UPDATE 6/8/18: A month after Steam told select game developers to pull sexual content from their game they have reversed their stance and created a new policy to “allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation denounces this decision in light of the rise of sexual violence and exploitation games being hosted on Steam.
In our current #MeToo culture, Steam made a cowardly choice to shirk its corporate and social responsibility to remove sexually violent and exploitive videogames from its platform.
The Original Problem:
Steam® is a popular distribution platform, owned by Valve Corporation, which sells thousands of video games for PC, Mac, Linux box, mobile device, or even televisions, in addition to connecting gamers with community forums on its website.
Despite hosting approximately 35 million users who are minors, Steam also facilitates video games that promote themes of sexual violence, exhibitionism, and rape.
When videogames include sexually graphic and degrading themes the user is not only a voyeur but an active participant in staging the scene. As our society suffers from the consequences of campus sexual assault, military sexual assault, and rising child-on-child sexual abuse, we see that normalizing the sexual use (and often abuse) of others in videogames is irresponsible on the corporate and social level.
Recommended Policy and Platform Improvements
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation urges Steam® and its parent company Valve® to do the following:
1) Remove the game House Party due to its singularly degrading and exploitive themes.
2) Create an 18+ category on its website where all games with any amount of nudity or sexual content are stored. All accounts should have this 18+ category disabled by default, and require an extensive opt-in to view it so that children are no longer automatically exposed to this content.
3) Institute a more robust policy enforcement against selling games that normalize or glamorize sexual exploitation in the future, no matter the age of the user.
Hey @steam_games protect kids. Create an opt-in 18+ category, so they're not automatically exposed to sexually graphic games. #parentingtips #onlinesafety Click To Tweet .@steam_games please remove the game House Party - black bars over the nudity are not enough - this game is all about coercing or tricking women into sex. #parentingtips #onlinesafety #videogames Click To Tweet .@steam_games please become a leader against sexual exploitation and remove games with sexually graphic content! They often promote rape myths, sexual coercion, and objectification! #videogames Click To Tweet
Gamified Sexual Violence
The House Party ‘hook up’ game on Steam literally trains its users in predatory tactics for sexual assault, and even sex trafficking, which plague real, living people offline in high schools, universities, military bases, and more.
The game includes disturbing features that allow users to increase their odds of ‘having sex’ with a woman in the game if they manipulate and coerce women into sex acts. Different game scenarios include blackmail using nude pictures, increasing women’s alcohol consumption, impersonating a friend through text, and jamming a woman’s cell phone reception to isolate her in a room away from other party goers. Users ‘win’ the game by having sex with women at the party. The sexual encounters are blatant animated pornography, featuring genitalia, ejaculation, and more.
While this game is the most graphic and disturbing game of sexual coercion that we’ve found on Steam, there are many more games which feature the same themes.
Hundreds of Games Featuring Sexual Content Accessible to Children
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, Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya, Super Star, Porno Studio Tycoon and more – 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.
In addition to this, 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. 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.
Opening the Door to Hosting Virtual Reality Pornography
Steam sells sexually charged virtual reality games which are used with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift equipment.
While Steam so far does not host hardcore pornographic virtual reality video games, it hosts an increasing number of highly sexually charged virtual reality games, which feature nudity and crude depictions of sexual scenarios. Given ever-increasing technological advances which will make hardcore pornographic VR content easier to produce in upcoming years, Steam is opening a door to future increasingly graphic sexual VR games.
Recognition of Recent Improvements by Steam
We are aware that Steam recently added censor-patches onto the House Party game. But developers of the game have stated that “the entire story of the game is 100 percent intact… and there have been no changes made to the content of the game.”
The only edit to the game is that the sex acts have been partially blocked with black bars. This is not a solution. The entire theme of the House Party game is to normalize and instruct its users as a virtual how-to manual of sex crimes and misogyny and this theme is not negated with the simple addition of a black bar.
We recognize that Steam also barred adults-only games from sharing official patches to uncensor their games. This is a step forward, but it must be codified with the below improvements in order to reach a holistic solution.
Recommended Policy and Platform Improvements
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation urges Steam® and its parent company Valve® to remove the game House Party due to its singularly degrading and exploitive themes. We ask that Steam creates an 18+ category on its website all games with any amount of nudity or sexual content are stored. All accounts should have this 18+ category disabled by default, and require an extensive opt-in to view it so that children are no longer automatically exposed to this content. Finally, we also call for more robust policy enforcement against selling games that normalize or glamorize sexual exploitation in the future, no matter the age of the user.
Learn About Parental Controls on Steam
By default, when a person sets up a Steam account they have full access to see advertisements for every kind of game, including those with sexual content, which puts the burden on families to avoid sexually exploitive material on Steam.
In addition to asking Steam to improve that current policy, you can learn about the existing parental controls to keep your child safe.
Email Steam Executives
Share your STORY
Personal stories help elected and business leaders to see the grave harm associated with this material and can be very helpful in getting them to change their policies. All will be shared anonymously. Please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A month after Steam told select game developers to pull sexual content from their game they have reversed their stance and created a new policy to “allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” The National Center on Sexual Exploitation denounces this decision in light […]
We will continue to fight and educate everyone about the serious harms of videogames that include sexual graphic and degrading themes. These video games present a serious issue because users become active participants in these scenes that promote themes of sexual violence, exhibitionism, and rape.
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