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Are We Sure That ‘Hatred’ Isn’t Just a Great Big Prank?

Unfortunately it's not, but wouldn't it be wonderful if this were merely an attention-grabbing marketing campaign for something else entirely?

Back in January, VICE Gaming's Edwin Evans-Thirlwell spoke to Przemysław Szczepaniak of Polish studio Destructive Creations, the team behind the much-criticized (before it's even out) mass-murder simulator Hatred. Said the business developer behind the game's controversy stoking debut gameplay trailer (viewable here) and the product it was advertising: "We knew that the media and some people would find it disturbing and shocking, but we also felt that gamers need something like Hatred, because the market is filled with too many sterile and too polite games."


"Disturbing and shocking" was, perhaps, an understatement. The reaction among press and players alike to Hatred's announcement trailer was one of widespread disgust, and the game was pulled from Steam Greenlight (only to later be reinstated, and whatever its content, rightly so). At a time when people were doing all they could to qualify video games as much more than mere toys, as vehicles for great artistry, and capable of affecting players in just the same way as a movie, or a novel, along comes a title that is just about murder. That's it. Kill as many people as you can before being killed yourself.

OK, so mechanically that's not so different from thousands of games to precede Hatred, but there are differences. First, such games are rarely so deliberately vulgarly violent as Hatred appears to be—this is purely pornographic in its approach to assault with deadly weapons. And second, the player character is usually the Good Guy up against hordes of kill-ready enemies, whereas Hatred puts you in the shoes of a zero-backstory slaughter-buzzing nobody who is, to quote Szczepaniak, "out of his mind… Just like any other psychopath, he only wants to watch the world burn."

Well, not quite. You can be considered a psychopath and wish no harm to any fellow human. This is not a black-and-white classification: You are not simply a psychopath or not. Most of us have some character traits that would put us on the PCL-R rating scale, somewhere. But I'm wandering away from the point I want to make here. Which is that, while Hatred looks every inch the nihilistic shooter its makers' rhetoric promises, both in motion and stills, to view the game footage so far combined with its incredibly hackneyed, halfway laughable dialogue paints it into a parody corner. Seriously, I'll quote you the opening lines from the game's latest "Human Shields" trailer (here, if you must), which confirms its release date of June 1.


"Nothing can stop my hatred. You cannot kill what breeds within you. Nothing can stop me. A fearless, remorseless, genocide machine. Cold and deliberate."

I'm sorry, you're a what, now? A fearless, remorseless, genocide machine? Right, right, of course you are, love. Did daddy lock away your favorite toys when you were younger as punishment because you couldn't stop pissing the bed sheets? Maybe mom forbade you with playing with the other kids on the street after you were caught playing doctors and nurses with six-year-old Dawn from down the way, when you were 14? I appreciate that Destructive Creations aren't native English speakers, but smack me upside the head with the heaviest translation dictionary you can lay your hands on if they couldn't have tried harder than that. Unless… Is this just one giant piss-take?

I mean, it's all very grindhouse cinema gone cheap-skate gaming, isn't it? Knowingly exploitative, and obviously (designed that way?) shit. And thinking about Tarantino's double-bill Grindhouse flick of 2007 got me mulling deeper: What if Hatred is a game within a game to be, as Grindhouse featured trailers for "films" between the films, existing as (pretty bloody successful) marketing for something much bigger? What if, come the beginning of June, we don't get a proper new game at all, but the announcement of something else entirely which features Hatred as a nudging, winking meta-game which works within its wider framework—playable, but primarily through this higher-profile title? It's not like the culture's commercial past isn't littered with games within games.


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featured four playable arcade-style games scattered around its open world (choice title: They Crawled from Uranus). In, to quote someone who shouts me on Twitter when I ask about this game-within-a-game structure, the Japanese "sexpuzzler" Catherine (I totally get what they mean), you'll find a more basic version of its own gameplay in the Stray Sheep-located arcade cab Rapunzel. There was a stack of playable distractions in Final Fantasy VII's Gold Saucer, and then there's Astro Chicken, from Space Quest III, which I'd never heard of before but looks like this. (Of course, there are many more examples. Thanks to everyone who sent me suggestions, by the way.)

OK, so these are all very basic when placed beside Hatred—which is an HD, graphically reasonable affair using its shades of gray to best highlight all of the spilled blood. But we're in 2015, not the 1989 of Space Quest III. Today's muscular home machines can pull off some impressive processing feats, and there's no reason why a large-budget game couldn't have its own in-the-fiction affair that looked and played as Hatred does. And then there's that logo, above. Remind you of anything? It is so DOOM, it's ridiculous. And we know there's a new one of those coming. Would it be such a stretching of the imagination to surmise that Hatred's full unveiling in June will actually represent the next major announcement regarding the future DOOM, currently listed only as "TBA" release date wise.

Yes, it is, a stretch entirely too far—so far, indeed, that you'll likely be picking up pieces of your brain from the carpet if you really try to go there. Unfortunately, Hatred is what it is: a vile video game that does precisely nothing for the furthering of this wonderfully diverse and predominantly inclusive set of communities that have built themselves up since digital paddle first whacked digital ball. I've no doubt it'll sell well enough amongst the misguided "free speech" brigades who also consider Eron Gjoni to be one of the great literary minds of our time, those whose knees so frequently jerk against what they see to be the unwanted evolution of a ever-widening society which now includes millions and millions of gamers who, get this, aren't angry white dudes who think they hate their parents. Those who would rally behind a hashtag coined by an actor. You know the kind.

And so on. Truthfully, I've actually nothing against Hatred's existence—I won't be going anywhere near it when it's out, and it's not like my feelings on the matter will change anything. But that its makers feel that it has to exist, because of what they see as some sort of dilution of a medium that is already as extreme as it's ever needed to be, is just really, really sad.

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