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).
“[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
- 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.
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.