PornHub is fine but Steam isn’t?

So, today, I found out that you cannot access any more games on Steam anymore that contain adult-only content in them if you live in Germany. I played and 100%ed Deep Space Waifu in a streak of degeneracy back in 2018 – and I was contemplating whether I should review it or not on here only to find out that I can’t actually access the store page at all. Neither my client-side store page nor the browser-side page seems to work and frankly, I just found it weird. So, after a bit of digging into the issue, it seems that German laws are a bit too strict when it comes to the protection of minors, which is why I wanted to talk about this… I’ll also mention PornHub and talk about the age verification system there… and I’ll talk a bit about how all of this is silly but it’s not targeting Steam here btw… I’m slightly annoyed by the stupidity of German laws if that makes sense. Either way, some people may not consider this post “safe for work”, because some people don’t like porn – which is fine… but this porn isn’t pornographic even though it mentions it if that makes sense? Enjoy!

So, first up, why exactly is this happening? Well, Steam decided that region-locking adult content is better than risking losing the German market completely. German laws require good age verification to ensure that minors can’t access games that may contain sex scenes or the like. There is a whole organisation responsible for age restrictions and video game age ratings in Germany called the “Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstcontrolle” (Entertainment Software Self-Regulation) or “USK” for short. These basically restrict games according to their contents, adding “ratings” to their covers or store pages so that consumers can easily discern what triggers they may have. Games without any restriction (USK 0) are usually aimed at children and can be consumed by anyone. USK 6, USK 12 and USK 16 have their own parameters like different degrees of violence and competitiveness. What’s important here is also whether or not the consumer can distance themselves from the events. Meanwhile, USK 18 is essentially not approved for children under the age of 18 in accordance with the “Jugendschutzgesetz” (JuSchG) as they include violent game concepts, dark and threatening topics, war, porn, and other things that may not be suitable for children.

Now, due to a change in laws, age verification is important when this content is available to consumers. Valve currently only has the users of their platform fill in their birth date to ensure that children can’t access adult-oriented content… but that’s not enough because children can just put in any age that labels them as “18+”. Because they don’t want to risk lawsuits, Valve decided to region-lock a lot of games like Deep Space Waifu that include explicit content – and further titles like Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3, Fable or Horror games may get blocked off completely from the site as well if you live in Germany. Steam didn’t notify anyone on this and it seems that I can still play the games I bought… but they were completely removed from my wishlist without any notification of any sort and on top of that, I can’t even view it or confirm that I am indeed over the age of 18. While this may not be particularly consumer-friendly, I can completely understand Valve’s approach as it’s better than having to completely stop any activities in Germany.

My issue with this is that the USK and other laws in the country are filled to the brim with hypocrisy and bullshit. As the title of this post suggests, I can go to Pornhub right now and it will inform me that Pornhub is a website with adult-oriented content and that I have to be above the age of 18 to consume any sort of content on it. The “age verification process” here is that you can either click off the site or you click on “Yes, I am indeed 18+” – which is a lot less safe than Steam. You could argue that games are easier to access for minors and that they may find their way to adult content on Steam easier by accident while you’ll have to explicitly search for porn or sexual activities to find porn on Google… but I find that argument stupid. 

What I’m getting at is: Why is it okay for me to be one click away from porn while it’s not okay to have to enter your birthdate or anyone’s birthdate to see games on Steam? It makes no sense. How about Twitch then? On Twitch, mature channels are also only just one click away. I’m not saying that these channels should get removed or that Twitch needs to be blocked completely in Germany. I’m just saying that it makes no sense that that one-click-away thing is apparently safe enough while the birthday thing is not. And as mentioned before, the USK isn’t exactly consistent with this stuff either: You can join the army at 17 and technically go to war at that age as well in Germany. You cannot, however, play games like Call of Duty or other shooter titles until you’re 18. Why is it okay for you to shoot real guns or murder real people in real life at 17 when virtual/simulated violence is only allowed at 18+?

It’s also worth noting that Germany actually approved a legal framework in 2020 that opens up online gambling. The “Glücksspielneuregulierungsstaatsvertrag” or “GlüNeuRStV” for short is essentially a treaty that opened up the online gambling market to all products and verticals. It also requires strict age verification to prevent minors from accessing these products but I doubt that online gambling, which is a lot more dangerous, will have any other options really apart from sending in a photo of your ID or selecting the correct age. Yes, online gambling probably requires your bank card or something like that (wasn’t able to check) but why can’t there be a system like that for other services as well? By that, I mean a clear way of identifying that you are in fact yourself. I have an ID that I can use online as well for certain verification processes. What if I could link that to my Steam 2FA App to allow my account and only my account to access adult content. Sure, someone could potentially use it to play adult games but in theory, minors could also walk in on their parents having sex. 

It’s a weird topic and honestly, none of this is super new, I think, but I just feel as if cracking down on this is based on the assumption that kids will never ever see porn. It’s based on the assumption that they’ll never get in contact with adult content even though TV is virtually filled with sex. Almost every show that runs on free TV may contain a sex scene or two. There may even be some kissing or lewd handholding (god forbid), so the USK has got to worry about that, too. Ads contain sexy women and topless men smelling perfumes on top of cars or whatever… Heck, when the standard program was over, there’d be porn on TV on some channels a few years ago. I find it silly to assume that kids will be protected by this if they’re not protected in our daily lives. The internet is filled with porn. The internet IS really, really great for porn. 12% of the internet is porn. Rule 34 exists. Pornhub. Tumblr! Reddit! Twitter, Onlyfans, Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Google. You get the idea… There’s porn everywhere and parents should just parent better IMO. Laws shouldn’t restrict platforms as much when they can’t restrict all of the internet equally. Yes, it’s good in a way but it’s not the right approach in my opinion. And to top it all off, porn isn’t the big evil thing that “ruins our children”.

Long story short, porn isn’t bad and Germany makes no sense. “Everyone watches it but nobody says so”, is what one of my teachers used to say.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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