Like a lot of gamers, I have seen many controversies in the world of video games in years gone by. I’ve seen ‘Manhunt’ linked to murders, ‘Call of Duty’ discussed in the Houses of Parliament due to the ‘No Russian’ mission in ‘Modern Warfare 2’, I’ve seen ‘Mass Effect’ accused of containing sex scenes that it never had, I’ve seen ‘Grand Theft Auto’ slammed more often than all others combined, and I even had to import my PAL copy of ‘Rule of Rose’ on the PS2 from Italy because it wasn’t allowed to be sold in Britain. But this is new for me.
See, all of those games, I will wholeheartedly defend. And I’ll even admit right now that even though I would say I’ve played more than my fair share of games, I haven’t played a lot of the games I’ve just mentioned; I’d go as far to admit that I don’t even like a lot of them. Take ‘Grand Theft Auto’ for instance, a series of well-made games, interesting enough, but I’ve never played one – and I want to clarify this immediately with as much conviction as possible – I am not saying that because I disagree with the morals of the game or think myself better than those who do play it, it’s just not really my thing and to be honest I’d rather be finishing off Pac-Man World.
And although I rarely have much faith in my own opinion, I think it’s important, especially amongst gamers, to be able to say that. To be able to say ‘I don’t enjoy this game but I fully respect those who do and I will not stand in the way of their enjoyment’. Most of the people who want violent video games banned do not share this opinion, and to try and ban a pastime millions of people enjoy just because you personally don’t see the appeal is, at its core, selfish.
Also just to pull myself off of my big wholesomely family-friendly horse, let’s look at some of the games I do enjoy; Despite initial reluctance, I’ve played the ‘God of War’ trilogy and enjoyed it, despite the fact that you can slaughter innocent people to recover health and every game in the timeline from the second onwards has you playing as arguably a more villainous protagonist than anyone you’re fighting against. I also enjoyed the aforementioned ‘Rule of Rose’ despite being a very uncomfortable horror game that almost exclusively features prepubescent girls in an orphanage as main characters, and in order to achieve the good ending, you’re required to give a loaded gun to the final boss and watch as he shoots himself in the head right in front of you.
Finally, deserving a paragraph all to itself, is Outlast, a game I completely loved in which you investigate a mental asylum and at one point run into an inmate trying to, to put it in PG language, ‘have his way’ with a headless corpse. If you don’t look away fast enough, he freaks out and calls you a sicko and/or pervert for watching. This is a game that could not possibly contain more gore unless it was the Democratic Party Candidate for the 2000 US Presidential Election.
So if I fully respect controversial games even if I don’t enjoy them, and am twisted enough to enjoy a few completely psychotic gems myself – I could spend the rest of this blog writing about how much I love Killer7 – then why oh why do I feel absolutely no desire in the slightest to even attempt to defend the attention-seeking, faux-sociopathic, gratuitously-in-every-sense-of-the-word violent, terribly written, attention-seeking (I know I said it already but it bears repeating), pile of narcissistically degenerate shit that is… ‘Hatred’.
‘Hatred’ is a game by the almost-satirically named ‘Destructive Creations’ who rose to fame in the early 90s with the PC releases ‘Extreme Violence: No Context’, and the sequel ‘Extreme Violence 2: Still Trying Too Hard’. I may have made that up. Destructive Creations haven’t yet released a game, and Hatred will be their first big effort, which they have made notable throughout an industry bursting with innovative new ideas by making giving their main character the mentality of a school-shooter.
I’m aware that I sound completely biased here but let me be clear that at this point I am not talking about whether or not the game has a right to exist, be made, and be sold to people; I am talking about what I think of the game in general. And ‘Hatred’ looks like the laziest piece of shit since someone changed the graphics of ‘Ninjabread Man’ and named it ‘Anubis II’. ‘Hatred’ looks like a development team realised halfway through making a game that it was mediocre and bland, so they retooled it to try and be as offensive as possible without breaking any laws, hoping that the backlash would get it the attention it would need to attract an audience of people willing to buy it for the purpose of ‘sticking it to the politically correct man’, regardless of, you know, whether or not the game was any good.
The worst thing is, it worked.
