Hatred, a game developed by Destructive Creations, became the second game in video games history to receive an Adults Only (AO) rating from the ESRB for violent content. It's predecessor, Manhunt 2, had "strong language, strong sexual content, (and) use of drugs" on top of the gore, so that makes Hatred the ONLY game to be given this rating purely for spilling guts. Wow - just how much blood was spilled in this game to warrant such a prohibitive rating? I'm just as intrigued as you are, so today at Xmashed, we're gonna find out.
So first things first, what's the big deal with an AO rating? Everyone's still going to buy it if it's good. While that is true, aside from the fact that the game is unable to be sold to gamers below the age of 18 (which effectively pulls it from the shelves of family friendly outifts such as Walmart), the rating also prevents this game from ever being released on a console. It's not hard to figure out the commercial repercussions of this badge.
I hope you enjoyed the trailer, cause I did not. Frankly, it disturbs me — not what he does, but the idea of what he is doing. Most gamers, including myself, casually do things several times more violent in-game than Hatred's shooting people in the throat and stabbing someone mulitple times, but we're okay with it because our victims pretty much have it coming (if you sign up for a to-the-death fighting tournament, you know what you are getting into). Hatred does it to innocent people, begging to be spared as they are mercilessly cut down. That's brutal, man.
But just because I don't like it, doesn't mean it's not good. In fact, I'll champion its existence for 3 main reasons.
1. Challenges Norms
This is one is different, I promise.
The first is that it challenges norms, which is a really good thing for an increasingly formulae gaming market. I lost count of the number of tactical warfare games that have been seemingly regurgitated out of the game dev machine over the last few years, each with slight differences over the other, but calling themselves "whole new experiences". Or zombie FPSes — it all started as a zombie FPS with teamwork, then came an open world zombie FPS, then a zombie FPS with survival, and most recently, a zombie FPS with parkour. I get it, shooting mindless hulks that gib on impact is fun, but let's try something else for a while, shall we?
2. UnpretentiousThis is actually a pretty good game, but it helps me make my point.
Secondly, it's unpretentious. Playing deep, philosophical games can be entertaining, in fact, we're really looking forward to some titles coming out this year, but it does get tiring after a while. When Joe points the gun at Sue, it's typically the cumulation of a main storyline, thirteen subplots and two optional sidequests, which of course, you are throughly reminded of in lengthy conversations before Joe finally pulls the trigger... and Sue may or may not have died from that shot. So here's finally a game that starts with Joe pulling the trigger and Sue's head exploding. Hatred is like that fart we need after suffering from severe flatuence from all that junk we've been eating. It feels good.
3. Pushes Boundaries in Moral Space"No Russian" level from Modern Warfare 2. We need more strokes of geniuses like this.
Thirdly, it pushes boundaries in the moral space — a realm few developers dare touch in the gaming world. We need these kinds of material for debate if we want games to grow beyond what it is now — games have the potential to do much more and we won't get very far if we only do the "nice" things everyone accepts by default. Movies have been going at it for a really long time, although innocent people were having their limbs cut off for no apparent reason other than sadistic pleasure in films, people accepted it as a film and critiqued it as such. Doing something half as violent in games got everyone's panties in a bunch, probably because you are the one actually doing all the killing, which is an interesting insight and one that can be argued either way, which is the point.
I figured a key worry most people have for this game would be the promotion of violence in real-life, especially in schools and amongst children. While that is a valid concern I think it's a discussion that supersedes the boundaries of a single game, especially one that has an AO-rating slapped on it's packaging. My brief contribution to that discussion is that violent games do not make killers, just as a recent medical study has shown, but killers will likely play violent games, hence the unfair connection. I'd like to hear your opinions on this of course, it'll make for interesting debate.
As for opinions about Hatred, I'm done with mine. I'd like to hear about yours in the comments — is Hatred a good step forward in gaming? A step back? Or a step forward in a wrong direction?