Update on Valve censorship

20 December 2009
5:44 am

I wanted to take a moment to post an update on the issue I wrote about earlier regarding Valve's swear-word filter on their forums.

A short time after I posted the original article, the filter itself was edited and "gay" was removed. This coincided with a thread being created on the discussion forum by user "rpmmatt" referencing the previous article. I have no way of knowing what was the reason the filter was changed, as I have still not received any replies from Valve corporate or the volunteer moderators I have contacted at any point.

The thread went on for quite some time and though it was interspersed with some stupid replies, largely it was significantly better than what I would have expected on a gaming forum as large and diverse as the Valve one is. Nevertheless, it was closed like so many others around similar subjects. To the best that I can ascertain, the filter was implemented to limit the behavior of other posters to call one another "gay" negatively, and previous threads have been closed because of a nebulous forum policy that says discussions cannot be created about an issue that's likely to be contentious.

Unfortunately this appears to be a Pyrrhic victory. While the filter was changed, it doesn't look like anyone on the forum staff will be backing that change up with an appropriate response towards policing the forums to improve the atmosphere. When the aforementioned discussion roamed the world of off-topic everywhere from "gay people are abnormal" to "gay people are selfishly hurting humanity because they won't pass their genes down via reproduction" it's obvious that there is need of a culture shift that won't happen whether three letters are turned into pink hearts or not. It's disappointing that LGBT discussions aren't allowed because of their potential to be volatile conversations, and it's disappointing that the preferred response by the moderating staff is to lock and delete these threads instead of patrolling and containing the bigots and trolls. Closing these threads only succeeds in rewarding the negative behavior of those being stupid, and while I extend my sympathies to anyone on staff who handles those forums on a volunteer basis, I don't think "it's too much work" is really the right approach.

In the end, as I said in the previous entry, Valve and Valve's forum moderators are absolutely allowed to moderate their forums however they choose. As a private company they don't need to justify or explain anything to anyone. However, as a long time customer and huge advocate of Steam, I find this whole experience very disheartening and ultimately saddening.

3 Responses to \'Update on Valve censorship\'

    Valve is my favorite video game company by far, and to think that it is run by homophobes just makes me sad and confused. ARE they or ARE THEY NOT homophobes? In your previous post you wrote that you think that homophobia is not the root of the censorship but check this: Half-Life 1 was intended to " appeal to the innate homophobia of 12 year old boys, the targeted audience for the game. " so was that just a marketing trick or did they pick their audience based on their own views ( probably not ) . What do you think?

    Hi Pootis,

    Unfortunately I was never able to get a clear response from anyone at Valve directly, but from comments made by some of the moderating staff the policy as I understand it came about as an attempt to head off discussions that historically end in flamewars across the internet. I don't think as a company Valve is homophobic, and like the BioWare example this likely came up with good intentions in mind, but sadly it ended up having the opposite effect than what it was intended for.

    I still maintain that a better stance would be for Valve to police their forums more pro-actively rather than try to use computer bans to automatically hide naughty words. However, as their forums are policed by an apparent volunteer team of moderators, I doubt this is likely to change.

    I'm not sure where the quote you posted about Half Life 1 came from, but I don't think I agree with it. Half Life 1 struck me as pretty sexless all around. I don't think that Valve as a company is homophobic, and they're pretty high on my list of gaming companies as well. I did find this forum issue a bit disappointing, but I hope it's a lesson they learned something from and a lesson other game development companies will take note of.

    Well, i got that information of the Combine OverWiki, the Half-Life Wiki. It was about a cut enemy from Half-Life named Mr.Friendly. Read it if you are interested.

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