Controversial Shooting Game Pulled From Steam Greenlight

Controversial Shooting Game Pulled From Steam Greenlight

Earlier today unsettlingly violent shooter Hatred appeared on Steam Greenlight. Not long after, it was yanked from the massive PC gaming service. And while Valve was -- like Target and GTA V -- within their rights, I think they could have handled it better. Meanwhile Hatred continues to manufacture controversy, and that's not OK.

This is not the first time Valve has personally de-listed a game from Steam Greenlight, the portion of Steam that lets users vote on whether they'd like to see certain games for sale on the PC gaming behemoth's storefront. That said, Valve doesn't do it often. The most high profile example before today was Seduce Me, an erotic game about... well, you can probably guess. Today, however, Valve was less specific about precisely why they dumped a bucket of cold water on Hatred's bilious fuming. In a statement to Eurogamer, they merely said the following:

"Based on what we've seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we'll be taking it down."

Presumably, it has something to do with Hatred's violent murder sprees, but there's no way to know for sure. Hatred is, unlike other similar games, a shooter about someone brutally slaughtering terrified, often defenceless people for no other reason than vile rage. That's an understandable reason for Valve to object to it, but they didn't elaborate. Meanwhile games like Postal -- which centre around similar, albeit more cartoonishly portrayed subject matter -- are still on Steam proper. Confusing? You bet.

As a result, there's been a fair amount of furore surrounding Valve's decision. Some are crying foul of censorship and inconsistent standards, the former of which is a distorted viewpoint, the latter of which is pretty on the money. Going back to the Target/GTA controversy, both that and today's Hatred removal are examples of storefronts exercising their right to curate products and sell whatever they want. That's not widespread censorship; that's a decision made on the part of autonomous companies based on their beliefs. If you want those games, you will still be able to get them elsewhere.

But if, say, Valve is against games that take some degree of joy in literal, no-pretences-attached hate crimes, they'd benefit from having a more explicit policy about it. Right now, this is Valve's entire set of guidelines as to what is not allowed on Greenlight:

"Your game must not contain offensive material or violate copyright or intellectual property rights."

That's it. What constitutes being "offensive"? No clue. Valve won't say. Every once in a while they emerge from their cave like an angry old bear and speak with their actions, but this "rawrgrowl boomsmash" approach doesn't give a clear indication of where Valve draws the line. If they want to take a stand against needlessly harmful games or, at the very least, make a statement about their stance on these matters so developers/gamers can act accordingly, they need to be more specific. It's not that hard, either. Just a few paragraphs would get the job done.

Controversial Shooting Game Pulled From Steam Greenlight

Meanwhile, Hatred's creators are continuing to do what they have done since day one: revel in how "controversial" their game is, how far pushing people's buttons has taken them. This despite the fact that Hatred is an angsty pastiche of a truly horrific event, shock entertainment waving its arms and bellowing, "NOTICE ME NOTICE ME AAAAAAA ONLY AFI UNDERSTANDS ME." It would have been edgy in the '90s. Now it's just kind of embarrassing.

But ever since the beginning, when Hatred's creators wheeled out their first trailer with a note that read, "Bring [the trailer] everywhere and let the haters hate! (And they will, oh they will...)," their intentions have been clear. Rile everyone up and watch the social media posts and articles pour in about a game that, otherwise, really wouldn't be noteworthy at all. So it continued today, with a self-congratulatory press release sent out after Hatred's removal from Steam.

"[Greenlight] is the best proof for us that there are diehard Hatred fans out there, waiting for this game to be released," they wrote of Hatred's standing on the service prior to its removal. "The whole situation only pushes us forward to go against any adversity and not to give up. At the end of the day you, gamers will judge if we were able to do a game that's simply fun to play."

Controversial Shooting Game Pulled From Steam Greenlight

If only that were actually the case. Instead Hatred's creators have very deliberately created a context in which their game will be judged, a climate of faux-controversy, anti-"political-correctness," and rebelling against some nebulous incarnation of The Man. Hatred will be judged in just about every other conceivable category before people scrutinise whether it's "simply fun to play," and its creators know it. They're banking on it.

I'll be straight with you: I was really conflicted over even writing this article. Is calling attention to Hatred's bullshit worth giving them more exposure, stoking the flames of a silly, manufactured non-troversy? I went back and forth on it for a while and decided that, yes, ultimately it is when a) my article is a drop in the bucket at this point, and b) there were also issues involving Steam that needed more attention.

Still, this whole situation is a mess, and it's a shame to see such a transparently cynical project taking up so much of people's time and attention. Yes, there are lessons to be learned here -- about how to handle controversy baiting projects, about how storefronts like Steam should make their policies more explicit for the benefit of all involved. This time, let's finally learn them and move on.


Comments

    Handled it perfectly I reckon. Would have also been happy with a "We are not publishing this utter filth" I hope it never sees the light of day.

    I think they've done a decent job, given Steam's verrrrrrry lax control of violent content (i.e. put in your DOB without any proof).

