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In 2007, Austrian film director and screenwriter Michael Haneke released an American shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 film Funny Games. The plot in both versions of the film was simple: two young men torture an upper-class family, both physically and phychologically, and then murder each family member one by one.
Throughout the film, the audience is reminded several times by the film's antagonists that the torture and murder is done for their entertainment. Everything could end if the viewer simply leaves the theater or pushes the stop button for their DVD player. The work is completely fictional, and, in this sense, the viewer has the power to stop the madness at any time.
And now, earlier today, the gaming community got their first glimpse of the game Hatred. The game appears to put players in the role of a homicidal and suicidal gunman, who aims to take out as many innocent civilians as he can before he dies. There have already been many knee-jerk reactions from the community declaring how distasteful the game is, Destructoid's own Brett Makedonski included.
The video game community has a long history with violence, from Nintendo's now-infamous censoring of violent games, to Jack Thompson's heavily ridiculed crusade to protect children from violent games. These days, violence in video games is tolerated more than ever, with even many local news stations reporting on the popularity of games like Call of Duty without feeling the need to shoehorn in a controversy about the violent content.
That's not to say that video games are without controversy now. Far from it. It seems that many members of the gaming press take every chance they can to condemn games for their content. Everything from the gender, race, and sexual orientation of video game characters is under heavy scrutiny, and people are quick to label games using heavy terms like "racist" and "Misogynistic" when they fail to live up to their personal ideals. A recent example of this would be Far Cray 4's box art, which was declared racist immediately after it was revealed because the villain appeared to be caucasion.
The past two months have been even more chaotic, with disgruntled gamers creating the "GamerGate" movement in opposition to what was described in the above paragraph and the alleged in-groups within indie development and gaming journalism that are involved. An anti-GamerGate group has emerged as well, dismissing the movement as an excuse to attack women, or even going as far as to label it a hate group (I could discuss the validity of these claims, but the issue is now a complicated web, more complex than most people know, and it would take a novel-length post to unravel everything).
Developers, gamers, and journalists alike are all on-edge, and into this uneasy haze steps a game like Hatred. One would expect that many developers would want to avoid the scrutiny placed on their work by the media, but the developers of Hatred, fittingly named Destructive Creations, seem eager to soak up the... well, hatred. Could such a game survive, or even thrive, in such a climate?
Whether it was their intention or not, Destructive Creations has made quite the social experiment with this piece, in a way similar to Haneke's Funny Games. But while Funny Games brought nihilistic violence to the forefront as a criticism of film's over-eager use of violence, Hatred seems to a be embracing it, as evidenced by the up-close execution animations shown off in the trailer.
It'll definitely be interesting to see how the media and gamers as a whole react to Hatred. I've already noticed lines being drawn. I'm predicting the main arguments will range from "This is terrible, but has the right to exist" to "This shouldn't exist" to "This is no different than many other games."
In my opinion, that last argument is both true and false. It's true in the sense that games have you murder faceless soldiers all the time, and games like Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto let you slaughter as many innocents as you wish. The main difference here is context. Sure, gamers are very used to gunning down hundreds of people per game, but will they feel the same indifference when the people they're meant to target beg for their lives before their brains are splattered across the pavement by the main character?
I, for one, am interested to see how I feel when I play Hatred. When I watched Funny Games I was both intrigued and revolted by what was happening on the screen, and I couldn't look away. Will I feel the same as I gun down screaming civilians in the streets in Hatred, or will they just turn into moving targets to be eliminated, like the faceless soldiers in any war FPS? I won't know until I play it.
Regardless of what happens next, Hatred has already given us something to talk about. And if the actual game proves to be too much for us? Well, we can just hit the "exit game" button and make it all stop, right?
Thanks for reading!