Jaggy's Corner! - Sunday June 10

Steam released a blog post about their new direction with respect to its store. Let's break down the post.

Note from Editor: No links in this opinion have been embedded so you know exactly where the below mentioned URLs are taking you.
 

New Policy

June 6th marked the day where Steam addressed what games will be allowed on their platform. You can check it out here https://store.steampowered.com/news/?feed=steam_blog but I'll summarize some of what is said and reflect upon it. Let's face it, the post brings up many questions and concerns.

Pros
  • Allows freedom for game developers to launch their games without a long Greenlight process
  • Let's users curate their own game choices by using various tools (for example: the 'not interested' button)
  • Steam gets to negate or avoid potential legal battles with game developers by opening the floodgates
  • Steam employees will have more time to develop better tools to help developers and users make gaming decisions

Cons
  • Possibility of young people seeing content not suitable for their age/maturity level
  • Could destroy jobs at Steam because there are less jobs required for curation
  • Incomplete games could be released on the platform
  • Possibility of the Greenlight system collapsing (because that was the primary way that indie devs created presence for their games)
  • Clear lines need to be drawn on what games will be deemed illegal and/or trolling

In the above post, Steam acknowledged that legality is difficult to determine and decided that it wasn't their job to curate games. As a result, there are two camps regarding Steams' new open arms policy.

Either gamers want the freedom to access any game on the market or they are extremely salty.

Many gamers jumped into the ring, arguing for access to pornographic games, however, many are forgetting that those aren't the only types of game that will now be permitted. So long as a game isn't deemed illegal or trolling, many titles will launch on Steam like games that cover controversial topics such as politics, sexuality, gender, and racism. These will get a free pass. What's worse than that is games that don't even fall under the definition of a game can also be released. How about terribly done asset flippers? Apparently, the general populous of gamers don't care about any of that. They only care about, and are excited for, sexually explicit games - as if they couldn't find these games in other places.

That says a lot, doesn't it?

Question about Steam

One could argue that Steam has never been great with its curation or direction. Steam reviews still end up being heaping piles of garbage, making consumers wonder whether or not this new direction will force game review to be more integral in buying decisions.  

I get it. Curation on Steam, through their needlessly borked Greenlight system, has been spotty at best. As a result, I have a ton of questions like:
  • What will happen to your Greenlight system?
  • Are these games still going to be curated if Greenlight continues to exist?
  • What happens with badly ported games? Do we rely on that two hour refund policy and hope Steam honors their own agreement?
  • With respect to adult games, how will they be regulated so that young viewers aren't exposed to the content without proper parental consent?
  • Why couldn't you launch a new platform specifically designed for more mature titles?
  • Will Steam continue with the date of birth feature as adequate protection or will there be better ways to protect our families?
  • Will the controversial content be hidden in any way?
  • Will the controversial content be featured on the front page?
  • What 'tools' are you talking about in your blog post? Wouldn't you release those tools before opening the floodgates?
  • Will games like Conan Exiles be re-classified? How about Hunie Pop or the Sakura Games?
  • Will you release adult content games with a filter like you have in the past?
  • How will you determine 'illegal or trolling' content? Are we talking about murder and prostitution? Do most games suddenly fear getting the boot? (Oh wait.. we aren't curating anymore...)
  • What do you constitute as trolling? Do you mean parody games like some of the presidential games offered on Steam?
  • What will you do about hate speech content?
  • What will Steam do about games being review bombed for any game that gets released on the platform? 

Legalities

In the passage below, I have a ton of other questions like, who's definition of 'illegal' are you going by? Because yes, each place in the world has socially acceptable behaviors that other places deem illegal. For example, did you know that rape is legal in some countries? How about the places where women or gender fluid persons have no legal rights? Did you know that people in the Netherlands tend to be racist? (I'm not saying everyone in the country is racist, I'm simply saying that it is a well known issue.)

The reason why laws are broad is because law is not meant to be black and white! Having gone to school for law, I can tell you that legal decisions are challenging due to a variety of factors (no matter what type of law we look at). The fact that law is not a cut and dry system is actually a good thing. And while I'd love to give examples, I won't because of time constraints and confidentiality.

"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." 

Trolling Content

Now that we dealt with the illegal question, what do you deem to be trolling content?

