Why people are DISAPPOINTED in VALVE right now.
Whether it’s activists fighting to get a title they deem controversial banned from the platform or incompetent developers submitting unfinished junk and cluttering up the storefront; it’s no secret that Valve has a content problem.
A new post to the official Steam Blog has shed light on Valve’s thought process regarding content on the Steam Store, and let’s just say that… well, I’m disappointed.
“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.”
“...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...”
“...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.”
If you’d like to read the full post, there’s a link in the description. They go on to talk about wanting to build tools that allow you to filter out content you might find offensive. They say they plan to coerce developers to self-categorize their content, and Valve will stop doing business with them if they’re found to be dishonest. And also mention that
I would like to point out how precisely Valve have chosen their words, here. They open by addressing the thing that has brought them such negative press; violent games. Without naming names, they were talking about, Active Shooter, which was a title on their platform that simulated a school shooting. In my estimation, it’s not the violent or controversial games that are the problem with Steam...
By creating Steam Greenlight and Steam Direct, they’ve opened themselves up to controversial titles from any old person… but the real issue is that any old person can get anything they want on Steam, even if it’s a non-functional piece of crap. So when they open their blog post by talking about “politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on,” they frame themselves as heroic champions of free speech--a neutral platform upon which anyone can have a voice… when really, the problem is that people with no merit or ability are clogging up Steam and hurting other, more deserving developer’s bottom line.
They summed up their post by saying:
“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.”
Again, their words chosen carefully; begging that cricitism of this policy should be cast as a call for censorship. Which it isn’t. I don’t care if there is tastelessly violent or sexual or politically charged content on Steam, so long as it’s worthy of being on Steam. What I want is for Valve to have standards. For games to be playable, and functional.
Valve’s laissez-faire attitude might be making them money for now, but it’s damaging their reputation. Despite what they might want to think, games on their platform reflect on their brand and show just what kind of company they are. Developers are moving to other platforms and not even bothering with Valve’s hands-off, anything goes frathouse of a storefront. And I don’t blame them.
Content discovery on Steam is a joke. They plan to build an algorithmic solution that shows you content you’re likely to want to see, but we all know how well that works. Don’t we? Don’t we? Don’t we?!?
So yeah, to summarize, I think Valve really needs to step up and have a minimum threshold of quality before we experience the PC gaming bust of 2019… but I want to know what you think? Are Valve being lazy or do you think they’re the white knights of free speech?
Let me know or hit me up on Twitter @TheLinuxGamer.