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June 7, 2018

Valve will stop regulating Steam, save for illegal content, straight up trolling

by John_A

Valve Software said it will stop regulating Steam to some extent. Valve is giving itself enough room to purge anything it deems as illegal and “straight up trolling,” thus freeing up time previously locked down to policing content to develop tools for filtering content on the customer end.  

“We already have some tools, but they’re too hidden and not nearly comprehensive enough,” Valve said. “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.” 

The move stems from discussions around how the Steam staff determines what flies and what dies during product submissions. Accusations stem from possible influence from outside interest groups, influence from payment processors, or an automated system that rejects submissions base on specific traits. That’s not the case, Valve says, but the complaints have pushed the staff to reconsider how they tackle product approvals. 

That is where a new filtering system could come into play. Instead of a Steam Store that rejects games with adult or violent content, a better time-saving approach would be to offer a platform that serves an entire range of controversial topics. Even more, the staff wouldn’t be required to determine what actually defines a game and whether the product reached a level of quality that qualifies it for a commercial release. 

“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,” Valve said. “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.” 

The decision about what is and isn’t allowed on Steam is a controversial subject in the community as well as within Valve itself. Not everyone inside Valve agrees with the current policing of titles, thus the “really mad” statement extends to employees, their families, their friends, and their communities. To please the masses, Steam is going back to its roots: Freedom of choice. 

That foundation means customers should have the freedom to purchase and play whatever game they want. Developers should have the freedom to create and sell anything that doesn’t break local laws. Moreover, Valve shouldn’t be making choices for the gamer and developer, but instead create tools for making choices and feeling comfortable with Steam. 

Ultimately, customers will see games they absolutely hate along with those they believe are a perfect fit for Steam. The store will no longer reflect Valve’s values, save for the belief that everyone has the right to purchase and sell any game no matter the (legal) content. 

“In the short term, we won’t be making significant changes to what’s arriving on Steam until we’ve finished some of the tools we’ve described,” Valve said. 

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