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Germany says Nein to lewd games on Steam
Age verification would mean having your face scanned in Naughty List News #54
I’ve lived in Germany for almost six years now, but I never bothered to update my location in Steam. This was mostly out of laziness, but also a bit of practicality. Germany has some pretty stringent rules about games that the Netherlands does not have. For example, it was only very recently that you can play an uncensored version of Wolfenstein in Germany that doesn’t strip out the Nazi symbolism.
I still pay for all my games using a Dutch bank account, so Steam doesn’t bother me about updating my location. But recently I decided to finally create a new account so I can keep my lewd games separate from my other games. Make no mistake: I am completely unashamed about blasting my playing of Hentai Puzzle 3D - Isekai Simulator on a Tuesday afternoon to my friends list. But I’m not comfortable just yet with tying those activities to my mainstream online identity.
A great feature that was added to Steam is the ability to share games with friends and family. By turning on Family Sharing you can share games in your library with other accounts. This meant that my new account didn’t have to start from scratch and I could play games from my other library immediately.
But what I didn’t consider was that I created this new account in Germany. And now I can’t actually buy lewd games for my new Steam account.
What’s wrong with Steam in Germany?
Max Gentlemen Sexy Business! is an idle clicker where you do business and date your board members. It’s great and has some mild lewd content, so I wanted to pick it up again. Here’s what I see on the store page when I browse with my Dutch account:
I can buy the game again and there’s a free Uncensored DLC that will do what it says on the tin. But here’s what I see with my new German Steam account:
I can still buy the game, but there’s something fishy going on with the DLC section.
For those who skipped Dutch in high school, it says “1 item was excluded based on your preferences”. I can still buy the soundtrack, but can no longer get the free DLC that will remove the game’s censorship.
And this isn’t limited to one game but is the situation for all lewd games on Steam.
Late last year, the German Senate approved new rules for online age verification. Ostensibly to curtail online gambling by minors, these rules affect online marketplaces like Steam too.
Instead of having a simple “enter your birthdate” age check field, the rules require age verification checks to be more “robust'“. And once you look into them, you will see that they are almost impossible to comply with.
I found an English translation of the regulations that give a good overview. It starts out sensibly enough:
Under Article 4 Para. 2 Sentence 2 of the German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV), content illegal for minors (e.g. pornography) is admissible in telemedia if the provider ensures that such content is accessible only to adults.
Okay, so porn should only be accessed by adults. I think we can all agree on that point. But the way they want you to get there is with an age verification system. This consists of two components:
Reliable identification of the user through face-to-face monitoring
Ensuring that the content can only be accessed by the user identified in the first step
And this puts an onerous burden on Steam.
What does this mean in practice?
In order for Steam to sell adult games to customers in Germany, they would have to first verify the legal age of potential customers. As the English translation notes, this can currently only be done through “personal contact”, i.e. video verification.
This means that a Steam representative would have to call you up whenever you want to purchase an adult game. Not only would this have an enormous chilling effect on potential customers, but it would also be hugely expensive for Valve to maintain.
And that’s just the first step.
The second step is that every time a game is launched, a similar age verification must occur. Just in case you e.g. ask your older brother to buy a game for you.
Valve, in what I consider to be a very justifiable decision, decided to withdraw from the German lewd games market decision entirely. And I do believe that was the intent behind the law.
What’s the harm being prevented?
With these rules, you have to ask: What exactly is the harm being prevented here?
Children shouldn’t watch porn. It can leave them scared, confused, and even traumatized. But the same is true for violent movies, which is why there’s a rating system in place. This rating allows parents and guardians to make an informed decision about what media the children in their care consume.
But parents are also allowed autonomy in their decisions, for better or worse. If your guardian allows you to watch a scary movie at age 13, does that mean that stricter rules are needed for the movie and streaming industries to prevent that?
No, I would argue that was a decision made by an adult. The state can and should do its best to inform its citizens about potential harms, but I do believe people are allowed to make their own decisions. Especially when it comes to the media they consume.
Instead of preventing harm to children, what these regulations do is make it legally impossible to sell uncensored adult games in Germany. That doesn’t reduce the demand for these games at all. But it does push them to fringe markets and less scrupulous sellers.
And I do think that’s worse than a hypothetical 17-year old seeing a virtual breast.
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
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The Depraved Vampire Slut is now available on DLSite. I think it’s refreshing when a woman isn’t afraid to say exactly what she wants.
Master-Servant Sex with the Beauty from the Orient ~Contract with a Semen-Sucking Demon~ Released on Steam. Like I said: communication is key!
Loyalfans is offering creators 85% commission during November. I haven’t seen much buzz about this platform, but perhaps this is a reason to look into it?
Redditors identify the most popular fetish subgroups. You might be surprised by number 1! (It’s cuckoldry.)
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
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