Steam Is Banning Sex Games With Young-Looking Characters

Image: Hello Goodbye

These days, anything goes on Steam, but not anything anything. If games are "illegal, or straight up trolling," Valve says it'll send them packing. In the past, that's meant low-effort games with titles like Big Dick and MILF, achievement spam, and certain sex games.

Now, according to some developers, Valve is going after games that feature themes of "child exploitation," which it seems to define, at least in part, as games with sex scenes or nudity where the characters are in high school.

Over the past few weeks, the company has removed the store pages of several visual novels, including cross-dressing yaoi romance Cross Love, catholic school adult visual novel Hello Goodbye, "story about the love between siblings" (yuck) Imolicious, and cat girl game MaoMao Discovery Team. The developers of these games all claim to have received similar emails stating that their games could not be released on Steam.

"While we can ship most titles on Steam, we found that this one does feature themes of child exploitation," read the email received by Top Hat Studios, makers of Cross Love. "Because of that, the app has been banned and cannot be reused."

There are a couple ties that bind the games in question: 1) Cross Love, Hello Goodbye, and Imolicious feature school settings, and 2) all four of the aforementioned games contain adult elements and centre around anime-styled characters who appear young — in some cases uncomfortably so. However, their developers have taken to protesting the bans on social media, saying that their games have been misunderstood. They all claim they've reached out to Valve since receiving their bans, only to be met with silence.

Cross Love's developers say they've taken great pains to ensure that their game demonstrates, on multiple occasions, that its students are of age. This includes scenes where they peruse 18+ manga and are ID-ed before being allowed into an adult bookstore.

"These scenes aren't there to be artificially shoehorned in, and while they do exist as further proof of characters' ages (beyond the disclaimer in the beginning that explicitly states them as being 18), the real reason they're there is to further many of the themes in the story," said developer Top Hat to Kotaku in a Twitter DM, pointing out that it's tried to contact Valve with this information six separate times, to no avail.

"A large chunk of the story is about accepting who you are, being comfortable with yourself, and altogether similar themes within a type of coming of age-style love story, which isn't really seen in most yaoi games."

Other games are more questionable. Imolicious' developer claims there aren't "any children" in the game, but it revolves around school girls. When I pointed out that most school girls are, by definition, children, developer Yume Creations replied in a DM: "High school students aren't children, they are teenager[s]."

Most teenagers in high school are still minors, so that rationale doesn't really hold water. The developer also noted, however, that "in [the] case of Imolicious, I added a disclaimer that all characters [are] over 18 like you can see in most visual novels."

They're not wrong: This is a trend among visual novels featuring adult material — and more broadly among "loli" anime, which tends to feature suspiciously young-looking women who are said to be over 18.But while some take these declarations at face value, others view them as obvious (and creepy) fig leaves.

"Having a disclaimer stating that a drawing is of consensual age or not is a ridiculous thing to rely upon," said one user in a Steam forum thread discussing MaoMao Discovery Team's legality. "At the end of the day, it is a fictional drawing that does not have an age. If you think they look too young, then they are too young. A bit of text saying 'this person is 20' changes nothing."

Which brings us to the heart of the matter: It's Valve's store, and what it says goes. If someone at Valve decides characters look too young, then they're too young. Top Hat, however, believes there's a double standard at play here, not unlike the one some developers felt they'd fallen victim to before Valve officially allowed uncensored sex games on Steam.

Other games that feature young-looking characters, school settings, and romantic/sexual themes, like Nekopara Extra, Sakura Sakura, A Piece Of Wish Upon The Stars, and Material Girl, are all still on Steam, Top Hat pointed out.

Kotaku reached out to Valve to ask about the rationale behind banning certain games, but has yet to hear back.

Imolicious developer Yume Creations says it's given up on trying to get the game on Steam, opting instead to release an uncensored version on internet hentai capital Fakku. In a Steam post, MaoMao's developers made it sound like they, too, are throwing in the towel. But while Top Hat has put Cross Love up on other stores like Itch.io and Nutaku, it's still giving Steam the old hopefully-at-least-university-age try.