I’m not saying that anyone interested in ‘Hatred’ is automatically a gullible idiot, I’m just saying that since the development team put as much effort as possible into highlighting the controversial nature of the game and the… uniqueness of the main character over different gameplay modes or any semblance of plot, they were interested from the moment they uploaded the trailer in getting as much negative reputation as possible, solely because with a reputation that big, they would find some people interested in buying it.
I’m not sure I should really link to the trailer of the game since I’d hate to in any way be getting them even a single extra view on their video, but that’s working on the assumption that anyone’s going to read the opinionated ramblings of this unqualified blogger, so I might as well leave it in. In case you don’t want to watch it (because it is pretty aggressively running on the shock value of extreme violence,) I’ll write the opening monologue of the main character below so that you can get a good feel of what the game is about.
“It’s not a phase, Mom, it’s who I am!”
Uh, sorry, wrong opening monologue. Or maybe not, who knows?
“My name is not important. What is important is what I’m going to do … I just fuckin’ hate this world. And the human worms feasting on its carcass. My whole life is just cold, bitter hatred. And I always wanted to die violently. This is the time of vengeance and no life is worth saving. And I will put in the grave as many as I can. It’s time for me to kill. And it’s time for me to die. My genocide crusade begins here.”
The most difficult thing to believe about the trailer and that monologue is that according to the developers, there is not one ounce of parody or satire in that. It’s all meant to be played completely straight, that’s genuinely the motivation. Now I’m no expert at designing characters for video games, but here’s one valuable tip – originality doesn’t automatically make your character interesting. In this case, the only reason the protagonist is original at all is because no game has ever put you in charge of such a misanthropic dick before. To call him two-dimensional would be a compliment. You can sum up his entire character, background, history and motivation in two words – Hates everything. It goes with the theme of the game, yes, but that does more to show that the theme of the game is weak than anything else.
Now there’s three main things I want to address about this issue – the game itself, games similar to this, and where to draw the line on censorship. I guess I’ll start with the actual game, let’s go into a little more detail on the background.
Destructive Creations contains many members of ‘The Farm 51’, a lesser-known company started by some of the people who had worked on the ‘Painkiller’ series. None of their games have achieved critical acclaim or following, but their résumé isn’t clogged with garbage either, namely thanks to their most famous game, ‘NecroVisioN’, spelt like that because they really like making my blogs contain words that Microsoft Word likes to put red squiggly lines under. Nevertheless, I don’t know enough about them to recommend or insult them.
As previously stated, this is ‘Destructive Creations’ first major game and nearly all of the focus is on the extreme but realistic violence and the innocence of every ‘enemy’ seen in the game so far; in particular the trailer contains several finishing moves performed on helpless men and woman as your psychopathic character brutally murders them. I’m far from the first to think that the game is trying to get attention using nothing but shock value, as Polygon and Eurogamer have pointed this out too.
From a PR perspective, the company have been doing either really well or really badly since they have pretty much done everything you would stereotypically expect from a company trying to get a bad reputation. There were allegations that the CEO, Jarosław Zieliński, had links to neo-nazi organisations, although I would be in remiss not to point out that these allegations were confirmed false, simply exaggerations of the discovery that Zieliński ‘liked’ a page on Facebook that was run by a group widely identified as racist, an action which is still a bit questionable, but ultimately is worth no more analysis than any other liked page on Facebook in the history of the world.
Zieliński branded these accusations ‘fucking ridiculous’, which I’m… really sort of neutral about. On the one hand if you’re the CEO of a company then you really should know better than sounding like a stroppy teenager on the internet, but on the other hand, I don’t want to criticize the guy for sounding angry about debunking claims that he’s an ostensibly horrible person, which he has the right to sound angry about. But he did respond to the other controversies by thanking the press for spreading the word about the game, and also using the age-old defence of ‘Don’t like, don’t play’, which is not often used by people trying to defend video games as a whole because… well to put it bluntly, it wouldn’t work as a defence for the existence of game more purposefully-controversial than ‘Hatred’, would it?
The development team also responded to criticism of misogyny (due to the killer shooting a pleading woman through the head in the trailer) by saying about the game “The Antagonist is killing everyone equally, race doesn’t matter (it’s randomly generated for all NPC’s), sex doesn’t matter (it’s random too), so you can call it the most tolerant game, promoting equality. Here everybody dies.”
