Game Jolt Doubles Down, Jokes About Abrupt Game Dismissals After Backlash

The site is removing games with adult content after cultivating an audience of teenagers.

Game Jolt, a website that doubles as both a community hub and a store for developers to sell their games, is coming under fire after a new policy resulted in the delisting of several games. Developers received emails informing them of game removals from Game Jolt’s storefront, which then led to social media posts criticizing both the new policy and the site’s lack of clarity on why specific projects were being removed. Game Jolt’s responses to this criticism have resulted in some further mixed reactions, as the messaging has been inconsistent, and in some cases, disrespectful, in the eyes of the developers affected.

The emails first started showing up in developers’ inboxes on Monday, January 3, which noted that Game Jolt’s growth in recent years had resulted in a reevaluation of games the site would host, which meant the removal of games that “may not be suitable for users of all ages or may be offensive or culturally inappropriate in certain regions.” The email went on to say this specifically applies to any game that “depicts, solicits, promotes, normalizes, or glorifies sexual acts, sexual solicitation, and sexual violence.”

However, several developers who were notified of their games’ removal said their work didn’t fall into that category.

Some games, such as F2OGGY and Curtain have since been restored to Game Jolt’s store following social media backlash, though some developers have been dissatisfied with the site’s social media messaging on the matter. In response to criticism of the new policy and users pointing out this kind of change disproportionality affects queer developers who often make games about sexuality and identity, the account doubled down and pointed out the site’s demographics include minors between 13 and 16-years-old that has been asking for games with sexual content to be removed from the platform.

The site’s social media representative went on to recommend developers of games with adult content to host their games on itch.io or Steam, neither of which have a blanket no tolerance rule on NSFW content as Game Jolt has implemented.

Some developers, such as Sluggish Morss developer Jack King-Spooner (who had six games removed from Game Jolt), were understanding of the move despite a lengthy history with the site.

“I’m fine with it,” King-Spooner told Fanbyte. “Seems like a sensible, mature move if a lot of their audience is minors. I don’t want little, smelly American brats playing my games, anyway. I do love Game Jolt. Even got a t-shirt, but the Game Jolt I love is Game Jolt circa 2010 and things change.”

Others, like Dreamfeel’s Llaura McGee, feel the move is erasing not only the site’s history as a platform for independent developers, but has been handled in such a way that some may not realize it’s happening until it’s too late, as the first news anyone had of this new policy was in an email that came after games were already taken down without warning.

“I think the frustrating part to me is that there’s so much games history there that’s just been made inaccessible overnight,” McGee said. “The email went to a very old email of mine that got forwarded to my current one, but lots of creators will probably never see it.”

F2OGGY developer Nathalie Lawhead (who outlined their history with Game Jolt in an extensive blog post) told Fanbyte the situation and Game Jolt’s lack of clarity on why games without sexual content are being removed feels like a breach of trust after years of the site acting as a supportive platform.

“I feel tremendously betrayed by them, and kind of an idiot for having trusted them so much,” Lawhead said. “This kind of decision is absolutely not a small one. It sends a message to others that your work isn’t safe. It’s the kind of gesture they used to frown on with places like Steam or the AppStore.

When you invite developers to use your service, that’s not small. That takes trust. You are asking for a lot of investment on our part, especially trust in terms of building a player base there. You can’t just take all that away. It is hard for me to believe that they threw out all their values, all the conversations about being different, all the gesturing that they care about devs… for a poor excuse that ‘it’s for the children.’

F2OGGY was among the games delisted then relisted after social media scrutiny, but Lawhead says they have yet to receive any formal explanation as to why the game, which doesn’t have sexual content, was removed in the first place.

“The fact that this is so out of the blue, even if they walked back and gave a ‘grace period,’ is inexcusable to me,” Lawhead said. “They invited us to use their platform. They acted friendly, supportive, and very much promised to be an alternative to the mainstream stores that do this sort of thing. They built trust with us. I advocated for them. Why the sudden change of character?”

As the conversations continued, the account started using gifs and memes to respond to criticism, which didn’t exactly soothe things over for those upset with Game Jolt.

“Their sassy animated gif responses to devs were outright mean,” Lawhead said. “Their handling of this was completely tone-def. They’ve betrayed a lot of people who know them personally, and who trusted them. Just a light apology isn’t enough, let alone some arbitrary “grace period” of restoring these games for a few days. They should never have done this.”

Fanbyte reached out to Game Jolt for this story asking for clarity on the specifics of its new policies and an explanation of the decision, and was given the following statement:

“While the roots of Game Jolt have been around hosting games, the site has grown to become more of a social media platform for the next generation of gamers. As such, Game Jolt recently implemented a policy that ensures games that feature explicit adult content will no longer be available. We are currently working with developers to make sure they have an opportunity to move their games to another platform, and are responding to any categorizations that may need to be reassessed.”