Children are at a high risk of being exposed to sexually exploitive content on Steam.
The PC gamer website, Steam, offers entire categories of “nudity” and “sexual content” video games. These categories include over 780 video games with explicit content, featuring only mild warnings that such material “may not be appropriate for all ages, or for work.”
These games – for example, House Party – promote the dangerous misconception that sexually exploiting others is harmless and fun. Furthermore, they are in direct violation of Steam’s own policies against “pornography” or “patently offensive” content and should be removed from the Steam store.
But perhaps the most concerning problem is the age verification system for these games is dismally lacking.
These games feature only mild warnings that such material “may not be appropriate for all ages, or for work.” They often only requiring users to click “View Page” after reading a short warning, or at most to enter their birth date with no other form of verification to protect children under 18 years old.
Children can easily surpass the mild content warning by simply clicking “View Page” or at most, inserting a false date of birth.
Exposure to and participation in games filled with sexually exploitive themes or pornographic animations can be especially damaging to children.
When video games include sexually graphic and degrading themes the user is not only a voyeur but an active participant in staging the scene.
Research has demonstrated that children are more susceptible than adults to addictions and to developmental effects on the brain, making them especially vulnerable to pornography addiction.(1) Games that revolve around sexually exploiting another person, or around animated pornography, generate feelings of accomplishment or spikes of dopamine when the child is playing and winning the game.
This “trains” the child to think that these themes are harmless entertainment.
Normalizing the sexual use (and often abuse) of others in video games is irresponsible on the corporate and social level, particularly when the gamers are minors.
Take action and tell Steam to do a better job at separating the games with nudity and sexual content so that children will not be exposed to them:
(1) Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guild to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, (New York: HarperCollins, 2015); Tamara L. Doremus-Fitzwater, Elena I. Varlinskaya, and Linda P. Spear, “Motivational Systems in Adolescence: Possible Implications for Age Differences in Substance Abuse and Other Risk-Taking Behaviors,” Brain and Cognition 71, no. 1 (2010): 114–123.