...just don't try this at home and don't take it too seriously
October 22, 2014 10:58 AM   Subscribe

"A hypocrite knows right from wrong; they know they sin when they sin," Chmielarz said. "They find excuses for these sins just like we find excuses to mow down another hundred enemies in a video game. And even though they don't follow it, deep down they know which way the moral compass is pointing. Hatred takes the excuses away from us and asks us to enjoy the sin out there in the open." Outrage and debate over the announcement of the upcoming video game "Hatred," in which players take the persona of a mass shooter. (Disturbing content in both video and company website.)

The game's creator tells Polygon that it's "all about honesty" and that he's gotten a surprising amount of positive feedback. Entertainment Buddha argues that "Hatred can never have a reason for what it is doing, no matter its motives."
posted by jbickers (126 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a way to make the Funny Games of video games - a video game which would truly satirize your hypocrisy. But no, this is not it. It just sounds like an edgelord wankjam. The develops thought it would be SUPER COOL and TOTALLY EDGY to make this game, and now people are going to talk about it, thereby doing their viral marketing for them.

I picture the average fan of Hatred to be wearing baggy JNCOs, a V for Vendetta mask, a spiked bracelet, body modification horns, and a T-shirt which says "COOL STORY, BABE - NOW MAKE ME A SANDWICH".
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2014 [31 favorites]


Ultraviolence, isometric perspective, real-time action... It's Postal without a sense of humor!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:10 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ethics aside, this game looks pretty boring. Maybe the developers are trying to trade controversy for engaging gameplay?

Up next: IT'S LIKE TETRIS, BUT THEY'RE ALL THE SQUARE ONE... AND THE BLOCKS ARE ABORTED FETUSES
posted by johnnydummkopf at 11:11 AM on October 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


Was some nudity blurred out in the trailer around the 1:15-16 mark? Because tits certainly are more trauma-inducing than multiple headshots.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:11 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


in which players take the persona of a mass shooter.

So, it's pretty much like Call of Duty and Far Cry without the slapped on justification? Maybe the guy has a point when he talks about honesty.

Also, what ThatFuzzyBastard said.
posted by dortmunder at 11:13 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's Postal without a sense of humor!

I'm not sure Postal (the first one) was, or was meant to be, funny. But yeah, I don't really get why this is news, except that it's a lousy game that can use all the manufactured controversy it can get.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:14 AM on October 22, 2014


This reminds me of that time a few years ago when roguelikes very briefly surfaced into public consciousness when a guy claimed he was working on a serial killer roguelike.
posted by JHarris at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Edgy for edginess sake is not a particularly ennobling goal, and does not necessarily lead down worthwhile paths.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Was some nudity blurred out in the trailer around the 1:15-16 mark?
We've had to redo this trailer, cutting out Unreal Engine trademarks and also New York City asked us to cut out NYPD trademarks (we thought it's a public property, not a registered trademark), so it's censored now in the video.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not the gameplay, it's the politics behind the game that disturb me; it's gender neutral, but the trailer reminded me of Elliot Rodger's justifications for his killing spree: "I hate everybody, no girl likes me, let's murder everybody".

That's playing with fire in an environment where spoiled manchildren already threaten school shootings if a woman they don't like gets to speak at a university.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


This reminds me of that time a few years ago when roguelikes very briefly surfaced into public consciousness when a guy claimed he was working on a serial killer roguelike.

Sounds like Hotline Miami.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2014


We are moving on 20 years since Columbine. It's now mainstream fun and games. Maybe this sort of gentrification is a positive thing.
posted by stbalbach at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2014


...there's also the meta-controversy over the developers' seeming ties to right-wing Polish nationalist groups, which they wrote an angry blog post refuting. MeFi is a smart place, and I'd be really interested in context from someone who understands the Polish nationalism mindset. From what I can tell, it seems as though it's wrong to label it pro-Nazi or anti-semitic, but that doesn't preclude it from being xenophobic, anti-Islamic, concerned with racial purity, etc.
posted by naju at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Like any gamer hasn't already done this in a game that provides innocent civilians.

I did like it when Carmageddon flipped a switch from red to green blood in order sell in Europe though. There's not people, they're zombies!

They can do the same here.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2014


edgelord

Love it!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think there is a case to be made that video games are an art form, and that art can be unethical, and the ethics of art are worth exploring. I am not sure the way to do that is to create a game that is rooted in celebrating psychopathology while accusing everybody who doesn't want to play it of hypocrisy. It's like being a stand-up comic but telling nothing but misogynistic, racist, and homophobic jokes and then screaming at the audience "BUT THIS IS WHAT YOU CRAVE."
posted by maxsparber at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Zielinski explained what Hatred's trying to convey as follows:

"By the game? That we should not bend under political correctness propaganda which we can see everywhere right now. We live in the free world, with freedom of speech and artistic expression and we should use it in any way we want, otherwise we'll be falling under SJWs [Social Justice Warriors] regime. Some reactions for this trailer are a great example of this. Fortunately there are many people who understand us and are standing on our side."


So it's basically Gamergate: The Game?
posted by DiscountDeity at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2014 [37 favorites]


It's unfortunate Polygon missed the developer's support for a Polish-nationalist/White Power group before their sit down. I wonder if they'll actually get a response from the developer now?
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


We are moving on 20 years since Columbine. It's now mainstream fun and games. Maybe this sort of gentrification is a positive thing.

Doesn't seem to be.
posted by maxsparber at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Nice color design: mostly grey, with flashes of color for blood, explosions, gunfire, and police lights. Good for evoking the kind of place someone depressed and angry enough to contemplate a killing spree would theoretically be in.

This is kind of what a lot of video games boil down to anyway: a killing spree, with some vague excuse of a plot bolted on.

I dunno, I feel like this is a really cold, detached response I'm having to this thing. But when I saw how weirdly animated the dude's hands are in the initial opening, that kinda threw the whole thing into the uncanny valley for me.

That said, man, you have to be in a pretty fucked-up place to want to spend a few years of your life making this thing. Cynically capitalist, sublimating your own angry depression, or both. I wouldn't want to hang out with anyone who felt comfortable working on this game, even without the whole racist connection.
posted by egypturnash at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


otherwise we'll be falling under SJWs [Social Justice Warriors] regime

Tells you everything about the motivations for making this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:32 AM on October 22, 2014 [50 favorites]


I am so stealing Edgelord Wankjam as my rock star pseudonym.
posted by reynir at 11:33 AM on October 22, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure Postal (the first one) was, or was meant to be, funny

The single thing I can remember from that game is that at some point you can run around setting an entire marching band on fire with a flamethrower. It wasn't ha-ha funny, but PC games of that generation definitely had a similar thread of finding some black humor in grotesque violence.

Anyway, this has about as much reason to exist as as Uwe Boll's Rampage. You can claim it is social commentary as the day is long but honestly anyone with two brain cells to run together knows who this game is for and how it will be received by such people.
posted by griphus at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2014


Everyone involved in making this game or considering buying it should be forced to watch Postal, the movie.
posted by benzenedream at 11:37 AM on October 22, 2014


I almost didn't make this post because of the marketing angle, but I found the conversation in the Engadget piece, about hypocrisy in the mind of a gamer, to be a pretty fascinating one. I know for my part, I have a very hard time killing innocents even in games like GTA where it's played for laughs - it still makes me feel bad about myself. (Hell, I remember they had this thing in the local arcade when I was growing up and I was too scared to walk near it.)
posted by jbickers at 11:37 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Everyone involved in making this game or considering buying it should be forced to watch Postal, the movie.

Oh shit I totally forgot Uwe Boll made that movie as well. WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Our target is basically a gamer that is coming home after a long, tiring and overall a shitty working day. So we give him the opportunity to just sit by his computer and let some of the steam go by shooting NPCs and destroying the level."

It's really nice of him to be so thoughtful, because video games have been around for almost 40 years and there's never been a game that allowed players to do such a thing. God bless you, sir!
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:38 AM on October 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


So, it's pretty much like Call of Duty and Far Cry without the slapped on justification?

