Image: CD Projekt RED, Flickr

Gamers keep on grinding, in an uncensored Steam

To the shock, and rightly so, horror of the gaming community, a recent change to the tools and filters on Steam has paved the way for uncensored video games to appear on the Steam website. Men shield your women’s eyes. Women hold tightly to your children. Children look into your parent’s eyes with expressions of reassurance and hope. For the floodgates have already been besieged by the game studio Dharker with their episodic journey of sin: Negligee: Love Stories.

In truth, upon further investigation the sexual content of this, ahem, “visual novel”, may very well be its most innocuous element. Yes the Barbie-esque anime girls may be eye-roll inducing, and the story is far from Oscar-worthy, but it may be the “pressured sexual relationships”, “themes related to sex workers” and “themes related to abusive marriages” are but a few aspects of the game its website advertises. If you must criticise this video game perhaps you should look to these elements, rather than its tendency to show pornographic material.

Laissez-faire attitude to censorship could, theoretically, facilitate an influx of pornographic material

Valve executive Erik Johnson justified this recent move with a post to the Steam Blog: “We’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” This laissez-faire attitude to censorship could, theoretically, facilitate an influx of pornographic material that will engulf the Steam marketplace. Yet, it seems unlikely, especially as there are (apparently) other sites on the internet dedicated to such material. Perhaps most important, however, we must also consider the alternative, the censorship of sexual content in video games.

At one extreme, some level of censorship must have been behind the sexual content of Road to Hell Retribution. Surely it couldn’t have been a creative decision to feature repeated scenes in which vacant mannequins grind against each other fully clothed. Those scenes will haunt me more than any penis ever could.

Video games aren’t exactly the bastion of realistic, or indeed even human-like, representations of sex

Of course, video games aren’t exactly the bastion of realistic, or indeed even human-like, representations of sex. Mass Effect tends to stick with stylistic fades to black before things get too X-rated, while Heavy Rain drags you through uncomfortable bra unclipping quick time events. Meanwhile, Fable 2 makes a better case for abstinence with its West Country accents than any Texan mega-church leader. The Witcher 3 may systematically undermine a vast array of its female cast by reducing them to sexual objects, but at the very least the sex scenes appear to be between two living, breathing humans. Sex scenes will always be in video games, so frankly I’m in favour of encouraging them so that technological development on this one element may one day reach a point where they don’t usually remind me of sandpaper rubbing against wooden blocks.

So thank you Valve. For now, you may be considered a joke for allowing unrated content onto Steam, but perhaps one day you will be considered the father of non-painful to watch sex scenes in video games. And that’s a cause all gamers can get unite behind.

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