• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.
  • The Politics forum has been nuked. Please do not bring political discussion to the rest of the site, or you will be removed. Thanks.

Steam bans adult visual novel months after release, raising censorship fears

Bullet Club

Member
Oct 24, 2017
10,834
24,724
1,210
Steam bans adult visual novel months after release, raising censorship fears

'Bokuten—Why I Became an Angel' was revised specifically for an all-ages Steam release



Valve’s gaming platform Steam this week once again banned an adult visual novel from its platform. The circumstances around the ban are particularly troubling, as Bokuten—Why I Became an Angel was released seven months ago and apparently subject to an internal back-and-forth over its adult material.

Developer Overdrive and publisher MangaGamer revised their adult visual novel specifically for an all-ages Steam release, only for their product to be removed from the platform. It remains unclear why Bokuten was removed, as the developers say they have not received a notice from Steam explaining the removal, nor did the team add any additional material to the game since its release last December.

“The entire Bokuten team put countless man-hours into both the adult and [all-ages] versions of the game, and to see it getting banned with no notice was a huge punch in the gut,” one developer, Kaitsu, tweeted. “Bokuten was our baby & it deserved better. Please grab it from the official publisher.”



Steam is the biggest digital distributor for PC, Mac, and Linux video games, making developers’ presence on the platform essentially mandatory. Adult visual novel developers commonly work with Steam to reach a compromise that allows adult games onto the service with 18+ material removed or censored. While this takes additional development time for games where sexual content is integral to the story, companies see cooperation with Steam as a bargain worth making. Inclusion on Steam boosts sales from exposure to a larger audience, and creators can always host off-site 18+ patches to reinstate adult material.

“The [Bokuten] team spent months getting the game sanitized for Steam, cutting all nudity, rewriting/skipping [scenes] and anything explicit, it passed [Steam’s] harsh review, and it just vanishes with no notice or explanation,” Doddler, one of the game’s programmers, tweeted.

Released games are generally considered safe from Steam censorship as the product in question has become available to consumers. Given Valve banned Bokuten seven months after release, Steam’s actions raise questions about adult material’s future on the service and whether developers can trust Steam to keep their promise to host all-ages versions of adult games.

“Gutted to hear about Bokuten being removed from Steam. It was always assumed that once you were on, you were safe. If a game passed their approval process once, the least they could do is send word that their rules have changed and allow you to make edits,” Meru, the CEO of English localization company Love Lab, wrote on Twitter. “The problem seems to be with Valve deeming any anime-style characters to be ‘underage’ and then not allowing these ‘underage’ characters to even make a risque joke… or something along those lines. I honestly don’t even know at this point.”



Some visual novel fans believe Steam may be purposefully targeting not just adult visual novel titles, but MangaGamer in particular. Games journalist Benny Carrillo claimed Steam pulled yuri (or woman-loving-woman anime) visual novel The Expression: Amrilato by misleadingly claiming the game “sexualizes minors.” While Carrillo acknowledged the game features a censored topless bath scene with a 17-year-old character that could technically meet Steam’s rule against material that “sexualizes minors,” other games with similar or more explicit sexualized depictions of underage characters—such as Gal*Gun and Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed—have not faced removal from Steam.

At the time, MangaGamer implied the issue was rooted in homophobia against lesbian relationships. “[T]he only conclusion we can draw from the feedback we’ve been provided with is that Valve now considers chaste romance between two women inherently ‘sexual’ and thus inappropriate for all audiences outside an adult context,” MangaGamer public relations director John Pickett said of the situation, according to Carrillo’s article.

Steam has a history of not just targeting adult visual novel creators but contradicting itself on adult material. The Expression: Amrilato was later reinstated and is now available again on Steam. Earlier this year, Valve put queer visual novel Errant Kingdom through a bureaucratic nightmare over whether the game was or wasn’t an “adults only” title.

While it’s unclear why Bokuten was banned, it appears a similar internal issue is at play. An overview of Bokuten’s Steam listing history on SteamDB shows Steam repeatedly labeled, and then pulled the label, for Bokuten as “adult content.” This back-and-forth began prior to the game’s release during November 2019 and continued over the past year. The game’s Steam statistics were temporarily pulled on July 10 and reinstated on July 14, before the game was permanently removed two weeks later.

Unlike Errant Kingdom and The Expression: Amrilato, this may be for good. Bokuten has an “exceedingly low” chance of returning to Steam, Kaitsu told fans.




Consumers can still purchase Bokuten from MangaGamer, but for now, Steam’s direct competitors Epic Games and Gog are out of the question for hosting the adult visual novel. “Epic won’t take visual novels and GOG hasn’t had a chance to review the title yet,” Doddler told one fan.

