There aren’t many things I can read that make me want to be violently sick. That’s the kind of phrase I could say, if I lived in a world in which the Daily Mail didn’t exist. Regrettably, I seem to insist on persisting in a reality wherein the Daily Mail doesn’t just exist, but it appears to demand violent worship by hoards of increasingly dangerous buffoons who, one can only incredulously presume, can’t sling a thought or two together of their own. It’s dangerous to go alone; take this turgid, poison-sodden, hateful slew of baffling utterances farted out with the measured rationale and grace of a toddler mid-supermarket strop, and cower before their reactionary dribble as if it were all unmistakable, concrete fact. Ahem.
Sometimes, amidst the racist, homophobic, blatant scaremongering headlines, I get so worked up over the fact this detestable thing exists, I think why doesn’t someone stop them. Surely it’s libel!? It’s hate speech!? At the very least it’s outright deceit; lies and disgusting, desperate, inciteful behavior; all things that have been proved in separate instances many times over. The problem of course, is that if someone does stop it, that’s a little bit like censorship. It throws the very idea of free speech to the dogs, and in a way, is a totalitarian method of dealing with the issue. Gawd. So, as a result, we live in a world in which the Daily Mail is the most read newspaper in Britain. Sigh.
So what’s all this got to do with them videogames then? Well, if you’re already embroiled with industry news, you’ll know there’s been quite a fuss over a game called Hatred this month, one which has brought similar freedom-of-speech based dissent to the forefront of the politics of our favoured digital hobby. Sigh.
Hatred is a game developed by a small, Polish studio. The sole trailer depicts a dark and dingy visual overtone, and some intolerable git in a trenchcoat, with long black hair, looking decidedly like he could belong to that goth subculture, murdering as many civilians as possible. GTA or Postal veterans will likely be tossing their heads back and laughing at the notion that such a thing could be considered new; but just take a look at the video:
For or against,the violence in both GTA and Postal is, at its core, comparatively comedic. Hatred’s apparent drive for realism visually, and through those seemingly one-off, finishing move esque camera angles, create an altogether more deranged overtone. Fine, right? Well, maybe not just at the moment.
Naturally, upon its reveal, Hatred was met with a heap of controversy, presumably exactly the type of reaction the developers were really yearning to elicit. So well done everybody for being predictable. It appeared on Steam Greenlight, and despite building a relatively strong following, was taken down shortly after. Gabe Newell; benevolent, game gifting overlord of the PC master race, and the man at Steam-creator Valve’s helm soon got involved and said this shouldn’t have happened, reversed the decision, and Hatred came back followed by enough fans to put it right at the top of Steam Greenlight’s essential Most Wanted list. Fair enough?
Gabe gave little away in terms of the reasoning behind his getting involved, and his reversal, but we at Respawn have a bit of an inkling as to why it happened. Gabe has, in the past, spoken outwardly on many occasions, stating that he doesn’t want Steam to be a bottleneck. This is the ideal that’s fuelled the recent introduction of those curated store fronts. You know, the ones we all ignore. And what could be more bottlenecking than effectively removing and restricting access to a game that his users have expressed interest in. ‘Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers’ he said in an email to the developers, and naturally, he sees no reason for Steam to be involved at this stage. End of? Not likely.
A few years ago, I’d probably have been right in this game’s corner. Running with Scissors’ disclaimer at the opening of Postal 2 states that they believe ‘violence belongs in video games, not on the streets’, and I felt very strongly in tandem with that sentiment. Games were such a fervent method of escapism for me growing up, I loved to let off steam by being overtly violent in a digital playground. I felt like I could level the odds with the people who’d treated me unfairly in the opposite world we insist on labelling reality; I’d likely have relished this type of thing. It’s abhorrent. But so was Postal 2. For all its lighthearted nuances, you could still use a spade to chop off the head of an innocent civilian, boot it around for a bit and then piss on the dismembered, street-strewn carcass. Y’know. But even with that in mind, things were pretty different back then.
In the last 10 years, school shootings have risen significantly in number. I’m NOT saying this has had anything to do with video games, I of course believe the polar opposite; but the media insists that it has. That’s media like the Daily Mail, media that people buy in their droves and believe in their unbelievable numbers. Scary numbers. Even in the last 10 years, the media and the way news is reported has changed so dramatically, we now hear about atrocities in entirely different ways. From different perspectives. More often, more sensationally, more dramatically. My question for Hatred then is, right now, why would we want to give these media outlets any more ammo, especially in this form (and Hatred would be like incendiary ammo) that would inevitably give rise to a fiercer anti-video game mentality?
Secondly, if there’s a bad time to give those who’re reactionarily critical of gaming any more reason to be so, it’s right now. Right now when, just a few months ago, and still to this day, to this hour or minute, there are a bunch of psychopaths euphorically jacking off to their title of ‘gamer’ whilst thinking it’s fine to send abuse and rape and death threats to people. As an audience who’ve just stood up and loudly announced to the world they can’t handle WOMEN working in this industry; that in 2014 they can’t grasp the very basic, humanistic idea of equality; why should they be afforded the opportunity to play a game like this. A game that pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable. That glorifies violence in a way that to a reasonable, balanced mind, could even be considered exploratory, as well as escapism. But these people have JUST proved they’re not reasonable, nor balanced. They’re violent, unthinking, embittered husks of people who don’t understand right from wrong.
Look at this bile; this horde of unrelenting idiocy. They’re ASKING to be able to kill digital versions of the women they’ve harassed out of their own home, they’re ASKING for children to be featured.
In this post, someone is discussing how the mod scene will help recreate some horrific events in the game.
THIS is why we can’t possibly have Hatred. A few years ago perhaps, or maybe even a few years in the future. But not now. A world in which complete freedom of speech and expression and unbounded creativity exists is one I crave, but so too is a world in which people don’t act like ravaging violent misogynistic idiots, don’t read the Daily Mail, aren’t racist, aren’t abusive or threatening. Which kind of sounds like some desperate, magical utopia, doesn’t it? Or does it. Is it actually a reasonable ask? Naturally I want developers to create without barriers; but I don’t want to see gaming culled by a media with the perfect excuse to tighten down that very creativity we’d be trying to protect.
Similarly, I’m all for taking the risk, fighting the powers that be for our right to make and create and play whatever we so wish, but if we’re going to make a big stand with something, can we not explore one of the other taboo subjects the games industry fails and is routinely chastised for when we try to explore them? Drug use? Sex? A few months ago I pleaded for a A Scanner Darkly game; for something that really pushed boundaries. Surely the fight would seem redeemable; decisively, arguably ethical even. But slinging our progress away on a game that simply pushes further into the dregs and the depths of outlandish, mindless violence, something we’ve pretty much got loads of anyway, just seems like a poor choice all round.
Hatred devs, there’s a time and a place for your game, but like Cup-a-Soup, this is not it.