Valve has implemented an “LGBTQ+” tag and hub to enable both players and developers to find, and categorise, LGBTQ+-friendly titles on its Steam storefront. As reported by Kotaku, Steam’s recommendations are typically generated by algorithms, but up until now, there was no “official” LGBTQ+ tag, which meant anyone who “unofficially” tagged it would see their personal preferences trumped by Steam’s official ones. The change now means both developers and curators can more easily discover and promote LGBTQ+ games.
The change comes following a query by Yitz – an indie developer behind RPG Nepenthe and the upcoming To the Dark Tower – who was surprised to find there was no tag to indicate that the topic of their game contained LGBTQ+ themes. Steam responded to Yitz by saying it was “open to approving new tags on a case-by-case basis that make sense as attributes that can be applied to at least a few games” and invited the developer to open a discussion via the Steamworks forum.
“I thought it would be appropriate to add a ‘LGBTQ’ tag, or at least a ‘Diversity’ tag,” they wrote in the private developer forum thread. “To my great surprise, such tags are not given as possible options. Neither is anything similar. The closest you get to a ‘Diversity’ tag is ‘Female Protagonist,’ which while nice, is a very limited subset of what both developers and players are looking for when talking about diversity in games.”
Consequent discussions assessed whether the tag would garner unwanted attention, and potentially act as a dog-whistle for harassment.
“It doesn’t matter if it does,” replied NoHuA, a developer currently working on farming adventure RPG, Freyr. “You will have those forever.” “I was thinking about the opposite happening: someone buying my game and getting upset that there is gay stuff,” added Erik Sheader, creator of The Endless Empty, the earnings for which are donated to The Trevor Project, an organization providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth.
“People are gonna be shitty no matter what,” NoHuA insisted. “The tag is important.”
“Tags like this are important because of what Steam tags are currently being used for-classifying games by various factors that will impact the player’s experience, and recommending games with similar tags to players who seem to like a lot of the given tag,” Yitz said. “As such, tags are sort of equivalent to visibility, in a way. If I enjoy a lot of games tagged ‘Psychological Horror,’ for example, Steam will show me more psychological horror games. If I want to play more games that challenge traditional gender roles, until today Steam had no way of knowing that.”
Valve came under fire last year when a number of indie developers saw their games removed from the platform for including “pornographic content”. While some of the games affected did contain controversial materials such as incest or sex between characters in school uniforms, many others included LGBTQ+ themes and motifs that were unduly sanctioned, too.