Valve is about to adopt a whole new laissez-faire attitude to what content it will allow on Steam, which previously banned things like explicit adult content and what the company calls in their current guidelines things that are “patently offensive or intended to shock or disgust viewers.”

Now, Valve has released a blog post explaining their more relaxed guidelines, which the company says is done in the spirit of freedom of choice and expression.

“If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.”

Valve says they’re allowing “everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”

As a monumental shift in what sort of content is allowed on the world’s largest digital distribution platform, this will effectively open up Steam to anything that’s legal in your jurisdiction, and that if you’re offended by something, you’ll need to apply the filters yourself based on specific tags (eg. anime, adult, ultraviolent themes, etc).

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“[This] 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,” Valve says.

Continuing, the company says “[i]f you want more options to control exactly what kinds of games your kids see when they browse the Store, you’ll be able to do that. And it’s not just players that need better tools either – developers who build controversial content shouldn’t have to deal with harassment because their game exists, and we’ll be building tools and options to support them too.”

Here’s a the current list of things not allowed on Steam, which will likely change when the new guidelines come into effect:

  • Hate speech, i.e. speech that promotes hatred, violence or discrimination against groups of people based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation
  • Pornography
  • Adult content that isn’t appropriately labeled and age-gated
  • Libelous or defamatory statements
  • Content you don’t own or have adequate rights to
  • Content that violates the laws of any jurisdiction in which it will be available
  • Content that is patently offensive or intended to shock or disgust viewers
  • Content that exploits children in any way
  • Applications that modify customer’s computers in unexpected or harmful ways, such as malware or viruses
  • Applications that fraudulently attempts to gather sensitive information, such as Steam credentials or financial data (e.g. credit card information)

While many of these guidelines are bound to stay the same (malware, fraudulent apps, and libelous/defamatory statements are broadly against the law, and incorrectly labeled adult content is likely to get the boot too), Steam is putting the onus on the user to decide what’s for them, and what isn’t.

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The change in rules could make Steam a premier destination for adult VR content, as it becomes the first major digital distributor to allow for “everything,” whereas none of the other major VR app stores allow for such content. And if you’ve been following the development of the VR adult content scene, it’s only going to get more graphic and more immersive.

Valve isn’t putting the new content guidelines into effect until they’ve completed their  filtering and algorithm tools, something they say won’t happen in the “short term.” We expect to hear greater detail soon though, as Valve hopefully defines what it thinks is broadly illegal, and what it considers is trolling—two of the only firm statements made reflecting the relaxation of its content rules.

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  • F1ForHelp

    I “see” how this “can” be related to VR, but… well… I don’t really have a reply in that aspect.

    I don’t see how this can be the worst thing in the world, but I can definitely see some shady stuff start to happen in the future.

    Of course we don’t want Steam turning into Twitch, but it’s nice to see that the teenage demographic can have their “priorities” satisfied. Now I wonder if age checking will be more strict.

    More seriously, freedom is generally a good thing.

    • Darren Hill

      Steam should just have a birthday setting on a profile, then I can also get gifts! :D

      • Meow Smith

        It should have one period i’m sick of having to enter my age all the time just to find out the majority of the time the game doesn’t really warrant it.

  • Get Schwifty!

    It’ll work as long as people remember they don’t have a right to not be offended…. we’ll see how long it lasts until the snowflake storm hits…

    • MarquisDeSang

      How can something in a video game be illegal? How can fiction and imagination become real and truth in the real world? Well, the Holocaust tm. materialized out of the twisted imagination of Russian communists and Steven Spielberg.

      • David Mulder

        Various types of gambling can be illegal. Virtual child pron is illegal in a lot of countries. Attacks on a protected groups can be illegal (“shoot the homo”). etc.

        • MarquisDeSang

          But Shoot the White Hetero is perfectly fine I guess.

          • DAMN ALL HUMANS

            We get it, you have an agenda. You made an entire reply to bring up something THAT WASN’T IMPLIED OR BEING EMPHASIZED! DAMNIT

            (not saying that you dont have a point)

          • Gato Satanista

            I think shooting an diverse group of people is fine. Shooting black people, white hetero people, gay people, black gay people, latin people and muslin people. All together being killed by the player. What is “wrong” is choose one group to being killed above the others. Because in the real world, we have real people with real desires of killing specifics groups of people based on color, religion and sexuality. So, makes sense to do some censorship on cultural products that may incentive this latent desire.

      • zid

        My grandfather fought in WW2. He was at two different concentration camps when they were liberated. He wasn’t lying about the horror he saw there. If you think it was faked you’re an idiot.

      • Gato Satanista

        Man… Spielberg and the Russians doesn’t “invented” the Holocaust… You can’t change history based on your tastes. This is crazy. What’s next? Earth being flat?

        • MarquisDeSang

          The earth has always been flat. Wake up!

          • I think you might want to attend to your bridge. There is a goat trying to cross it.

