Is Hatred a cynical and gratuitous work of stunningly poor taste? Or is it an honest and uncorruptible take on the shooter genre, shorn of all unnecessary flim-flammery?
These were just a few of the questions raised by the release of the Polish game's trailer yesterday. The game features a protagonist who despises humanity and wants to kill as many people, indiscriminately and gleefully, as possible. It was a clear departure from other violent games in which the narrative point is something other than merely murdering people for fun.
The trailer was criticized by some for its brutal portrayal of a mass-murderer delighting in the slaughter of innocents. Others saw it as an opportunity to reignite the dying embers of a debate about freedom of expression, despite the fact that no one of note has called for its release to be suppressed.
I emailed developer Destructive Creations to ask about the game. I had already published an editorial in which I called the game "the worst trailer of the year," and "awful, awful stuff." Destructive Creations was aware of my position.
Here is the email interview with creative director Jarosław Zieliński ...
Why did you decide to make a graphically intense game about killing innocent people?
"The answer is simple really. We wanted to create something contrary to prevailing standards of forcing games to be more polite or nice than they really are or even should be.
"Yes, putting things simply, we are developing a game about killing people. But what's more important is the fact that we are honest in our approach. Our game doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is and we don't add to it any fake philosophy.
"In fact, when you think deeper about it, there are many other games out there, where you can do exactly the same things that the antagonist will do in our project. The only difference is that in Hatred gameplay will focus on those things. I also do believe that we're pretty straight forward about this on our official website. Plus hey, you've got to remember that Postal was first and still is the king of the genre. ;)"
There has been a lot of negative reaction to your trailer, with people saying that it is unpleasant and gratuitous. Does this surprise you?
"Not at all in fact as this is exactly what we've expected from the very beginning.
"What did surprise me though was the insanely positive feedback we've got! I need to say here that my mailbox is currently totally overflown with emails full of words of support. And I'd like to thank to all those people that are telling us to keep it up, not to give up and to stay true to our initial idea for the game, that we've presented you today in our reveal trailer.
"Those emails, messages and comments show clearly that in fact people do want to play our game, because they consider it being honest to the bone, about what it has to offer.
"Of course the time will pass and eventually those that like the idea will stay with us and those that don't will forget about it. In the end it's not the first time in the history when the gaming world is shocked with the brutality shown in this or that game. But time flies and after the first controversy life simply goes on."
Some people say it has a very "shock tactic" '90s vibe, and that it is derivative of Postal. What is your reaction to this?
"I'd say they have a lot of reasons to claim that. Especially that, as you can see, so called 'shock tactic' does its job very well and in fact we should thank all those haters out there for that. ;)"
You mention "political correctness." What do you mean? How is this game a reaction to political correctness?
"What it means to me is the way we are told and taught to think, even if it's totally in spite of ourselves. And you get that coercion in the gaming industry as well. I mean right now we're the best example of it.
"In this world you cannot simply say that you are working on a game about killing people for no particular reason, not to expose yourself to angry, negative comments caused by panic and shock. We all know those big stories accusing games of all the evil there is, including accusations of educating murderers. And does it mean they are all ultimately true? Not at all of course.
Shock tactic does its job very well.
"Like many of us, I grew up playing all kind of games. More or less violent. And I'm still just a regular guy like millions of other gamers in the world. But what I observe these days are games, that used to be considered a rebellious medium, losing that factor and just trying to fit in the nice and sweet pop-culture.
"So the spark that was present in Doom, Kingpin or Postal was lost somewhere in the process. Those games had no limits. So we've decided to rebel against this overall trend and go back to the roots. Create a game, that we want to play and not the one that will try to please anybody's expectations. By the way, I consider 'No Russian' one of the best moments in the whole Call of Duty series!" [Editor's Note: This is a notorious scene in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which the player is asked to kill innocent people in an airport, in pursuit of enemies.]
Tell me about your target consumer and why you believe they will enjoy graphically realistic depictions of mass murder.
"You know I wouldn't exaggerate with this 'graphically realistic' thing. ;) Our target is basically a gamer that is coming home after a long, tiring and overall a shitty working day. So we give him the opportunity to just sit by his computer and let some of the steam go by shooting NPCs and destroying the level.
"The game is also addressed to people that are in general tired of colorful, sci-fi shooters and are looking for a change. In Hatred they are not forced to run with a laser gun and save the universe for a hundred time (sic). Quite the opposite in fact as we give them a chance to be The Bad Guy and the one that's being hunted.
"Don't get me wrong. I really do understand it's not a game for everybody and there are people for whom the whole idea will be hard to understand. On the other hand it's just a game and we don't do anything wrong by developing it. So if that's the case then why not do it?"
Note: Subsequent to our interview, a report emerged of Zieliński's support on Facebook of an anti-immigration group called Polska Liga Obrony. We've followed up with some specific questions on this issue and will update when we receive a response.