"Steam is a major service, and we had hundreds of players looking forward to buying the game there upon release," Top Hat said. "The game had wishlists in the thousands, and the community group had several hundred people in it. This is a very large userbase to lose out on, and it hurts us pretty bad. It's not world ending, but it is quite the end of the year blow."


Comments

    You do realise these are all-ages versions that are coming on Steam where sex content is completely removed?

    Steam should just remove these games with sex

    Could have just said 'Steam is banning games with flat girls' because that's really where there doing.

    Steam Is Banning Sex Games With Young-Looking Characters

    So a large majority of the Japanese ones?

    I think people should protest this.. Mainly so i know what creepy ass people to avoid

      Do People even know that Asians arent that tall?
      Come of Japan the max height of girls you see will be around 5'7 -5'8 with average being around 5'4 - 5'5.... Its foreigners and westerners that looks like apes with over 6 ft of height..Just saying.. if to you guys we look like kids.. then to us you guys look like overgrown apes..

    THis quote got a good laugh from me
    >"At the end of the day, it is a fictional drawing that does not have an age. If you think they look too young, then they are too young. A bit of text saying 'this person is 20' changes nothing."
    Saying its a fictional drawing so it doesnt have an age, but then still saying they are too young, lol. and too young for what, as said they are fictional, not like they need to consent to being a part of this game

      Cartoons aren't people but representing paedophilia using clever rules lawyering to get around it is fucked up.

      There is a real possibility of falling foul of child pornography laws. In Australia, one man was charged over pornographic drawings of The Simpsons characters. If you're running a game store, it makes sense to steer clear of any material that could be interpreted as child porn in any of the jurisdictions you're operating in.

      And I don't think this is related to Australia specifically: there are many countries that can classify drawings as child pornography.

        Very true. Though i think that usually only sticks if they find the person also has the real deal, not just the cartoon variety. But even so i agree thats certainly enough annoyance to make it not worth the game sellers effort keeping those games on their site.

          Here's the news article I was referring to:

          https://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-12-08/fake-simpsons-cartoon-is-child-porn-judge-rules/233562

          The judge ruled that the cartoon images met the definition of "person" for the purposes of the child pornography laws.

            yeah he was technically charged, but $3000 and 2 years good behaviour is very light for "child porn" charges, so its still clearly not charged properly unless you have the real thing.
            But like i said, i do understand why not dealing with this at all is the better choice for distributors

              You're right that there wasn't any jail time, but that could easily have been because the judge didn't see this as settled law. It's not at all clear that a similar offence today would get the same sentence.

              And bringing it back to Steam: commercial production or distribution child pornography material would likely be seen as massively worse than simple possession. It's no surprise that Valve would want to stay as far away from this as possible.

                I was just going from what i'd heard from countries with similar laws to australia where there hasnt been any jail time given to anyone for it without having the real thing (inckuding some more recent than the australian guy), but you are right it definitely could go differently now.

                Definitely agreed, it doesnt make any sense for valve to keep possibly troublesome games on their store

      If I draw a picture that looks exactly like a dog and I claim that I have drawn a duck, and it doesn’t really change the fact that the drawing represents a dog to viewers.

      “But it looks suspiciously like a dog”, they’ll say. “Oh, but you’re mistaken,” I’ll reply, gesturing to the picture of a four legged creature with floppy ears, shaggy hair and chasing a ball, “because this gallery does not allow pictures of dogs, I would never draw a dog. I always meant for it to be a duck”.

      If everyone sees a dog, you’ve drawn a dog.

        Yeah, it LOOKS like a young person, but it is a piece of paper and ink. so it can't be too young for anything because its not real.
        I do get what you are saying and you aren't wrong, just the quote is still funny because it kinda goes against itself.

          I’m sure you know this already, so I hope you don’t take this as me being patronising, but for the sake of discussion: That’s why laws pertaining to these kind of things generally state that sexualised depictions of people that appear underage are illegal. Of course a drawing of a fictional character doesn’t have an age beyond that attributed by the creator (which is flexible and arbitrary), so therefore the laws target how they appear. If you’ve drawn something that looks like a minor, then you’ve depicted a minor in the eyes of the law.

