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Valve Decides Not to Publish Game About Raping Women With the Most Half-Assed Statement Possible

Wow, what heroes.

Logo for Steam

Content warning: Rape.

Valve has long had a problem with their own rules. For years, the game developer/publisher/digital distribution company’s ban on “pornographic content” was inconsistently enforced and ever-changing, and appeared to disproportionately target smaller games and visual novels.

Valve received a lot of criticism for the ways in which they were enforcing their adult content rules, and in response, they swung their pendulum to the opposite extreme. Last summer, they announced they would now allow all content onto the Steam store, “except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”

That’s the path that led to the presence of a game bluntly titled Rape Day. And that’s exactly what it sounds like. According to Polygon, it’s a visual novel “that promises to let you play as a sociopath that can violate women during a zombie apocalypse.”

The game’s description, which lists “evil choices” as a feature, says that it will let players “verbally harass, kill, and rape women as you choose to progress the story.” Rape Day boasts that it has over 7,000 words, though judging from writing on the screenshots, it appears to be an amateur creation. Players will be able to read through chunks of the story, and occasionally click on outcomes to the scenarios, which are illustrated with 3D renders of characters.

The game is labeled as “adult only” and doesn’t technically break any of Valve’s rules. Rather, it appears to be a deliberate exploitation of their inability or unwillingness to enforce rules of any sort. A dude made a game in which he could rape women because that was the kind of content he wanted to see in the world, and Valve gave him a platform on which to share it.

So now Valve once again found themselves stuck between an angry internet backlash and their desire to not have to tell men they can’t make games that are purely about committing sexual assault. What they settled on was to remove the game while also letting everyone know they weren’t happy about it.

In a statement on the company’s blog, Valve says that”after significant fact-finding and discussion,” they’ve decided that “‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.”

As you would expect, the comments on the blog are full of people yelling about “censorship.” But it’s not violating anyone’s free speech rights for a company to say they won’t host games based around the premise of violently assaulting women. They could have made that statement.

Instead, what we got was–intentionally or not–an abusive dog whistle signalling that they don’t care about propagating images of assault, they care about the backlash, giving credence to every asshole whining about companies caving to an “SJW agenda” rather than ever believing it’s possible for a company to simply not want to endorse abuse.

It’s also a clear message to women that Valve doesn’t care about us, only about the harm that might be caused to their company on our behalf.

How hard is it to just not allow games about rape on your platform? One British member of parliament has proposed investigating how Steam and other tech and gaming companies can, in her beautifully blunt words, “get away with this kind of stupidity.”

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.