Last year, Valve released a statement declaring that ‘the right approach’ means that the games they ‘allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values’. This implies a certain abdication of responsibility taken by the company. Who thought that a game called ‘Rape Day’, with all that is implied in the title and as part of the game itself, would ever be okay?
There is, of course, the argument to be made about freedom of speech and expression. One company cannot police everyone’s opinions and, by extension, what games they choose to play. Supporters of Valve’s more laissez-faire approach would perhaps argue that it allows developers and gamers space to explore their interests without fear of retribution.
However, this is a very different matter to almost allowing such repellent products to have such a visible platform, or to have a platform at all. By taking this approach, Valve is seemingly aligning itself with the product, even if that is not the company’s intention.
The company has a social responsibility to prevent the normalisation or legitimisation of games that promote or glorify such harmful and abhorrent actions.
In their announcement halting the launch of the game on Steam, rather than condemning the game or banning it for the sexual violence contained within the game, Valve merely noted that the game ‘poses unknown costs and risks’. As MP Hannah Bardell argues, the content of the game is ‘absolutely sickening and appalling’, and violence against women is a serious issue which should never be treated as a game.
The company has a social responsibility to prevent the normalisation or legitimisation of games that promote or glorify such harmful and abhorrent actions. There is no point that can be made to argue that the game contributes anything positive whatsoever to gaming, or society in general.
Whether we like it or not, the media we consume has an impact upon the way people think and act. ‘Free speech’ is one thing, but game developers and gaming platforms need to take responsibility for what they allow and promote on their stores. As companies grapple with issues centred around gender equality and the treatment of female gamers, the industry needs to seriously consider its moral and ethical responsibility to both its customers, and to society.