In a year already fraught with threats of violent attacks, here is a tone-deaf game cheerleading them.
In the trailer, he says his name is not important, just what he's going to do. A lumbering pile of Matrix coats and dreadlocks, assembling weapons to, as you'll see soon, go on a spree. He spouts some bullshit about the world being pointless, a miserable life, one-liners read out like an action blockbuster version of Elephant. "It's time for me to kill, and it's time for me to die," ends the poor man's Rob Zombie.
This is Hatred. Not the emotion, a video game! The first game from an all-dude team called Destructive Creations, who chose the worst week possible to unveil a game about a murdering misanthrope seemingly designed to look cool to people who like shirts with skulls on them. There's a decent chance they knew that, though, which is the worst part.
"It's a horror, but here YOU are the villain," says Destructive Creation's website. "Wander the outskirts of New York State, seek for victims on seven free-roam levels. Fight against law enforcement and take a journey into the antagonist's hateful mind. Gather equipment of the dead 'human shields' to spread Armageddon upon society. Destroy everything on your way of hunt and fight back when it's disturbed…
...just don't try this at home and don't take it too seriously, it's just a game. :)"
I didn't add the smiley face.
As it has been well publicized, it's been intense and exhausting for people in the game community. The long weekend was bookended with a third woman fleeing from her home after threats were coupled with her address, and the second woman who evacuated her home canceling a speaking appearance after threats of a gun attack were sent to the hosting school.
Many have pointed out that, over a decade ago, proponents of video games defended them against claims their violence inspired school shootings, and now threats are lodged to shoot up a school over video games. A game about slaughtering everyone for shits and giggles rolled out the red carpet for itself amid all that.
Now, does that mean Hatred will lead to violence? Probably not. Violent video games? Ditto. Does that mean we don't get to call Destructive Creations living garbage? Not in the slightest!
"The question you may ask is: why do they do this?" says their website, knowing we'd be here anyway. "These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment—we wanted to create something against trends. Something different, something that could give the player a pure, gaming pleasure. Herecomes our game, which takes no prisoners and makes no excuses. We say 'yes, it is a game about killing people' and the only reason of the antagonist doing that sick stuff is his deep-rooted hatred."
Hatred is not the first game of its type, despite saying so. We've had multiple Postals, which were similarly stupid but minus the grizzly, vindicated tone. More recently we've had Hotline Miami, though that series does pursue a higher artistic purpose and has spurred constructive conversations. Both seem infinitely more self-conscious. Hatred's team is stating that their violent contribution to the world will exist merely to be unabashedly violent, a game which suggests watching someone choke on their own blood is the best part of action. It will use the Unreal Engine 4, so at least it's using more advanced tech than its predecessors.
It's always somewhat baffling that games that say they have no artistic endeavors other than pure entertainment are the ones that know they'll be getting criticised. A pre-emptive defense. Those statements never seem to be made about Mario Kart.
They are right about one thing, though: This kind of game isn't in style anymore
They are right about one thing, though. This kind of game isn't in style anymore. Video games equivalent to a dead baby joke have vaporized over the years, as game audiences show more scrutiny to pointless shock-rock and smaller developers pursue things that can go much, much further. Marketplaces like Steam, PSN, XBLA and smart device app store have shown little patience for games in exceptionally poor taste.
A conversation about Hatred shouldn't be about censorship in games, but why someone would make something like that in the first place. As their mission statement shows, they know this game will ignite a reaction. It is a game in search of a reaction. It doesn't seem to be much else.
We have better, more interesting games that let you go on flights of killing frenzy and don't embody a Slipknot song. I mean, we already have games that embody a Slipknot song. And on top of those we now have Hatred, too.
Right now there's a lot of soul-searching in video games. The last two months could be called growing pains, but they have pushed the public perception of its audience back years, which is frustrating to those trying to move games' potential forward. How simultaneously appropriate and disheartening that in the thick of it, a game vivisected from a decade-old mentality emerges from a group that thinks a violent video game would be all the more better if you emphasize how radical it is to mutilate people begging for their life.
You can't stop games like Hatred from existing, but you can rest knowing it won't go much further than its own controversy. It's more beneficial to ask what sort of asshole would make such a thing. Probably the same sort of asshole who uses a smiley face in their pitch for a homicidal maniac sim.