Some controversy hit Steam this past week when publisher Henteko Doujin was notified by Valve that their visual novel The Key to Home had been removed from the Steam Store.
Of the many things that LewdGamer takes a strong stand against, censorship and suppression of art are two very important ones. This past week, Valve took it upon themselves to remove a visual novel from Steam titled The Key to Home. After receiving an email from Valve requesting details on the visual novel’s plot and intended audience, Henteko Doujin quickly replied, only to receive a follow-up email stating, “We are not interested in shipping this title on Steam.”
While Valve is firmly within its right to refuse the sale of any item the company doesn’t want on its store, their reason for removing this game seems questionable. In a follow-up response to the publisher asking for a reason, Valve noted that the reason for the game’s removal was, “[because] we think this novel’s core audience is pedophiles.” Publisher Henteko Doujin believes that this is a huge jump to conclusion. Despite the Steam store page not containing and graphic or suggestive content — not even so much as a panty shot, a well known, classic anime trope — Steam still felt this title was primarily aimed at pedophiles.
Henteko Doujin made a post on the Steam Community forums for The Key to Home, in which they explained what had happened and gave some insight to their side of the story. In the response, the publisher explained that the themes of this story are exactly opposite of what it is being accused of. The company also reiterated that the game contains, “no sexually explicit images whatsoever.” As of this time, Valve has not yet responded.
We reached out to Henteko Doujin for additional information about The Key to Home. The publisher was happy to answer our questions and explained the themes and content of the visual novel in the following quote:
This is the theme of the novel, including spoilers.: This novel game is aimed to raise social awareness of child and school related social issues through a story about four troubled heroines who, under unexpected circumstances, join forces with a young hapless teacher to fight against an evil organization that means to exploit children.
This work is fiction, but linked with real problems regarding children in the real world. Another theme of this work is fighting against real life evils through the use of fictional “Hentai.
As far as complaints and comments made in the Steam forums, there have been two things to commonly appear. First, several people have complained about the game’s artist, MUK. This artist is well known for drawing lolicon works, and his association with the project meant immediate guilt in the eyes of some. Henteko Doujin responded to this by stating that using this specific artist had an “important meaning,” though that meaning wouldn’t be entirely clear without reading the story itself. If Valve truly decided to remove the title for this reason, then why does it allow several other titles on the store which have also been drawn by lolicon artists?
Other users seemed especially concerned with a quote from The Key to Home’s original store page description, “This is a visual mystery novel for all gentlemen and gentlewoman who love little girls!” It’s quite apparent how this could be heavily misinterpreted by a Western audience; however, this quote is the product of a poorly translated Japanese slang expression.
“This is a visual mystery novel for all gentlemen and gentlewoman who love little girls!” Has caused many more information: after reading the steam discussion page, it has become clear that many people’s interpretation of the phrase: Some confusion. In this context, the word “Gentleman” or “gentleman” is a Japanese internet meme which is used when referring to people who like children in a normal and clearly non sexual way. I apologize for having included this phrase before making sure that its true meaning was as clear as possible.
Looking back, it has been historically difficult to get a game removed from Steam. Outside of a developer threatening Gabe Newell’s life, rarely have we seen individual games get taken down. That was, of course, before the nightmare that was Steam Greenlight led to a new horror named Steam Direct, two systems which led to the store being flooded with shovelware. These systems, which led to the creation of terms like “asset flips” and “fake games,” have created the first real problem with Steam, which finally forced Valve to begin mass removals. However, it’s important to note that the offending games which were removed were only taken down after massive campaigns and customer complaints. This begs the question, Why did Valve feel the need to single out The Key to Home?
Judging by some of the trolling comments and given that Valve appears to only act when the community gets involved, it would suggest that someone complained. As we should all know by now, there are some who simply label anything with anime as pedophilia, as did this Steam post, where the user called out Skullgirls for being pedophilic, despite most of the characters having large breasts. Another possible reason for Valve’s decision is some of the comments that were posted on the forum. After the game was removed there were a few Steam users rejoicing over the fact, but prior to the removal, there were some comments which did nothing more than spread false rumors and incite controversy around the title.
While these posts were most likely just intended to be inflammatory, if Valve noticed them along with getting any community complaints, it could have easily influenced their decision. As we saw with the YouTube Pedophilia controversy , vulgar posts on otherwise innocent videos led to those videos becoming restricted along with the actually offending videos. It’s possible that Valve had a knee-jerk reaction and decided to take initiative to avoid any similar controversy.
Various images from The Key to Home
The Japanese online store Melonbooks still has The Key to Home readily available for purchase. While this website has a section dedicated to explicit materials, Melonbooks has also deemed it worthy to list this title in the All Ages section of the store. As Melonbooks is completely willing to sell the most graphic of graphic novels, the website has no reason to hide or mask any potentially lewd nature that this game may have.
As of the time of writing, Henteko Doujin is still awaiting a further response from Valve and currently has no specific details on releasing the game through an alternate Western store; however, the publisher did state that it is considering it if things cannot be worked out for a release on Steam. If you’re interested in this title and do not wish to wait around while Valve decides whether or not to change its mind, you can purchase The Key to Home over at Melonbooks for ¥1,620. Do note, this version features the original Japanese text.