Destructive Creations really hopes they’ve pissed you off. For the past several months, the Polish game developer has been hard at work, laboring feverishly over a project that’s meant to turn your stomach. The game in question, Hatred, released yesterday on Steam, and so far the buzz seems to indicate that Destructive Creations’ passion project has expertly accomplished it’s goal. Good for them. Too bad the success of the game could set gaming culture back an entire decade.
In case you’ve had the good fortune to completely avoid the game, Hatred is — no joke — a genocide simulator. Just watch the incredibly violent trailer above if you need proof. Players take on the role of some nameless reject from Trent Reznor’s most mediocre nightmare. Having grown tired of the world (and living in his mother’s basement, apparently), the player tosses on a black leather trench coat, straps on a truly American amount of guns and bombs and heads out into the night, greasy hair flowing in the wind. Once on the street, players are tasked with kicking off Armageddon. What this equates to is simply walking around suburbs and gunning down innocent civilians; when the police and military eventually show up you gun them down, too. That’s pretty much it. Of course, that summary doesn’t mention the frankly disturbing amount of violence aimed at minorities and women in the game’s trailer (as well as the dubious extracurricular activities enjoyed by certain members of the dev team).
Those unfamiliar with video games beyond what you hear on Fox News may not be alarmed at Hatred’s premise. After all, the public perception of video games is that if they’re not aimed at the kiddies, then they’re just psychopath training simulators. That’s all thanks to the mainstream media, who are all too happy to plaster simulated violence all over the news whenever something vile happens out in the world. In cases of gun violence, for example, it’s usually only a matter of time before some opportunist uses scary sounding (but unfounded) statistics to try and prove that video games are out there creating killers left and right.
That’s not to give the impression that video games aren’t awash in graphic violence. Many definitely are. It’d be a lie of omission, for example, not to mention that the latest entry in the Grand Theft Auto franchise has a gut-wrenching scene in which the player is forced to torture someone in extended detail. It’s horrific. And therein lies the distinction to be made. Rockstar Games, the makers of Grand Theft Auto, want you to be horrified. It’s not supposed to be a fun scene, it’s supposed to be a commentary on the brutal lengths to which the government will go for information and the lack of importance placed on human life.
Let’s look at an example of another game released recently: The Witcher 3. A product of another Polish development team, CD Projekt Red, The Witcher 3 takes place in a world devoid of hope. Seriously, Westeros is a fun-filled family picnic compared to the desolation present on the Continent. In one incredibly upsetting scene, players are forced to confront the demonic spirit of an aborted fetus. It is exactly as upsetting as it sounds, and not only because the botchling, as it’s called, is repulsive to look at. The developers imbue the scene with a heart-breaking sadness that stirs as much sympathy for the creature as it’s physical appearance stirs nausea. It’s horrendous, absolutely, but it’s also art. And art isn’t always pleasant.
Then, there’s Hatred. If Grand Theft Auto is Se7en, then Hatred is Saw. It’s a perversion of a game that was intended to have some artistic value, boiling down the complexities of GTA‘s violent playground into a bland shooter that revels in needless mayhem. It’s sole purpose in life is to annoy conservatives and make old people squirm. It’s certainly not designed to be a good video game. Reviews of the finished product have been merciless, ripping apart pretty much every aspect of the game, calling the structure basic, the color scheme boring and muddled, the story inconsequential and the controls awkward. As one reviewer put it, “It’s a brainless celebration of death for death’s sake.” atombash.com’s review called it, “the ultimate sociopathic experience,” so … if that’s your thing, dive in. Actually, if that’s your thing, don’t buy this game. Use that money to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
Inevitably, though, the next time some deranged loner goes out in public and starts firing on some poor civilians, we’ll see images of Hatred splattered across our TV sets as an implicit cause of the violence. It’s a game that just reinforces the false notion that there’s no redeeming value to be found in video games. Hopefully, the day will soon come when video games are given the same distinctions afforded to movies and television; namely, that some of the products are wonderful while others are worthless garbage. Unfortunately, video games are still in their relative infancy, a time when spectacle tends to overshadow competency. In five years, a game like Hatred may not have enough juice to even exist. Dare to dream.