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Steam adds "Adults Only" filter for games with "explicit sexual content"

New filter among a host of changes to make it easier for users to avoid certain kinds of content

Valve has added an "Adults Only" filter to Steam, one of a series of new measures designed to allow users to avoid content in which they have no interest.

Previously, Steam allowed users to filter out content that contained "Frequent Violence/Gore" or "Nudity/Sexual Content." Valve has now added two more options, based on a review of the games being submitted for the store.

The first is "Mature Content", which has been created for games that developers believe tackle mature subjects or themes but don't contain sex or violence. The second is an "Adults Only" filter, which can be applied to filter out games that feature "explicit sexual content."

It is worth noting that, while the Adults Only filter is designed to help users avoid games with explicit sex, it also means that those games can now find a place on the most popular PC storefront. Valve has long had an uneven stance on sexual content, occasionally to the detriment of developers sincerely attempting to address legitimate demand. The new Adults Only filter - which echoes the AO rating used by the ESRB - could allow those games to exist on Steam.

Valve now requires developers of games with "violent or sexual content" to offer the context in which that content is presented.

"When you're looking at the store page of a game with mature content, we'll display that developer-written description to you," Valve said in a blog post, adding that the description will also appear on an interstitial page that appears when a user follows a direct link from outside Steam to a filtered game.

In other changes, Valve has given users the ability to ignore games from specific developers, publishers, and curators, and increased the number of game tags a user would like to see less from three to ten. These preferences are now considered "hard filters" rather than suggestions, though games affected by these filters will still appear in searches in a safe manner.

Valve also issued some clarification of its plan to ban developers of games that are "straight up trolling" - a description that attracted criticism for being vague when it was first offered in June. Valve said that a "surprisingly small number of individuals" were responsible for almost all of those games, and they have been banned based on "a straightforward series of decisions."

Elaborating further on the decision making process, Valve said these developers, "aren't actually interested in good faith efforts to make and sell games to you or anyone. When a developer's motives aren't that, they're probably a troll.

"Our review of something that may be 'a troll game' is a deep assessment that actually begins with the developer. We investigate who this developer is, what they've done in the past, their behavior on Steam as a developer, as a customer, their banking information, developers they associate with, and more. All of this is done to answer the question 'who are we partnering with and why do they want to sell this game?'

"We get as much context around the creation and creator of the game and then make an assessment. A trend we're seeing is that we often ban these people from Steam altogether instead of cherry-picking through their individual game submissions. In the words of someone here in the office: 'it really does seem like bad games are made by bad people.'

"This doesn't mean there aren't some crude or lower quality games on Steam, but it does mean we believe the developers behind them aren't out to do anything more than sell a game they hope some folks will want to play."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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