, and more—have made intentional strides to refrain from perpetuation sexually exploitive or degrading messages against women. Steam has taken the opposite approach, and has decided to give a green light to the sexually violent and degrading games on its platform.
I’m not sure how taking the most corrupt, pro-state and authoritarian super corporations out there is somehow ingratiating your argument but whatever.
And finally, Adam Rosenberg of Mashable shared the following thoughts:
Originally posted by Adam Rosenberg
Apple’s “walled garden” approach to the App Store may not be perfect, but it does make life harder for racists, homophobes, and other purveyors of hate to peddle their goods.
The same can’t be said for Steam, however.
All this sounds good until you realize just how those people’s definitions of “Racists”, “Sexists” and “Homophobes” differ from everyone else’s. For example, they consider jokes about homosexuality in series to be homophobic and fanservice (Sexually attractive clothing or situations) to be sexist; we’ve seen that through pretty much every media outlet of the West in recent years. So the question is: Do we really want these authoritarian social justice warriors establishing a thought police that decides for us what is and is not appropriate?
It should be noted that these people don’t give up and so One Angry Gamer warns the community to expect some form of retaliation by the media establishment in the near future. In any event, the people seem to have won this one but we should stay on our guard, as always.