Yeah...I was thinking the same thing. Most shooters are pretty-much just mass-killing with "bad guys" written in. This game sounds more up-front about the appeal, at least.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:39 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Everything else aside, it's also just really cheesy and embarrassing, in a 90's power violence edgy-but-not-really kind of way. This kind of goofy loner-machismo-on-a-rampage crap was dated and embarrassing even back then. It's laughable now when the guy looks like Danzig or something that would be ridiculed on Metalocalypse, and is written like someone only an angsty 8th grader obsessed with Skinny Puppy would find compelling (apologies to Skinny Puppy).
posted by naju at 11:40 AM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


If only the gaming press had the collective backbone to just ignore the game. They're not obligated to cover every morally reprehensible piece of shit game out there. Oh well.
posted by jklaiho at 11:44 AM on October 22, 2014


I did like it when Carmageddon flipped a switch from red to green blood in order sell in Europe though. There's not people, they're zombies!
...
Most shooters are pretty-much just mass-killing with "bad guys" written in.

I feel like the same is true about a lot of zombie games, in general; they provide a moral justification for having to kill a whole lot of corrupted humans. There's a huge amount of overlap between zombie-apocalypse and survivalist-apocalypse fantasy narratives.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


> Everything else aside, it's also just really cheesy and embarrassing, in a 90's power violence edgy-but-not-really kind of way.

Seriously. The whole thing is so worst-of-the-'90s the soundtrack should be by Nine Inch Nails Marilyn Manson Godsmack.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Should be called Gamergaters: Give us your money.
posted by Yowser at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


That game looked way more polished than I expected. What a waste of talent.
posted by empath at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Austin Grossman's awesome novel You is in some respects about this. OK, it's about a lot of things. But one of the things it's about is the fact that part of the fun of (some) video games is the fun of being a mass murderer, and the discomfort this fact causes for people who make games.
posted by escabeche at 11:51 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is the kind of thing that someone sane would slap together in Unity just for kicks and then never tell anyone about.
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on October 22, 2014


I find first person shooters to be kind of boring, to be honest. Please let me do more than interact with my environment using a gun eighty percent of the time.

Several years ago, a friend who was Diablo-obsessed talked about what it would mean to have a game about evil, beyond just killing things. I mean, sure, you could code up some kind of low-end isometric where you ran a high-powered lawnmower over people buried up to their necks in dirt like Motel Hell or something, but in terms of something more free-style, how could you do anything but enumerate evils, evaluate them on some arbitrary basis, and theoretically reward players for it?

We ended up having a pretty interesting discussion about it. You can't just throw some heuristic about catching that moment when a rose begins to sing into a procedure and get recognition of evil out of it, much less some sort of score. What's worth more points, butchering kittens in front of their mother or the other way around?

Eventually, we came to the conclusion that moral or ethical (or immoral or unethical) "lessons" in a game are tightly constrained by programmer imagination and what can be programmed. It's not merely artificial and arbitrary, it's very much a thing where you are led by the nose to some sort of conclusion, the already unconvincing facade of whatever Hollywood set you were in flattens into a billboard reading GOT JESUS?

Frankly, I think watching folks collectively (and often performatively) flip out over this game will provide more information than anything they could code up.
posted by adipocere at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Parodying the trailer: Hatred (The) - A Wiseau Reveal
posted by tykky at 11:56 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I think watching folks collectively (and often performatively) flip out over this game will provide more information than anything they could code up.

Not necessarily new information of course. In fact kind of a tired retread.

That's really where the sin of this game is, IMHO. Despite the ambitions of the developers it's really kind of tired. The gamer press may go through motions but well... meh.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:57 AM on October 22, 2014


Parodying the trailer

I like this one too, because we get to find out the protagonist's name.
posted by jbickers at 12:02 PM on October 22, 2014


This is well trodden ground, I can't see it rising to the level of controversy. It's just one more shooter(albeit non-FPS?) in a very, very crowded field.
posted by Yowser at 12:04 PM on October 22, 2014


So, I found this link to some of the creators' denials of fascist and/or far-right leanings, probably in response to blog posts like this one which show potential ties to various far-right political parties and symbology. It seems like their denials boil down to: 1) my ancestors fought against/were killed by the Gestapo/Nazis so how could I be fascist?, 2) I've liked a lot of things on Facebook, who can keep track of which of those things are or are not fascist, 3) oh, these symbols that have been appropriated by far-right groups? no, no, no, I like them for their original meanings, completely divorced from any current connotations, and 4) it's not about fascism or far-right nationalism or totalitarianism, it's patriotism and libertarianism. So, there's that.
posted by mhum at 12:06 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


And may I take this moment to promote the lovely podcast Isometric, formed by Brianna Wu, someone who can make it (money) rain, program, AND create 3d models?
posted by Yowser at 12:07 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


So, it's pretty much like Call of Duty and Far Cry without the slapped on justification? Maybe the guy has a point when he talks about honesty.

If those games had modes where the bad guys were unarmed and trying to run away from you instead of kill you with guns of their own, then yes, the'd be similar.

Clearly the cops in this game are armed and after you, but really it seems all about mowing down all the everyday schmoes who you're mad at for all those imagined slights. I'm sure the devs see themselves like Maximus in Gladiator: "Are you not entertained?"
posted by mkultra at 12:08 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would never play this game. It's so dumb. I'd rather spend my time shooting different people in a different game. A game that was, oh I dunno, like a really good game! But not in this game, which is a dumb game.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:09 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


This sounds really transgressive...
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The game's creator tells Polygon that it's "all about honesty"

It's all about money and it seems to be working out nicely so far.
posted by hat_eater at 12:14 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If those games had modes where the bad guys were unarmed and trying to run away from you instead of kill you with guns of their own, then yes, the'd be similar.


That's exactly what I'm getting at. Why did those people in Far Cry 3 deserve to die? I have no real idea other than something about the main character's brother getting sodomized, which prompts him ( the main character, not the brother) to take a bunch of drugs and get involved in a civil war he knows nothing about, and don't get me started on Call of Duty and Tom Clancy's whatever the fuck, because those are nothing but jingoist brown people murder simulators as far as I can tell.
posted by dortmunder at 12:15 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


my ancestors fought against/were killed by the Gestapo/Nazis so how could I be fascist?

Exactly, this seems like such a narrow refutation that it really pings my bullshit meter. Fine, Poland was devastated by WWII, culturally and otherwise. You're not the biggest fan of the Nazis considering what they did to your country. However, none of the developers are actually refuting the charges of endorsing some pretty worrisome groups, as far as I can tell. There are bubbles of racist backlash toying with notions of nationalist purity scattered all over Europe at the moment, and Poland is no exception. It may not come under the banner of explicit racism (more about "protecting culture") or explicit fascism, but the signs are all there.
posted by naju at 12:16 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


And while I'm at it, let me say that the only reason you can't kill civilians in war games is because game developers won't let you. They don't have the balls to take it to that level and have you play as soldiers storming a village where maybe half the people aren't combatants. Call me when someone does that.
posted by dortmunder at 12:17 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ultraviolence, isometric perspective, real-time action... It's Postal without a sense of humor!

You know, you're right.

But, here's the thing - I had long forgotten about Postal.

Mostly, because Syndicate did it better.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


dortmunder, spoilers, but Spec Ops: The Line did that, to spectacular effect.
posted by jbickers at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I agree, it's more of a pulse-taking exercise at this point. Poke the hornets' nest, see if you can't get your next Jack Thompson to appear on cue.

Really, if you're going to do this, please try to go out of your way to bother me with it. Find some deeply fucked-up things. Maybe you can start small, like nicking Stop signs and hearing car crashes in the distance, advance to stealing money for someone's corneal transplant, then degrade a community through police corruption. Burn a church (I am sure there is some Norwegian black metal band willing to contribute to the soundtrack). Manipulate the results of clinical trials such that a medicine comes to market and you have an ever-increasing tally of those who have died from a drug interaction only you and the person you paid off know about. Finish at the leader of some nation-state gloriously stomping through neighboring countries whose subjects must witness their infants hurled into the maw of Mammon and keep their expressions stony lest their first-born suffer the same fate. Horrify me with my complicity and my eagerness for its rewards.

