Ah, Hatred. How such a silly game made by silly people could ever cause so much fuss is as baffling as it is predictable. If you’ve been living under a rather pleasant rock over the past few months, Hatred is an isometric shooter about killing people. Not about killing enemy soldiers, terrorists or criminals; just normal, ordinary people going about their lives as you or I might. Honestly, when I watched Hatred‘s initial reveal trailer, my only real reaction was: “Wow, that looks really stupid.” A grayscale colour palette, cringe inducing monologues ripped straight from the journal of a slightly unhinged fifteen-year-old, and the most brazen attempts to appear edgy and violent in a world where August Underground is a thing that exists. Hatred is like a thirteen-year-old’s attempt at making American History X or Antichrist – all of the ultra-violence and visual stimulation, but none of the context or, you know, actual adult thought. More than that, Hatred is a game made, not for the purposes of art or even entertainment, but to try and make a point – a point that’s barely even worth making: “I can say and do whatever I want, and damn the consequences.”
This is an admirable outlook for say, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. or, I don’t know, Ellen Page, but when all you actually have to say is: “Killing people, huh? That’s a thing you can do”, you’re not really expanding the medium at all, you’re stating the obvious and looking foolish while doing so. Now I’m well aware that, until Hatred is released, none of us are 100% certain of the games content. There could be a third act twist wherein the game’s “protagonist” learns a valuable lesson, the game could be a harsh, but gruelling comment on mental illness, or things could even descend into full-on Hotline Miami brainwashing madness. I doubt it, but the possibilities are there. Instead, all the press and general public have to go on is Hatred’s marketing, and as much as Hatred looks about as stupid as a fish with legs, the way in which it’s being marketing is about as clever as it is sinister.
By making statements condemning the games industry for “teaching us what to think” and proposing to make a game that recalls a time when the industry was a “rebellious medium” developer Destructive Creations was always going to attract support from people; it’s a sort of twisted reverse psychology to try and trick people into believing they’re being victimized. When Target Australia bans GTA V from store shelves, we all feel somewhat insulted on behalf of the hobby we love. Collectively, as a group dedicated to spreading our love and enjoyment of games, we sigh as a new school shooting is wrongfully pinned on Call of Duty or Mass Effect. Hatred is working in much the same way. By convincing people they’re being unwillingly convinced of something by the games industry/press at large, Destructive Creations is unwillingly convincing them that buying their game is an act of retaliation against that.
Now, you can believe that the wider gaming press is a corrupt entity intent on brainwashing you (I’ve already said enough on the subject), but take a quick look at Hatred, and you’ll see that Destructive Creations is doing exactly that. By unintentionally (but intentionally) fuelling the fires of war against violence in gaming, Destructive Creations is recruiting more people to defend violence in gaming. Now, I’ve always defended violence as a valuable narrative tool and a form of artistic expression… until it isn’t that. Hatred isn’t Grand Theft Auto or Fallout 3; it isn’t using violence to satirize modern culture or to explore the brutal nature of a post-apocalyptic world. Hatred just takes joy in killing people for the sake of it.
There’s a reason why the protagonist’s “genocide crusade” (ugh) and hateful diatribe is so familiar. The whole thing mimics and mirrors similar statements made by perpetrators of school shootings and other acts of mass murder. Note, too, that the character also looks like a heavy metal fan from the 90s – these atrocious acts of murder are more than often linked with metal/rock music just as they are with videogames, and Destructive Creations knows that all too well. Simply put: Hatred has put gamers, press, and distributors in a “lose-lose” situation.
All of this has culminated in a very silly game garnering the support of players worldwide under the guise of ” defending free speech”. This was already bad enough, but then Valve decided to pull Hatred from its Steam Greenlight programme, leaving the game’s defenders feeling all the more victimized for it. I can understand Valve’s perspective; they’re a private company and are free to sell whatever they like (there’s absolutely no chance this game will ever see publication by Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony – those companies are far too image conscious to associate themselves with Hatred). Valve clearly doesn’t want to be seen as the latest “purveyor of filth and violence” for a new generation of careful Mother’s to fear, and that’s their right. By taking Hatred off Steam, Valve isn’t violating free speech or censoring anything, they’re simply protecting their business. Hatred will still be released and played, with or without Valve’s help.
However, in removing Hatred from the most popular PC distribution service on the planet, Valve has unwillingly poured a huge tank of gasoline on the fires of “free speech protection”. In trying to protect its image, Valve has come out looking like the new PMRC, intent on keeping violent games from the general public. Now, those who felt victimized and oppressed earlier will double down and increase their support of this silly (did I mention how silly Hatred is?) game, and Hatred will go on selling more and more copies simply out of some misguided sense of protest.
The best course of action would be to keep Hatred on Steam, and let the world see just how juvenile of a game it really is. In the short term, this could affect the industry’s already toxic image problem, but I think it’s important to discuss the successes and failures of all games, even alleged neo-nazi murder porn. Just as A Serbian Film is relatively childish drivel, it’s still worth talking about as it relates to the broader popular culture. Normally, I’d even propose that Destructive Creations’ said alleged neo-nazi affiliations make them exempt from hiding behind “free speech”, but I think it’s better for us to simply point and laugh at their childish attempt to make a “serious, moody” game about pointless murder. Hell, Orson Scott Card is a raging homophobe, but they still made Ender’s Game into a film. We all remember what happened there: a ton of people boycotted the film, it performed poorly at the box office, and everyone laughed at Scott Card’s hilarious misfortune.
Violence is important to art. It’s a part of who we are, whether we like it or not, and exploring the deeper meanings behind violence is valid within any artistic medium. Hatred, however, is not art, but rather a juvenile attempt at shocking people and inciting internet riots within an already fragile community. Sweeping things under the rug rarely accomplishes anything, it’s better to let Destructive Creations piss all over the rug, then rub their noses in it and say: “Naughty boy! That’s a very silly thing you just did!”