Update 8:47pm CT, July 31: When reached for comment, MangaGamer’s PR Director John Pickett told the Daily Dot that the publisher received an email from Steam several hours after Bokuten was removed from Steam. The representative with Steam responsible for the ban claimed MangaGamer had “added sexual content” to the game “that would not have passed our content review process,” according to Pickett. Pickett refuted this claim by stressing that no material was added to the game since its release on Dec. 19, 2019.

After contacting Valve for comment, Valve’s Vice President of Marketing Doug Lombardi said Bokuten was removed after discovering an external patch that activated adult scenes with underage characters. “In our initial content review, we missed content hidden in the game’s depot that features adult content with underage characters,” Lombardi told the Daily Dot. “While not accessible in the game itself without an externally acquired patch, we were distributing that content depot through Steam, therefor[e] the game would not have passed our content review. We’ve notified the developer, and improved our content review process to avoid this in the future.”

Pickett called Lombardi’s statement “incorrect,” as Bokuten’s adult material must be added externally, which he compared to downloading an adult Skyrim mod. “We took painstaking care to ensure that there was no adult content in the all-ages edition distributed on Steam and Discord [Store]. There is mature content befitting a mature title, but there is no adult content in the build provided by Steam,” Pickett said. “Our company does offer an adult-patch, and adult content is contained in the patch available solely on our own website and our servers. No adult content is distributed through Steam servers for Bokuten.”

Pickett also denied that the game’s 18+ patch activated scenes involving underage characters engaging in sexual acts. He argued Lombardi’s allegation was “a serious claim,” albeit “not the first time Valve has made such as false claim, as demonstrated with The Expression: Amrilato.”

“At present we’re hoping this issue can still be resolved amicably and we can see Bokuten restored to Steam,” he told the Daily Dot, “but this does give cause for all visual novel developers to worry when Steam can make such a claim and take such action after a title has been reviewed and cleared for sale.”

As for whether MangaGamer itself is being targeted by Steam, Pickett pointed out that Valve’s content reviewers appear “biased to consider anything with anime art as ‘sexualizing minors,'” such as overreacting to games with characters wearing schoolgirl uniforms. He criticized Valve’s propensity for providing no clarifying information on what offensive content needs to be changed, as Valve neither shows consistency in its decisions nor does it give publishers an option to alter and resubmit their games, he said. “We would love nothing more than for Valve to have clear, uniformly enforced content standards. If there were clear standards we would happily make every effort to abide by all of them, but there aren’t. Valve is making arbitrary decisions that vary day-by-day, person-by-person, and they’re not applying those same decisions, those same ‘standards’ to other publishers and especially not to major AAA publishers.”

Source: Daily Dot
 

llien

Member
Feb 1, 2017
10,393
8,350
945
Let me start with fuck #taliban.

As for the game, I'm still confused about "adult novel" being modified into "for all ages", uh, whah?

And, perhaps, there is market for adult-only gamestores?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Iorv3th

Guilty_AI

Member
Apr 12, 2020
4,011
7,379
680
This isn't really new though, steam has had this bipolar relationship with VNs for some time now. I guess its just a cultural issue, i notice americans in general tend to be really sensitive towards anime stuff.
 

TheSHEEEP

Gold Member
Sep 10, 2018
479
589
495
Why not broaden it to all anime-styled visual novels?.... :messenger_sunglasses:


Seriously, though, I get banning obviously illegal stuff and adult content that involves obvious kids (even if by story they are old enough, etc.), but Steam is really damn erratic about what it does or doesn't allow on the platform when it comes to adult content.
Just make up your mind - ban it entirely or allow it entirely, but this randomness just harms everyone.
 

VN1X

Member
Apr 21, 2016
2,128
3,636
800
Suck it weebs! GabeN strikes again!

(I'm all for choice but hentai weebs need to be kept in check lol)
 

LazyParrot

Member
Mar 19, 2019
1,682
3,491
420
As for the game, I'm still confused about "adult novel" being modified into "for all ages", uh, whah?
This isn't that strange, considering a single nude scene is enough to get something classified as "adult" in the US.
 

Victoria3D

Banned
Jun 12, 2020
57
173
245
Adult visual novel developers commonly work with Steam to reach a compromise that allows adult games onto the service with 18+ material removed or censored. While this takes additional development time for games where sexual content is integral to the story, companies see cooperation with Steam as a bargain worth making. Inclusion on Steam boosts sales from exposure to a larger audience, and creators can always host off-site 18+ patches to reinstate adult material.

