Controversy is Haute And You’re Being Taken For a Bloody Ride

March 17, 2015

My favorite way of immunizing myself to controversy is to arrive at new developments several months late, which is why I’m going to talk about Hatred today. As a side note, this method has a pretty poor track record at the whole immunization thing.

For those unfamiliar, Hatred was a game added to Steam’s Greenlight service in December of 2014 and then subsequently removed by Valve after outcry because of its controversial premise, in which the player takes on the role of a mass shooter on a “genocide crusade”. So Postal, but without the sense of humor.

But what-the-fuck-ever, right? There have been more violent video games that didn’t earn the controversy that Hatred did. There have also been much worse video games that Valve has willingly attached its name to via Steam. Game got taken down. Game got put back. People who like that kind of thing are now free to spend their money on it.

But then Gamergate happened. To be more specific, Gamergate continued to happen. And when the news broke that Valve had removed a game from its Greenlight service because of its violent content, our friends over at KotakuInAction were all over that shit. Why? Well, ethics in gaming journalism of course! What’s more unethical and journalistic than a private business deciding that it did not want to host a product that it did not agree with? Journalism! And lo and behold, Gamergate was a driving force in forcing Valve to reconsider and re-allow the game back onto Steam.

But isn’t it a bit fucking nice and tidy that a game like Hatred, which was bound to draw controversy by its very nature (not to mention the way that it was presenting itself), just happened to show up on Greenlight at the exact time that Gamergate was running at full steam, a movement based around fighting political correctness in the gaming industry at every opportunity? This isn’t the first time that game developers have taken advantage of the contrarian nature of a certain part of the gaming community and it probably wont be the last considering just how well it seems to work.

So you’ve made a game with gameplay that could be described as ‘okay’, graphics that are ‘meh’, and generally not much going for it in the flood of slapped together shite that is Steam Greenlight. So how do you make yourself stand out in a sea of shit when you are also made of shit? You build hype. Hype is practically what the gaming industry breathes. Millions of dollars a year gets poured into marketing departments and psychology experts whose entire purpose in the industry is to create hype. And even the indie side of things, studios on a much lower budget have their own ways of drawing attention.

And one of those ways is by generating controversy, guaranteeing that the vitriolic part of the gaming community that revels in staying as conservatively offensive as possible. So congratulations, you’ve found your in. Just throw a bunch of controversial themes on top of your so-so video game and you have a guaranteed following of the kind of blokes that will throw their money at anything as long as they’ve been told that it will piss off some imaginary ‘SJW’ strawman.

Congratulations, you have now earned your game a place in the gaming industry as well as enough attention to get more than a few sales once you release the damn thing.

And all for a game whose own engine creators want nothing to do with it.

But as a post script: I wont judge anyone who actually buys Hatred, or even anyone who enjoys it. I enjoyed the Postal series of games myself and I have no problem with egregious violence. I just take issue with the idea that greenlighting this game was some strike in the name of free speech or whatever the hell people were calling it during the time that it was taken down from Steam. It was a simple incident of developers seeing that they had an in with a certain kind of person, and those people went along with it like sheep. If you’re really looking for a reason why you shouldn’t give your money to the guys that made Hatred, take a look at the fact that at least one of the developers may support Polish neo-nazi organizations.

All images courtesy of the Hatred Steam page. At least the game has a nice consistent visual style…