Rape Day, the unreleased video game that seemed designed to cause controversy, will no longer be distributed on the Steam digital distribution system. But Valve Software’s statement explaining the decision to remove it from the platform might not soothe the anger that flared as people learned about the title.
Valve was in a tricky spot from the get-go with Rape Day, as it had announced just nine months prior that it would “allow everything” on its storefront. But in explaining the decision to make an exception to that, Valve opted against condemning the title’s content (which the developer described as “a game where you can rape and murder during a zombie apocalypse”), instead focussing on its own potential liability.
“Much of our policy around what we distribute is, and must be, reactionary—we simply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct,” the company said in a blog post. “We then have to make a judgement [sic] call about any risk it puts to Valve, our developer partners, or our customers. After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.”
Rape Day was originally set to go on sale next month. As word spread about it, so did online outrage from players, who felt the topic, even in a fictional setting, was abhorrent and objected to the developer’s marketing, which include language such as “So skip the foreplay and enjoy your Rape Day; you deserve it.”
Valve didn’t exactly stand behind the game maker, but did say “we respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.”
The game’s developer, who hasn’t released any previous titles on Steam, seemed to anticipate the game would be pulled. Before Valve’s decision was announced, he said in a statement:
I have not broken any rules, so I don’t see how my game could get banned unless Steam changes their policies. My game was properly marked as adult and with a thorough description of all of the potentially offensive content before the coming soon page went live on Steam. However, if Steam does change their policy… and it is absolutely their right to do so, as a private company, I will do what I can to try and create/and or find an alternate way of selling and marketing my games.
The controversy surrounding Rape Day comes just months after Valve found itself in equally hot water with a game calling itself Active Shooter, which let players opt to be the killer in both an office or school environment. That title, too, was pulled from Steam, but many players were upset about how slowly Valve moved to do so.
Steam, meanwhile, is facing increased competition 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 developers 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.