          My question to the people that defend these things is, why, when you consider the age allocated to the character isn’t a real thing (for the reasons you stated), do they feel like characters that appear childlike are appropriate to see sexualised. Even the behaviour of these characters in suspect VNs is childlike more often than not, so they’re essentially supporting the sexualisation of characters that look and behave like children, while hanging onto this arbitrarily given age as justification.

            Like i am discussing with another guy above, sure in a few countries this is classified as 'child porn' but in most of these countries no proper charges have ever been laid unless the person also had the real thing. for example the australian got a small fine and 2 years good behavior, pretty light for 'child porn' charges. so clearly even the law doesnt truly believe its of the same level of crime.

            im not really defending it perse, though kinda. its a fictional thing, it has no feelings, it has no possibility of trauma, there is clearly no actual harm going on in drawing "a minor" (i guess unless drawing a specific childs likeness purposely). I also severely doubt the whole "it creates demand for real CP", thats always gonna have people wanting it whether or not some fake drawings are around. that seems to me like the "violent video games are ruining kids" and "piracy is losing us billions of dollars" which on the surface seem plausible but have generally been found to be false. One could even argue it gives a way to non harmingly deal with the impulses those people feel therefore decreasing the chances of any actual kids being harmed (not sure i entirely believe that either but its just as likely).

              I don’t think that creation or possession of illustrated or real pornography depicting minors are like-for-like, either, but I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the intent of possessing both is the same.

              I also don’t think the analogy of the debunked ‘violent video games causing violent people’ theory is totally appropriate. When playing a videogame, you’re further removed from the sensation and physical action of killing someone, compared to someone who is getting off on images of underage characters.

              At what point do you consider it real, too? A real photo that has had a cell-shade filter applied, compared to a photo that has been traced, compared to a photo that has been used for modelling poses for an illustration, compared to a a photo realistic illustration that is purely imaginative, compared to a stylised anime illustration from imagination. They have different relations to the source, but since they’re all serving the same purpose—the sexualisation of minors—I think it’s important to not give these media a platform for distribution or sale.

              While discussing this, I’ve been questioning where I set my justification and why. Why do I consider the simulation of one horrific act (e.g. murder) to be acceptable, compared to another simulated horrific act (i.e. sexualisation of fictionalised minors)? I think it comes back to the point I mentioned above about intent, immediacy and sensational proximity to the crime. But that’s a personal litmus test, I don’t expect other people to feel the same.

    "Wont someone think of the childr....okay maybe not the best time for that."

    Well in Australia, we're not even meant to look at legit, orherwise legal, real life, everyone is 18+ porn if the females have boobs that are "too small"... Yep, that's what was decided some years back by the censors. Boobs can't be little or it's kiddy porn. Even if they're 45 and 6 feet tall.
    If I recall correctly, the clown Stephen Conroy was involved.

      That's an oversimplification. It's not just small boobs it's context. So a women with small boobs pretending to be a school girl is a no-no, but a woman with small boobs pretending to be a lawyer would be fine. It's basically to stop fantasies about children.

      Back to the article, I thought the whole "school" and uniforms thing in Japan also applied to colleges where the girls are either late teens or adults ie: university. Is that not the case, or is it just that these games are depicting younger (high) school girls?

        From the sound of it, there are a few universities that require uniforms but it is nowhere near the norm as it is for high school students. So even in Japan I suspect the outfits are more likely to be associated with children.

          Could be, after all that was an "internet fact". ie: Something I read on an internet discussion forum at some point, so it could be completely made up BS used by someone to justify their schoolgirl fetish, rather than actual real information.

      I was thinking about that when a similar topic came up a little while back, I swore I could remember reading an article from the Sex Party or something that went into how it was demeaning to women to judge them by their appearance. I could not manage to dig up any kind of source or anything on it though. Glad I wasn't completely crazy :P

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