Call the approach "shock and appall."

This just looks more like pew-pew-pew. I think The Bilestoad was more in your face than this.

Having said that, a criticism like "... Hatred can never have a reason for what it is doing, no matter its motives" is one of those things where you wonder if you are not parsing some enlightened koan correctly or the critic is simply engaging in high-sounding denialism. Probably the latter, with a tagline like "Making you a better geek, one post at a time!"
posted by adipocere at 12:20 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


As true as it is that many games are excuses to act out violence, with a McGuffin of perfidy attached to your targets, the truth remains that most people do indeed either prefer to harm villains, or to only perpetrate violence against innocents when there is some degree of comic exaggeration. There is plenty of room for criticism here, but this game does not even accidentally find it.

It is not hypocritical to dislike a game which has neither target villainy nor humor: it only shows that, to the very limited extent that this game could be satire, that it is not very observant or witty satire. You might as well run an incoherent series of bright colors and sound effects, saying that anybody who likes Hollywood movies but dislikes your nonsense movie is a hypocrite. After all, aren't most Hollywood movies filled with motion, color, and sound?

No, it's more like making porn, but then when people claim that you've made porn, you just say that you only did so "satirically". Most people would see right through that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:23 PM on October 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


dortmunder, spoilers, but Spec Ops: The Line did that, to spectacular effect.

I have yet to play Spec Ops, although I've heard great things about it. I own a copy I got on steep discount, but I'm so averse to military shooters that I've had reservations about playing it, evening knowing it exists to subvert the genre. Maybe I'll fire it up this weekend.
posted by dortmunder at 12:23 PM on October 22, 2014


So, a game for people who don't know that the protagonist of Falling Down is the bad guy (or, perhaps more accurately, have never heard of the film in the first place).

There's a huge amount of overlap between zombie-apocalypse and survivalist-apocalypse fantasy narratives.

Yup, which, if memory serves me correctly, is one of the themes of the Crossed comic book series (that is, that your survivalist fantasies are so much bunk).
posted by Gelatin at 12:27 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's "all about honesty" says producer of a fictional game. "At least we're honest about pretending to kill people," the producer did not say, "Not like all those hypocrites who pretend not to pretend to kill people."
posted by octobersurprise at 12:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If those games had modes where the bad guys were unarmed and trying to run away from you instead of kill you with guns of their own, then yes, the'd be similar.


Welp.
posted by empath at 12:39 PM on October 22, 2014


Call me when someone does that.

Syndicate, mentioned upthread, which was also a 90s isometric click-to-kill, allowed you to target civilians. Or, perhaps worse, turn them into your meat puppets and use them as human bullet sponges to protect your own agents as they walked around.

The interesting part of the game was that you didn't necessarily have to, i.e. it wasn't a game objective to kill civilians. (Occasionally there were NPCs that you had to capture/kill who were civilian-ish, though.) But there was no penalty for it; the game was completely amoral in that regard. It was up to you whether you wanted to minimize civilian casualties, perhaps at the expense of greater difficulty, or if you wanted to impress everyone you found into service as minigun fodder, which was typically the easier way out.

I can't really take much issue with that from a game design perspective. It's not an especially nuanced take on civilian casualties, but it's not the total punt that a lot of "war" games take either, where it's simply impossible. The game lets you win the way you want to.

I'm not really that hep to the current generation of PC games but I find it very hard to believe that some of the more thoughtful and plot-driven FPSs haven't tackled the subject better.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:39 PM on October 22, 2014


That's exactly what I'm getting at. Why did those people in Far Cry 3 deserve to die? I have no real idea other than something about the main character's brother getting sodomized, which prompts him ( the main character, not the brother) to take a bunch of drugs and get involved in a civil war he knows nothing about

It does it in a largely incoherent way, but I think the designers actually meant to explore the meaning of all of that. I don't think they were unaware of the problematic aspects of it, at least.
posted by empath at 12:42 PM on October 22, 2014


I think this has been removed, but in case you thought this team should be given the benefit of the doubt.
posted by gilrain at 12:44 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's "all about honesty" says producer of a fictional game. "At least we're honest about pretending to kill people," the producer did not say, "Not like all those hypocrites who pretend not to pretend to kill people."

I cannot parse "at least we're honest about pretending to kill people" without a necessary, accompanying implication that other games are being dishonest about pretending to kill people. That is an absurd argument: it is not true that the only reason why other games aren't Hatred is a mere lack of conviction.

The second big link in the post is all about Hatred and hypocrisy. While it's a good and interesting article, it sticks out like a sore thumb the fact that it is not actually any form of hypocrisy to dislike Hatred more than other games in which you can kill characters, even innocent ones.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:44 PM on October 22, 2014


part of the fun of (some) video games is the fun of being a mass murderer, and the discomfort this fact causes for people who make games.

I'd say part of the fun is seeing the vast gap between virtual violence and real violence. That's why the GTA games are comedies---because the NPCs are so incredibly unreal.

Please let me do more than interact with my environment using a gun eighty percent of the time.

"Games help me understand serial killers better: I want to interact with people I meet, but I don't have the tools, so I shoot them." - TIm Schaefer
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:48 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


So, this is essentially State of Emergency? But with more hand-wringing?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:49 PM on October 22, 2014


I think a lot of people let themselves off too easy for enjoying zombie games and movies which are all basically mass murder fantasies
posted by empath at 12:54 PM on October 22, 2014


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Shooter by Tom Bissell does some great meditation about violence in FPS games and the morality conveyed therein
posted by Apocryphon at 12:57 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


[Far Cry 3] does it in a largely incoherent way, but I think the designers actually meant to explore the meaning of all of that. I don't think they were unaware of the problematic aspects of it, at least.

This interview with one of the FC3 writers touches on the subject, although 'incoherent' could also apply to some of the interview responses -- he claims at one point that “The goal was to create a videogame that examined what shooting does to us in a videogame,” but then goes on to say mere paragraphs later that “[T]he most interesting misperception that I’ve found [is that] people...thought the game was going to be an examination of shooting. Like, what it would be like to be a real person in this jungle, shooting people, and if you kill hundreds of people what happens to you. That’s not what this game is about. It was never what this game was about.”
posted by cjelli at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I liked Hatred better when it was called Kane & Lynch 2.

No, seriously. That game was also focused on stripping away pretenses and excuses for violence, but instead of trying to make its nihilist protagonists player stand-ins, they're objects of scorn. The video-camera gimmick enforces a separation between the player and game world, a constant reminder that you're a spectator watching things happen on a screen. "Look at this," it says. "Is this your fantasy?"

The developers of Hatred would probably call that hypocrisy too, but screw them.
posted by skymt at 1:01 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Far Cry 3 was roundly criticized by the gaming press, both before and after Yohalem's interview, for having a very flawed script, characters, and presentation. In the RPS comments people are calling him out for writing an incoherent game and afterwards using satire and madness as a dodge. Example critiques here and here.

Far Cry 2 had a much superior and simpler take about violence, both real-world and in games.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:05 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I grew up a gamer in the age of Pong, then Pac-Man and Galaga etc. I still remember when Mortal Kombat game out and I was like "ugh, what kind of psycho would want to play that?" Then Doom and I had a similar reaction. I was a pretty unusual teenager/young adult because that stuff didn't and doesn't appeal to me. I don't really even want to point a pretend gun at someone. I did try Unreal when that came out, and somehow the "evil aliens/monsters" angle made it seem more fantastic and thus OK. I guess I'm more of an orc-slaying kind of guy. Guns make it too close to the world we live in, and the more real-world-y shooters promulgate the fiction that there are times where you JUST GOTTA KILL PEOPLE because they kidnapped your kid, which let's face is just not a thing.