I ask that question because I'm a Twitch chat moderator. After years of doing this, I've had several discussions with other moderators about what should be timed out and what shouldn't. One of the channels that I used to moderate for had a ton of people trolling in chat. Myself and one of the other moderators deemed the comments to be hindering the chat experience, so we timed it out. Later we were chewed out by the streamer because of our actions. This situation presented a couple of interesting questions like what do people consider to be trolling? And when does trolling become an issue? How can you viably determine what trolling is without some kind of guideline? Does Steam even have a game plan for determining that?

Personally, I'm having an extremely hard time thinking about what Steam does from here without running into much more backlash. So far, the blog post isn't reassuring.

LGBT Content

Through a friend, I was informed that while Steam has opted to allow any kind of content, they have also restricted access to others. As labeled above, I'm referring to the LGBT content on Steam. When I looked up the tag for LGBT content, I found two pages worth of games. However, none of the games have the LGBT tag which used to be available. That's right, Steam has decided to censor its content anyways. So, they'll let anything get on their platform but will hide it. No. They aren't curating content at all... They said it in the blog post, therefore it must be true.

The first result in my search is disturbingly this title: https://store.steampowered.com/app/874100/LGBT_BATTLEGROUNDS/

It's appalling that they are allowing a battle royale game with all gay characters because the whole purpose of a battle royale game is to be the last one standing. In effect, this game is telling players they have to kill all other gays to win. WTF STEAM?! Who decided this was acceptable? Even still, who made this decision prior to the new policy? What kind of curation did you have before that would allow such a game? ARGH!

Oh, but don't worry fellow gamers, Steam has other LGBT content available! Let's take a look at the other titles shall we? How about 'Your Royal Gayness'... I'm skeptical about it but I take a look at the store page anyways. And instead of giving you an impression without playing the title, I'll leave you with one reviewers comments. I quite literally don't have words.
"MARRIAGE/ROMANCE - I HATED the 'are you acting straight enough' meter. It was gross. I don't know why not a single person on the development team went 'maybe this perpetuates stereotypes/might hurt people who face this very real fear of getting disowned/beaten/killed if they don't act straight enough.' And there was no romance at all. Like, one prince showed up, but I couldn't impress him because I didn't have enough Nerve."
You can't see me, but I'm making an angry face.

What Now?

Assuming our readers don't want to give more money to a platform that no longer curates their content, here is a list of other platforms where games can be purchased or played on:

Keep in mind that the above options have pros and cons. Origin is a platform developed by EA. Uplay is developed by Ubisoft. Both of them have questionable reputations, but I'm not here to tell you what to do. These are simply alternative platforms to Steam.

Gamers can also buy directly from the developer websites. If there are indie developers you want to support, some use Kickstarter. Again, do some research before backing an undeveloped project. This has also had dicey results.

Another option is to attend gaming events where players can interact directly with indie developers. Sometimes they have free codes to give out.

There is one more site I can think of which provides a different sale on a game each day and that is https://chrono.gg

If you are looking specifically for LGBT friendly games, here are a couple of useful links:

The power is in your hands. If you no longer wish to support Steam, then find other ways to support your favorite developers. If you decide to remain on the platform, know the risks. Watch Let's Players or Twitch Streams to get an indication before purchasing a game. Consider reading various reviews from respected sources. The information is out there. Use it to your advantage.

Final Thoughts

Steam's official blog post does paint a terrible picture, in my opinion. Those who have used the platform for long periods of time have been burned before. And the fact that Steam is going to place the onus on the consumer to cover their own assess does not mean that Steam, as the largest game distribution center, gets to absolve themselves of consumer responsibility.

I understand that there is a lot of pressure to do right by all parties, but I honestly doubt this was the right way of going about it. While I'm all for freedom of choice, I don't think that opening the floodgates is best for consumer retention. By allowing a free reign system, Steam gives the impression that it doesn't matter how poor a game is, intent is to make more money.

Steam would have been better suited revising their greenlight system in a more favorable way to game developers without doing a disservice to the consumer. Furthermore, they could have designed a similar platform specifically for mature content. Those two ideas would have gained the industry's respect and would have maintained Steams' integrity.

At first glance, it seems that Steam is looking for an easy way out from making difficult decisions. They are sick and tired of battling game developers and consumers on what games should be allowed. And, instead of setting certain standards, they are effectively allowing users to become the scapegoats.

Don't just take my word for it. Jim Sterling released a video where he rants about the decision. Parents take note, he doesn't hold back. Check that out



Until next time.

Article by Susan N.
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