      • WyrdestGeek

        Child pornography, for example, is illegal. So, if the game happened to have cutscenes made using recordings of live “models” — i.e. actual children in actually explicit situations…

        That’d be illegal right there.

        I grant you that’s unlikely to actually happen. Point is: yes, it is possible for a game to have illegal content.

        • MarquisDeSang

          Child pornography is used as a weapon to imprison anyone who disagree with the government because it is easy to plant and fake (the police just copy some files on a computer and edit the date of creation). It is also the excuse given to remove all privacy and justify citizen surveillance. While real child molester (the one that actually do the crime in reality) get less prison time if any (like the ((( ))) ) than the sick looser just watching some .jpg .The problem with virtual “crimes” is that it is subject to interpretation. How old is the girl from VR Kanojo? It’s impossible to say because she is not real. (((Who))) decide?

          • WyrdestGeek

            Off topic.

            I’m not here debating whether or not child porn *should* be illegal nor am I interested in falling into an exhausting and ultimately futile back-and-forth about how it’s just an excuse by gov’ment to persecute… or whatever it is you’re going on about.

            You said “how can something in a video game be illegal”, and I gave you an example.

            I get the sense that you’re going to dispute that example.

            Go right ahead.

            Because if you actually *film* a couple of real life little kids in a sexual situation and then put it in a game, I’m not the one you’ll be having to answer to.

            The court will have the final say, and I’m reasonably sure your sovereign citizen-esque, what-is-real-anyway defence will go over like a lead balloon.

          • MarquisDeSang

            I totally agree with the law on that subject (real pictures or videos of abused children should be illegal). It’s just that in Canada we have a real example of a looser that was jerking to hentai drawings that were decided (under 18) and he got 1 year in prison, while actual child molesters get 1 month. 3D animation, drawings, words in a work of fiction should not be considered illegal for the same reason that the people I kill in a game like GTA are not real murder. Though crimes in Canada, Germany and UK are punished more severely than real crimes and nobody is waking up to that danger.

  • Ombra Alberto

    Finally, I don’t like censorship.

  • Muzufuzo

    I can’t wait to play some more “controversial” content.

  • Lucidfeuer

    What they’re doing is illegal, including in the US.

    Unless they block illegal content and in this case their current guidelines stays exactly the same except: “Content that is patently offensive or intended to shock or disgust viewers” and “Adult content” as long as it’s labelled and age-gated…

  • Ian Shook

    Ridiculous. I should probably filter out the names of them so they don’t pop up in my recommended games. Anybody know the names of some popular adult content so that I can block it?

    • F1ForHelp

      Anything tagged with “Visual Novel” or “MMORPG” would probably get you some hidden results.

      I think there’s an “Adult” tag as well. Another tag will probably become popular to describe new games accepted by Steam’s new policies.

    • brandon9271

      I’m pretty sure adult content won’t just randomly pop up unless you specifically seek it out. The folks at Valve are very smart. Having porn pop up while you’re searching for a”Metroidvania” game or something isn’t likely to happen. I expect it to be walled off entire. Ebay has been this way for many years.

      • Ian Shook

        I should mention that I was just kidding and looking for the names of good adult titles. All in good fun.

        • brandon9271

          Ahhh.. lol sarcasm is sometimes hard to detect in text form. :)

    • Gato Satanista

      Why Ridiculous? Because you don’t like it? So, you don’t like it and millions of people in the world should be following your taste and guidelines? Freedom of thinking above all. Games are an art form too. It should be free from censorship. Sexual desire and sexual obsessions are a important part of what make us human In games, killing is good and sex is a devious act. It doesn’t make any sense. Sex is life and killing… well… killing is death. If you don’t like it, of course you can ignore and block.

  • David

    Wow! That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while. I forgive you, Steam, for selling me a copy of Half Life 2 that could only work with gigabyte size updates when I only had a 56k connection. You’re willingness to support the freedom of your users is perhaps the biggest statement for freedom of expression that I’ve seen from any tech company out there. I’m starting to think I should have brought a Vive, I apparently supported the wrong company when it came to my own fundamental values.

  • TheNexusLord

    Wait; you mean I am responsible for my own feelings and choices now, but I don’t get to inflict them on everyone else? Obviously Valve is run by racist, misogynistic, Nazi’s who deserved to be punched and fired from their jobs!
    On a more serious note, Kudos to Valve for standing up for freedom of speech and choice! ;0)

  • brubble

    Nothing spells money like this move right here. Steam is about to get over saturated with (even more) shovelware trash. Should be interesting.

  • PRGuy69

    +1 Good on you valve. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it.

  • RockstarRepublic

    At least someone standing up to those who want to censor everything that doesn’t fit within their ideological lens. Its like there’s a new wave of weird cultural Marxist puritanism, where people should not be given the choice to choose what kind of content to consume much less sell. +10 points for Valve!

  • Gato Satanista

    So, I will be able to sell my game, a sexual slave simulator VR, in Steam? Wow, that’s cool. I gonna be rich.

  • Finally

  • ummm…

    all bow to king gabe