Why Steam Pulling Mass-Murdering Game Hatred is a Bad Thing

Hatred

Editor’s Note: This is an editorial that doesn’t necessarily represent the viewpoint of the entire CraveOnline Gaming staff.

Back in October I wrote about a trailer that had debuted for an upcoming indie game called Hatred. I branded it “the most offensive video game trailer ever,” and that opinion wasn’t borne out of a desire to unleash yet more clickbait onto the World Wide Web, but because it was legitimately the most offensive game trailer I had yet seen.

The offense typically caused by video games is subjective. For instance, while I find the grotty prostitution sequences in Grand Theft Auto V immature but ultimately not too concerning (especially given the huge amount of violence portrayed elsewhere in the game), others may be downright flabbergasted that you can engage in sex acts in the game, while many will likely find the whole thing a barrel of laughs. However, the key difference with the Hatred trailer was that it advertised a game that was, as many tabloid newspapers wrongly accuse GTA of being, a serial-killer simulator.

Fascist leanings

In the trailer, the protagonist reels off some (particularly poorly written) dialogue about his contempt for the human race and, after spitting out the same rhetoric as your typical school shooter, he goes on his merry way taking down innocent men and women, all in gory detail. Almost every individual murdered in the trailer in close-up is either a person of color or a woman.

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An Asian policeman is shot in the stomach. A female pedestrian has a gun inserted into her mouth before the player-character pulls the trigger. A black man has his head blown off by his shotgun. Even if this is a mere coincidence that no white American man’s death is highlighted in close-up detail in the trailer, it certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing… especially when you take into consideration the supposed Neo-Nazi leanings of its developer, Destructive Creations.

After some snooping was done following the release of the Hatred trailer, it was found that the dev’s CEO and Animator Jarosław Zieliński had ‘Liked’ a page on Facebook supporting the Islamophobic and anti-immigration hate group Polska Liga Obrony, while its gameplay designer Jakub Stychno supports the homophobic and nationalistic Młodzież Wszechpolska along with the team’s FX artist Marcin Kaźmierczak, who also supported a page on Facebook requesting a boycott of a Polish boxer for his progressive views on gay rights.

Following these claims Zieliński made a statement to Polygon saying that he ‘Liked’ the page as it’s a “source of information [regarding] what is going on right now in the middle-east and Europe,” (despite a cursory glance of the page revealing that it is, as predicted, anti-Muslim) though the fascist organizations the rest of the development team appear to support certainly lend credence to the argument that maybe these guys – the ones who have created a game in which players are tasked with mowing down innocent people, and a game which featured a debut trailer that focused specifically upon non-white people being executed – don’t so much lean to the right as they do goosestep into it.

Don’t talk about politics or religion

There’s an old saying that suggests that, when meeting acquaintances, you shouldn’t discuss politics nor religion. While the reported political opinions of Destructive Creations in no way match my own, I believe that to forbid their product from existing based upon its trailer alone is a gross case of censorship. Yesterday Valve pulled the game from their community-voted Steam Greenlight service, which sees Steam users vote upon independent games they wish to be transferred to the Steam store, with Valve’s Doug Lombardi telling Eurogamer: “Based on what we’ve see on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we’ll be taking it down.” 

There is evidence to suggest that the alleged political alignments of its creators would impact upon the content of the game, which would certainly more than justify its removal from the service if it served as little more than fascist propaganda, but this supposed evidence has been refuted by its dev team, meaning that the only thing Valve had to work with to justify the knee-jerk reaction of removing it from Greenlight was its tasteless two-minute trailer.

Valve having the kind of creative control that could lead to a game being pulled from Greenlight is wrong.

The whole purpose of Steam Greenlight is to give the community the choice of what they want/do not want to see on Steam, and Valve having the kind of creative control that could lead to a game being pulled from the service completely based upon its trailer is, in my humble opinion, wrong. Yes, the bottom line dictates that they are in control of Steam as its creators, but Steam is much more than just Valve’s digital distribution platform now – it’s the go-to service for PC gamers to access their games, and for them to exercise this kind of censorship isn’t in keeping with the spirit of the creatively free service, in particular Steam Greenlight.

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I understand why Valve would want to distance itself from Hatred, given the ire raised by its debut trailer alone and the inevitable storm of controversy that would follow its release given its rather tasteless subject matter, and I am personally vehemently against the game’s premise. However, I can’t help but feel that refusing to acknowledge games that don’t align with our own moral compass is flagrant censorship, whether or not that censorship has been exercised in good faith or not.

To add a counter-point to the removal of Hatred from Steam, I would also argue that the Call of Duty series should pose a moral quandary for the left-wing, given that the licensed names and likenesses for the guns featured in the games mean that Activision actively pays out money to gun manufacturers, thus making a greatly positive impact on the gun industry as a whole. From initial impressions Hatred has a myriad of themes that I strongly disagree with, but the money generated by it wouldn’t go towards real-world industries that people perhaps agree with. Of course, there’s no chance that CoD will ever be removed from the platform, and nor should it.

In defense of Valve

Despite all of this, I do understand Valve’s position. If Hatred released on the platform and it turned out to be the Neo-Nazi simulator that it was suggested as being, then the company would have come under a huge amount of fire for letting it grace the Steam platform, regardless of how Greenlight works. In terms of business, allowing your company’s reputation to take a blow in order to defend the release of a small-fry indie game which, frankly, looks dreadful, is a bad decision.

Those who wanted to play Hatred should not feel guilty.

But I’m not here to think in terms of business. I’m someone who uses Steam frequently, and does not want to see this set a precedent in terms of how Valve handles Greenlight in the future, and how the company will enforce their control over their community’s opinions. Hatred was a game I had no personal interest in playing for all of the aforementioned reasons, but that’s not say that those who DID want to play it should feel guilty for thinking that way. Hatred was an oddity. In a sea of games focused upon murdering people, but said murder was deemed a-OK due to the context it was placed within, Hatred made no bones about what it was and its complete lack of subtlety in regards to its subject matter.

If Valve created Steam Greenlight for the community, then the community should have had the final say.