Yesterday, Rape Day, a self-described “game where you can rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse,” raised new questions about Steam’s laissez-faire release policy. Today, Valve elected to remove it from the store.
In a post on Steam, Valve attempted to explain its decision-making around Rape Day, a game that did not cross Valve’s no-go line of “illegal, or straight up trolling,” but was nonetheless tremendously messed up, drawing widespread ire from Steam users.
“Much of our policy around what we distribute is, and must be, reactionary—we simply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct,” Valve’s Erik Johnson wrote. “We then have to make a judgement call about any risk it puts to Valve, our developer partners, or our customers. After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.”
Johnson went on to say that Valve wants to help facilitate developers expressing themselves and finding an audience, but “this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.”
It’s unclear what any of that means, or how hard-nosed fact-finding resulted in “unknown costs and risks.” Why won’t Valve talk specifically about what they found objectionable here? Was it the sexual violence, or merely the specific and cavalier way the sexual violence was presented? Did regional laws factor into this decision? Valve’s stance on sex games continues to be unclear, and while sexual violence seems a clear line to draw, a little transparency could go a long way. As is, it seems less like Valve’s vaunted “anything goes” policy is a bust. There’s still moderation, and it’s just as inconsistent as ever. If people get mad about something, it gets removed, albeit with the barest minimum of explanation. It’s good that Rape Day got the boot, but Valve’s release policy continues to be a mess.