And this game ... ugh. I'm sure I sound like a Moral Majority type but if you make a game like this, you have really deep psychological problems. Sorry. And dear privileged white males: No one cares if you find your comfortable corporate job soulless! No one cares if you live in a fancy suburb and your parents make you have curfew! Welcome to life.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:06 PM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I keep laughing at the notion that an un-PC game is somehow brave. Even by the admission of Rockstar / GTA writers, this is the core image of the intended audience for this kind of game and most FPSes - a white male suburban teen into nu-metal who hates political correctness. Developers cater to this demographic because they're well aware that it's what sells. Business is booming. A politically incorrect game isn't iconoclastic; it's so deep into the ultra-mainstream norm of video gaming that you couldn't be less revolutionary if you tried.
posted by naju at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


At least this game has enabled one useful contribution to our culture.
I'm talking about the phrase "edgelord wankjam".
posted by fullerine at 1:12 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


And while I'm at it, let me say that the only reason you can't kill civilians in war games is because game developers won't let you. They don't have the balls to take it to that level and have you play as soldiers storming a village where maybe half the people aren't combatants. Call me when someone does that.

Actually, that has been a feature of video games for quite some time. Not only do many games these days do include noncombatant or allied characters that you can choose to harm or not, (and provide consequences if you do harm), they also include ways to either avoid enemies (stealth) or incapacitate them through nonlethal ways. There was an FPP on pacifist runs two years ago- where players would try to speed through games without actually killing a single enemy, either through stealth/nonlethal approaches.

Sure, pacifist runs are more suited for sandbox games involving nonlinear exploration, but even Call of Duty, Halo, etc. include friendlies that you can't just mow down indiscriminately.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:12 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


As an avid gamer I defend the right of a game developer to make any type of game they want. It's another thing, however, for said developer to to churn out crap and pretend it's anything but.

Games like Hatred are merely propaganda games whose only narrative context are to hurt as many people as possible for no good reason. It's no different than a game where you pilot a plane into twin towers or shoot an AK-47 at Jewish settlers. These games, which typically are terrible in quality to begin with, are just delivery messages for a specific ideology, often one espousing hatred and unjustified violence. To act like they are on the same level as actual games like GTA is a weak equivocation.
posted by Schwartz_User at 1:16 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


“The goal was to create a videogame that examined what shooting does to us in a videogame,” but then goes on to say mere paragraphs later that “[T]he most interesting misperception that I’ve found [is that] people...thought the game was going to be an examination of shooting. Like, what it would be like to be a real person in this jungle, shooting people, and if you kill hundreds of people what happens to you. That’s not what this game is about. It was never what this game was about.”

I think what he is saying is that the game is an examination of shooting in games and not an examination of shooting in real life.
posted by empath at 1:20 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The porn analogy is not a bad one, given that there is an entire goddamn subgenre of "rape simulator" games. This one, for instance, is sort of the "Hatred" equivalent in terms of really letting it all hang out. (That's a Wikipedia link, but it's still pretty gross.)

Most of the defenses that you can apply to a mass-murder simulator can also be applied to a rape simulator: e.g., they are just letting the player do what they do in other games but without pretense, they are just giving the player what they want, or that last refuge of scoundrels: it's meant to be funny and you just don't get the irony maaaan, etc.

I think the response to both types of games needs to be the same, which is to resist the immediate calls for censorship while at the same time realizing there's a lot of leeway between actual Librorum Prohibitorum censorship and arms-wide-open acceptance of really vile cultural products. I think it's good to let people know that while it's fine to create what you want to create, people are going to judge you for it, and it's also fine to consume what you want to consume, but—at least as far as you do it in public or identify with that consumption—people are going to judge you based on it. And I'm pretty comfortable saying that someone who really enjoys either mass-murder or rape simulators is probably nobody I want to spend a lot of time around.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty comfortable saying that someone who really enjoys either mass-murder or rape simulators is probably nobody I want to spend a lot of time around.

I'm pretty comfortable saying that neither this game nor rape simulator games will sell many copies.
posted by empath at 1:27 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, a game for people who don't know that the protagonist of Falling Down is the bad guy (or, perhaps more accurately, have never heard of the film in the first place).
Bill Foster: I'm the Bad Guy?

Sergeant Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: How'd that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles? I helped to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. But instead they give it to the plastic surgeons, you know they lied to me.

Sergeant Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You're angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish. But that doesn't give you any special right to do what you did today. The only thing that makes you special is that little girl. Now let's go. Lets go!
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:27 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


That is an absurd argument: it is not true that the only reason why other games aren't Hatred is a mere lack of conviction.

Yeah, my remark was meant to suggest that absurdity. That and the absurdity of presenting a gross fictional scenario as an example of "conviction."

OTOH, while I believe there is something to the defense of "it's only a game" that these guys like to trot out, OTOH, it is only a game. Most people I know wouldn't think it was shocking to want to pretend to kill people, just gross and/or pathetic. Mostly tho I was just amused by how the guy reached for "honesty" as a rhetorical justification when the entire exercise is anything but.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think what he is saying is that the game is an examination of shooting in games and not an examination of shooting in real life.

I agree that's probably what he means, but if you can convey that more clearly a sentence than he can in an entire interview, then I think it's fair to call that interview 'somewhat incoherent.'

Doubly so in that he had, as RPS notes in the interview I linked, stated in a previous interview that
“We want this game to be about shooting. Let’s make a game about shooting, and what it does to humanity. This game is our statement, and it’s a very clear statement, about what we feel shooting means.”

I read 'to humanity' as 'in real life,' but I'm open to other interpretations. At the very least, they were certainly trying to say something with Far Cry 3, which, implementation aside, is refreshing.
posted by cjelli at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2014


Our game doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is and we don't add to it any fake philosophy.

In fact, when you think deeper about it, there are many other games out there, where you can do exactly the same things that the antagonist will do in our project. The only difference is that in Hatred gameplay will focus on those things.
Man, there's a difference between playing cops and robbers vs. playing killer and victim.
posted by postcommunism at 1:36 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love that they think SJW is an epithet. When your epithets aren't even bothering to paint the other party in a negative light, maybe it's time to ask whether you're one of the good guys.
posted by anazgnos at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's very audience specific.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on October 22, 2014


anazgnos, I already got heavily favorited for a more direct version of that thought.

I've long suspected that all of #gamergate was just a viral promotion campaign for some truly morally reprehensible piece of computerized inhuman role-play. (I even suggested that it had something to do with the semi-re-release of GTA V for new platforms next month) But this. THIS. Because, #GG has done so much to make it possible for this piece of sadistic hateporn to be promoted as a "1st Amendment Expression". If the developers aren't giving big under-the-table payments to Eron Gjoni, Adam Baldwin and Mike Cernovich, those guys should send them a bill.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:15 PM on October 22, 2014


I think the handwringing is disingenuous.

I have been playing The Last of Us, and for all there is a thin patina of GOTTA GET TO DA EXIT justification, it's essentially the same game. You're stalking and murdering people for amusement. Every sound, animation and image has been crafted to be as viscerally intense and horrifically satisfying as the technology will allow. And that's been the case since Doom.

Feel's like this is just sort of twitching the curtain aside.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:22 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seems like a really horrible game. I'm sure the reviewers at the Escapist will give it a really bad rating. Maybe as low as, 9/10, if they can.
posted by happyroach at 2:25 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Syndicate, mentioned upthread, which was also a 90s isometric click-to-kill, allowed you to target civilians. Or, perhaps worse, turn them into your meat puppets and use them as human bullet sponges to protect your own agents as they walked around.

The underrated recent sequel had a similarly brisk corporate amorality.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:29 PM on October 22, 2014


It was up to you whether you wanted to minimize civilian casualties, perhaps at the expense of greater difficulty, or if you wanted to impress everyone you found into service as minigun fodder, which was typically the easier way out.

