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Holodexxx: the “ethical, serious” porn game that just can’t get on Steam

After spending $20,000 in development time trying to get their virtual adult experience on Steam and facing three separate rejections, Holodexxx wants more transparency around the platform’s adult entertainment guidelines to protect future developers.

Steam’s ambiguous rules around pornography have hurt plenty of small game developers over the years, but the creators of Holodexxx have not gone down without a fight. After three attempts to get on the platform, with over $20,000 spent in development time, the team is moving on from Steam – but not without first calling out their vague review process in a warning to adult content creators.

Holodexxx is a virtual reality experience that frames itself as the future of adult entertainment. The game “crafts virtual humans from photogrametry scanned models, and brings them to life using the latest in chatbot technology”, basically allowing players to interact with simulated versions of actual adult performers.

It’s pitched as an “ethical, serious adult experience”, which is made with real sex workers to create an authentic, sex-positive game. Steam certainly already hosts a whole range of games featuring adult content, plenty of which have more nefarious themes, so why hasn’t Holodexxx been allowed onto the platform?

The creators of Holodexxx recently published a blog post explaining their whole saga with Steam, questioning how the platform perceives pornography and critiquing the process, as well as outlining their own mistakes for the sake of future developers.

The overall message is one of disappointment and frustration, with the sincere hope expressed that change will be inspired in the adult games submission process at Steam.

The blog post outlined each stage of Holodexxx’s journey, beginning with a ‘PG-13 experience’ that was submitted to Steam featuring a clothed version of adult film actress Riley Reid’s virtual model, alongside a censored video of live adult stars. The submission was denied under a general rule of video pornography not being allowed on the platform, and so the experimentation began.

Holodexxx‘s developers then went on to create a new demo specifically for Steam, with the new version not including video porn. Instead, players could inspect a model of another actress, Marley Brinx, within a virtual environment. It was once again deemed as pornography and subsequently blocked.

 

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The creators then spent months reimagining their concept so it could fit within Steam’s guidelines, with “over 20k in development time” being spent creating content tailored towards the platform’s ambiguous rules. The result was Holodexxx Home, a more intricate experience centred around both verbal and physical interactions.

After waiting a few weeks and nudging Steam with help tickets, the new build was reviewed and – you guessed it – once again banned with the explanation that pornography is not allowed on the platform. The experience did involve undressing a character, but it’s not the only game on Steam with this function, so the blurred lines surrounding what is acceptable persevere.

After three attempts across several months, the creators of Holodexxx were still left just as confused about what classified as pornography to steam. They describe receiving a general attitude that the reviewers “knew pornography when they saw it”, with little further defining of their decision making process.

By determining the common denominator in all their submissions, the developers came to the conclusion that Steam simply doesn’t approve of adult performers in a virtual form, which they argue “is a truly bizarre line to draw”.

Steam’s submission guidelines have been updated in the time since the game was banned to confirm that there can be no sexually explicit content with the likeness of a real person, which is the same tidbit that recently barred Super Seducer 3 from making it to the platform. But even a non-adult experience using the virtual model of an adult performer was banned, so ambiguity remains.

If photogrammetry is banned, then what happens to Cyberpunk 2077? The game similarly uses sexually explicit scanned models, yet the content isn’t deemed as pornographic, highlighting unfair subjectivity in the reviewing process.

Finally accepting that their game concept with never make it onto Steam, Holodexxx’s developers shared three key mistakes for future creators to learn from. Their first mistake; “believing that games on Steam set a precedent for future submissions”, which clearly hasn’t been the case as guidelines continue to shift without warning.

Next, they identified “being upfront with Steam” as a mistake, declaring that the platform will not reward honesty and day one patches to bypass censors might be necessary for adult experiences. Finally, they regret “submitting experiences as a form of experimentation”  – while they thought this would help them discover the internal rules surrounding adult content, it instead resulted in months of development and rejections with no positive outcome.

Despite moving on from their mission to land on Steam, the creators of Holodexxx hope to see the platform improve their reviewing processes, with more transparency being essential. The process does not need to be as painful as it was in their case, with earlier clarification on Steam’s boundaries holding the potential to have saved them significant time and money.

Their shortlist of steps to help adult developers in the future includes providing guidelines and examples for what is considered pornography, allowing developers to submit a paper review before building for submission, refunding any submission costs if their apps are banned under classifications that won’t be defined, and letting adult developers remove features Valve is uncomfortable with during the compliance review.

Holodexxx’s experience with Steam has left creators feeling that ultimately “it seems like Steam has a lack of respect for developers in the adult space”, but we can hope that the the platform becomes aware of the clarity that this community needs from them and takes steps towards change.

In the meantime, Holodexxx will persevere with their mission of creating an ethical, sex-positive adult experience that empowers real sex workers on another platform. You can support their endeavours on Patreon for access to their content as the journey continues.