AN OPEN LETTER TO VALVE SOFTWARE
REGARDING CENSORSHIP ON STEAM
Hello,

We are Dank Boi Games, a small indie developer formerly on Steam. Our first game we tried to publish is GAY NATION: a Gay Game for Gays [GAYS ONLY]. This is an archive of our store page, which Steam has since censored and pulled down: http://archive.is/3rSq2

Before it was taken down, our game had 9051 wishlists. One of the goals of the game is to expose and bring discussion to certain double standards that exist in our society, such as prejudice against majority groups being socially acceptable.

Another goal is to bring light to REAL issues that effect persecuted minorities all over the world. An example in our game being a person who is thrown off the top of the building for being straight. This is obviously a reference to real world gay people who are subject to this sort of treatment in certain countries.

The game is extreme satire and contains no hate against any group. In fact, the takeaway is that ALL types of persecution are wrong.

Our game was submitted back in April and the store page was approved a few days later without issue. The store page was put online. We began our marketing efforts. The final part of the release process is having your executables approved. Generally this is not an issue, since Steam only requires you to upload the final build of your game, where it's then ran through some automated tests. If there is no issue with how the game runs, it is approved.

Because of how we set our depots up, the automated tests expected a windows build and a mac build. There was an issue with the upload process and an empty mac build was submitted. The tests failed for this reason. There is no way to re-initialize these automated tests; Valve must manually review your build at this point. We submitted multiple tickets and emails over the course of three months, but Valve ignored us. All of our requests were either ignored or met with an generic, automated response. Our initial release date was May, and here we are 2 months later in July, with no release date in sight.

Finally, we went public on the steamworks developer forums asking them what is going on. This is the conversation chain with Valve staff on the forum:


Translated: We are happy to take your money, but we will not publish your game until we create censorship tools that will prevent people from ever seeing it. While we are not thrilled about this, this post is a clear indicator that our game would eventually be released.

Unsatisfied with this response, we drafted up another response, calling them out on what we believe to be double standards, and arbitrary rule enforcement:


A few days after making this post we receive a one sentence email, personally addressed from Jason Ruymen, informing us our publisher account has been banned for the most preposterous reason imaginable - "Trolling"


We sent a follow-up email that was ignored and not replied to. Googling his name reveals other instances where he has acted as judge, jury, and executioner of other indie game devs. Since this email was sent from a personal address (and not a generic support email) one can only assume this action was the decision of a single person. We find that to be unacceptable.

What exactly is 'trolling'? Does Valve have a formal definition of this anywhere? No, they do not. Is it a catch-all reason to ban anyone they decide they don't like? It appears so. Given that our game had a store page live for 3 months, one can only assume we were targeted for daring to question their policies publicly in this way.

Our game has been implicitly approved by the fact that similar games exist on the store.
Our game has been explicitly approved by passing the initial store page review process.
Our game has been explicitly approved multiple times by multiple different Valve staff members, both through tickets and forum posts.

All of this, only for what appears to be a single staff member to step in and decide he doesn't like what we're doing. Account closure - no questions asked, no explanation given. There is zero consistency in the policies and communications of Valve. Rules are applied arbitrary and selectively. How does Valve go from apologizing for the delays we've experienced, to banning our account, within a one week timeframe? Is this truly how the largest video game distribution platform operates?

Given these facts, we believe we have been grievously wrong by Valve. Three months worth of our marketing efforts were directed to our Steam store page - which no longer exists. That is a lot of time and money down the drain. We have since launched on Patreon but we have no way to reach out to everyone who was interested in our game due to Valve's actions.

Above anything else, we hope to bring attention and discussion to the increasingly aggressive (and arbitrary) censorship we're seeing not only from Valve, but the rest of the industry as a whole. We are just another entry on the long list of developers who have been treated in such a way. And it only appears to be getting worse.

At this point, we have paid $300 to Valve in publishing fees. In return, they refused to publish our games, refuse to have a dialog with us, ban our account, and refuse to offer a refund. As we mentioned before, our game had 9051 wishlists before it was pulled down. There was significant interest in it.

It is our opinion that monopolistic platforms such as Steam should be treated as a utility and be free from all forms of censorship. Unfortunately, Steam appears to be just another entry in a long list of services that employs censorship in an oppressive manner.

Having said all of the above, Dank Boi Games rightfully demands that Valve either reinstate our developer account, or provide a proper explanation (as justified by the currently published policies) as to why such heavy-handed actions were imposed against us, as well as issuing a full refund for all publishing fees. Barring that, we will be filing a dispute with our bank, and looking into other legal actions.

Kind Regards,
Dank Boi Games