Last week Valve removed
a controversial and shoddily produced shooter from its store, one that simulated school shootings to the extent where you could pick up a gun and mow down children. As to whether a game like that should be illegal, well, that's a separate question. The real question is, if you owned a video game store - would you sell it? The answer for Valve has now switch to Yes, Of Course*.
As detailed in a new post
, taking a somewhat strange position. One that definitely has vocal support.
So what does this mean? It means that the Steam Store 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.
It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values, beyond a simple belief that you all have the right to create & consume the content you choose. The two points above apply to all of us at Valve as well. If you see something on Steam that you think should not exist, it's almost certain that someone at Valve is right there with you.
That seems to be more, we aren't interested in curation when it comes to Steam - than it does a stance. And it puts the outcry of a small minority in favour of trash games created to incite controversy over the idea of standing behind what you sell.
The challenge is that this problem is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content. Instead, it's about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics - politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on. In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games - like what even constitutes a "game", or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.
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.
In addition, Valve is not a small company - we're not a homogeneous group. The online debates around these topics play out inside Valve as well. We don't all agree on what deserves to be on the Store. So when we say there's no way to avoid making a bunch of people mad when making decisions in this space, we're including our own employees, their families and their communities in that.
There is logic to the reasoning here, no doubt. But again it should boil down to retailer and them deciding on what to stock. If Nazi memorabilia and hate speech is fine, which can fall well within the confines of legality, then that's a reflection on the store itself. In this case, Steam. Where it now seems like anything goes.