Delisted from Steam, a dev asks: what counts as 'pornographic'?
"They didn’t specify anything in particular or define what they consider pornographic. I explained to them that I don’t consider the game pornographic as it’s not intended to titillate, but rather is intended to be a humorous and quirky game.."
- Excerpt of a blog post on the Eek! Games website about Valve's recent decision to remove the studio's game House Party from Steam.
Valve delisted indie outfit Eek! Games' game House Party from Steam this week, reportedly telling Eek! that it was due to a number of complaints about "pornography" in the game.
The dev has since published a lengthy blog post explaining that it is trying to work with Valve to get the game back up on Steam (it's currently for sale on itch.io), but more intriguingly, it raises an old question: what is "pornography"?
According to the game's lead developer, House Party is intended to be a satirical game; this is a common theme throughout the House Party dev blogs, and on the Eek! Patreon page it's pitched as a "throwback" to games like Leisure Suit Larry, albeit with room for players to create their own stories and import them into the game.
However, Valve -- which already has an inconsistent history of allowing "sexually explicit" games to be sold on its platform -- has reportedly told the developer it is too "pornographic" to be sold.
"Steam told me that they will re-enable the game once the pornography has been removed. They didn’t specify anything in particular or define what they consider pornographic," reads the most recent blog. "I explained to them that I don’t consider the game pornographic as it’s not intended to titillate, but rather is intended to be a humorous and quirky game. Most of the game-play revolves around solving puzzles and humorous dialogues."
But as Kotaku deftly points out, there's a lot of sexually explicit stuff going on in House Party, most notably that the player can drop the protagonist's pants at any time (via an "expose yourself" key) and freely touch other characters or remove their clothes.
Going forward, Eek! has laid plans to implement a mandatory censor bar that will appear in select in-game scenes, though the developer writes (at length) about whether or not it's hypocritical to delist some sexually explicit games while simultaneously selling others.
"I know there are many games with nudity, and there are also games with sex scenes as well, including really popular titles, so it’s all rather confusing and I don’t know exactly where the line is or what in particular I should be censoring," the post continues. "I didn’t get the impression from Steam’s representative that they wanted to remove my game, but more so that they were ill-equipped to handle the selling of that type of game on their store, that being a game with nudity and sex in it."