After I got really good at Syndicate, I would playthrough with minimal persuadertron use, beating the game with just the agents available at the beginning of the game (I think it was 8, but it's been a while). It's a lot more fun, frankly, than having a small army of persuadertron-ed goons screening all your moves.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:30 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyone else do level 1 of Deus Ex all over again after getting called out for murdering all the NSF terrorists?
posted by Artw at 2:48 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Some of us did it right the first time, Artw. Because we aren't MONSTERS.
posted by squinty at 2:51 PM on October 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Yeah, I'm grabbing the GEP gun for robots. Sure. "
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of people let themselves off too easy for enjoying zombie games and movies which are all basically mass murder fantasies

No, they're really not. As has been established here many times before, different people get very different things out of zombie fiction. Most obvious in these games and movies, the protagonist's top priority is to get away from zombies, to find safety. If your goal was to mass-murder as many as possible, you'd just die, because they're infinite and survivor resources are limited. Trying to killing them all is misunderstanding the nature of the challenge. Zombie stories are about survival by problem solving, finding clever or desperate ways to defy odds. For many - or most - people, the nitty details of any actual fighting is secondary.
posted by anonymisc at 2:59 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anyone else do level 1 of Deus Ex all over again after getting called out for murdering all the terrorists?

Shit yeah. That was the moment I realized I was not playing a Duke Nukem/Doom/Unreal clone.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have a low body count in all games because of cowardice.

(I am not counting the police that pile up when you find a tricky hideout and they fall, because of their own carelessness, to their death.)

(Do the mismatched mannequins in Silent Hill count as one body or two?)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:01 PM on October 22, 2014


Does assembling death mazes for creeps in Tower Defence games makes you the Temple Grandin of mass murder?
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm continuing to digress, but two more pieces written on games and violence from 2012, the former popularized by a Tweet from the late Roger Ebert: "The Last of Us, and other video games that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination" and "Video games should aim higher than Michael Bay movies", both by Steven Boone.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:26 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have been playing The Last of Us, and for all there is a thin patina of GOTTA GET TO DA EXIT justification, it's essentially the same game.

I've only played TLoU for about an hour or so, but I did not get the same impression from it at all. I'd certainly agree with the observation that every aspect of the game is designed for intensity, but it's not plotless ultraviolence. It has some, um, attempts at character development and a plot that contextualizes the violence. (Not that the characterizations are totally unproblematic; it suffers from having the protagonist be the usual Generic White Dude with the damsel-in-distress Generic Cute Girl in tow. But that's a discussion for a different day I guess.)

If the argument is that people are ignoring the plot and using it as a mass-murder simulator in the same way that Hatred is designed at the outset to be, well, I guess that's possible. But it's tough to say that the game designers meant it to be played that way, given the non-trivial effort they put into creating the context for the violence.

More generally, I think that what you're describing as "the curtain" that's being twitched aside shouldn't be underestimated in terms of its importance. It's whether the game requires and expects the user to go from zero to "yep, I'm a monster, let's do some heinous shit immediately!" right out of the gate. That's a pretty bright line. (And as empath points out, games that require the player to do that are unlikely to be very popular, as most people actually aren't that into lets-be-horrible escapism. People want the context for the violence, or else games wouldn't be made the way they are.)

The most effective violent FPS games are the ones that are conscious of the player's need to be the 'good guy' and play with it (cf. Deux Ex or COD:MW2) to create discomfort and subvert initial expectations.

Although the problem with genre subversion is that the better job it does, the less possible it is to repeat the performance. Deux Ex wouldn't work as well today as it did 14 years ago (yeah, it came out 14 years ago, oof) because I suspect today's players might realize something's hinky before the denouement. That game was released to an audience that was basically used to, to the point of being bored with, FPS game protagonists who were always pretty unambiguously good, to the point of not being an issue at all.

I'm not sure what a genre-subverting game would look like today, given that the genre now has a pretty established trope of morally-ambiguous protagonists, but Hatred isn't it. (Maybe it'd be a zombie-survival game where if you choose to go running around like a moron with a gun instead of cooperating with other people, you starve to death slowly. Preferably in an open world, in real time.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:11 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gelatin: "Yup, which, if memory serves me correctly, is one of the themes of the Crossed comic book series (that is, that your survivalist fantasies are so much bunk)."

That may well be one of the themes, but Crossed is so vile and fixated on violence for violence's sake, is-this-shocking-you-yet shenanigans that it gets more than a little lost. If you're unfamiliar with it, Crossed is about a worldwide zombie-like plague that doesn't turn people into mindless zombies, it just makes them lose all inhibitions and morals, and turns them into ultra-violent sociopaths. They also get a characteristic cross-shaped rash on the face, because SYMBOLISM.

There's a whole lot of rape and grisly murder by people who really enjoy it a lot. There's one (issue? Series? I forget) that opens with a guy actually raping a dolphin in its blowhole. I found that kind of funny in itself, but when it's a whole series about progressively trying to top dolphin blowhole rape, it just looks kind of sociopathic in itself.

(Which is the impression I get of Garth Ennis, the writer. He cares a lot about cool stuff and ultraviolence, and very little about his characters and their suffering. He's also really afraid of gay sex, "perverts", and big black cocks, but that's an issue for another time.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:15 PM on October 22, 2014


Also, regarding zombie narratives and survivalist fantasies, I've seen that "zombie" is, in some survivalist circles, a code word for black people, specifically black people in some imagined race riot/race war. That's where all the "Z-Max ammo" (an actual product) and so on comes into play.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


anyone in here ever play rockstar's Manhunt games? Brian Cox whispering in your ear to strangle the homeless guy with the plastic bag? took me about 6 minutes before i was like "WELP I'M OUT AND I NEED A SHOWER, THANKS"
posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:40 PM on October 22, 2014


As someone who sealed my Rollercoaster Tycoon park shut and peevishly turned on the water until I drowned all my funloving customers, I feel it difficult to work up much outrage here. Don't like it, don't play it. Clearly the average MeFite is not the target audience.
posted by umberto at 4:46 PM on October 22, 2014


The monologue in the video is pretty much crappy teenage poetry in a gravelly voice. It's hard to see how anyone could take it seriously, but of course if no one did there would be no crappy teenage poetry.

Looking at the violent remainder of the video, it's just a masturbatory aid, and as pointed out in the thread there are loads of games that satisfy the same misanthropic and destructive urges. The analogy to RapeLay is pretty apt. It wouldn't surprise me if there was considerable overlap between the market for sexual domination and ownership of women and for 'life sucks, let's kill everyone'.

There's a game out there called KZ Manager. That's Konzentrationslager Manager. Sick, but it's not like anyone who isn't a goddamned Nazi will be interested in it. Ultimately I have a really hard time caring what anyone does alone in his bedroom.
posted by topynate at 4:48 PM on October 22, 2014


Just checking: those of you who find this to be despicable and sickening, do you feel the same about other games with violence? Is this necessarily worse than a game that is basically the same thing with a painted-on story about stopping terrorism?

I don't think I'd enjoy playing this game, but I don't think it's necessarily more reprehensible than any other FPS. I really do think there is something to the honesty angle. I agree with those who say this looks like a parody of edginess. That, and like jbickers says, I don't enjoy going on shooting sprees even in games like GTA that sorta encourage it. I did, however, greatly enjoy Hotline Miami, and I think the premise for that was in the same tier of disturbing.
posted by Edgewise at 4:50 PM on October 22, 2014


Edgewise: "Just checking: those of you who find this to be despicable and sickening, do you feel the same about other games with violence? Is this necessarily worse than a game that is basically the same thing with a painted-on story about stopping terrorism?"

Do I think fictional violence against fictional innocents is worse than fictional violence against fictional characters who deserve it? Yes, just like I think real violence against innocents is worse than real violence against real people who have done a lot of bad things.

Also, the developers' use of "Social Justice Warriors" as a negative places them firmly in a group of vile assholes I don't want to associate with at all.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:57 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Just checking: those of you who find this to be despicable and sickening, do you feel the same about other games with violence? Is this necessarily worse than a game that is basically the same thing with a painted-on story about stopping terrorism?

