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Valve launches Steam Families with improved game sharing and better parental controls

If you use Steam's old Family Sharing system, you'll notice some pretty big changes in how your library can be shared with others.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

If you have multiple gamers in your family, you'll want to pay attention to how Valve has overhauled Steam's family sharing system.

Starting today, the new Steam Families system gives you not only more parental controls, but makes some big changes to how games can be shared. Essentially, Families combines Steam's two current systems – Family View, which lets parents control what games and features are accessed, and Family Sharing, which lets family members and their guests play one another's games.

Also: Valve's Steam Deck turned this 40-year-old dad into a gamer again

When you set up a Steam Family, you can invite up to five other members (Valve's announcement makes no mention of a device limit). All members get access to all the shareable games that other family members own, and each member will have their own saves with their own achievements and their own workshop files. There is a big caveat though: Steam says that if one family member gets banned from a game for cheating, all family members get banned, so make sure you choose your circle wisely.

Only one member of a family can play a game at a time, unless the family library has multiple copies of the same game. The biggest improvement in the new system is that family members can play different titles from the same library at the same time (you'll find these titles under the new "family library" column). Before, if someone in a family group was playing a game, the entire sharing library was locked down.

Steam Families also offers parental controls that let adults in the group set limits on what children in the group can do. Family members either have an adult role or a child role, and any adult can manage invites and set restrictions. Adults can control which games can be played, restrict chats or store access, set daily playtime limits or an hourly schedule, view reports on what's being played and for how long, and give bonus playtime.

Steam Families is currently in beta, so you will need to enroll to access the feature. The process is simple: Head to your Settings menu, select Interface, then Client Beta Participation, and finally choose Steam Family Beta. Once you're enrolled, you can create a Family group by clicking on Account Details and heading to the Family Management page.

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