For many months now Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean developers have had to tiptoe around an amorphous set of rules opaquely employed by Valve regarding what sort of games are allowed on the Steam storefront. Valve has been using the term “child exploitation” to axe anime style games from mostly smallish Asian studios whenever they feature sexy or attractive female characters in romantic settings that some of Valve’s staff consider to be inappropriate. This is despite the fact that some of these games are the all-ages version and don’t contain any sex or flagrant nudity. Well, Valve completely forewent that curation standard for Dontnod Entertainment’s Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3, which featured an underage sex scene, which featured nudity.
The third episode for the game dropped on May 10th, 2019. It follows the two main characters, Sean and Daniel, as they trek south toward the border in order to escape the law. They encounter some hippies working on a weed farm and the older of the two brothers, Sean, has the choice of getting close to a tattooed, danger-hair hippy named Cassidy. Not only that, but Sean – who was still in high-school when the whole ordeal took place – also has the option of going skinny dipping with Cassidy and then having sex with her.
You can view the full sequence, including the skinny dipping scene and the sex scene that followed, courtesy of YouTuber Illuminat3D.
The sequence doesn’t contain explicit nudity such as genitalia, but we do get to see some of Sean’s butt as he’s getting into the water, Cassidy’s butt and her breasts, as well as both Sean and Cassidy topless during the sex scene.
Additionally, we don’t actually see any thrusting or explicit forms of intercourse, but the sequence is more than just implied given the partial nudity on display.
Sankaku Complex was one of the only sites to actively criticize the games press for praising Life is Strange 2: Episode 3 without being more critical of the depiction of underage sex compared to how aggressive they are with condemning fan-service and anime-style games.
Since the game leans entirely Left on the political spectrum, featuring lots of criticisms of Conservatives and Right-leaning individuals, as well as a lot of allusions to Trump supporters being racist and bad based on the way they treat the Hispanic leads, Sean and Daniel, the depiction of underage sex basically went unchecked.
However, the real story here is that the depiction of underage sex also went unchecked by both Sony and Valve, two platform holders who have been aggressively enforcing censorship and bans on games that they either deem as containing too much “sexual content” or for containing “child exploitation”.
In Sony’s case they’ve been aggressively forcing developers to remove certain kinds of fan-service and interactive elements, even if the games don’t actually contain nudity, like Senran Kagura: 7EVEN, which was forced into censorship lest it be banned like Omega Labyrinth Z.
Sony does offer the censorship option instead of outright banning games, even if the games are already rated and don’t contain any nudity.
Valve on the other hand, doesn’t even offer a censorship option in many cases because they feel that developers will try to “wiggle around the grey areas” if they grant leniency, so they outright ban the games or ban the developers without much communication.
Typically Valve’s response has been that the games they’re banning contain “child exploitation”. This is oftentimes never explained nor detailed to a point where developers are given a clear definition of what “child exploitation” means, especially since that excuse is sometimes used to ban the all-ages version of games like Victory Project, which is a sci-fi political thriller.
Now sometimes Valve will have a developer a way around the ban by forcing them to remove characters from their games, even if the game being submitted to Steam doesn’t contain sexual content or nudity, like the all-ages version of Food Girls. Valve had the developers to remove/replace a loli character before allowing it on Steam.
Other games don’t even get the luxury of making modifications. Games like Star Guardians, Noble & Knightess and Kara no Shoujo 2 were outright banned without recourse.
In some other cases, games like The Key To Home was banned even though it was rated ‘T’ for Teen has no sexual content, no nudity, and nothing explicit. However, Valve stated that the game was in a “legally grey” area, though never explained how.
Some pro-censorship defenders have argued that Valve is just trying to abide by the law by not allowing games on that could get them in trouble. However, one must question how a non-explicit version of a game set in college featuring college girls could get Valve in trouble?
There is an obvious double-standard at play, and any developer who isn’t blinded by ideology has seen it. A Chinese developer called out Valve for discrimination.
Another developer, Dank Boi Games, was brazen enough to challenge Valve about their double-standards, but his games were removed from Steam and he was banned off the platform for doing so.
The developer of Monster Mashing Deluxe, Cameron Taylor, also known as ninja_muffin99, revealed that Valve has no set rules or guidelines for what content they allow or don’t allow. So it’s entirely up to the curator as to what’s allowed on the platform and what isn’t. Monster Mashing Deluxe was banned from Steam, by the way, even though none of the characters have ages since they’re all visibly monsters.
“As for telling us what’s allowed, they don’t have any sort of visible rule book for adult games on Steam. I was pretty much just going off the assumption of what they’ve said in one of the announcements where “anything isn’t a troll game or illegal will be allowed on Steam”. I didn’t think we were either so I assumed we were safe. “
Whether your game is Adults Only or all-ages, it doesn’t matter. Valve will ban it if they feel like it.
Oftentimes they hide behind the “child exploitation” excuse, but as evident with Life is Strange 2: Episode 3, they don’t mind allowing games on the platform containing underage sex so long as it fits their ideological standards. The same thing applied with Dirty Education, a gay furry game set in college featuring hardcore uncensored sex. That game breezed through Valve’s curators with flying colors and is available for purchase on the Steam store right now. Valve had a completely alternate assessment for the non-explicit version of Dharker Studios’ My Girlfriend, which was also set in college but was still banned.
They also allowed A Hand In The Darkness and Sweet Pool on Steam as well, both of which also contain underage kids engaged in sexual relations. However, both games only feature homosexual intercourse.
Basically certain developers are allowed to get away with breaking Valve’s undefined rules while other developers are not. And in this case, Valve is completely fine with the underage sex in Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 and don’t consider it “child exploitation” in the slightest.
(Thanks for the news tip Meow Meow)