A side by side comparison of the Steam logo and Zoe from Monster Prom, a popular LGBTQ game.

Valve Corporation Those Awesome Guys/Steam Ana Valens

Steam criticized after pulling LGBTQ+ and female protagonist categories

The change could be detrimental to queer developers.

Published Apr 30, 2021   Updated May 3, 2021, 10:39 am CDT

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Ana Valens

Valve’s PC gaming platform Steam came under fire this week after a game developer revealed the site pulled its “LGBTQ+” and “female protagonist” sections from its new categories.

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Imagined Leviathans art director Richard Tongeman revealed the change in a viral tweet Wednesday evening. Tongeman compared the categories’ current assortment, which launched last week, with an earlier version that featured both categories.

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A Steam announcement post from Dec. 9 confirms the two removed sections were originally included as part of the feature. Other sections removed included “Walking Simulator,” “Life & Romance,” and “Hidden Object” games.

“Fuck diverse adventure games, right?” Tongeman tweeted.

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Steam categories are an extension of Steam’s “tags” system, which lets users search for games on the Steam Store based on specific content. Both the “LGBTQ+” and “female protagonist” tags still exist and can be found via the Steam “tags” page.

However, the Steam categories system provides a direct and accessible way to find new games without sorting through a wide assortment of unrelated tags. By obfuscating the category, Steam could dampen visibility for queer game developers’ titles and thus impact sales.

“Everyone deserves visibility & money,” Tongeman wrote.

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It remains unclear when Valve decided to remove both categories from the new feature. However, the company may have removed Steam’s LGBTQ games category first: A functional URL still works for the female protagonist page, whereas attempting to visit a URL for the LGBTQ+ section will redirect users back to the Steam Store.

This is not the first time Steam has made a decision detrimental to its queer users. When Valve removed its hub functionality for community-oriented tags in 2018, queer developers and users who used the “LGBT” tag were negatively impacted by the move, Kotaku reports. The “LGBTQ+” tag was only made official in 2019.

An example of the Steam Categories system.
An example of the “Dating” category under Steam Categories. Steam

Over the past few years, queer developers have increasingly argued indie games storefront itch.io is far more suitable for queer creators. In the wake of the Steam Category controversy, a discussion thread on gaming forum ResetEra makes the case, arguing itch.io provides a better revenue option for developers and generally features more representation for marginalized people.

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“Itch currently has a LGBTQ+ game directly listed as featured game on their front page,” thread author Toma wrote. “I just searched for 10 minutes on Steam to find a game with the LGBTQ+ tag for their new releases and front page lists and couldn’t find a single one.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Steam for comment.


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*First Published: Apr 30, 2021, 4:05 pm CDT