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National Center on Sexual Exploitation Denounces New Steam Policy

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is warning parents and socially conscious gamers away from Steam following the digital storefront’s decision to publish all video games regardless of content as long as they’re not illegal or “straight up trolling.”

“The National Center on Sexual Exploitation denounces this decision in light of the rise of sexual violence and exploitation games being hosted on Steam,” it said in a statement on its website Thursday.

Last month, Valve told certain developers their games would be pulled from Steam if they didn’t remove so-called pornographic content. The affected games included dating sim “HuniePop,” color-matching puzzler “Tropical Liquor,” and pirate-themed visual novel “Mutiny!!” All three feature anime-style graphics and are overtly sexual in nature. The developers said they were being targeted unfairly.

“From ‘Huniepop,’ to ‘SonoHanabira,’ to ‘Mutiny!!,’ the message is clear, if your game has sexy anime-inspired art in it, get it gone, while western games which are 100x more pornographic content escape unscathed. One rule for them, and no rules for us,” said “Mutiny!!” developer Lupiesoft. “We are not sleazebags making horrific pornography. We’re a strongly queer visual novel studio that makes sexy games. That is not wrong, that is not pornographic. Nudity is also not wrong as a massive amount of Steam’s library has nudity, and ‘Mutiny!!’ follows those content guidelines.”

Valve reversed its stance after some blowback from the gaming community. The NCOSE calls that decision “cowardly.”

“In our current #MeToo culture, Steam made a cowardly choice to shirk its corporate and social responsibility to remove sexually violent and exploitive video games from its platform,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “There are currently over 1,000 games on Steam with nudity or sexual content, all of which are sexually objectifying, and a disturbing number of which are designed so the player rapes, sexually coerces, and commercially exploits women.”

The NCOSE points to a few examples of what it calls “harmful games.” “House Party” supposedly allows the player to coerce women into sex via intoxication, blackmail, and deception, for example. “Meltys Quest” allegedly awards points for engaging in various sex acts. “Players earn orgasm, creampie, gangbang, blowjob, swallow, bukkake, and prostitution points, and can increase a ‘Slut Level’ rating,” the NCOSE claimed.

Hawkins said thousands have asked Steam to remove these games via NCOSE campaigns. “Now it appears that the company is capitulating to the loud complaints of the few gamers who cannot enjoy video games sans sexploitation, instead of standing by its full right — and duty — as a private company to monitor and restrict the content it promotes,” she added. “Gabe Newell, the president of Valve which owns Steam, has decided to respond to our climate of sexual harassment and abuse by profiting off of gamified sexual violence.”

“The National Center on Sexual Exploitation calls on parents and socially conscious gamers to refrain from using Steam until the company reverses this misguided and harmful policy,” Hawkins concluded.

Steam is arguably the biggest distributor of digital PC games and publishes thousands of titles from AAA and indie developers each year. Games like “House Party” and “Meltys Quest” are just tiny droplets of water in Valve’s vast ocean. But, thanks to the company’s new hands-off attitude, more of these allegedly exploitative games could soon find their way onto the platform. Leaf Corcoran, founder of the online indie games marketplace Itch.io called Valve’s new policy “ridiculous” on Twitter Wednesday and told devs to keep their “malicious, derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, harassing, demeaning content off @itchio. Our ban buttons are ready.”

Formerly known as Morality in Media, the NCOSE was founded in 1962 and advocates for “a world free from all forms of sexual exploitation.” This is not the first time it has spoken out against sexual content on Steam. The digital distributor is on its “Dirty Dozen” list of so-called “porn facilitators” for its sale of what the organization describes as “pornographic and sexually exploitative video games.” This year’s list also includes Amazon, Backpage.com, Comcast. Ebsco, HBO, iBooks, “the poster boys of #metoo,” Roku, Snapchat, Twitter, and Youtube.

Variety reached out to Valve for comment.

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