    Personally I'd like to play the game, it's not overly different to games like GTA, Infamous and Watch Dogs in that you have the ability to kill innocents, quite violently; the difference is that you are supposed to do those things in this game, whereas in the others it's an option, and that the victims are better programmed emotionally.

      And you don't think that makes it overly different to GTA etc?

      Last edited 16/12/14 3:47 pm

      You would 'love to play it' baffles me,

    I consider myself pretty open minded and accepting of controversial media, including video games. But I just can't support this - it's based on the premise that the protagonist (if you can call him that) is killing innocents for no other purpose apart from 'rage'. That is not ok. I'm not saying that because I think it will affect those who play it and turn them into murderous people, I'm saying it because it's a deplorable concept for a video game which contributes nothing to the medium. Actually, it negatively impacts it.

    I guess that also means I don't support the Postal series. I've never played any of them but if that's their premise too, they can GERRRT OOOUUURRTTT!

      What about someone who's had a bad day and just wants to kill someone? It's better to vent anger and frustration on fake people than real ones. I think the game might actually do some good and a rage-absorber. Of course, and this is really the main point, most violent psychopaths probably don't concern themselves with video games...

        That person can play any number of the hundreds of thousands of other games in that vein. They could play COD or Battlefield or TF2 or Far Cry or almost anything. This game is very specifically about creating vengeful homicidal massacres.

        If you've had a bad day and "just want to kill someone", i'd seriously recommend seeking help. And violent psychopaths do play games, just as a lot of people do; Anders Brevik and Adam Lanza, for example.
        Video games are quite often the scapegoat for people performing violent acts, and we all know how quickly rabid media organizations jump to blame video games. The last thing gaming needs right now is the sort of media shitstorm a game like this would create.

      well, postal, its more optional to be a crazed murderous sociopath, as opposed to that being the whole premise. Not to defend Postal or nothin'. I'm with you on the whole "gert ourt" sentiment. :)

        Major difference is Postal doens't take itself seriously and ia just black humour at it's best. What other game lets you urinate napalm into Gary Coleman, (rest his soul), smash through someone's front window with a shovel wearing a gimp suit and visit your Uncle Dave? This game however takes itself seriously. That is the point of difference!

      I'm sure it'll be measured on its merits, and the reaction it evokes. Watching the trailer left me with a gut-churning disgust, but isn't that kind of the point? Why do people play horror games that leave them with gut-churning fear? Why is one of these better than the other? Why do people watch torture-porn movies? Should we call them sick, and deny them press, celebrate when they're rejected for sale? If the purpose is to get you out of your comfort zone and make you feel something, then it's doing its job. I doubt I'll play it, but in much the same way I'm unlikely to ever play Outlast or Daylight or Five Nights at Freddy's, rather than some moral stance.

        I feel entirely justified taking a moral stance on this. If the developer's only aim was to induce 'gut churning disgust' then that's not good enough. It's violence for the sake of marketing and media attention.

        This is an industry that is already suffering condemnation from the uninformed and ignorant, so why give people already opposed to the industry something that they can justifiably condemn? We are better than this.

          Better than this? We're really not. And of course you feel justified. That's how moral stances work. But...
          Take a peek at Grayson's earlier thoughts: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/10/the-kind-of-video-game-violence-that-disturbs-me/

          And I'll repeat what I wrote then:

          Jesus. I hadn't actually watched it until now, but damn.
          Kinda disturbing how right Grayson is on how close this is to stuff we already do. I definitely saw echoes of the executions from Shadow of Mordor in the executions in the Hatred clip. The difference is that the Uruk were aggressors... and even then, a lot of the time, their final moments are of fear and panic, too. But we're meant to feel good about that, like... 'just desserts'?

          As mentioned in the article, this is nothing new. Postal and the original GTA are fine examples, even Saints Row and Watch Dogs. Anything where one of the more popular mini-games or 'player created entertainments' is grabbing a tank(/spidertank) and blowing up everything good and decent. When Half-Life first came out, some of the earliest mods were to create a scientist-killing simulator, and when you think about it, the classic shambling zombie isn't too far off. Hordes of people, mown down by your power... But we kill those because of their malice. ...right? Everyone loves to be bad, sometimes. Empire vs Rebels, Horde vs Alliance (yeah, yeah, noble savages whatever, that doesn't excuse the Forsaken), Robbers vs Cops. Normally it's a 'fair fight', but a lot of the celebrated enjoyment hasn't always been. Evil Genius, Overlord, Dungeon Keeper... did we not mind because it was cartoonish or seemed like the other side of the same rational coin? An opposing but equally-understandable tribalist ideaology?

          I won't be surprised if decent people can still derive some.... er. I dunno. Entertainment isn't the right word. Use? Satisfaction? I'm still gut-turned over some of those executions and it strikes me that the feeling is more powerful than something from many other games.

          You know what it feels like?
          It feels a lot like the fear from playing Alien: Isolation.

          Except instead of fear and horror, it's revulsion and horror. Why would anyone want to experience deep, gut-turning fear? Why would they want to experience revulsion and grief? