WARNING: This shows in-game captured images of disturbing violent scenarios
The PC master race sails far ahead, Steam its gargantuan vessel, and so it is certainly unsettling to witness it throw overboard its own passengers. But that’s not as unsettling as a game like, say, Hatred. Hatred is a top-down isometric genocide simulation, where your main motive is to kill as many innocent civilians as possible before you yourself die, all because of the protagonist’s flimsy motivation, being his hatred of everyone. The trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytdEYapPXdY) sets the premise quite well. It is clear from this video that you play as an insane person, who projects his internal torture into the form of a ‘genocide crusade’. Despite his rehearsed monologue, the protagonist never actually mentions any real justification to his allegations of innocent civilians. And yet, the character persists and goes about horrifically torturing innocent civilians, against their kicking and screaming, bleeding and pleading. This form of ‘entertainment’ encourages you to shove the barrel of your gun down an innocent policewoman’s throat, causing you to wash the walls with frontal lobe, all to avoid your own death.
I personally believe this game to be disgusting. Most violent video games have a punishment for excessive brutality, like GTA, and if not that, then they at least have a legitimate reason why the brutality is being shown. The famous X-ray bullet times in Sniper Elite are certainly graphic, but you can at least argue that they show the true horrors of war. Weather you believe that SE’s bullet times are ‘awesome’ is your opinion, but they serve purpose, to show how easy and how horrifically simple it was for a soldier to be shot through the skull, or at least they make you question your actions. And in games like Mortal Kombat, the gory fatalities are performed on completely fantastical peoples, in a universe where nothing could ever be applied to reality. But this is all straying away from the obvious point, that the main goal in any of these games is certainly not to commit brutal mass genocides. A genocide is a horrible issue, both because of the number of people that die, but also because of the fact that there are mentally ill people that are tortured enough to reach this kind of insane last resort. This game focuses on this horrible topic, and seemingly rewards players with unfortunately well detailed in-game cutscenes of your player committing indescribable acts. The fact that a whole studio decided that making a game like this was a good idea deeply disturbs me, and I must assume that they are just as insane as their deranged protagonists. The violence in Sniper Elite does not happen in real life. The violence in Mortal Kombat does not happen in real life, but genocides do. Think back only a few moths ago to the Isla Vista killings, where the tortured person who committed it had similar motivations to this decorated madman. The fact that this kind of insane violence is so close to home, and yet some people aspire to virtually follow in the footsteps, to me, is sickening. That’s why we tend not to have paedophilia simulators and rape simulators, because this kind of insane-driven violence is despicable and closer to reality than the killings in Mortal Kombat (And, yes, you could argue that Grand Theft Auto has common crimes, but these close-to-home crimes are severely punished). So why should Hatred be an exception? Why should we view this any different to a rape simulation? It shows the same kind of feeble motivation rapists hold, shows the same desperate protests of the victims. Despite what violence a lot of gamers have been exposed to, this kind of unfounded violence is just as horrible. It is an abomination of a ‘video game’, something that is meant as entertainment, and this taints the very term. I’m not a betting man, but if this studio isn’t just insane, I’d bet they’re making this game just as a provocative statement, to create an instant controversy catalyst just to publicise themselves, abusing the medium of artistic freedom to generate attention and dismay instead of something creative that people can remember for the right reasons. I don’t believe video games encourage real life violence but I don’t believe that they should parody it either (And no, parodying extravagant bank heists in GTA does not constitute parodying real life violence as these crimes are in no way realistic).
