When Everlasting Summer debuted on Steam last November, the response from fans of the visual novel genre was overwhelmingly positive: set apart by its slick artwork and the surreal setting of a Soviet-era summer camp, it was a fun, sexy, and undeniably weird experience. Players enjoyed balancing a David Lynch-style abduction drama with their attempts to romance a band of errant young communists, and despite relying solely upon word-of-mouth, the game was downloaded 30,000 times in its first week of release.
Unfortunately for the players, the appearance of a dating game that dared to show actual sex between the characters lead to something of a controversy on Steam. Despite the art, gameplay, and narrative clearly placing this (free) novel beyond any but the most puritan interpretation of pornography, Everlasting Summer was given the 50s-era comic book treatment and forced to blackout their offending content, leaving a castrated version of a romance plot that culminates with an awkward make-out session instead of… you know, actually fucking.
That writers of any sort, in this day and age, should be forced to censor depictions of sex reminds us of the stranglehold that big publishers have on the gaming industry, and their willingness to use that dominant position to prevent people from seeing content they’ve deemed problematic. The grandchildren of the men and women who banned Lady Chatterly’s Lover may be out of government, but they’re still fighting a rearguard action in the only industry where their ideas are still taken seriously: video gaming.
This isn’t the first time Steam has moved to shut down content it deems ‘too-erotic’, and a small group of pissed-off adult gaming enthusiasts are finally starting to do something about it. The online games portal Nutaku, known for importing an addictive series of Japanese adult tower defense games has announced their release of the ‘complete’ edition of Everlasting Summer this week. They’ve also put out an open call for other adult developers to stop toning down their games in a vain attempt to make it onto mainstream distribution channels, offering to serve as a distribution channel for games regardless of content.
While it’s still too early to call it a new era in adult gaming, sites like Nutaku represent an important step for game devs and writers struggling to breath under a restrictive content regime prevents them from selling their games online. , who for first time will be able to sell their products directly to consumers rather than rattling their donation boxes on Patreon every time they need funding.