Ever since Valve announced its new policy of not curating content on Steam, social media has been on fire.
Debates are raging about whether or not Valve is doing the right thing in allowing potentially offensive or bad taste content onto its digital distribution platform.
On one side of the debate, prominent video game designer Brenda Romero says she supports Valve in its decision to have an open platform.
I am against any form of censorship, and support Valve in having an open platform. https://t.co/hTbCbCNUX3
— Brenda Romero (@br) June 7, 2018
I reached out to Romero to see if she wanted to expand on her viewpoint.
“As a game creator, I want access to the full range of the human experience when creating a game,” Romero tells me. “I choose to leave stuff I consider hateful and horrible on the table. I don’t want Steam to make that decision for me.
“In the history of games, some of our most important works have been deemed highly offensive by broad swaths of the world. Games like GTA, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Mortal Kombat, Bully (same sex kiss), God of War (sex), The Sims (didn't allow same sex characters to become a couple in early versions). People tried to outlaw games repeatedly - Assembly member Leland Yee repeatedly attempted to classify games as harmful substances like bombs or heroin.
“Museums, art galleries, libraries, and bookstores are full of offensive content. Amazon has offensive content. Some of these institutions/companies curate in certain ways, and some do not. Supporting your right to be offensive doesn't mean I agree with your points of view. It also doesn't mean that I advocate breaking the law. Censorship historically is a reaction when an extreme example arises. But that censorship has a much wider-ranging effect.”
The counter argument to this is that Valve is not simply banning games - it is banning games from appearing on its platform. Its platform just happens to be the place 90% of potential video game consumers exist. If your game is not on Steam, you will struggle to find an audience if you are not an established name.
“Valve has said that [it] will not allow ‘things that we decide are illegal or straight up trolling,’ from their own statement,” Romero continues. “Hate speech laws exist across most of Europe and many parts of the world. I think people need to take that into context (as I am) when they think about the broader context of this issue.
“To me, it comes down to this: I may not like your game, but I support your right to make it. Since Valve controls such a huge percentage of the game ecosystem, these are non-trivial decisions.”