But that is all my opinion, of course. Some people could argue that this game, similar to Depression Quest, puts you in the perspective shoes of a mentally different person, that this meant to induce squeamish reactions in people for effect. And others argue that this type of violence is simply entertaining sport, and to prevent it from being published would do nothing but annoy those awaiting it. Others use this game’s provocatively violent nature as an example of how we should protect freedom of speech. They say that you can’t believe in free speech but deny some creations the opportunity, like hatred, to be created. I believe in freedom of speech, because freedom of speech is the ability to say what you want as long as it doesn’t pose any harm to anyone, and without it, opinions wouldn’t exist. And to an extent, you could argue that if you don’t want to be affected by Hatred, you can choose not to play it. But for some inexplicable reason, knowing that people are playing a game like hatred is worse than knowing that people hold the opinion that hatred is a good game, that they merely speak good of it. The freedom to make something is fundamentally different than the freedom to say something because something that you make actually does have the potential to harm someone, to disturb someone on a much greater level. And when games like this are used to manipulate the idea of artistic freedom by being deliberately provocative, rather than abide by artistic freedom and make what you want instead of making what’s edgy, the whole idea of freedom becomes useless because no one uses it correctly. But, again, I can’t prove that Hatred wasn’t made out of legitimate artistic insight. And I can’t say what is good and what is bad because, despite my dragon-like abilities, I am ultimately the opinion of one man. So I must admit that the artistic freedom surrounding this game is more important than my disgust against it, and I certainly don’t have the authority to say it should or shouldn’t be made.
And neither can Steam. In case you don’t know what Steam Greenlight is, it’s a system Steam have where they make a special ‘greenlight’ page for a game, where the developers post information, images and videos of their game in order to achieve support and a mass approval to get selected for publishing by Steam. The day the greenlight page was posted, it was taken down. Despite being ranked #7 on the greenlight board, over 13,000 votes lifting it as well as a 93% approval rate, it vanished. Now, if greenlight is a system that puts the community to power, surely there is a 93% chance of Steam approving this game? And yet they simply take it down? Doug Lombardi (Valve’s vice president of marketing) says to Eurogamer “Based on what we’ve seen on greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam, as such, we’ll be taking it down”. Are Valve blind? A 93% approval rating is good for any game applied to greenlight, and by denying the community what they want they not only disregard the entire logic of and mock their own greenlight system, but abuse their humongous power as game curators.
When Target removed GTA V from its stores, I did not agree with it, but there was certainly consumer pressure on Target to do so. Target is a family superstore, and if a few thousand people do not want their game to be exposed to their children, Target has every right to comply. But Steam is not a superstore. Steam is a very specific market to a very specific audience, boasting just as depraved titles like Postal or Manhunt, both being murder simulators. Judging by the statistics, Steam had just about no consumer pressure to remove the game. In fact the alarming majority pressured Steam to release it, so we can obviously see that Lombardi’s statement was a balls-out lie. So one must assume that Steam wasn’t actually looking at greenlight but rather at their own moral objections to judge weather to release this game. Now, believe me, any store has any right not to sell a game, and they don’t even have to justify themselves, but Steam is a different issue. If Steam sell games like Manhunt and Postal, which are non-satirical murder simulators, both quite successful, why should they deny this game the right? The problem with greenlight is that there is no set guideline as to what can and can’t be published. Steam doesn’t quantify the amount or type of violence you can have, and because of that, Steam is being particularly discriminative of this title. Steam is penalising this game for trying to be made in a market of similar peers, and that upsets me more than the content of the game. And we’re forgetting that Steam is the leading PC games market by 1,000 leagues. It’s all well and good denying a game from your store based on moral code, but the reality is that if this game doesn’t get on Steam it will sell no-where near the amount it would have otherwise. By denying this game a place on its market, Steam inadvertently, like Hatred’s player would, hand it a death-sentence. And the fact that Steam chose to single out this game in particular has caused an obvious occurrence of the Streisand Effect. Me writing this article is contributing to that very effect. Seemingly Steam wanted to dissuade people from buying or knowing about this game, and now far, far more people know about this game and will actively buy it as a form of protest. Stupidity.
But big boy Gabe has taken back the reigns. The day after it was taken down, Steam re-uploaded the greenlight page, with our lord Gabe saying “Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that”. “It turns out it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team”. “Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers”. So with that, Hatred is back up (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=356532461), and the media is stilled. Big boy Gabe apologised, but is that enough? Is this a sign that it is easy for Steam to abuse their power? But more importantly, is this a sign that Steam will continue to abuse their power?
What do you think? Can Steam drop a game on moral grounds? Is Hatred a legitimate piece of art? Keep the discussion going, my preachers, across to far a land.