I don’t follow. I have lots of porn games in my Steam library. I was under the impression that 18+ games have been allowed on Steam for a while now and companies didn’t have to do the external patch song and dance anymore. You can look on Steam now and see lots of fully uncensored hentai games.
 
  • Thoughtful
Reactions: SLoWMoTIoN
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
Strangely enought P4 is on steam and that game is fine?
It just seems like good ol standard cherry picking to me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: zombrex

Guilty_AI

Member
Apr 12, 2020
4,011
7,379
680
I don’t follow. I have lots of porn games in my Steam library. I was under the impression that 18+ games have been allowed on Steam for a while now and companies didn’t have to do the external patch song and dance anymore. You can look on Steam now and see lots of fully uncensored hentai games.
Thats precisely the issue people have. Theres some weird double standard in place that makes Valve's policy in the matter extremely unclear.
 
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
I highly suspect that theres some random employee at valve that ocasionally comes across this stuff in the store, gets offended and decides to use his powers to strike the ban hammer.
Craig? Yeah I bet it is that fucker Craig.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Like
  • Triggered
Reactions: RedVIper and brap

FranXico

Member
Dec 7, 2010
14,093
27,893
1,420
Arrogant So...

...oh.


Jokes aside, censorship is the new "normal", there's no way around it.
 
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
Yes censorship is bad but come on, there are some games that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Like why the fuck would you make such “game”?

This game is far worse than the one in the OP, that's what some of us are saying. Their process is very selective.
 

Kdad

Member
Sep 20, 2018
1,757
3,303
450
People throw the word 'censorship' around to easily...Valve is a company, not the government...they are free to decide what goes in their store and the developer is free to distribute their game direct to consumer or through other stores...this isn't censorship. At all.
 

LazyParrot

Member
Mar 19, 2019
1,682
3,491
420
Yes censorship is bad but come on, there are some games that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Like why the fuck would you make such “game”?
And yet that game is on Steam, while the game this thread is actually about got removed despite featuring zero adult content.

People throw the word 'censorship' around to easily...Valve is a company, not the government...they are free to decide what goes in their store and the developer is free to distribute their game direct to consumer or through other stores...this isn't censorship. At all.
You do not have to be the government to engage in censorship. Valve being allowed to remove whatever they want from their store may perfectly legal, but that doesn't mean it isn't censorship.

In any case, the problem here isn't that Valve are removing games, but that they do not seem to be following their own guidelines while doing so. Some games that are straight up porn stay up, others get removed despite featuring no sexual content at all, often with no (or at the very least unsatisfactory) explanations given.
 
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
You do not have to be the government to engage in censorship. Valve being allowed to remove whatever they want from their store may perfectly legal, but that doesn't mean it isn't censorship.

In any case, the problem here isn't that Valve are removing games, but that they do not seem to be following their own guidelines while doing so. Some games that are straight up porn stay up, others get removed despite featuring no sexual content at all, often with no (or at the very least unsatisfactory) explanations given.
Pretty much, they are are doing the shit Sony are currently doing while receiving no flak from it.
 

Kdad

Member
Sep 20, 2018
1,757
3,303
450
And yet that game is on Steam, while the game this thread is actually about got removed despite featuring zero adult content.


You do not have to be the government to engage in censorship. Valve being allowed to remove whatever they want from their store may perfectly legal, but that doesn't mean it isn't censorship.

In any case, the problem here isn't that Valve are removing games, but that they do not seem to be following their own guidelines while doing so. Some games that are straight up porn stay up, others get removed despite featuring no sexual content at all, often with no (or at the very least unsatisfactory) explanations given.
And they are a private company and can do what they want...sucks for the developer to lose access to the platform but thats a developer/store issue and their internal decision making is not the general public (us) concern.

Yes you 'can' call is censorship...and then you lose sight of real censorship, when your government dictates that this type of content is illegal. So maybe leave the word for shit that truly matters like that.

If the problem is about Valve's policies being inconsistent and people want to be concerned for them...fine...put that in the title...calling it censorship lessens real censorship. Oh no, i cant buy this game at my local 'inster store here' =/= censorship.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CatLady

nush

Member
Oct 16, 2017
10,977
28,403
875
A long haul flight from wherever you are.
After contacting Valve for comment, Valve’s Vice President of Marketing Doug Lombardi said Bokuten was removed after discovering an external patch that activated adult scenes with underage characters.

“In our initial content review, we missed content hidden in the game’s depot that features adult content with underage characters,”

Lombardi told the Daily Dot.

“While not accessible in the game itself without an externally acquired patch, we were distributing that content depot through Steam, therefor[e] the game would not have passed our content review. We’ve notified the developer, and improved our content review process to avoid this in the future.”

