Don’t you just hate when someone does something to annoy or offend you intentionally? That person is deliberately vexing you to prove a point, even if that point is simply to provoke you. That’s probably the most irritating thing of all – knowing that he/she not only wants to get on your nerves, but is getting on your nerves.
That’s Hatred, or at least that is what it’s supposed to be.
Hatred is the latest in a long line of video games that represents the downfall of youth and all that is corruptive about the medium. I barely knew anything of the game until it became all the rage to talk about it because of what it was supposed to be. Was it going to feature blood, devastation, death, war, and horror? Would it psychologically manipulate an entire generation into committing acts of base depravity and gratuitous violence that would shock even the most brutal dictators? Would it feature scenes from Superman 64?
Apparently, it was about some lone wolf looking for trouble by arming himself to the teeth and living out the fantasies of irresponsible extremists against the world by going on a senseless killing spree, all done while having improbably good aim in light of the preposterously long hair hanging over the player character’s face. Oh, is that all?
It reminds me of a Chris Rock stand-up bit from 1999 about the Columbine tragedy: “Everyone asks, ‘Is it the movies? Is it the records?’ Why can’t they just be crazy?” He also posed the question, “What was in Hitler’s CD case?” The point is that that leveling an accusatory finger at the media for the societal ills afflicting the kids today is the sort of mindlessness that gamers have come to hear many times in the past 20 or so years especially. Before that, it was television. Before that, it was rock and roll. Before that, it was running loose in the streets, irresponsibly creating daguerreotypes.
The line of reasoning behind Hatred is that it is the counterpoint to the fun police’s reactionary hostility to anything more profligate than Leave It to Beaver. Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame articulated as much in a recent column of his. I don’t disagree with his assessment. I just don’t think that goes far enough in analysis. Why did anyone feel the need to react to the fun police in the first place? When the establishment trots out a game and an apologist therefor to be the whipping boy after some tragic event, it’s the stage play of public condemnation. The actors play their parts, the audience feels catharsis, and everyone goes home once the illusory spectacle is over. The cycle repeats itself as many times as it needs to because inertia is far more comfortable than committing to action. Impotent, aimless rage is what keeps us from making the movie Network into a reality.
The cruel joke of Hatred playing the provocateur is that it only exists because of the cycle and has no place outside of this cycle. The fun police decry violent video games, Hatred purposely acts as an antagonist, gamers who irrationally think that video games as a whole are under attack quickly flock to purchase the game in ardent defense of the medium, and then everyone stops caring because now we are more interested in where Caitlyn Jenner shops. By itself, this game is not culturally significant or even relevant. It is a child throwing a tantrum so that it will not be ignored. Whatever point the creator of Hatred was trying to achieve was probably a shallow one. “Let me see how much controversy I can generate by creating something shocking simply for its own sake!” What a lofty ambition! I hope the creator realizes that is no better than the “I have my fingers in my ears and can’t hear you” mentality of the fun police on the other side of the great divide. Gaming will never develop as an art form as long as trash like Hatred is being generated to respond to the lingering echoes of people no one should take seriously. Adam Sandler films are of greater anthropological significance than this game.
So what we have here are two groups that refuse to see eye to eye because they behave so thoughtlessly in an effort to one-up the other side’s ignorance that caricaturing them is unnecessary. Only the creator and distributors profited from this stage play. Why would any gamer need to react to the fun police? These are the same people who thought Doom was the highly realistic demon that turned innocent, wide-eyed children into slavering, bloodthirsty murderers. Their filter is as unrealistic as Doom itself. Gaming has finally won broad cultural appeal and now the mouthy fringe wants to ruin it for everyone (as is often the case). Congratulations on a job well done by feeding meat to the lions! Hatred‘s proponents really proved a point to…whoever was even still talking about it after it was released…which was almost no one.
Don’t hate the player. Don’t hate the game. Hate how everyone was committed to refusing to listen to the other side.