Is Valve the “Taste police”? – Hey.
Taimanin Asagiremoval puts question to Valve’s hands-off moderation policy.
Over a year has passedsince Valve announced it would “allow everything” short of illegal and “straight-up trolling” content on the popular Steam game distribution platform. But some adult game makers are discovering there are a few apparent unstated exceptions to this policy.
Visual novelTaimanin Asagiis the latest such game to apparently be pulled from the platform without warning this week. The “eroge” visual-novel series, which wasfirst listed on Steam last month, had all four episodes come down from the service late Tuesday,according to the SteamDB tracker.
If Steam still had explicit standards against adult content,Taimanin Asagiis definitely the kind of title you’d expect to be censored on the platform. The game’s overarching story about ninjas and demons fighting over the fate of a futuristic Tokyo society quickly devolves to a character being “captured and trained / transformed against their will into a sex slave,” according toone synopsis. Extreme scenes of nonconsensual sex and torture are apparently plentiful;Sankaku Gamer noted(NSFW) the game is known for its “colossal amount of rape scenes.”
Whileother uncensored adult games have found a home on Steamunder Valve’s “allow everything” policy,Taimanin Asagiisn’t the first erotic title to face problems on the service. In January, the developer behind puzzle-infused dating simHuniePop 2tweetedthat it would be censoring the Steam version of the game because “Valve said it was fine, but it’s become quite clear since then that it’s not.” Visual novelHello Goodbyewas alsoremoved from the platform in December, though itcame back four months laterwith “a lot of the mature content … cut out,”according to one review.
But those and other removed Steam titles may have gotten in trouble for including children (or visually child-like characters ) as romantic interests, possibly running afoul of child-pornography laws in the United States. That doesn’t seem to be an issue withTaimanin Asagi, whichfocuses on adult characters. The use of rape as a plot point doesn’t push the content into the “illegal” bucket either, ascountless examples across other mediahave shown.
And unlikeRape Day—A slapdash visual novel thatValve removed from Steam amid controversy in March– it would be hard to argue thatTaimanin Asagiis “straight-up trolling” either. Since its original Japanese release in 2005, the game has inspired a number of sequels, spin-offs, anime and manga versions, and even (a card-battle RPG) .
Specialty siteLewdGamer(extremely NSFW) went so far as to call the series a “[piece] of art that rise [s] above the rest as a face for the genre. .. a series that has grown into a flagship for both Lilith and eroge visual novels as a whole. ” Explicit content or not, this is clearly a legitimate narrative work and not a crass attempt to troll for attention or controversy.
Groping for the line
Valve doesn’t have to allow this kind of adult content on Steam, of course, no matter how much of a “flagship” it is for the adult visual-novel subgenre. As recently as last May, in fact, the company took steps toremove similar erotic visual novels from Steam, reportedlyholding up approvalsuntil developers added black “censor” bars to certain in-game scenes.
But it was the backlash against those moderation decisions that seemed to lead to Valve’s decision, just one month later, to announceits current moderation policy, which “allow [s] everything onto the Steam store, except for things that we decide are illegal or straight-up trolling.” With that, Valve declared that it is “not the taste police,” as Valve’s Jan-Peter Ewertput it last June.
That’s a defensible position for an online storefront to take, even though it comes withan implicit value judgementon what kind of content Valve wants associated with its storefront. But taking a hands-off position on moderation requiresactually keeping your hands offof adult content that some might find objectionable. Failing that, at the very least it should mean clearly communicating why certain games are removed from the service and highlighting the line between what kinds of content are and are not allowable under the current rubric.
Valve hasn ‘t responded to Ars Technica’s request for comment on this issue, so we (like many adult game makers) are stuck acting likeKremlinologistsguessing at the inner workings of Valve’s Moscow. For now, it seems that Valve will continue to “allow everything” in theory while still disallowing certain games in practice, without any clear standards to decipher those decisions.