I'm not sickened, or scandalized by any of this. But I find plenty of games awful and problematic, and I've made comments to that effect in other threads. Call of Duty's "No Russian" episode and the series generally, Far Cry 3 and Resident Evil 5 for their barely-justified racism, FPSes in general and their boringly formulaic aggression and teen boy fantasies. Is there a lot out there to criticize? Absolutely. It's not like every game is a saint, and then this is the one game that's bad. There are also legitimate differences in degrees, and motivations. So I'm not sure why people are treating it like a "gotcha" to point out that other games are totally violent too, man, as if we're all being hypocritical here.
posted by naju at 5:21 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I do find Hatred despicable and sickening. I don't care if some little shit gets his kicks out of it, but I don't like it in the least: not because it's violent, but because the idea of roleplaying Elliot Rodger fills me with revulsion. I also see certain hints that the nature of the violence is designed specifically to help you lose yourself in that role. Look at the video at 1:10: the protagonist executes the woman in such a way that it looks like he's forcing his penis into her mouth. It just goes way the fuck beyond games like GTA in a direction that repels me.
posted by topynate at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2014


I thought it was especially gross how they romanticized the shooter guy. He had brawny shoulders and rock star hair and that tough guy monologue. Basically, he was probably exactly how a lot of these deranged shooter dweebs would like to see themselves.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just checking: those of you who find this to be despicable and sickening, do you feel the same about other games with violence? Is this necessarily worse than a game that is basically the same thing with a painted-on story about stopping terrorism?"

Yeah, I think so. Lots of other games are superficial and/or stupid and/or one of several layers of offensive in some way shape or form. Usually it's an accident of poor skill, poor vision, or at least not completely intentional. Those sins might be forgivable in light of other postives (i.e. DooM, etc.). Or maybe not. Depends.

This, on the other hand - It is intended to offend.

That's cool - so was Piss Christ. I won't argue whether one or the other is good art or not.

And I wouldn't - and won't - pay money for either, and the fact that the creator is also an apparent and unreptant shitheel is sort of icing on the cake.

The question I have though - has anyone gone through his financial records and source code to verify that he doesn't have any cozy relationships with any journalists ?

I wonder why not. It's a total mystery to me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:37 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is this necessarily worse than a game that is basically the same thing with a painted-on story about stopping terrorism?

Yes.

Also, RapeLay is a lot worse than a typical "romance game", for basically the same reasons.

That's not to say that I think censoring either one is warranted, but yeah there is a big difference between an enabler of uncreative Walter Mitty-esque fantasies and a simulator that takes on premise that mass murder (or rape) is awesome and runs with it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:54 PM on October 22, 2014


> Although the problem with genre subversion is that the better job it does, the less possible it is to repeat the performance. Deux Ex wouldn't work as well today as it did 14 years ago (yeah, it came out 14 years ago, oof) because I suspect today's players might realize something's hinky before the denouement.

Oh, but what makes Deus Ex great is not the plot twist, it's the way in which it makes your gameplay feel like an expression of your character in the story.

You start out on the dock on Ellis Island. The game gives you a starter pistol and your choice of a rocket launcher, sniper rifle, tranquiler crossbow, and stun prod. Okay, technically your in-game older brother meets you and gives you the kit, and he has opinions on your choices (take the rifle and he cautions you that it's real people you're up against now, take the non-lethal prod and he approves). Cool, NPC flavor text. So you make your selection and off go and figure out one of the many paths up to the statue and eventually confront the NSF leader and then the game telegraphs that you're at a decision point: click his head or let him live.

I of course opted to let him live, because I'm all peaceful and such.

So imagine my surprise when my brother is not happy with me. Oh, other people are happy, but he is very disappointed. And he's right, because sure I got to the end of the level and picked the "good" option, but I left a lot of bodies behind on my way there. I hadn't played a shooter before where those bodies counted.

The first section of the game does that repeatedly, and you're not necessarily punished for using a heavier hand (Castle Clinton, yes, but Anna and Gunther warm up to you). Nor are you really rewarded, except in seeing how your character starts to fit in to office life and politics. (This is supported by what was at the time really extensive world-detailing). And then of course things go haywire and conspiracies everywhere and before you know it you've broken into someone's Paris apartment to read G.K. Chesterton on their tablet.

But by the time things go haywire, the player's already been sold the idea that how they act -- even how they literally move through the world -- outside of HQ may resonate down the line. In other words, you feel like the way you play is actively and continually making a decision, both from w/r/t gameplay and to the narrative which contextualizes it.

The result is that when you duck into a vent to sneak around an NSF guard rather than popping him from behind with your silenced pistol, you know that the game is watching you. You don't know whether your choice will matter in the end, but you know it was seen: you made a decision totally organically, totally in-game, and you it feel like it counted.

No, the whole game isn't like that, and JC Denton (usually) kills a lot of people throughout its course. And to be honest, a lot of the game is really just solving a 3D puzzle with a lot of different options and decorations. But oh man, compare merely sneaking through a vent in Deus Ex to pressing A or B on a Little Sister in Bioshock.

While I'm thinking about it, compare it to Hatred. It makes Hatred look nihilistic not just because Hatred wants to present itself as "senseless trenchcoat violence, murder the innocent, serious gravelly voice", but because from the selling points and presentation, I can't see how Hatred even cares about the player.

But then, Hatred hardly very alone (or very transgressive) in that.
posted by postcommunism at 6:27 PM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


This reminds me of when horror movies in the 80s realized that things were a lot more scary where you at times get a first person perspective through the eyes of the killer than simply experiencing a third person perspective with the victim, waiting for the boogeyman to jump out. There's something compelling about seeing life through the eyes of the thing that repulses you. Perhaps it ties into our fear that we could become on some level what we despise.

That being said, there is a social evil here, I think, in releasing this game. I don't at all subscribe to the idea that video games themselves often contribute significantly to violence in culture, although it perhaps is attractive to people who already have those tendencies. I see this game, though, as catering to people who have these tendencies and perhaps encouraging real life violence. Even one possible instance of this giving someone the wrong kind of nudge is not worth it for whatever social commentary the makers purport to be making, and tips the scales significantly towards having blood on their hands.

I do understand what compels people to play this game, though, or even become curious about it. For many people, it will tap into something primal that is also about confronting our fears. For many other people it will be about taking delight in what they already want to become. I think it's these latter people I would worry about.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:44 PM on October 22, 2014


4) it's not about fascism or far-right nationalism or totalitarianism, it's patriotism and libertarianism

I know this is from way upthread, but this excuse made me laugh really hard
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:11 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Blech.
posted by homunculus at 10:16 PM on October 22, 2014


Honestly, this made me want to cry.
posted by eggkeeper at 10:24 PM on October 22, 2014


Just checking: those of you who find this to be despicable and sickening, do you feel the same about other games with violence?

Honestly, I did get kind of bothered by games where I raked up a kill count in the hundreds. that's why I prefer games like Skies of Arcadia, Grandia II and Persona 3 where the opponents are mainly nonsentient monsters, demons and spirits and the like. Even when I was playing WoW I comforted myself that obviously my opponents were better within minutes. With Morrowind, I mostly contented myself with stealing stuff and killing undead. And those damn birds.

It's not like I had any real qualms about killing video game characters, especially "bad guys", but I just didn't care to be evil.
posted by happyroach at 10:28 PM on October 22, 2014


that's why I prefer games like Skies of Arcadia, Grandia II

I'm sensing a fellow Dreamcast owner!
posted by JHarris at 11:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love that they think SJW is an epithet. When your epithets aren't even bothering to paint the other party in a negative light, maybe it's time to ask whether you're one of the good guys.

I'm SURE this must have been posted before, but a lot of the shit around GG reminds me of this
posted by silence at 3:37 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I really dislike first/third-person shooters and pretty much only get down with the more obviously cartoonish or reality-divorced ones. I don't have any feelings about this game that I didn't have about "No Russian". I'm extremely tired of games attempting to model real-world violence with increasing accuracy. I don't think that's a terribly worthwhile goal, nor does it improve a game from the systemic / mechanics perspective. Manshoot is manshoot is manshoot. But I'm a big old anxiety-riddled softy, which I know puts me in the minority among people who play games.