While all the 10,00 year old dragons lovers are crying about censorship, this is why it was removed Steam.

Does anybody remember the GTA San Andreas hot Coffee case in any detail? Take 2 had to pull that game off sale becuse it had adult content on the disc EVEN THOUGH it could only be accessed by modding. That's the legal precedent right there. Damn right Valve are going to remove content like that if they are distributing it, legally they would be the ones sued.

 

LazyParrot

Member
Mar 19, 2019
1,682
3,491
420
So maybe leave the word for shit that truly matters like that.
Maybe you need to look up the actual definition of the word. Because as far as I can tell, there is no separate dictionary entry for "real censorship".

While all the 10,00 year old dragons lovers are crying about censorship, this is why it was removed Steam.
Did you miss the part where the developers say this wasn't true, and that the adult material is contained entirely within the patch, not the game files available on Steam? It's in the very next paragraph.
 
Last edited:

Kdad

Member
Sep 20, 2018
1,757
3,303
450
Maybe you need to look up the actual definition of the word. Because as far as I can tell, there is no separate dictionary entry for "real censorship".


Did you miss the part where the developers say this wasn't true, and that the adult material is contained entirely within the patch, not the game files available on Steam? It's in the very next paragraph.
Techinically correct.

I'm expressing that this gnashing of teeth and clutching of pearls and calling a private store's choice to carry a game 'censorship' because its click baity, lessens the impact of the word when it really matters, the government curbing / banning our rights to produce and enjoy entertainment. But carry on...mine is simply an opinion as is yours...i simply wish THIS platform, US users, didn't devolve to click baity BS.

btw: if you checkout wiki (!!) the Censorship article spends the VAST majority of its content speaking of it being done by 'controlling institutions' ie government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censo...of,institutions, and other controlling bodies. Calling a private company's (not private institution) product stocking choices "censorship" is nonsense really, but go ahead and use the word if you'd like, i guess.
 

Vaelka

Member
Apr 1, 2019
738
1,053
490
It's a bit of a complicated situation and I can see the arguments on both sides, but on the other hand you also have extremists on both sides too.
You have people who just don't give a shit about censorship on a whole or even support it and just want everything that they don't like to be erased.
But then on the other hand you have people who literally only care about this because they're '' anti-SJW's '' and they think that it's some battle with '' SJW's '' that they're having, and they have absolutely zero limits at all.
And they accuse anyone who says '' sexualizing a minor is different than sexualizing an adult '' of being an '' SJW ''.

Let me start with fuck #taliban.

As for the game, I'm still confused about "adult novel" being modified into "for all ages", uh, whah?

And, perhaps, there is market for adult-only gamestores?

Didn't some Hentai game get censored so hard for the PS4 that it became rated '' E '' for all ages lol?
It was some game with cat girls I think I dunno the name of it.

It's pretty silly when you think about it tho, like what's even the point of having the game altogether if it's censored THAT hard. It's not even the same product anymore at all.

People throw the word 'censorship' around to easily...Valve is a company, not the government...they are free to decide what goes in their store and the developer is free to distribute their game direct to consumer or through other stores...this isn't censorship. At all.

Censorship isn't just one thing, there are different forms of censorship.
A developer creating skeleton enemies in their game and then deciding to cut them out of the game to avoid Chinese censorship is still censorship.
It's self-censorship which is done all the time, whether it's done for good or bad reasons I guess is subjective.

I do think however that wanting developers to have the most freedom to create what they want benefits everyone in the end and makes the industry more varied.
Like even if you personally don't care about sexualized characters, I really think that it's fucking stupid to defend if a character like Ivy in Soul Calibur for example gets censored.
I mean it's very short-sighted and self-centered, like what makes your thoughts on it more important than that of the developers and what they wanted to do and people who like the character? It's just a strange and douchey mentality to have imo.
 

nush

Member
Oct 16, 2017
10,977
28,403
875
A long haul flight from wherever you are.
Did you miss the part where the developers say this wasn't true, and that the adult material is contained entirely within the patch, not the game files available on Steam? It's in the very next paragraph.

Valve said it was and I'm more inclined to believe them, so no. I didn't miss it.

“In our initial content review, we missed content hidden in the game’s depot that features adult content with underage characters,”
 

Kdad

Member
Sep 20, 2018
1,757
3,303
450
It's a bit of a complicated situation and I can see the arguments on both sides, but on the other hand you also have extremists on both sides too.
You have people who just don't give a shit about censorship on a whole or even support it and just want everything that they don't like to be erased.
But then on the other hand you have people who literally only care about this because they're '' anti-SJW's '' and they think that it's some battle with '' SJW's '' that they're having, and they have absolutely zero limits at all.
And they accuse anyone who says '' sexualizing a minor is different than sexualizing an adult '' of being an '' SJW ''.



