Steam is banning games featuring sex and characters that look underage

Valve is cracking down on problematic sexualised content in games available via its digital distribution platform, Steam.

As part of a series of changes to remove illegal content from Steam, multiple developers are reporting that their visual novels have now been banned, particularly those with young, anime-style characters – even those purportedly of age – in games featuring nudity, sex scenes, or set in schools.

However, some developers are challenging Valve’s decisions and insisting their games are legal and age-appropriate. Top Hat Studios – which develops visual novel Cross Love – tweeted a complaint to Valve accusing the company of unfairly banning its game after receiving correspondence that alleged the game contained themes of child exploitation.

"Hey @steam_games, do you want to explain this one to us?" said the tweet, which included a photo of the email from Valve (thanks, "There is nothing in the game which could remotely be seen as having children – there are events in game which literally state the characters’ ages as being over 18."

"So either you didn’t play our game and are lying to us because you dislike the art, or you just don’t want to ship a game which contains a crossdressing dude, right? You can ship whatever you want on your platform – sure, we understand and respect that. But can you at least be honest about why you don’t want us on your platform? We’d respect that for future reference."

"I think what’s more angering is there was no compliance check," the developer later said in a reply to commenters. "They didn’t even let us just put up a SFW version – they just banned the game arbitrarily. If they just wanted us to remove content I wish they would have told us."

"Your characters are obviously underage/teenagers," argued a Twitter user. "It doesn’t matter if you say they are over 18 years old. That’s always an excuse."

Yume Creations received a similar email from Valve that informed them that Imolicious – a game featuring incest between purportedly of-age siblings, albeit wearing high school uniforms – has also been banned from the storefront. Despite appealing and submitting a revised version, the game remains banned.

“Having a disclaimer stating that a drawing is of consensual age or not is a ridiculous thing to rely upon,” one commenter said in a Steam forum thread discussing MaoMao Discovery Team (thanks, Kotaku). “At the end of the day, it is a fictional drawing that does not have an age. If you think they look too young, then they are too young. A bit of text saying ‘this person is 20′ changes nothing.”

"Steam is a major service, and we had hundreds of players looking forward to buying the game there upon release," Top Hat told Kotaku. "The game had wishlists in the thousands, and the community group had several hundred people in it. This is a very large userbase to lose out on, and it hurts us pretty bad. It’s not world ending, but it is quite the end of the year blow."

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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