Upcoming Video Game ‘Rape Day’ Could Test the Resolve of Steam Distribution Service
Nine months after Valve Software announced it would “allow everything” on its Steam digital distribution service, it’s facing its biggest challenge to that edict.
An upcoming game called Rape Day is slated for release on the service next month. And it’s a title that seems designed to court controversy. Described by the developer as “a game where you can rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse,” it is said to contain elements of violence, sexual assault, non-consensual sex, obscene language, necrophilia, and incest. Screenshots from the game show much of this taking place.
Gamers have actively derided Rape Day on social media, criticizing Steam for not removing it from the service. (The game is currently under review by Steam, according to a March 4 statement by the developer.)
The controversy is familiar territory for Steam. Last year, the service faced backlash for dragging its feet on discontinuing sales of a game called Active Shooter, that let players opt to be the killer in both an office or school environment.
Following that uproar, Valve clarified the position on what would and wouldn’t be allowed for sale on Steam.
“Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this,” the company said. “If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. … With that principle in mind, we’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”
Valve did not reply to Fortune‘s requests for comment about Rape Day and whether the company considered it to be illegal or “straight up trolling”. The controversy hits as Steam is facing its most serious competition in years from the Epic Games Store, which has lured several developers to bypass Steam as they release new titles.
Video games are protected under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011. And while some can be hyper-violent or include sexual elements, few game makers rush this far beyond the line of good taste. Normally, those that do are independent developers, people who create a game out of their home, and are looking for attention.