The release of the highly controversial Hatred, followed by the reaction of the gaming community, has demonstrated that the culture has matured. Games today no longer need shock value just for attention, because the community has established a set of standards.
Hatred is supposed to be a dark and gritty game that puts players in the role of “The Antagonist” as he embarks on a personal genocide. However, all the attention wasn’t hype; it was a condemnation of its controversial content and its failure to offer anything worth calling it a game. The entire point of this title seems to be little more than just a developer fishing for attention by attempting to add fuel to a controversy that has been dead since the mid 2000’s.
Hatred could have been a unique and groundbreaking experience had it been released anytime from 1999 – 2004. Back in the day, video games were either part of a niche culture or seen as child’s play. To appeal to a more adult audience, titles like Mortal Kombat, Doom and Grand Theft Auto III explored more mature content while Postal and Custer’s Revenge pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable. At the same time, many developers took great joy in sticking it to anti-video game activists like Jack Thompson.
Yet as of 2015, video games have become part of pop-culture, while gaming culture has become more austere. Memorable video games are expected to either have a thought-provoking story with multi-layered characters, an incredible multiplayer experience, or a challenging experience that stimulates the player.
Games that once pushed the boundaries are now focused on character and story development. Wolfenstien: The New Order is no longer just a simple shooter, but a thought-provoking journey exploring the atrocities that made the Thrid Reich synonymous with evil. Grand Theft Auto V has players embark on a personal odyssey that pays homage to the works of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson.
The last game that was able to get away with having a disturbing moment was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, all thanks to “No Russian“. Despite its horrendous content, the purpose was to simulate a terrorist attack while establishing the tone of the story. Another key detail that differentiates this from the games of yesteryear is that the level is optional – players are not required to participate in the massacre.
Ultra-violent or downright sadistic games are now less about pushing the boundaries and more of a gimmick to get attention. Last month, another unknown game developer caused controversy by releasing Kill The F****t, a light-gun shooter that has players kill anyone who is LGBT. However, this one-hit wonder only lasted two hours on Steam before being removed.
Outside the Steam community, there have been titles like Angry Trayvon and Bomb Gaza that seem to be created for nothing less then shock value. Oh, and how could anyone forget JFK: Reloaded, a shooter that allows players to recreate the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Destructive Creations may have gotten the attention of the gaming world, but this 15 minutes of fame will come at the cost of their reputation. As with people, a gimmick like this might get a developer noticed, but we gamers won’t have any respect for them.
As Don Draper tells Pete Campbell in the first episode of Mad Men regarding actions and respect:
Keep it up, and even if you do get my job you’ll never run this place. You’ll die in that corner office, a midlevel executive with a little bit of hair who women go home with out of pity. Want to know why? Because no one will like you.
Do you agree that shock value has lost its merit in the gaming world? Share your thoughts in the comment section.