The phrase “Banned in China” has long been synonymous with blanked censorship and governmental control over the media.
In fact, the TVTropes page about authoritative governments banning media content is specifically named “Banned in China”, despite the page containing examples of many other bans from many other countries. (You should check it out. It is both sad and hilarious.)
And now, we may have news about the high profile victim of China’s latest swing of the ban hammer; Steam.
You know Steam, right? Popular PC gaming platform? Created by Valve aka the creators of Half Life? Has great sales that are covered weekly by Emmen Gaming’s Game Deals?
According to an article by the Gamer, the global version of Steam might have been banned from China. And what’s more, it happened on or around Christmas eve. Yikes.
The supposed ban was first discovered by a known Fortnite leaker and data miner called Ricky Owens (better known as iFireMonkey), who tweeted out a photo of what looked to be Steam on a list of websites blocked in China.
Others have used Comparitech’s tool to check and reported back that the website indeed did appear to be banned at the time of checking.
It is worth noting that the China-only (aka highly curated) version of Steam is still available.This version of Steam was launched this February only has… *checks notes* 103 games?!
The Chinese version of Steam only has Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 as mainstream games. This version of Steam also lacks all the community features such as the Steam Workshop, Community Market, the forums, the activity section, and much more.
It is worth noting that China has been cracking down on video games and gamers for several years now in various increasingly authoritarian and ridiculous ways.
For one thing, kids have a government-mandated 10PM curfew for gaming. This went as far as the Chinese company Tencent introducing facial recognition to lock games for kids after 10PM which is just… wow.
And if that wasn’t enough, China then went on to ban all children from playing anything more than 3 hours of video games PER WEEK.
Oh, and they went on to ban Fortnite in China, despite the game being heavily modified to comply with their standards.
All of this to say that the Chinese government banning Steam from China does seem like it is fairly within the realms of possibility. Heck, it seems likely.
However, this story is going to end on an annoyingly vague note; Steam has not confirmed or denied what happened. This has caused speculation to fly around that this might be the result of a DNS attack, rather than a deliberate ban.
Only time will tell whether China, which is currently being ruled by a party headed by a man who gets unreasonably angry if you compare him to Winnie the Pooh, has actually banned Steam or if this is just some shenanigans.
But when you are willing to use facial recognition to soft lock games for children, it’s hardly surprising that people think you banned Steam, is it?