Quote of the Day – We Just Work Here

The Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate and don’t think should exist…

-Erik Johnson, Who Gets to be on the Steam Store

It has come to this.  In the face of some questions and minor controversies Valve has decided that they won’t judge what goes on their Steam service.  Aside from items that are “…are illegal, or straight up trolling…” anything goes on Steam now.

I have to admit that my initial gut reaction was one of surprise at the idea that the barrier to entry for getting a game on Steam could be any lower or, in a situation where something like 35 new titles show up on the service every day (up from 25 a day in 2017), that more titles would in any way be better for anybody.  The Steam store is already full of titles I don’t think should exists, not because they offend me, but because they are just poorly conceived and badly executed.  Adding the loathsome and offensive is not going make things better.

I suppose I can appreciate Valve’s issue.  The whole Steam thing seems to have gotten away from them.  It has gone from a service to host their games to DRM for some quality titles like Civilization V to a way for some select outsiders to get onto a popular online service to a desire to be the biggest source of unfiltered video garbage games on the internet pretty fast as the platform seems to be an unending source of success (and revenue) for Valve, to the point that they just don’t make games anymore so far as I can tell.

They’re a victim, in a way, of their own success and now the idea that they can police every bit of software is daunting as subjective decisions can’t be made by Gabe, or people who report directly to Gabe, or people who report to people who report to Gabe any more.  Now there are a bunch of people, distant from the core of the company, charged with making value judgements that no doubt vary wildly with the personal context and experience of each individual.

You probably have to either reign things in drastically or just let go at this point.

Still, I don’t buy into everything they’re saying.  This for example:

It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values

That is going to prove to be some prime, grade A bullshit in the long run.  If you sell porn, cigarettes, or alcohol in a store that you own, if you make money off of those items, while claiming that they don’t reflect your values, that is a straight up self-deluded evasion.  The owner of the store doesn’t get to distance themself from the items they sell like it was all happening to somebody else.  At best, it says that money is all you value.  Cashing the checks while saying you don’t support something is just hypocrisy.

And since Valve has pretty much declared open season for things that will offend, things that do not reflect their values, I am going to bet that somebody is even now planning to see just how far that sentiment goes.  I hesitate to speculate as to what somebody might try to pass off as a game, but somebody will come up with something so horrible that it will make the press and cast Valve in a bad light.  Some people just want to see the world burn.

And then the policy will change again.  Something will come along that will force them to change.  Something will be bad enough to cause internet level outrage and then the change will be forced upon them.  I give it until September 1, 2018 before something like that happens.

[I’m going to put that in my calendar so I can come back to it if I am wrong.]

In the mean time, if I were running Origin, and I could get my mind off of how to screw over the customers for just a bit, I might think about running some easy ads about how “family friendly” the service is relative to the cesspool that is Steam.

I might even think about really pushing a 3rd party program for the service with an eye to maybe poaching some studios from Steam with the promise of both not being lost in the forest of endless titles and being on a wholesome service that doesn’t include whatever edge cases people are going to try to push onto Steam now.

It has come to this, a viable plan to push Origin as a good alternative to Steam.

I will say, if nothing else, that Valve has shown itself to be adaptable in the past and generally doesn’t double down on decisions that go bad.  They might change course before the inevitable bad press, like when they really get down to having to decide what is illegal in every jurisdiction they serve, a problem they cop to in that blog post as well.  It might end up being better to just make some value judgements, protect the brand, and not try to be the sales point for all possible video games.

Also posting about this news from Steam:

 

23 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – We Just Work Here

  1. keenandgraev

    I honestly haven’t a clue what they’re trying to do. As you point out, they aren’t protecting their brand at all. It screams of hypocrisy. I thought for a second that maybe they’re trying to avoid a headline for blocking free speech. But they’ve opened themselves up to making headlines for selling games where people shoot up schools.

    I’m just shaking my head right now.

    You’re absolutely right that this will change, whether it be from damaging their brand or losing market share. It’ll happen for some reason.

