There are three things Valve carelessly signal with the announcement that they no longer have any intention of pursuing any sort of reasonable policy as to what is allowed on their store.
1. They have no intention, ever, of providing a space where developers and customers are able to build a healthy relationship. If you want that, go elsewhere because here is mob rule.
2. That Steam will, whether they intend to or not, become the de facto games store for the worst humans in and around videogames.
3. Those worst humans will bring more worst humans with them and there will be shit for anyone who is not one of the worst humans. The result will be that developers (and customers) will find no safety on Steam.
I’m not going to wax too lyrically over it because that’s pretty much it, this is where it begins and where it ends. It is brutal.
As someone who has enjoyed a spot on the steam store, who (hopefully) is not one of the worst humans and would really rather not have to deal with them, this is not good news. For marginalised creators, it lays the situation out in a way that could not be more clear – they will have no protection, no recourse, on Steam.
This is not really a drastic change from the Steam of now, just that this time no-one has to suspect it may be the case, it is now there in black and white. Which given how much of the future of our medium lies with marginalised creators, how much amazing work at the front lines of videogames these people are doing, seems absolutely unreasonable and short-sighted for Valve’s business. (I’m ignoring that it absolutely is unreasonable to treat good people this way no matter there, obviously. Please just take that as read.)
Just, you know, there’s one thing Valve have shown themselves, as a corporation, to be tremendous at – not seeing the exact scenarios that will play out as a result of their actions that plenty of people point out within seconds of whatever it is Valve have announced this time. It took minutes before every single awful thing that absolutely will happen was mentioned across social media. Nothing around this is a mystery to anyone and the wrong people will be rubbing their hands with glee.
We’ve been here repeatedly before. We’ve been here with paid mods, with greenlight, with groups, curation and all manner of things. We will be here again. It is the way of Valve. Their attempts to turn Steam into a hands free, meritocracy (hah!) that somehow pumps money out a rather literal 24 hours a day mean they are destined to continue to repeat these same things as long as no-one is factoring in the cost to humans.
As I say, the bulk of the foundational work done on the future of videogames is in the hands of the marginalised right now. Any company with one eye on the future absolutely should be looking at embracing their needs, helping them sell their work safely.
Any company interested in the real future of videogames, a healthy future to videogames, should be making their spaces fascism free. They should be making their spaces racism free. Their spaces should be queer friendly, trans friendly, a place where people with disabilities can be comfortable to explore the full scope of videogames safely. Everyone should be able to be safe in videogames. Everyone with power and a platform should be doing their best to make it so,not just for business but because it is the right thing to do for people.
This is another decision, in a long line of decisions, that make Steam a less healthy place to be. It’s a disappointment that when pressed, Valve opted to make their store less of a reasonable place to buy and sell things on for a huge proportion of people within videogames. In an area that already has long-standing issues with being overrun by the extreme right who long ago cottoned on that videogames is a fertile space to recruit people from, it’s distressing too. It can only lead to the bad people becoming further entrenched, further empowered.
In saying they side with no one, Valve unwittingly side with the abusers and abusive within videogames. The power balance is, to be blunt, fucked.
Valve may not believe or understand this to be the case but that ultimately doesn’t matter. Right now it absolutely is the case. It has been an unfortunate side effect of their hands off policies to date now rubber stamped for the future.
I’m not even surprised anymore, just perpetually disappointed. As ever, I hope one day not to be.