It’s official – the entire development team behind ‘Hatred’ are trolls. It wouldn’t surprise me if they started replying to all criticism with ‘U MAD? TROLOLOLOL.’
Like trolls, they are doing something that will obviously get attention no matter what, openly claiming that it’s their intention, knowing that they’ll succeed because it’s a tactic akin to monkeys throwing poo at people.
And like trolls, they seem to be trying to offend above all else. And despite my incredible disdain for the game, I’m not entirely sure they succeeded against me on that point. I’m not ‘offended’, I just think that the game looks shit. Let’s go into a little more detail on the actual game itself and not just the controversy for a second.
The game is an isometric (think top-down but still 3D, like Age of Empires) shooter in which you run around and shoot everything. Character design is boring, the protagonist has the most gravelly, clichéd voice imaginable, and I don’t know if it’s their intention or not but to me he has an uncanny resemblance to the DC Comics character Lobo, particularly his appearance in ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’.
My genocide crusade begins… against anyone who frags with a space dolphin
As for the gameplay itself, it looks generic at best. Run, shoot, I’m sure the gameplay will evolve slightly as the game progresses but I can’t see this game being that difficult, especially with so many essential unarmed NPCs around so you can get your money’s worth of all the forced controversy you can muster. I’m not even sure if there will be music and whatever there is will be wasted over the sound of shots and screams. As for the core gameplay itself… this is a pretty bizarre comparison but it reminds me a lot of ‘Cannon Spike’.
‘Cannon Spike’ is a really fun arcade-style DreamCast game where you run around as one of many Capcom characters and blow up enemies or robots by using a ‘Geometry Wars’ control scheme of moving with one joystick and firing in different directions with another – or at least it would be if the DreamCast had two joysticks. Nonetheless, it was a pretty fun game that I could highly recommend, with colourful graphics and energetic music and it wasn’t especially superb but compared to ‘Hatred’ it’s practically Game of the Decade material.
What irritates me about this is that I don’t see ‘Cannon Spike’ mentioned very often. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned on this site before, in fact. But ‘Hatred’ is in the news, and while I won’t go as far to say that they ripped off ‘Cannon Spike’ (it is a pretty widely-used format for games these days) they’ve reached new levels of fame. And it’s not because they refined the formula, or added daring new improvements, no, it’s because they shoved the advert in your face with a grizzly man shooting a woman in the face. That’s what ‘Hatred’ is.
But hey, the game’s at least a little bit original at least. I mean the graphics are presented in monochrome, and it’s not like there have been any ultraviolent games in monochrome before, so I can-
Oh. Never mind then.
Now one of the biggest reasons for defending the game is simply that ‘Hatred’ is far from the first game to be controversial for the reasons ‘It’s violent’ or ‘You can kill innocent people in it’. The simple explanation for the controversy is that it’s never been this graphic, and it’s never been the sole focus of gameplay. Hell, you can drown guests you don’t like in ‘Rollercoaster Tycoon’, but the game isn’t ‘Drowning People Simulator’, and it isn’t advertised as such. But nonetheless, comparisons are there.
Some of the people who are protesting the game may also be the people who thought ‘Mortal Kombat’ was too violent, whereas nowadays the upcoming entry in the series seems almost to be struggling to keep the violence escalating for new fatalities and X-Ray moves, understandably given how many ways they’ve already killed off the combatants, and no that’s not a snide dig since I actually enjoy Mortal Kombat a fair bit. And killing innocents has been around since ‘Grand Theft Auto’, and although that’s what some of the controversies are based around, it’s never been the main issue for a few reasons, the first of which being that it’s not the main aim of the game, the second being that you’re penalized for killing people and police will come after you (somewhat mitigated because you can just kill the police too and then get your car repainted… I think.)