    Until then, I’ve been spending more time on GOG’s Galaxy platform. Graev and I have a collection there now of over 280 games. Even EA has lured me back with lots of free offerings and content on Origin. The vultures are circling.

    Like

  2. tws029

    So, will uou vote with your wallet and not buy games? Stesm has a manopoly, for the most part. Hete in Toronto, the EB Games / GamecStop’s rarely give PC games wall space. What about the small studios?

    I don’t know what the answer to this is but I do know that it’s already hard to find stuff on Steam.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @tws029 – I already vote with my wallet by not purchasing 99.9% of the games on Steam, even when they are marked down more than 50%.

    The argument you seem to be making is that if a developer cannot get on Steam then they cannot make a living, which I do not agree with. I know it only seems like a small number of studios can make money independently, but looking at the statistics on Steam, only a small number of developers end up making money there either. Go look at this presentation about the reality of Steam:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rp1UcpI_96IeiXAAMRwAFjPWw9O6dNFE/view

    Getting your game on there is nothing like a guarantee that anybody will buy it or that you’ll make any money for your effort.

    Steam does make me uncomfortable when I think too hard about it. I don’t like that one company can essentially turn off access to a majority of the games I own now and I have only come to some amount of peace with the whole thing because Steam has tried to be good to its customers. Also, there are not a lot of viable options. GoG isn’t bad, I have a few games from them, but their catalog isn’t all I want, while the options from EA and Microsoft are both essentially putting myself at the whims of corporate giants with long records of bad behavior.

    So, like you, I don’t know the answer to all of that. I do feel pretty strongly though that they are not going to be able to stay the course on rejecting only games that are “illegal, or straight up trolling” from their catalog in the long term.

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  4. Jeromai

    Funny, I read the whole statement as basically saying, “We’re going to continue with what we’ve been doing. We reserve veto rights to reject anything we want under the label of illegal or trolling. As for anything else you may not like that you find on Steam, too bad for you, we’re not going to waste our time mollifying you. Oh, and please do not take any controversial games you find as reflective of our company’s values as a whole.”

    Which is all very well, but that last bit is going to be completely ignored by any groups with an agenda. With the power of media the way it is… that part’s not too likely to end well.

    But I’ll be very very happy if they can waste less time policing games and spend more actually effective time helping us to a) filter games we want to see or not see, and b) categorize and organize and utilize our games collection in more flexible ways. My Steam collection is a mess. And the lil recent event they had to revisit unplayed games was a neat idea that can be expanded on.

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  5. tithian

    So basically nothing’s changing, other than the wording of the official policy. Oh and now they won’t censor hentai games.

    “So, will you vote with your wallet and not buy games? Steam has a monopoly, for the most part. Here in Toronto, the EB Games / GameStop rarely give PC games wall space. What about the small studios?”

    Utter BS. If you (as a studio) produce a quality indie game, you are better off selling it on your own website or someplace like GOG, rather than having it drown in the garbage heap that is Steam releases. The fact that they allow literally anything to get published there has removed the platform’s core feature: to easily find good games.

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  6. zubonganai

    To borrow a phrase from a different industry: “a good library has something to offend everyone.”

    Like

  7. SynCaine

    Are we pretending that prior to this policy change, Steam WASN’T already littered with garbage? They initially approved (and I think later took down) a school shooter simulator that came out like last week. What, now under this new policy we will get multiple school shooter simulators per week. Maybe even one with nudity? Oooh nooz…

    At the same time, does the garbage honestly bother anyone but someone looking to grind an ax? Do people have trouble finding games on Steam? Both from the perspective of “I can’t find something new to play that I like” and “I’ve heard about this indie game, how can I find it on Steam”? Because if either applies to you, Steam isn’t the root of the problem.

    Finally, EA/Origin trying to market themselves as the ‘family friendly’ or ‘honest’ version of Steam and people buying that is too funny. It’s already pre-crime if someone uses Origin without a gun to their head, now more normal people are going to choose it over Steam? Ha.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – “Are we pretending that prior to this policy change, Steam WASN’T already littered with garbage?”

    Are we pretending to read things since I clearly pointed that out? I mean I actually left the word “garbage” in a paragraph with a line through it. Seriously, we are in violent agreement on that point. Admit it.

