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Not turned on: sexual content on Steam

Last month, I admitted I had a problem. The situation was getting to the point where it was becoming unbearable and I couldn’t keep sticking my head in the sand any longer. It was finally time to admit to myself that I needed to seek help from the professionals.

I’m talking about my Steam wishlist. A few weeks ago it contained over 100 games and, instead of being somewhere useful to keep track of upcoming releases I was interested in checking out, it had become a place which was almost unmanageable. I was adding titles to my catalogue more quickly than they were being removed so its size had expanded at a steady rate in recent years, and I was worried that this increase was just going to keep continuing.

Steam, recommendations, video games

So I took control of the matter – and asked the experts within the community for their advice. After publishing a post sharing the contents of my wishlist, I received lots of comments from blogger-friends with their tips on the games that should be removed and the ones which were definitely worth playing. Alongside this I decided to start tackling some of the shorter titles I’d shortlisted once I realised that several of them were free and could be completed in around an hour.

One such release was Burning Daylight, a game which had been added to my wishlist on 20 April 2019 after my other-half had seen an article about it and thought it would be something I’d enjoy. And even though it was only 40-minutes long, I was impressed; it contained a lot of potential for a student project and I loved the way the atmosphere made the player feel as though something was incredibly wrong. Its story about society’s obsession with technology and not wanting to see the world for what it truly is was also very timely.

Fast-forward to the following week and I found myself sitting in front of my PC, confused. For some reason, whenever I’d opened Steam to check my discovery queue in the days previous, every other suggestion was one which contained plenty of scantily-clad women with bad hair, poor shoe choices and gravity-defying breasts. I couldn’t work out what was going on; why had the platform decided that I might be interested in this poorly-made digital soft-pornography all of a sudden?

Then I saw the information on the right-hand side of the screen which explained why these recommendations were relevant to me: ‘Similar to games you’ve played: Burning Daylight.’ The game had been tagged with the ‘sexual content’ and ‘nudity’ categories thanks to one short scene. You must guide your character through the red-light district in town where the outline of strippers can be seen in windows, and you pass a couple who are being rather friendly up against a large waste bin in the background.

Burning Daylight, video game, headset, virtual reality, club, strippers, windows

I’m not fond of sexual content in video games. This was something we’d discussed during a Save Point stream a while back and I was surprised to hear that many of the friends who joined is in chat felt the same. I’m struggling to formulate my reason into words but I think it’s something to do with such content being mostly unnecessary; I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now and in that time have seen a lot of releases where women are depicted as prizes and sex is used as a reward.

That’s not to say it can’t be done well when the developers put in the effort. Some titles have managed to effectively incorporate a sex scene so it’s an integral part of their story and shows the connection between two characters, rather than something that’s thrown in to titillate. Poor animation can make such sections feel incredibly awkward though and it seems nobody is a fan of sexy quick-time events (QTEs), so the whole thing needs to be very tastefully managed.

But cheap soft-porn games like those I was now being suggested by Steam? No, thank you. If they’re the sort of releases which float your boat then more power to you. But personally I can think of few things less of a turn-on than completely ridiculous story set-ups, impossibly-proportioned women dressed in nasty PVC outfits, robotic sexual movements and creepy dudes with raised eyebrows. And a note for anyone who hasn’t yet realised: the female nipple doesn’t really do that in real life.

They did give my other-half and I a good giggle for an hour or so though. After commenting to Pete about all the mature recommendations popping up in my discovery queue (and him wondering what the hell I’d been up to), we ended up falling down a rabbit hole and laughing hysterically at the Steam pages we came across. There were also a few games which made us feel very uncomfortable however, such as a 2020 release with a female protagonist where you have to ‘get her home unmolested’ when she’s left alone in the middle of nowhere with strangers.

All this because I’d spent less than an hour with Burning Daylight, a cyberpunk walking simulator that features a very brief background sex scene in which the main character isn’t even involved. Although the ‘Adult Only Sexual Content’ option was already deselected on my Steam account, soft-porn games were still able to make it into my discovery queue recommendations. It seems difficult to be able to fully block them without it having a negative effect on other titles you’d legitimately be interested in.

For example, tell the platform you want to exclude releases with the ‘sexual content’ or ‘nudity’ tags and you wouldn’t see Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Cyberpunk 2077 and Vampyr. These are large RPGs with detailed narratives, and are far removed from the titles which all seem to have names that are a variation of Hot Virtual Reality Girls along with flimsy storylines which must have been written in less than five minutes. Another note for those unaware: you can’t cure a terminal disease by having sex.

In a post published in May 2018, I mentioned how the recommendations given to me by Steam were very hit-and-miss. Things have improved in the past two years and the suggestions are more aligned to the sort of games I want to play – hence the reason why my wishlist was getting so large. But there still seems to be a problem with categorisation. Is it that additional tags are needed to identify different types of sexual content? Or is it that the way the existing ones are being assigned to releases isn’t working?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But what I do know is that I won’t be buying My Cute Roommate or Being a DIK anytime soon.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

6 thoughts on “Not turned on: sexual content on Steam Leave a comment

  1. Hey, there’s nothing sexier than a QTE! But we need proper failstates! How about if you hit the wrong button you slip off your zipper and hit yourself unconscious – scene over. Or worse, mess it up and your partner “accidentally” kicks you in the nuts – GAME over…

    Liked by 4 people

      • You know what? I’m going to start doing it even harder! With multitudes of sex puzzles (whatever that’s supposed to mean). And it will incorporate everything you’ve complained about in the previous post! 🙂

        I’m not quite sure how I can bring backtracking and mazes into the bedroom, though…

        Like

  2. As much as I really don’t mind sexual content in games, those cheap games you’re talking about on Steam really do look awful and I wouldn’t want to see them as recommended either. I think part of it generally has to do with Steam’s nonexistent quality control.

    But another problem is with the tagging system. There are certainly games that include sex and nudity, and then games where that’s the main focus. Even in cases where the latter are high-quality, a lot of people won’t want to see them, so a different kind of tag should be used that users can blacklist. It doesn’t make sense that Valve hasn’t figured this out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the tagging system is a big problem. If I block the ‘sexual content’ tag, I’ll miss out on walking simulators such as Burning Daylight or RPGs with brief nudity. But if I don’t block it, my discovery queue can potentially contain the sort of titles I’d never be interested in and therefore become less useful.

      I guess it must be difficult to correctly tag every new game that comes onto the platform when you consider how many are released each day. But there must be some improvements which could be made…

      Liked by 1 person

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