House Party is a game that I had no idea even existed until it showed up in my Steam recommendation queue. I didn’t buy it because I was pressed for money at the time, but it seemed like just the kind of game I’ve been waiting for: A game with uncensored sex in it. That may sound like a strange thing to be waiting for, but look at it while viewing the gaming industry as a whole.
Ever since the 90's, games released for home consoles have been subject to the ESRB and its ratings system. You have C for Children, E for Everyone(Pretty much covers C), E10+ for Everyone equal to or older than 10 years of age, T for teens age 13 and up, M for Mature with a minimum age that varies(16 is typically the lowest and 18 the highest. It’s not consistent.), and AO for Adult’s Only which covers... 18 and up. All of those ratings are valid EXCEPT AO, the reason being that AO is a taboo rating. It’s sales suicide. Why? Because brick and mortar stores refuse to carry it. And why do they refuse to carry it? Sex. That’s it. Pure, uncensored, sex.
And this is where the mentality of the gaming industry really gets weird. Going around committing mass murders and bludgeoning people to death is perfectly acceptable, committing genocide is acceptable, but sex? Hell no. Now, as the years have gone on, the M rating has become more lenient when it comes to sex. Bare breasts can be shown and sex animations can be shown. However, the frontal lower regions must be obscured from view, or else the rating will automatically bump to AO.
Enter the modern PC market.
Once upon a time, you would buy PC games as physical media, put the first disc in, enter a CD Key, install that disc, then insert more discs until the game was fully installed, then play. These physical copies were subject to the ESRB because they were sold in brick and mortar stores. Fast forward to the era of Steam and physical PC games have all, but vanished, replaced by digital downloads. Ratings are a thing of the past, meaning people can make any kind of games they want and not lose sales over it. However, there typically is nowhere to go with them. If you want to sell it, it has to be on some obscure website that no one has ever heard of. But, in the last few years, a lot of games have gotten onto Steam with very adult premises. There’s a game about trying to masturbate and not get caught doing it. That game seems to be doing just fine, likely due to the fact that the offending member is concealed beneath a blanket, ya know, despite the fact that it is entirely clear what the character is doing and it’s IN THE DESCRIPTION.
Enter House Party.
House Party is a game where you, a young adult, attend a house party(duh), and the goal is to simply enjoy the party in whatever way you choose. Drink, fight, play games, get laid, you name it, it can happen. This game eventually made it onto Steam in early access and has become popular since it’s release, garnering over 30,000 in sales on Steam. That’s not bad for an indie game that seemingly came out of nowhere. Even popular Youtubers picked it up.
And now it’s gone.
As was to be expected, someone(or some people), just had to go and ruin the fun. House Party has sex in it, and I’m talking full on uncensored sex. Not the best animated mind you, but this is an early access game and animating sex isn’t easy. The point was that this game made it onto Steam and had this content, and it was doing quite well for itself. It’s not the first game to have sex in it, and it certainly isn’t the first game to have uncensored sex and be allowed onto Steam. Many visual novels from Japan have adult content in them, perhaps that’s even the point, and while some have 18+ patches to add the content in, others just release with the stuff built in and it’s either censored or uncensored. And then here we have House Party. When it originally released it didn’t have the adult content, that was patched in with updates, but was always planned and a known quantity. And now, apparently, many people bombarded Valve with complaints of “pornography” and this, apparently, resulted in the game being pulled.
Now, we can point fingers all day and accuse random people, but at the end of the day Valve does have the power to not allow certain games on its platform for any reason whatsoever. The problem, however, is that a game like House Party is far less visible than, say, Assassin’s Creed. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s buried in the Steam Store, its popularity probably raised it up, but it’s still beneath all the high profile releases, and it is clearly labeled as having “sexual content” and the page is likely age gated. If you click on it, you know exactly what you’re getting into.
The game will likely return to Steam, but made safe for work, with the original content returning as an optional DLC because Valve doesn’t seem to mind that approach. But this really does open up the question of whether or not AO games will ever be treated the same way as M games, and when that time comes, how will distribution platforms like Steam handle them? The easiest solution is to block them off from the main Steam Store, and instead put them in a special 18+ section that can only be accessed if your account says you’re 18 or older. This would be the digital gaming equivalent of those old video rental stores that had a big red curtain in the back with “18+” on it, the porn corner. Obviously this would not prevent kids or teens from accessing it, but at least then Valve can say they tried.