    And are you (and Jeromai and Tithian) actually stating that there is nothing more offensive that could appear on the service than already exists there? Or are you suggesting that Steam didn’t actually have a content moderation policy so they wrote a long blog post to do… what? Like I said myself in this post, the bar was already low. By saying it won’t be there at all do you think somebody out there won’t take that as a challenge? I am actually rooting for somebody to, and not just because of my prediction, but just to point out to Valve that they cannot absolve them of any association with what they sell.

    As for Origin, yeah, you and I have strong opinions about EA. Again, I think I injected my view in that first paragraph. But we’re the outliers, the weirdos who pay attention to this stuff. I chose Origin as an extreme, yet not completely unrealistic case. It could Be GoG or Microsoft or Apple making that play.

    @zubonganai – Certainly. Huckleberry Finn offends regularly. Most of the works of Kurt Vonnegut offend somebody. I’ve read about how offensive To Kill a Mockingbird and Heart of Darkness are from people I weren’t sure got what the books were really about. War and Peace is offensively long and boring yet regarded as a classic. But your local library probably still won’t have a copy of something like The Turner Diaries on the shelf or copies of Hustler in the periodicals in the name of letting you choose what you want to read. If you want that you have to go use their computers to find it on the web.

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  9. coppertopper

    Erik Johnson seems to be summing up an internal discussion as much as responding to their recent banning then unbanning of games featuring anime boobs. And of course the school shooting sim which proves Valve hasn’t had a vetting process in place for awhile now given the timing of that one.

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  10. SynCaine

    Honestly whats the most offensive thing you can imagine that’s not illegal (I’d be against a ‘game’ that assists in real-life child trafficking for instance, but that example is still against the rules Steam will have in place) that, if it was on Steam, would really bother you?

    Because I can’t think of an example where I would see something and get so worked up I’d want Valve to step in. Is a school shooting simulator bad taste? Absolutely. Does it bother me that it’s on Steam? Nope, both because I won’t see it when browsing Steam (unless it sells well, and it won’t even in a world that elected Trump), and even if I do see it, it’s still harmless garbage (unless you are a believing in the whole ‘videogames create real-life killers’, which, you know, has been proven to be rather false in studies).

    Steam isn’t suddenly going to start selling, say, cigarettes that get you hooked and will negatively impact your health, all while hiding those facts from you. It’s a store that sells videogames. One that is already overflowing with both good and terrible games, while at the same time being the absolute best thing to happen to gaming overall since Pacman.

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – I hesitated to provide extreme examples because as dark as they might be, I usually find that my own dark thoughts are charmingly naive compared to what I find elsewhere on the internet if I choose to look.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I personally cannot come up with something that would make me lead a public campaign against Valve. But that is not the point, and it isn’t even an avenue that I suggested. I am pretty blasse on the whole thing, my main take away being pretty much “Great, even more garbage on Steam.”

    My suggestion was that there will now be something that Steam might have otherwise rejected that will make somebody lead such a campaign. We both live on the internet, we have seen the outrage machine get rolling over some pretty trivial bullshit. That outrage will be such that it will make Valve change its policy yet again. And they should change it, because their rationalization that they don’t endorse things they sell is paper thin and taking the amoral stance will burn them in the end.

    I am not saying I want this to happen and I am certainly not going to lift a finger to make it happen, I just expect that it will happen.

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  12. zubonganai

    @Wilhelm: I’m not familiar with The Turner Diaries, but a quick check tells me 10 libraries in my state have it, and almost any library can get it through interlibrary loan. Technically, my local library probably does not have a copy, but they are part of a network that can get it for you.

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  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Zubonganai – Color me surprised. Our library system doesn’t even list it and I tried LA County library and, while the acknowledge it exists, they say no copies are available in any library. If you looked it up on Wikipedia and saw what it was about, and who it inspired, you might be a bit concerned if it was sitting on the shelf at your local library. I wouldn’t start protesting if it was, but I’m not sure I’d have to.

    Still no Hustler in the periodicals though, right?

