The Expression Amrilato was supposed to release on Steam alongside its outing on MangaGamer and GOG.com. The all-ages yuri visual novel is an edutainment title made in collaboration with the official National Esperanto Association of Japan, where it’s not just a tale about romance but also an educational tool to help people learn about Esperanto. However, Valve denied the game’s release claiming that it contained content that “sexualizes minors”, and refused to further explain why or how.
Initially MangaGamer made a brief statement about Valve making a false claim about The Expression Amrilato being denied release on Steam, but then it was followed up with comments from PR director John Pickett, who went slightly further into detail stating that Valve claimed that the game contained the sexualization of minors.
Later on the head translator on the project, Kooryuu, took to Twitter on June 14th, 2019 to talk about the issue, reiterating Pickett’s comments while also further explaining the game’s story and characters.
This is, of course, entirely false. While Rin is in high school and Ruka is in middle school, their romance never goes beyond hugging and kissing in game. #Amrilato
— 蛟龍@修行中勇者 (@Kouryuu_) June 15, 2019
The most frustrating part of all is that due to this stonewall of silence, there’s no means of holding anyone accountable, be it Valve, or the Valve employee responsible for this discrimination, save for bringing it to the public eye and raising awareness of this injustice.
— 蛟龍@修行中勇者 (@Kouryuu_) June 15, 2019
This is a frustration shared by many developers over the last eight or so months as Valve have been banning titles for “child exploitation”.
However, it’s not just that they ban certain games for child exploitation it’s that it’s ideologically driven.
For instance games like Sweet Pool were allowed on Steam, the yaoi-slasher that was set in a school. It also had an off-site R18+ patch available for the hardcore gay sex scenes and gore, but the ecchi visual novel D20: Sweet Roll Club that had no R18+ content was banned even though it was also set in a school.
We’ve also seen a lot of unfair leeway given to furry games, including R18+ furry games like Dirty Education, which was an uncensored, gay furry, sex sim set in college that launched on Steam with no problems. However, Dharker Studios’ all-ages version of My Girlfriend was banned from Steam even though it, too, was also set in college.
Plenty of people have made excuses as to why Valve allows certain games on Steam and not others, especially when it comes to games featuring Asian-inspired art-styles or content. Some Chinese developers basically believed that Valve was discriminating against Asian developers and certain kinds of indie studios.
It’s true that certain developers have been hit with demands and requests that other Western developers haven’t been required to undertake. For instance Simon Creative’s all-ages visual novel Food Girls was forced to censor out the loli character before being approved for release on Steam, even though the game has no sexual content nor any nudity.
When you contrast these heavy calls for censorship or outright bans – landing many of this games on the ever-growing Waifu Holocaust 2.0 banned list – with the fact that Valve has let games like Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 onto the platform without any problems whatsoever, even though it features a canonical underage sex scene, it definitely bares Valve’s biases for all to see.
It’s okay if Western made games by a Left-leaning studio include nudity and sex scenes in their game, but titles featuring anime art-styles or content produced by Asian studios oftentimes get hit with stricter curation policies and unfair censorship requirements.
To make matters worse is that as some developers have revealed, there are no content policies in place or visible rules for developers to follow. This means that Valve has free reign to accept or deny games based on the curator’s own personal discretion, effectively turning them into the dreaded “Taste Police” that they claimed they weren’t going to become.
And for a little extra salt in the wound, Valve won’t even afford developers or publishers the courtesy of responding to their queries about what makes certain games “child exploitation” while others escape that moniker even though they may have similar content. The murky nature of Valve’s policies has not endeared many gamers to their curation policies, and I’m sure many developers feel the same way. In this case at least it’s good that MangaGamer is speaking up about the issue and hopefully this will help spread awareness about what’s really going on at Valve.
(Thanks for the news tip Rikkuna)