It started with a tweet from the developer of HuniePop stating that the game violated their rules for pornographic content, then the developers of visual novels all reported receiving the same email from Valve. This culminated with the Nation Center on Sexual Exploitation claiming victory after a reported two-year campaign to get Steam to remove games that promote sexual content. Where it gets even stranger is that late Saturday evening the developers of HuniePop sent out a tweet that stated to disregard their previous email about their game being removed. Now while sexual exploitation is a horrific and irreprehensible act, I feel that when it comes to gaming sexual content should be taken no more seriously than violence. That being stated, buckle up as we break down both sides of the debate and try to make some sense of this.
Let’s start by looking at the blog for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, in their blog posts they keep claiming, there are roughly 35 million Steam users that are children or teenagers. Immediately something about this figure seems fishy as Valve doesn’t really track or release demographic data on their users, but let’s see if we can figure out how they came to 35 million. A quick Google search will show us that there are over 125 million registered Steam accounts, for the sake of keeping things simple let’s say there are exactly 125 million. Now here is where things get interesting, the ESA industry facts page states that 72% of gamers in the US are age 18 or older, which would leave 28% that are under 18 barring any deviation. Well, 125,000,000 * 0.28=35,000,000, which means what was done here was that the 28% statistic for the US was applied to the global number of Steam users.
The closest thing to a real statistic would be that there are approximately 17.22 million PC gamers under age 18 in the USA. This statistic was obtained from the ESA numbers which state there are more than 150 million gamers in the US, and that 41% of them play on PC, which would be more than 61.5 million gamers. Then assuming the demographic breakdown remains consistent 28% of 61.5 million is 17.22 million which is almost half the number cited by the NCOSE. However, the ESA also states that the average gamer is 34 years old, but from the last survey done by NPD on Steam found that the average age of a Steam user is 38 years old. Which would skew the statistics further as that would make the average Steam user 4 years older than the average gamer from the ESA study. Now it is important to note that the NPD study is four years old and would be out of date at best. Regardless, what we are left with is an organization using a figure that is not is real, they made up their statistics.
Now here is where things get even crazier, they claim that they have been fighting Valve on this issue for over two years, yet nothing on their blog about Valve is dated prior to May of this year. They also, in particular, take offense to the game House Party which was initially released on June 30th, 2017. Now this game was initially released in an uncensored state before Valve stepped in and removed the game for violating their policy for sexual content. The developer censored the game and it was allowed back on the platform. So all of this happened nearly a year ago before the recent push by the NCOSE which makes it seem like they’re taking credit for something that they, in fact, had no part in.
Finally, NCOSE seems to be heavily taking the think of the children stance which is common with conservative groups, and from looking into the profiles of the people behind the NCOSE even if that group isn’t political, it’s members appear to fall into the Christian conservative side of the fence. The arguments being used are similar to the arguments that were used by Jack Thomspon and his fight against violent video games. Now anyone with a semi-functional brain would know that violent games don’t make you violent and games with sexual content don’t make you a rapist. However, they claim that games with sexual content normalize and promote sexual violence and that the problem is that Valve puts the burden on families to avoid sexual content. Which is where it should be, this is just another case of the moral busybodies trying to dictate what adults can and should be allowed to do because they don’t want to have to pay attention to their own kids. It should also be worth noting that Steam already has a family view mode which allows parents to set content restrictions.