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Steam Finally Adds Highly Requested Feature To Make Community Safer

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Valve is changing Steam chat by implementing a long-requested customizable chat filtering feature. Chat filters already exist in some spaces on Steam, like reviews and comments, but the feature is now being applied much more widely. Steam’s massive community, mixed with the anonymity of the internet, sometimes leads to toxic encounters with strangers while playing games, something that every platform has had to deal with to some extent. Valve has reportedly introduced the new chat filtering features to address this longstanding issue in response to user requests.

It may have been difficult to fully appreciate these changes yesterday, as Steam encountered major issues after Baldur’s Gate 3’s Early Access release. The overwhelming demand for the game brought the platform to its knees, causing crashes and download errors. This event is notable due to the large amounts of traffic Steam is accustomed to. Some of the more popular games on the platform support hundreds of thousands of concurrent players, including the two-year-old indie game Among Us that just reached Steam’s third most popular game with nearly 300,000 players.

According to Valve, its new chat filtering features have been put into place to ensure players can enjoy its wildly popular games while still feeling safe and respected. The feature will automatically obscure profanity and slurs in chat from unknown people, though each user can go into settings to either disable the filter or play around with the settings. The filters will let individuals allow or block specific words. Once designated, any undesirable verbiage will pop up in chat as a series of unintelligible symbols, allowing the user to recognize when their filter has kicked in.

This filtering, however, will only take place between strangers and will not interfere with chats between friends. Players who stick to the default will find chats shielded from the frequently used profanity and slurs which, according to Valve’s post, were most flagged by users during the feature’s early development. The company explains its philosophy behind this new feature was to allow as much freedom as possible while creating a better experience for its users. This is reportedly why the platform has not created a blanket ban for objectionable language and has focused so heavily on its customization options.

As host to thousands of multiplayer games, most of which let players team up with total strangers, Steam's chat filtering is a big step toward creating more inclusive online spaces. Of course, most of those games use their own chat features more than Steam's built-in chat, so the new policy will not affect every game on the platform. Developers will for the most part still have to decide if and how to implement their own system, which many already do.

Steam is nearly two decades old and is a giant nexus for the gaming community. Issues centered around hateful, toxic, and hurtful speech have dogged the platform for almost as long as it has been around. A report from the Anti-Defamation League that came out earlier this year even dove into how easy it was to encounter white supremacist rhetoric in its social spaces. Chat filtering has been a sorely needed feature for a very long time and hopefully it will help create a better space for gamers.
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