This is the correct way to publicly respond to SJW demands and it is the right and reasonable attitude for companies in the game industry to take. It is encouraging to see Steam take the lead on this by comprehensively rejecting SJW demands.
Recently there’s been a bunch of community discussion around what kind of games we’re allowing onto the Steam Store. As is often the case, the discussion caused us to spend some time examining what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could be doing it better. Decision making in this space is particularly challenging, and one that we’ve really struggled with. Contrary to many assumptions, this isn’t a space we’ve automated – humans at Valve are very involved, with groups of people looking at the contents of every controversial title submitted to us. Similarly, people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups. Nope, it’s just us grappling with a really hard problem.
Unfortunately, our struggling has resulted in a bunch of confusion among our customers, developer partners, and even our own employees. So we’ve spent some time thinking about where we want to be on this, and we’d like to talk about it now. But we also think it’s critical to talk about how we’ve arrived at our position, so you can understand the trade-offs we’re making.
The challenge is that this problem is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content. Instead, it’s about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics – politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on. In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games – like what even constitutes a “game”, or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.
Common questions we ask ourselves when trying to make decisions didn’t help in this space. What do players wish we would do? What would make them most happy? What’s considered acceptable discussion / behavior / imagery varies significantly around the world, socially and legally. Even when we pick a single country or state, the legal definitions around these topics can be too broad or vague to allow us to avoid making subjective and interpretive decisions. The harsh reality of this space, that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad.
In addition, Valve is not a small company – we’re not a homogeneous group. The online debates around these topics play out inside Valve as well. We don’t all agree on what deserves to be on the Store. So when we say there’s no way to avoid making a bunch of people mad when making decisions in this space, we’re including our own employees, their families and their communities in that.
So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. 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.
With that principle in mind, we’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see.
Give people control over what they want to see, but otherwise stay out of it. That’s the best approach for large corporations to take, although they’re still going to have to get rid of their internal SJWs if they want to avoid eventual convergence. It’s good to see the game industry refusing to back down despite the near-total convergence of the so-called games media.