AIDS Simulator and other games removed from Steam, Valve clarifies 'trolling' policy

Straight up trolling?

Just a day after Valve announced a new 'anything goes' policy for Steam—simplistically, as long as a game is not illegal or "trolling," it will be allowed—it has removed AIDS Simulator, ISIS Simulator, Suicide Simulator, Asset Flip Simulator, and Triggering Simulator from the platform.   

The 'games' were all added to Steam prior to the announcement of the new policy (Suicide Simulator and ISIS Simulator were actually added in September 2017, in case there was any doubt that Valve's existing approval systems were useless), and while they could easily fit most definitions of "trolling," they were presumably removed under the old rules: Valve said in the policy announcement that it "won't be making significant changes to what's arriving on Steam until we've finished some of the tools" it's working on to help Steam users filter what they see.   

Even so, it seems likely that the games would have been taken down under the new guidelines, had they been in place. Referring to the prior removal of the school shooting game Active Shooter last week, Valve's Doug Lombardi told VentureBeat that it was dropped "because it was a troll, designed to do nothing but generate outrage and cause conflict through its existence." 

"In addition, the developer had been involved in numerous misrepresentations, copyright violations, and customer abuses. There are no second chances for Active Shooter, or its developers," Lombardi said. "And to be explicit, while the developer behind it was also a troll, we’d reject Active Shooter if it had been submitted by any other developer." 

Valve's statement clarifies its definition of trolling somewhat, and it might be inevitable that some degree of an "I know it when I see it" attitude will have to be taken when determining what crosses that line. But the big-picture approach remains vague. For one thing, will games which "generate outrage" in a more coded way not count as trolling? And does intending to generate any kind of outrage count as trolling? People are outraged about lots of things, including good things.

In a best-case scenario, the removal of these games (and their developer, BunchOD00dz) means that the absolute worst, most derogatory games won't be welcomed to the platform, as the sloppy wording of the announcement suggested to us. But "trolling" remains a hazy term that other developers might work harder and less obviously to push, and I have no doubt that's something that Valve will be forced to confront in the fairly near future—one way or the other.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.