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May 212018
 

Near the end of last week, several visual novel developers (and developers of similar games) were told by Steam that their games would be removed from the store if they didn’t censor them.

This seemed bizarre for a number of reasons. Some of the affected games had been on Steam for years, and it’s not like they were obscure titles that somehow slipped by. HuniePop, for example, was very popular and its content could easily be checked.

Even stranger was the inclusion of Kindred Spirits on the Roof, because MangaGamer specifically worked with Valve to make sure the content was acceptable.

I haven’t played Kindred Spirits on the Roof, but I’ve gotten the impression that while there is nudity, it doesn’t show anything particularly explicit.

Now, I’ve never been quick to jump on an anti-censorship bandwagon. If companies choose to alter content or make changes for localization, I’m usually okay with that. They’re doing what they think is best for their game and its sales.

Even when visual novels are censored for Steam, I’m okay with that. In these cases there’s usually an “all-ages” version on Steam, with either an 18+ patch to download elsewhere or a separately 18+ version entirely. I play all-ages versions, and I think the compromise is fine.

But this situation just felt weird. Valve was reversing decisions it had made years ago, with no clear reason. More importantly, it wasn’t equal. If they’d sudden changed their policy and went after every game with nudity, that would be one thing. Instead, they targeted a number of visual novels, while games like The Witcher went untouched.

Why?

There’s no clear answer. The organization formerly known as Morality in Media implied they could take credit for it (while also accusing these games of being responsible for sexual assault… somehow). It also could be linked to the removal of Maidens of Michael earlier this year earlier this year, which was speculated to be caused by false reports.

Steam seems to have gotten wind that something is up. Several of the affected developers who received the warning received follow-up notices that their games will be re-reviewed.

Hopefully this means they’ll review the games, see that their content does meet Steam’s guidelines after all, and not trouble the developers further about this. On the other hand, if they do decide that these games don’t meet their new content standards, then they should apply that equally across Steam. Don’t target a niche genre while ignoring the more popular games.

(Note: I’m not advocating for censorship here, just saying that if it’s a legitimate policy shift, Steam should apply it equally.)

How do you think Steam should handle nudity and sexual content? Why do you think they targeted these visual novels? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Update: GOG has responded by opening up its store to visual novels, starting with titles from MangaGamer (including Maidens of Michael, which will be coming soon) and Sekai Project.

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