The most common comparison it has is the ‘Postal’ series, namely the first and second games. The first game is eerily similar to ‘Hatred’ to the point where you could accuse ‘Destructive Creations’ of ripping it off, but every point made comparing the two just doesn’t come across to me as anything other than silly. ‘Postal 2’ was very violent but also over-the-top satirical and too silly to ever come across as anything remotely close to serious. There was a ‘Urinate’ button for crying out loud. ‘Postal’, the first game, on the other hand, is actually very similar to ‘Hatred’, given that the character goes on a wild rampage and tries to kill as many people as possible. However, the original ‘Postal’ looks like this.
And ‘Hatred’ looks like this.
The realistic one is sparking controversy? No shit!
That’s the simple answer to the question of why ‘Hatred’ is getting so much, well, hatred, and ‘Postal’ is not. It’s not the subject matter, it’s the subject matter being portrayed very realistically. I would happily play ‘Postal’ because I would be killing primitive pixelated characters. I would not be ruthlessly carving my way through a group of policemen, one of whom realistically begs for my mercy before I stab him to death and then blow his head off with a shotgun.
And here is where we enter the topic of censorship. I’ve never really considered where I am on the spectrum of censorship before – on the one hand, I generally oppose censorship and like most gamers I generally think that people should be allowed to make what they want and say what they want, but I’ve been on the internet long enough to see people blindly cite freedom of speech as a reason that they should face no repercussions for anything they say. We’ve all seen someone cry foul and complain that their ‘right to free speech’ is being trampled on just because they got banned from a website for repeatedly posting badger porn, and it’s laughable in every case.
One of the reasons I’ve never worried about censorship as much as I probably should do is because I don’t honestly believe some of the slippery slope arguments that come from them. It’s the same reason I struggled with GamerGate – let’s leave my views of that for another, even more controversial blog that nobody will read, and just say that I was introduced to it by someone on Facebook telling me that ‘If you don’t support GamerGate, an SJW will break into your house and replace all of your games with digital copies of ‘Fez’.’ – and if ‘Hatred’ were to be banned from being sold, I doubt it would impact the future of already-established series like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘Mortal Kombat’.
At the same time, I have heard from various sources that it’s important to always have someone pushing the boundaries because that’s how you know where the boundaries are, but – and here’s probably my biggest underlying problem – ‘Hatred’ is not ‘pushing the boundaries’ to discover bold new areas of gaming – it’s trying to shock people more than any game has shocked people before for the purpose of getting their attention and making a quick buck.
That’s the reason why I’m still mostly undecided about the game; ‘Hatred’ is, at heart, an obviously insecure game made by people who don’t think they have it in them to make a game that can stand on its own merits. It’s a game that had to resort to uglier tactics to get headlines, and surely it will ride the coat-tails of the negative-publicity train all the way to its release date. It seems like a cop-out to reach the end of a blog this needlessly long only for me to reach the conclusion ‘I’m neither strongly for or against’, because I would sum up my overall opinion of the game and the censorship debate as ‘I won’t sign a petition to ban or, not will I sign one to allow it’, but I have come to at least one conclusion.
I don’t want ‘Hatred’ to be banned.
I will shed no tears for all the hard, hard work ‘Destructive Creations’ have put into the creative process, development and maintenance of the large amount of negative publicity they were trying to create, but if the game was banned, while I may laugh at the thought of the time wasted taking the laziest method available to get your game known, it wouldn’t be the outcome I would most desire.
I want the game to come out, and I want it to flop.
I’m fully aware that due to the publicity and a number of comments I’ve seen from people who want to ‘buy the game just to spite all those stupid moral hipsters trying to censor everything’ – direct quote – then the game will probably not be a flop by any standards, but it still could, and that’s what I want. I want the game to come out and I want the reviews to say what we know now – that it’s a mediocre game that had to force its way into relevance by trying as hard as it could to offend people because there was no other way it would possibly become relevant – that the creators tried to use the ‘No Such Thing As Bad Publicity’ mantra and it backfired.
Last little clarification – I’m not about to go all psycho on you – I want the game to fail and that’s about it. I want the game to fail and the team behind it to get their heads down and work on a substantially better game that doesn’t need controversy in order to get recognition. A relatively common phrase on the internet is that just because you’re offended doesn’t make you right, and while I still maintain that I’m not offended, I just think the game looks shit, all I can really offer in rebuttal is that trying to gain attention by being purposefully offensive isn’t right either.
Thanks for reading!