Description: according to Common Sense Media, “Steam is a place to buy, play, discuss, and learn about games on the internet.” After downloading the Steam “engine” to operate the games and a free account is created, gamers can play free games, chat with friends, play multiplayer, join forums, play demos and even use the site’s Workshop section to create new games. Popular games have a cost, but most other features are free.
APP Store rating: 12+ (infrequent: simulated gambling, fantasy & realistic violence, mild sexual content and nudity, mature themes, profanity and crude humor, drug use).
Gamers Love It – Steam uses many popular gaming attributes, like assigning each player a Steam “handle,” which kids exchange in order to meet up online. Steam is popular because it supports different devices and platforms and offers a large collection. Other large networks, like Sony’s PlayStation network or the Xbox network, for the most part only run their own games.
Gamer Conduct – overall conduct seems “average.” There’s always going to be crude language, but Valve, Steam’s owner, patrols its site for negative behavior. A neat feature is the ability to “gift” games to friends who are also on the network, so you can play against each other.
Anything goes. In June 2018, Steam’s parent company Valve changed the policy for moderating and curating games on Steam. Essentially they got rid of it! They will keep anything on their site unless they deem it illegal or “straight up trolling.” After a few weeks of controversy, Valve pulled the game Active Shooter from Steam (a school shooting game where the user could choose between being a SWAT member, civilian, or active shooter). In their blog post they state,
“So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.”
Pornography and Violence, but GREAT Controls – Many games are fun and free, but there is a selection of violent and mature games, including Porno Studio Tycoon (creating a pornographic movie) and Genital Jousting (penises everywhere). Most of these have a cost, which means a payment method needs to be attached to the account. Fortunately, Steam does have parental controls, called Steam Family View, which you can learn more about here. These are a MUST for any tween or teen using the service, since the Store can be turned off. In addition, in the preferences (see image below), you can remove violent and pornographic content, filter game tags, and exclude specific products. So, here are the steps parents need to follow: (1) set preferences (see below) and then (2) lock preferences in place with Steam Family View.
Steam Wallet – Parents can control in-network purchases by adding money to their kids account using the Steam Wallet.
Age – the game’s own rules ask that players be 13 in order to play. I can’t figure out why Apple’s own age rating wouldn’t support the game’s own community rules.
We like the Family View parental controls, but only if parents do their job. PARENTING! Since the game requires kids to be at least 13, we agree – age 13 is the minimum. The App store rating is too low and we agree with age 13 only as long as parents are highly involved in the gaming, have stated their expectations about networking with strangers, and have enabled Steam Family View.