After a lengthy back-and-forth with developers of sexual and pornographic games last year, Valve relaxed Steam’s censorship policies to allow anything that’s not “illegal, or straight up trolling.” That policy was put to a significant test earlier this week when people began to notice a game called Rape Day among list of Steam’s upcoming titles – a game which promised to allow players to rape and murder women in the lawless context of an apocalyptic setting.
The game immediately gained notoriety among gaming press outlets, and that led to petitions for Rape Day to be removed from Steam and coverage from mainstream outlets. Today, Valve has issued a blog post which confirms that Rape Day will not be released on Steam.
“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 writes. “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.”
Additionally, Valve says “We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find 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.”
In one post to the game’s Steam page, the developer suggests that the game will find an audience among sociopaths, saying “4% of the general population are sociopaths and the type of people that would be entertained by a story like this is not even limited to pure sociopaths.”
In another comment on the game’s official site, the developer comments on the removal of a scene featuring a baby being killed, saying “I am learning to find my artistic balance between producing the games I love, and not causing avalanches of outrage.”
Sexual assault is not an uncommon theme in pornography, and – as in Steam’s stated rules – its depiction in that context is not illegal, either. Existing sex games on Steam already feature depictions of sexual assault, like Niplheim’s Hunter – which lets the player put the central female character into “heat” to draw the attention of aroused monsters.
Similarly, a hentai game called Mirror – which is wildly popular and was the second best-reviewed game on Steam last year – features plenty of options to inflict non-consensual BDSM on a variety of female characters.
But neither of those games put “rape” in the title or promise to let players rape and murder their way through a roster of women as part of their headline pitch. Whether there’s a line between Rape Day and those other games could be a point of contention – and it’s debate Valve has cornered itself into by opening up the platform to porn in all its myriad forms.
Cynically, you could suggest that Valve’s only taking action on Rape Day because of the controversy it’s generated, and the company’s vague statement on its removal does little to dispel that idea.