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  14. Mbp

    I predict this approach will cause problems fit Valve unless they fix their laughable age verification system. Without a defensible age verification system they are open to challenge, possibly lethal challenge, every time they publish a game with naughty bits.

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  15. SynCaine

    Just read the wiki on that book, what a ride. Thing is though, I don’t believe such a book converts anyone into a racist. I’m pretty sure if you read that and agree with it, you were already a racist to begin with.

    Similarly, I saw the movie Imperium, which has somewhat similar elements (wiki even mentions it). Surprise, I’m not suddenly plotting a racist murder rampage, nor would I argue we should ban the movie.

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  16. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – I agree, the way I agree that shooter games don’t make mass shooters but that people prone to be mass shooters are drawn to shooter games while the rest of us just see it as entertainment.

    And, being something of a free speech maximalist, I don’t think the government should ban books. Germany banned it, but they have some sins still haunting them, so they don’t just have to be good, they have to be seen to be doing good. Canada banning it though? If we banned it here, which would be unconstitutional, it would only give fans of the book another reason to claim they are oppressed by society.

    But I am not sure my local library should expend its limited budget and resources to stock what is essentially white nationalist wet dream fanfic on the shelf. I’ve read some of it, thanks to an old co-worker who thought I was like him, so brought me his copy to read… in a brown paper bag, like it was porn. (And hey, I didn’t blow up any government buildings. Go me.) It is all you expect and more… or less, depending on your metaphor.

    I’m not even sure how a library would order it, since they tend to only go through distributors and pay with purchase orders, as opposed to sending money orders to seedy publishers with post office box addresses. It is the sort of thing I think you ought to keep in a university library for grad students to study. But in a world where all of the books I mentioned in a previous comment (except for War and Peace, which was just me being annoyed at Tolstoy after having tried to read that damn book again) have been called to be banned from public libraries in various communities, I find it odd that the biggest controversy about The Turner Diaries in public libraries is whether to put it in fiction under the author’s real name or the pen name under which he wrote it.

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  20. Shintar

    It’s interesting to see how far they’ve fallen from “Good Guy Valve”. While they tried to spin this as being generously inclusive, they are basically saying that they are willing to make money off anything as long as it’s not illegal. Regardless of any specific game causing controversy, that sort of attitude generally doesn’t make for a good look.

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  21. HarbingerZero

    “If you sell porn, cigarettes, or alcohol in a store that you own, if you make money off of those items, while claiming that they don’t reflect your values, that is a straight up self-deluded evasion. The owner of the store *doesn’t get to distance themself from the items they sell like it was all happening to somebody else.* At best, it says that money is all you value. Cashing the checks while saying you don’t support something is just hypocrisy.”

    Yes they do. They do it all the time, and nothing said here or anywhere else will change that. They do so at a cost mind you, but the cost is a tacit acknowledgement of being hypocrites. Which is not really much of a cost at all, since every person who draws breath in this world is a hypocrite in some way.

    Also, I didn’t read deep enough into the comments thread to see who brought up libraries, but that is a fundamentally flawed comparison between a public utility operated for the common good and a private company operated for profit.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Esteban

    While it’s demonstrably true that media don’t make [insert something monstrous here], there is evidence that media can radicalise and embolden. Finding a group that agrees with you (and of course the Internet made that massively easier) or an authoritative source that echoes the rubbish already in your head (such as a published novel, bonus points if it’s one “they” tried to ban) increases considerably the chance that you’ll actually do more than just seethe quietly in the basement. Normalisation isn’t just some fancy campus-leftie buzzword, it’s a genuine psychological phenomenon.

    So, I wish Valve had at least kept up the pretence of curation. While the number of video games on the platform has exploded, it’s still nowhere near the number of, say, monetised YouTube videos, and acting on user reports to take down the worst of the lot would not be prohibitively difficult. Taking a stand on this would in itself be something of a deterrent, while I agree entirely that pretending to be content-agnostic will not fly and opens up an attack angle for a competitor.

    Which is not such a bad thing. It is high time that Steam got some credible competitors.

    Liked by 2 people

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