Despite a flood of fake games, there’s no denying Valve’s Greenlight community service is pretty damn cool. With the ability for any dev, no matter their size, to submit their game, and then get voted on by the community itself, Greenlight’s a fantastic tool to help good games which a wider audience, and in turn deliver more sales back to the developers.
That is, assuming Valve thinks your game passes muster.
Seduce Me is one such game that’s fallen foul of Steam’s terms of service, and has subsequently been banned. If you go to the game’s Greenlight page, you’ll find the following grim announcement.
“This item has been banned for either violating the Steam Terms of Service or the Terms of Service for Greenlight.”
Basically, as Valve says, “Your game must not contain offensive material or violate copyright or intellectual property rights.” So, you’re probably wondering: just what does Seduce Me contain? Well, to be terse, naked bits, sexual acts, and fetish play.
Seduce Me is a basically a dating simulator; well, actually, more of a pick-up simulator, if you want to be blunt about it. The game features still art and text, and places you in the villa of some rich beautiful woman, surrounded by other rich and/or indulgent beautiful women, and with your pick of who to, well... close escrow with, if you take my meaning.
To my knowledge, sex and sleaze (although, really, the art's kinda... classy, for, uh, porn) has not yet been copyrighted, so no doubt Valve’s taken one look at the game and erred on the side of thinking at least someone would call it as ‘offensive material’.
"Many people still view games as 'for children' in spite of the fact that the average gamer is 30 years old." said Miriam Bellard, of the game’s developer, No Reply Games. "The gaming establishment is fine with violence and gore but is uncomfortable with sexual themes."
Which is a very good point. It’s like that scene in Apocalypse Now, where the insane General Kurtz ponders “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it's obscene!”
The game, it appears, caused quite a debate on Greenlight. "The game was up for a short while (just under an hour I think), and was being voted on," she told us. "There was strong opinion on either side, with a fiery debate in the comments section and the votes were split almost 50/50 for and against."
It was soon after that the game was taken down.
Steam has quite a problem here. It’s just the delivery boy, to continue the Apocalypse Now metaphors; the real problem is the wide range of markets Steam sells into, like Australia, for instance; and it’s even more complex in a submission-based, community-driven environment such as Greenlight. If you allow material like Seduce Me onto Greenlight, you pretty much need to age-gate it and get really serious with your moderation; can you imagine moderating comments on material that includes lines like “Lilia, standing over the busy and rather handsome boy, found herself flushed with arousal.”
Not to mention redacted and pixelated - but rather obvious - renderings of heterosexual coitus.
As Miriam said, debate was heated, and having seen a few of those myself, I can imagine there were RTMs flying thick and fast, and it was probably just easier to can the whole thing.
Yeah, I kinda don’t blame Valve. But that’s not to say that Miriam Bellard doesn’t have a point; rather, it’s just that, in the same way a lot of video stores and online services do not sell hardcore porn, a mainstream gaming service like Steam won’t do it either. It’s just not appropriate.
Many makers of porn have found excellent solutions to this; it’s a mega-industry after all, and for each flavour of the sexual rainbow you can find dedicated publishers and online stores. If erotic gaming is going to find a market – and let’s face it, the market’s out there – it’s in banding together to create dedicated adult gaming portals, much like RedTube or a million other adult and specialist sites.
There certainly is a place for this kind of game – I mean, if you look at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, as pulpy as it is, there’s obviously a place for the gaming equivalent, though I'd like to think it wouldn't be quite so... crap.
But I think it’s fair for Steam to pass on it.
PS: Does anyone else think the villa looks like one of the levels out of BF3: Close Quarters? Man, the next time I play that map it's gonna be weird.