Didn't some Hentai game get censored so hard for the PS4 that it became rated '' E '' for all ages lol?
It was some game with cat girls I think I dunno the name of it.

It's pretty silly when you think about it tho, like what's even the point of having the game altogether if it's censored THAT hard. It's not even the same product anymore at all.



Censorship isn't just one thing, there are different forms of censorship.
A developer creating skeleton enemies in their game and then deciding to cut them out of the game to avoid Chinese censorship is still censorship.
It's self-censorship which is done all the time, whether it's done for good or bad reasons I guess is subjective.

I do think however that wanting developers to have the most freedom to create what they want benefits everyone in the end and makes the industry more varied.
Like even if you personally don't care about sexualized characters, I really think that it's fucking stupid to defend if a character like Ivy in Soul Calibur for example gets censored.
I mean it's very short-sighted and self-centered, like what makes your thoughts on it more important than that of the developers and what they wanted to do and people who like the character? It's just a strange and douchey mentality to have imo.
Sure...self censorship happens... a developer that is interested in sales > artistic vision will always have to make content choices to earn those sales. I find it 'funny' that the example of self censorship you gave is a result of what i'm actually talking about...government censorship affecting content (in this case Chinese governement censorship)...that is the shit that makes sense to rally against.
With regard to your example of Ivy, my personal opinion is the devs should leave the character as originally developed if they also accept that stores are under no obligation to distribute their game (ie the topic of this thread) and that they may have to find creative ways to get their games to their users (ie direct sales).
 

llien

Member
Feb 1, 2017
10,393
8,350
945
When steam says "underage characters" does it mean outright pedo content from their POV?
 
Last edited:
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
When steam says "underage characters" does it mean outright pedo content from their POV?
It didn't stop them from releasing Omega Labyrinth uncensored. Typical case of cherry picking.
 

TheMan

Member
Jul 31, 2006
8,783
1,448
1,565
So basically the developers released a lolipatch and steam told them to kick rocks

“bu bu but the story says this girl who looks like a 10 year old prepubescent child is actually a 100000 year old dragon in disguise so it’s ok!!!”

fuck outta here
 
S

SLoWMoTIoN

Unconfirmed Member
“bu bu but the story says this girl who looks like a 10 year old prepubescent child is actually a 100000 year old dragon in disguise so it’s ok!!!”
You ok? Who are you quoting?

Nobody on GAF is saying anything remotely close to that. Just to hold the same standards across the board. If you are going to ban one thing ban all the things that are similar to it.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

LazyParrot

Member
Mar 19, 2019
1,682
3,491
420
Valve said it was and I'm more inclined to believe them, so no. I didn't miss it.
As has been pointed out, this isn't the first time Mangagamer has had to deal with this stuff, and Valve has a history of disproportionately targeting their releases while ignoring other games with similar or worse content. Another one of their games got pulled from the platform "for content review" for the exact same reason a few years ago, with Valve refusing to respond to requests for clarification even after the publisher demonstrated that the files hosted on Steam contained no sexual content.

Valve also initially blocked the release of an educational (!) visual novel that contained no sexual content whatsoever, only to allow it later with no explanation given. Western games featuring similarly explicit sexual content, though? Valve apparently has no problem with those, not even when the characters are explicitly underage like in Life is Strange 2.

So yeah, I'm gonna give Mangagamer the benefit of the doubt here.
 

DunDunDunpachi

Patient MembeR
Apr 18, 2018
29,325
70,250
1,405
USA
dunpachi.com
It should raise 'digital ownership' fears but of course it will be focused instead on censorship.

Folks signed up for a curated marketplace. Folks agreed to buy digital licenses where Steam still held all the power. The bundles and sales were worth it, I guess.
 
  • Thoughtful
Reactions: SLoWMoTIoN

Rikoi

Member
Jun 23, 2020
718
1,134
380
When steam says "underage characters" does it mean outright pedo content from their POV?
They mean that companies should stop depicting loli characters in some ways.
Which I kinda agree with.
Lots of people were easily patching the game, the devs just circumvented the Steam rules but apparently Valve found out and decided to ban the game.

You ok? Who are you quoting?
Fire Emblem I think
 
Last edited:

Xesty

Neo Member
Jul 21, 2020
7
2
190
Pretty weird that Steam's becoming less tolerant of Adult Games than Nintendo.

The number of adult games/VNs on the eShop are growing by the day.