Last week, I reported on a visual novel called Rape Day that was listed and nearing release on Steam. The title heavily features and promotes itself on sexual violence and the exploitation of female characters. You can read the full story here, but there have been some developments since we last spoke that I feel we need to talk about and hopefully lead to a more fruitful discussion than what we normally get from ‘gaming journalist’. This will both be a news update and some commentary for that purpose and if you want to hear my full opinion on the matter, you will be able to on the VNs Now Podcast.
First and foremost, I want to address the argument that talking about this only gives the developer more attention than he deserves. To that, I agree and sympathize with to a degree. The reasons VNs Now has not splashed our stories with links of the game and barely mention that is because I don’t want to give the game any more attention than it deserves (which is currently set at zero). HOWEVER, there is a difference between focusing and reporting on the game itself and reporting on the situation. The reality is that the Valve Corporation is playing fast and loose with developers right now by being intentionally vague in what they’ll allow on the platform. I’ve discussed this strategy here, but the reasons behind it are clear: they don’t want to manage the platform. They just want you to keep giving them money and the more games on the platform, hypothetically the more money they will get.
This is not a laissez-faire policy, because Valve still interjects when it decides to, despite what they’ve told to the press and public last year. This is systematically unfair to independent developers: especially to visual novel developers who apparently have no guidelines to follow outside of the whims of Valve. This may not be bad for Valve’s business in their eyes, but it creates a situation where the reality is that Steam may not be a good platform for the medium. Hence, why I’ve been telling developers to get their products on other consoles and platforms.
Now, what about the developer himself?
After watching the developer and doing my own research in the game, it’s my personal opinion that the end goal here is not to get a quick buck and attention through controversial means. I concede that I could be wrong and that this guy just really believes in his project. However, in the last few weeks as more news outlets picked up on this story, the project’s Steam and public web page have turned from promoting the game to defending his ‘first amendment rights’: including a page linking articles that discuss violence in video games. While there are plenty of quotes on these pages that are purposely jaw-dropping, there is also one that is getting ignored by most other members of the press that I believe exposes the ruse here;
Q: I would like to play your game before it get’s banned.
A: I have not broken any rules, so I don’t see how my game could get banned unless Steam changes their policies. My game was properly marked as adult and with a thorough description of all of the potentially offensive content before the coming soon page went live on Steam.
However, if Steam does change their policy… and it is absolutely their right to do so, as a private company, I will do what I can to try and create/and or find an alternate way of selling and marketing my games.
Rape Day is so explicit there is no way Steam can say they didn’t know what it was. So, it’s very clear to anyone who pulled up the page the only way Rape Day could be on Steam is if it was approved with someone fully knowing and approving of its content OR it got on with no one checking like Steam said it would to enforce its minimally stated guidelines. Either way, Valve and its public Steam policies look like fools and they will be forced, whether they like it or not, to change their policies.
Now, with all of that said, this leads us back to Valve and what they intend to do. As of today, this story has been covered by PC Gamer, Kotaku, Polygon, GameIndustry.biz, and EuroGamer to name a few. In response, while Valve hasn’t made any public comment yet, the game’s developer has stated that the game is ‘being reviewed’ by Steam. This is CYA at its finest, but the company has already showed too much of their hand. The fact that it’s ‘being reviewed’ and not immediately removed despite being explicitly about raping women and could potentially be trolling the company means that it didn’t get through their process by happenstance. Valve approved it then and they’re trying to figure out the consequence of that approval: NOT whether or not it fits into their purported ‘guidelines’. To that end, the release of the game has been pushed back to April and the developers has stated they will not be removing any further content: deciding to ‘trust the process’.
As far as this website goes, we will continue to follow the story. As of today, Valve Corporation has not responded to our questions. In closing, though, I will repeat what I said yesterday on Twitter. If Rape Day is a game that fits within the guidelines of what Valve Corporation wants on their platform, then they should allow it to sell on Steam. As a private enterprise, that is there right and it is my responsibility as a consumer to decide what that tells me about them and Steam. As I said, I’ve been telling VN developers to avoid Steam so you can probably already imagine my opinion on it.
HOWEVER, if that is the case, the Valve also should be a responsible corporation and explain itself. Trying to shove things under the rug because you don’t want to deal with the mess you created is childish at best. EVERY developer looking at where to sell their projects need to know exactly what they’re getting with Steam and, right now, they don’t. So, it would be in Valve’s best interest to fully explain whether or not this title fits into their guidelines, how it got through if it doesn’t and what their specific guidelines are going forward. Or they could just keep playing the mud and hope gamers continue to give them their money since they’re currently the biggest market on the block.
It’s their choice. We’ll be here to report on which way they decide to go. JP3: OUT.