The thing I am fixated on, though, is that whole bit about how this game is intended to demonstrate that they are not cowed by SJWs. Inasmuch as any such thing is discernible, one of the ostensible key planks of the GamerGate platform is that they want their video games to be free of politics and that feminists are pushing their agenda into video games. This is literally a game motivated by politics and with a political viewpoint as the goal of the developers. This is the thing they claim to hate. Anyone want to hold their breath until someone from Destructive Creations gets doxxed?
posted by Errant at 3:27 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


In GTA 5 the player must, in one scene, actively torture someone to move on in the game. You get to pick the tools and methods, and in true GTA style it looks very real... and it got a 10/10 on most game review sites and made hundreds of millions of dollars.

This? This is just a pimple, a minor symptom of the disease that afflicts the gaming industry.
posted by Vindaloo at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2014


@Vindaloo - not a particularly good example. Have you played the game? The torture scene in GTAV is (slightly cackhanded, admittedly) satire - in the game a shadowy government agency forces one character to torture an innocent civilian for information to identify a supposed terrorist, while another character is waiting with a sniper gun to shoot the person he identifies. It becomes completely clear during the scene that under torture the victim just starts making up a random description simply to get the torture to stop - and then another innocent person gets shot because of the bogus information. The character doing the torturing in that scene is the "psychopath" amongst the trio of protagonists in the game, but it becomes a bit of a watershed moment for him since even he is disgusted by the torture and he eventually helps the victim to escape. Assuming that the player isn't a complete psychopath it's an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience to play.

I think the developers were trying to do something useful and interesting with violence in that context - the fact that it's undermined by a lot of the other casual violence in the rest of the game is a bit unfortunate though.

When I saw the trailer for Hatred I thought it might also be satirical, but it seems as if it really is just a pathetic adolescent power fantasy. I do find myself slightly sympathising with the (apparently odious) developer's contention that at least it's honest about being an adolescent power fantasy, and so in some ways less disingenuously hypocritical than your average Call of Duty, for instance.
posted by silence at 3:01 AM on October 24, 2014


For whatever reason, the first work of art that's coming to mind as I read about this game is Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark. Maybe it's because Von Trier's shitty Nazi joke still sticks with me; more likely it's that Dancer is the last piece of media I remember consuming and being totally, thoroughly appalled with. It's technically masterful, emotionally manipulative, it has a couple of brilliant scenes and a powerful message, and the ending left me nauseated — and yet, as I watched it, I couldn't help but hear a constant refrain in my head of: "You, Von Trier, wrote this. You directed it. You planned it out meticulously. All of the horrible things you're confronting us with are things which came out of your head." At the end of the day, his and my worldviews are not quite identical enough for me to feel like the brutal negativity of his movie had achieved something meaningful — for all I think he successfully did exactly what he intended to do, I found myself virulently opposed to his ultimate intention.

Video games have this problem to a fault, only they're nowhere near as masterfully-crafted to boot. We're only now at the point where game developers think they have to say something meaningful with their art, let alone realize that it's possible to do so — and the majority of game developers are really, really shitty at achieving this, so much so that they still talk about Jason Rohrer's "Passage" and "Gravitation" like they're bewildering unsurpassable masterpieces. Don't get me wrong, both are excellent, and along an axis very few games even attempt to exist along, but they're extreme brief. Proofs of concept more than anything. And now Rohrer is doing all sorts of interesting things which don't exist along that axis whatsoever.

The axis along which Rohrer traveled is one in which you, the player, are made actually culpable for your actions. You're forced to take responsibility for them, to acknowledge that you did what you did even if you weren't fully cognizant of why you were doing those things at the time. Again, they're games with incredibly simple mechanics — "Passage" is a brief foray into existentialism, and "Gravitation" is a slightly more cultural critique that gets into depression and parenthood — but they were proofs, at the time they were released, that it is possible to evoke emotions and contemplation through gameplay alone, by assigning meaning to action rather than to narrative or to sensation.

This is an idea not fully understood even by the artsier game developers today. It hasn't yet become an idea that's easy to intuitively grasp. I've spent years researching this specific notion, and even so it was only earlier this year that I figured out ways to make sense of it in my own mind. The mainstream developers that have an inkling of how this works — Ion Storm, From Software, arguably Valve — aren't primarily focused on delving deep into this concept, and smaller developers who find this sort of thing interesting often get so into the emotional, evocative stuff that they loosen up on the actual gameplay elements, and thus the connection isn't made apparent. Ice Pick Lodge, the studio which my research was initially focused on, is the only group I've found that really groks how this works, but they're mediocre-at-best when it comes to making games; everything they make is unusual and interesting, but in a way that seems to read to most gamers as quirky rather than profound, and their one truly profound game is so broken that, well, I'm writing a book about it so that nobody has to ever play it again.

But it's becoming apparent to game developers that you can make games that do this, and dammit, they keep on trying. The most egregious offender is the BioShock series, which took a horrible gimmicky plot twist from one game and decided to build it into every game in the franchise, making it gimmickier and worse every damn time. RockStar plays at similar gimmicks, drawing from cinematic language to create plots which are narratively satisfying yet rely on a cheap denial-of-agency to achieve any effect in terms of gameplay. The Last of Us, which was lauded for its combination of gameplay and narrative, ends in literally the same way, denying its players any agency for the sake of a pre-scripted and involuntary "story". Mass Effect, for all its loftily stated ambitions, ended on what was basically a bad joke. Even Half Life 2 did this, again and again, ending with a tragic death that only occurs because the game literally pins you down and prevents you from moving just so you can witness a horrific thing which you're powerless to stop, despite your not having any say in the matter. It's that Lars Von Trier movie all over again. The emotional manipulation feels cheap and gross when you have no choice but to be subjected to it, and in a game, the point is that you always have some measure of agency.*

Whatever. It happens. Video games are stealing from film the way that early talkies stole from theatre, and to a similar detrimental effect.** To me, the more egregious and problematic instances of this happening — and here is where we circle back to talking about Hatred — are the ones in which developers do, ostensibly, want to provide their players with some choice, and yet they're determined to shove culpability for their own game's existence upon those same players. When you design a game which only allows for certain courses of action, you do not get to then tell your players that you're giving them a freedom to act however they see fit. It's cheap and cowardly and utterly wrongheaded.

The gold standard, for me, of choice-based storytelling is Dungeons & Dragons, which was and in a lot of ways still is ahead of its time. In D&D, however, as any player knows, the range of the game is entirely dependent upon its Dungeon Master, who calls all the shots and whose every decision is final. There are a hundred ways to be a good DM: you can allow for utter anarchy, you can guide your players towards significant and meaningful developments, or you can do a mixture of the two, allowing your pre-ordained structure to fall to pieces any time one of your players gives you an idea of how to do things better. Dungeons & Dragons is very rules-heavy, perhaps too much so, because it wants to provide you with a framework that you by no means have to stick to, but which you can whenever you need some quantification of the things going on in-game. The best things always happen outside of the rulebooks, however.***

A lot of games attempt to provide "freedom" by means of replicating Dungeons & Dragons mechanics. They have the stat sheets, the item variables, the pre-scripted NPCs. They make you a world and then let you run wild. But the mechanics of these games alone don't bestow any amount of freedom on a player. If anything, they prescribe you, in that by their nature there are certain kinds of acceptable actions programmed in, and certain ones which are flat-out unthought of. Grand Theft Auto NPCs exist purely to have violence inflicted upon them; it was unpleasant realizing, whilst playing Saint's Row 3, that NPCs had become far more interesting simply by having some of them turned into tourists and autograph hounds. Literally simulating the shallowest and most irritating form of non-violent interaction with an NPC resulted in interactions which were far more interesting than the norm. So Grand Theft Auto is primarily a violent game, despite being a totally open "sandbox" which grows more elaborate and complex with every iteration, because its mechanics exist for violence and nothing more.

