You’ve probably seen by now that Hatred has been pulled by Steam. In what shouldn’t be much a surprise, a game trying to cross the line, well, crossed the line. In Hatred you play a serial killer trying to commit suicide by homicide in the most gruesome and graphic scenes that have ever been seen inside a game. I believe it was created as the spiritual successor to Hello Kitty Island Adventure.
I’m as liberal as they come, I support the free expression of all game developers through their art, and I am overjoyed this game was pulled. I’m an American attorney, so I’ll look at this through the context of American law, however, don’t think this analysis changes much from country to country. At the end of the day, if we as an industry allow fools to release things like this, we as an industry are begging for more legislation to come down and tie our hands on future projects.
Let’s take the Entertainment Software Rating Board, more commonly known by their initials ESRB. This is the group that puts the little “T” or “M” on the games you buy, and the ones who set up rules within the gaming industry. The best part of these rules? They’re voluntary! The ESRB is not a government body, and the game industry follows these guidelines so that a government agency doesn’t come down and demand what we do. Basically, we police ourselves to prevent being policed. It’s absolutely the best system and makes sure the ones controlling the game industry are actually part of the game industry. I negotiate contracts against a lot of attorneys who have never touched a game and who can barely open their email. You don’t want them writing our laws, trust me.
I understand the critics of the removal fearing censorship has gone too far, but take a step back and really look at what this game is. There is no story here, the creators admitted they weren’t trying to make some higher form of art, and honestly, it looks like a shit game that was slapped together to create this very controversy. Good advertising whatever studio made this, I’ll give you that.
For something like this to be worth it, it needs to be quite different. Take the level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. For those not familiar, you play an undercover agent infiltrating a terrorist group, and you quickly find yourself in a terrible position of having to assist in killing innocent civilians within a mall. It’s done so intelligently (yes, even Call of Duty has its moments) that you physically get sick. You can feel the struggle your character is going through as he is forced to decide to murder a group of innocent people, or blow his cover and let a powerful terrorist go who will murder millions. Plus, they ask you twice if you want to skip that level.
Then take Hatred. You play some idiot who’s angry, loves leather, and just opens his door to murder people. It’s trying so hard, and it fails on every single level. I am a huge fan of standup comedy, and Louis CK is wonderful at the same time he’s crass. But when I show up to an amateur night and see someone trying to mimic that, it’s usually just awful. So is Hatred, and so are the people behind it.
Now excuse me while I get back to Grand Theft Auto V.
UPDATE: Steam has apparently changed its mind and put the game back up. Obviously, I couldn’t disagree with that move more.