According to the respective developers of Liberate Hong Kong and Karma, two separate games inspired by the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Valve has been artificially delaying the Steam approval process for these games due to the suspected influence of the Chinese government.
Liberate Hong Kong
In Liberate Hong Kong, players are placed in the role of an unnamed Hong Kong protestor “as he stays in the frontline of protest resisting against the risk of being shot, arrested and other kinds of police brutality backed by the Government.”
The protest simulator is, according to developer Unnamed Protester, their “declaration to all those suppressions: we will never bow to the totalitarian reign of terror. We will resist and fight back until the day of Victory!”
On December 5th, Unnamed Protester stated that they had heard no reply from Valve since submitting their game to the Steam service on October 18th, despite sending follow-up inquiries on October 30th and November 26th.
According to Gizmodo, Unnamed Protestor wrote an open letter to Steam, explaining that they “are deeply concerned with this situation and would like for a detailed explanation for this timely review process.”
They noted that there have “been multiple instances of political censorship against contents in relation to the Hong Kong protestors since the Anti-ELAB movement, and it would not be a surprise to people of the free world if this is another case of such censorship in order to be in good terms with a certain oppressive regime to suppress democracy, freedom, and human rights.”
Developer Tom Chan also stated, “We understand that Steam has some concern with losing market from China.” He added, “We hope that we can at least communicate first.”
Karma, a visual novel inspired by the “sadness and sorrow in Hong Kong through June and July” and whose first six-months of revenue will be directly donated to the pro-democracy protestors, has also faced issues being approved by Valve.
Originally submitted on October 6th, followed by a resubmission in order to fix a bug on November 4th, the game has yet to be made available on Steam, despite having a Steam page which lists the games release date as ‘Nov 2019’.
Valve has told developers Herstory Indie Game Development that their game requires an extended review due to its “controversial and potentially illegal content,” as reported by Gizmodo.
One of the developers, Arte Lee, told Gizmodo, “It seems like they care [about] money more than freedom of artistic creativity.”
As of writing, Valve has not yet commented on their reasoning for delaying approval for these games, leading many to claim that these delays are another example of an American company attempting to appease the Chinese markets through censorship.