Valve has removed Eek Games' House Party from sale on Steam, after it received complaints regarding "pornographic" content.
According to Eek Games, Valve offered little detail regarding either the "nature of the complaints" or what, exactly, was considered pornographic. However, it did tell Eek that House Party would be reinstated once a modification that automatically censors certain scenes had been implemented and tested.
"I explained to them that I don't consider the game pornographic as it's not intended to titillate, but rather is intended to be a humorous and quirky game," Eek Games said in a blog post.
"I explained to them that I don't consider the game pornographic as it's not intended to titillate"
Eek continued: "I know there are many games with nudity, and there are also games with sex scenes as well, including really popular titles, so it's all rather confusing and I don't know exactly where the line is or what in particular I should be censoring.
"I don't want to censor anything if I don't have to, and I am also looking into ways to allow Steam users to convert or mod their version of the game to the original version, however, it won't be delivered that way from Steam moving forward."
While even the briefest look at the game's content casts doubt on Eek's claims that House Party is not "intended to titillate," the studio has said that one of the principal reasons behind the game's creation was to avoid doing "another tired old game about killing, violence and gore." However, in substituting gratuitous violence with gratuitous sex, House Party "set off a few alarms with some groups."
"The game has been a target for a certain group of people since the day it launched, and said people were posting very aggressive, distasteful and hateful comments directed toward the game and its community of players," Eek said. "I suspect the complaints about the game that Steam received were originating from the same groups."
"For some groups, it's not enough to ignore a product they don't like. They have to ensure nobody else is allowed to enjoy it also"
The origin of the complaints that Steam acted upon is pure speculation, but Steam chose to act based on House Party's content - and not for the first time. In 2012, No Reply Games' Seduce Me was prevented from completing the Greenlight process for similar reasons, prompting a similar discussion that Eek now raises about the "double standard" that exists regarding depictions of violence and depictions of sex in video games.
"When it comes to video games and in my opinion at a higher level, art in general, I don't see any difference between gratuitous sex and gratuitous violence and how they should be treated, and that's why I don't see an issue with the content in the game."
Eek continued: "I don't agree with Steam's decision, but I respect it. I was hoping that their allowance of the game for well over a month, during which time it has been a top seller, was indicative of Steam stepping forward and acknowledging this hypocrisy and taking a stance on it.
"But it seems the removal was either a case of the game falling through the cracks, or a response from the pressure of the community members who were very aggressively calling for Steam's removal of the game at the expense of those who enjoy it."
House Party sold 35,000 copies in its first month on sale; a healthy return for a game from a small developer on Steam. Eek is now working with Valve to create a "watered down" version of the game, "because for some groups, it's not enough to boycott or ignore a product they don't like. They have to ensure nobody else is allowed to enjoy it also."
Update: While Eek Games' has expressed confusion at the reasoning behind House Party being removed from sale, GamesIndustry.biz has learned that one of its storylines can result in a female character being blackmailed into a sexual act using nude photos stolen from her phone.
The content was brought to our attention by Wildergrass Games artist Tom Spratt on Twitter, who described the position outlined in Eek Games' blog post as "incredibly disingenuous" considering the sequence in question, which occurs late in the game.
Having secured the pictures from the phone, the player is given a number of choices on how to proceed, some of which include coercing the female character into sexual acts. This YouTube video (NSFW) shows a playthrough of the storyline in question.
Eek Games' Bobby Ricci told GamesIndustry.biz that the concerns Valve expressed to the developer did not relate to specific scenarios and were only about whether pornographic activity was visible. As for the scenario mentioned above, Ricci said it has already been altered in the current version of the game.
"This scene was trimmed a while ago to adjust it to our own tastes with how far we were willing to let this scene go, but that's a judgement call every developer should have the right to make and not be questioned," Ricci said.
We have also sought comment from Game Jolt and Itch.io, where the game is still available.