Back in 2019, I had the foolish thought that The Expression Amrilato would be the last time I talked about visual novels being threatened by Valve. That game was denied a Steam release, citing problems with sexual content, despite the fact that Valve updated the terms of service for their platform the year prior. Now, amongst a web of contradictory and increasing blurred content guidelines, visual novels are under attack yet again as Bokuten -Why I Became an Angel- has been suddenly removed from Steam.
Several MangaGamer employees raised the alarm last night as Bokuten was delisted from the platform, alongside screenshots from fans and owners of the title alike. According to Doddler, a programmer for the publisher, Steam removed the title with “no notice or explanation” despite the fact that the team had worked hard to scrub all nudity, sexual references, and “anything explicit” from the game, instead providing an 18+ patch via the company’s site.
Also worth noting is the fact that the game actually released on Steam back in December of 2019, meaning that there was a period of nearly eight months where things were apparently fine.
Valve has awoken and has given the boot for the following titles:
Bokuten – Why I Became an Angel
Don Juan Of The Galaxy
Evolution Battle Simulator
Black Lives Matter.
Shapes of Gray pic.twitter.com/h0sgn6wlqC
— SirViolentDeath (@SirViolentDeath) July 29, 2020
Trying to figure out why Bokuten was removed from Steam or what exactly it was in violation of is a near-impossible task. After updating the TOS in 2018, Valve went on to allow the first 100% uncensored adult visual novel on their platform, but now things are back to the time of the ultimatum.
In reality, it’s probably something to do with automation – a similar situation arose the other week between Amazon and light novel publishers, where it was suspected that the company’s automated moderation processes flagged anime-style visuals as potentially explicit.
Even if this is the case on Steam for Bokuten, it begs the question as to why anime-inspired visuals are being flagged up in the first place. To assume that just because something has an anime aesthetic it must be explicit is the worst type of pigheadedness, reeking of the prejudice that many consumers had towards anime and anime-inspired media before its emergence into the mainstream.
There’s nothing that publishers can really do, either – for as long as these platforms are owned by private companies, they are pretty much free to do whatever they want and deprive publishers of vital revenue in the process. At the very least, you can still pick up a copy of Bokuten via MangaGamer’s online store (18+!).