Bethesda, which has turned open, free worlds into its "brand", has got similar problems, which are compounded as they attempt to make their worlds larger and more complex. Skyrim has become my go-to punching bag of a game, in that it manages to do so many things wrong while outwardly claiming to do many, many things right that you can pin nearly any critique of modern gaming on it and have it make an awful lot of sense. In this case, I'm reminded of the first time I arrived in the beautiful town which harbors the Thieves Guild, about which almost every townsperson complains (and the ones who don't complain are impoverished, largely because of thieves and corruption). "Aha," I thought to myself, "a town in need of saving!" So I went about trying to find a way to liberate this poor town, only to discover........ nothing. Even though the wealthy matriarch of the town literally walks around boasting about how much she supports the Thieves Guild to total strangers, no mechanic in this game exists to let you do a damn thing, other than (of course) to join the Thieves Guild and learn all about how these poor amoral pigs are merely misunderstood.**** It's like how Henry Ford allegedly said that you can get your Model T in any color, so long as it's black. Here you can do anything, so long as it's exactly the one and only thing that you're allowed to do.

It's the same problem as in all those "cinematic" games that force you into a role, only it's desperately trying to pretend that it's something different, that you're being given an agency and a free will as you go about executing the game's scripts. There's nothing liberating in choosing to consume a game, unless that game is asking you to make decisions whose consequences a) mean something and b) are not literally as easy to achieve as just goddamn selecting an option off a menu. Just as there's nothing provocative about any artwork that forces you to look at something awful and then attempts to make you feel bad for looking at it (unless it's explicitly a consumer critique a la Funny Games, in which case there miiiight be some room for debate).

All this is to say that Hatred is repulsive. It's repulsive in what it lets you do. It's repulsive in that it wants you to do it. It's repulsive for claiming that there's a sound moral reason for it wanting you to do it. It's repulsive for placing the blame for its creation on its theoretical consumer. It's repulsive for using the mechanics of gameplay as a justification for creating specific mechanics, all because theoretically if you can allow somebody to do something then it's good to allow them to do so. That its developers think otherwise speaks to how immature video games are as a medium, not just in this particular case but in general, pervading the entire culture, even down to the more sensitive and thoughtful creations to a certain extent. This is a video game that's literally worse than the exploitative films that Uwe Boll makes about already-shitty video games. The bar at which it is still possible to find a work of art problematic or outright bad is set much, much higher than this, and that this game's developers could say with a straight face that they're doing something meaningful and good is a testament to the fact that video games, nearly all video games, fit neatly beneath this bar.

_____________

*For me, the most blatant offender here is The Stanley Parable, which is so smugly about the nature of choice that it never bothers to ask whether or not the conundrum it presents you as a player is artificial or avoidable — which of course it fucking is. Emergence as a gameplay principle had been around for decades before somebody thought to make a game wallowing in its artificially-induced lack of choice. But the fact that so many people took The Stanley Parable as something worthwhile and not entirely asinine points, I think, to the multitude of ways in which AAA games are utterly failing their players. A problem exists, but it has much more to do with contemporary developers than it has to do with the nature of gameplay itself.

**If you look at silent films made during and after the talkie era, it's astonishing how advanced and modern many of them seem — letting characters speak gave directors a huuuuuge crutch to lean upon, and many really radical innovations were ignored for the sake of filmed storytelling. Which isn't to say there wasn't merit to the new things being done, but to this day there's a tradition of incompetent filmmaking done to support more traditional narratives which gain next to nothing from existing in movie form, other than ease of distribution.

I'm not much of a film snob, but even so, watching Abel Gance's silent masterpiece Napoleon I was struck by a powerful sense of loss, of watching art from the 1920s which was ingenious and daring and bold in ways that, to some extent, still haven't been replicated today, nearly 90 years after the fact. I have a lot of hope that games won't go down the same path, but there's certainly reason to be nervous.

***Except for all the beautiful rules-manipulations which are essentially "hacks" players come up with to prove the ways in which rules can be broken. Those are fun. But they're also a nightmare in-game if a player is bull-headed enough to insist on being allowed to break everything on account of the rulebooks, and if a DM is small-minded enough to allow it to happen. Rules Lawyering: It Ruins Lives. Teach your children.

****In a climax to the Thieves Guild campaign, you confront the man who has been stealing from the Guild, and when he asks you why you're going after him, you're allowed to say — to Bethesda's credit — that it's all about the money for you. NOT to Bethesda's credit, however, is that if you pick this choice you must immediately backtrack and say that you're DIFFERENT from this guy because you believe in HONOR and FRIENDSHIP, I shit you not. Whilst ruining a town to the point that its citizens are in rags, you are forced to self-righteously defend your practices according to My Little Pony logic. Great job!

posted by rorgy at 4:38 AM on October 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


For me, the most blatant offender here is The Stanley Parable, which is so smugly about the nature of choice that it never bothers to ask whether or not the conundrum it presents you as a player is artificial or avoidable — which of course it fucking is.

The way I exercised my freedom of choice in The Stanley Parable was to stop playing or being interested in it after about 20 minutes. I think the developers did an excellent job in that regard -- that regard being my ability to turn their boring game off and do something else.

I think there are fairly legitimate ludic pieces already in place (and I want to shoot myself for using that word, but let's press on). For example, Lumines synthesizes music and play mechanic to emotional effect, at least in my opinion. Persona 4 (Golden) is probably the best game I've ever played, certainly the best JRPG, where the railroaded main plot and player-defined side plots combine to form a real investment in these characters. I feel something complex when I finish that game, and it isn't solely the result of cutscenes, the way that Final Fantasy or Xenosaga largely are (a thirty minute cutscene? just make your anime already and leave me alone).

I think you're right that tabletop rpgs are the model for open-world or agency-first games, but they're also not replicable outside of a multiplayer or sentient AI environment, for the reasons you state. But when people try to make conventional art inside these spaces, it feels shoehorned in. I love Planescape: Torment, but that's because I like long fantasy books about fucked-up people, and that's pretty much what is good about it. The most revelatory mechanic in the game was the ability to increase base stats as you level, which is astonishingly basic but had never actually existed in any official D&D context before that moment. Then you have the Braids of the world, which are so convinced they are saying something beautiful and profound. I like Braid, it's a fun game, and the twist isn't bad, but it's really not all that interesting as an artistic statement.

All of which makes me want to circle back to Hatred and the GamerGate jerks, just to say: these things you think are so interesting have always been around, and these things you think are so damaging have always been part of it. They are precisely the kind of people who scream that video games are art while organizing resistance against any video game that tries to do something different. It's as if you had a horde of Michael Bay fanatics praising Transformers 3 and running Kathryn Bigelow out of town on a rail. It's not just that they're stupid, it's that they are fundamentally incoherent.
posted by Errant at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


As an outsider, it really feels like the gaming industry has monetized the Skinner-boxing of people's worst, most anti-social instincts, with great graphics.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:34 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Persona 4 (Golden) is probably the best game I've ever played, certainly the best JRPG

The characters are certainly fantastic. I've just played the first 14 hours of Persona 3 for the Extra-Life charity marathon, and it was amazing how many of the characters in that read as dull, lifeless prototypes of the characters in Persona 4. Boring Proto-Yosuke, Boring Proto-Kanji, Boring Proto-Nanako...
posted by rifflesby at 2:38 AM on October 27, 2014


Yeah, I have Persona 3 Portable and P4G on the same memory card, and I keep trying to get through P3P, but my buddies are right there. Some people argue that the story in P3 is better, but I think that's probably just because it's darker or something, because 20+ hours into it I didn't see anything more interesting than what Persona 4 is doing, and, as you say, it's doing it with basically cardboard versions of the same characters. I'll take Yosuke over Junpei every time, Chie over Yukari, Kanji over Akihiko, and most definitely Naoto over Aigis. Rise and Fuuka are a wash. Mitsuru is way cooler than Yukiko, though, I'll give P3 that much.
posted by Errant at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048:

I'm not sure what a genre-subverting game would look like today, given that the genre now has a pretty established trope of morally-ambiguous protagonists, but Hatred isn't it. (Maybe it'd be a zombie-survival game where if you choose to go running around like a moron with a gun instead of cooperating with other people, you starve to death slowly. Preferably in an open world, in real time.)

Isn't that pretty much DayZ? Granted, you could argue it just enables sociopathic behavior in packs, but from I've heard trying to be a Lone Gunman in the game will get you killed very quickly, by either zombies attracted by the racket or other players.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 1:35 PM on October 31, 2014


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