Arts & CultureTechnology

New game 'Hatred' draws controversy for depicting school shooting

In sharp black-and-white, a dark figure in a trenchcoat looks over a table full of assault rifles, hand grenades and hunting knifes. As he packs the weapons into his coat, he spouts a monologue cursing “this stupid world, and all these human worms feasting on its carcass,” and how he will “put in a grave as many as [he] can.” As he exits the front door to a suburban street, he declares, “My genocidal crusade begins here” and he begins to fire blindly into innocent civilians at a bus stop.

This begins the trailer for HATRED, an upcoming PC game from first-time developers Destructive Creations. Modeled in Unreal Engine 4 and animated to horrific detail, the 98-second trailer is intentionally reminiscent of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and countless other tragedies in recent American history. The game’s title card is even reminiscent of Doom, the game infamously blamed for the 1999 Columbine massacre. There’s little doubt that Hatred is a game set out to draw controversy (The original trailer was even first revealed the day after game commentator Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a college speaking engagement, after an anonymous threat to shoot up the school). Plenty of gaming press outlets have blasted the game as going “too far,” but Valve’s Steam is the first industry player to take a real stand against the title. They’ve removed the game from Steam Greenlight, the community-voting platform where independent games can gain access to the Steam store. This storefront is considered the end-all, be-all of PC gaming. For most players, if a game isn’t on Steam, it’s not seen. Since Destructive Creations isn’t planning on a console release, it’s very likely that Hatred’s main revenue was expected to come off of Steam.

Valve’s decision has caused many popular game columnists such as TotalBiscut to accuse them of unnecessary censorship. On Twitter, he declared “If Netflix can have the Human Centipede 2 on their service I’m sure you can handle a game about killing imaginary people.” Other critics have also reminded us that Steam still actively sells Manhunt and Postal, two games that also made waves for graphic depictions of violence in their day. On their front page is an advertisement for Grand Theft Auto V, a game in which gunning down cops and innocent civilians is arguably the main attraction. In fact, when Target Australia made the decision to stop selling GTA V for “the game’s depictions of violence against women” the move was met with almost universal criticism. So is Valve’s decision ultimately a form of censorship?

The decision to remove Hatred from Greenlight has to be observed as a form of risk aversion on Valve’s part. As dark as it is to contemplate, mass shootings in the United States are not an uncommon news story. When the next tragedy occurs, I have to imagine Valve doesn’t want to be in a position where Hatred is on its front page. Especially when the game wouldn’t be on any console platform, making Steam the sole focus on any potential media firestorm. Ultimately, the moderate sales that Hatred may bring in are weighed out by the sheer potential of mass-media backlash. As a result, it was in Valve’s best interest to walk away – leaving Hatred in a purgatory zone. You can still see success off Steam, selling off one’s own website (Minecraft on PC and League of Legends are only available through their publishers’ websites, not any distribution services). But the most likely end for Hatred may ultimately be via living obscurely online, possibly on alternate distributors like Desura. Yet for a game that has courted controversy for the beginning, perhaps that’s a fitting end.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter @Mushroomer25

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg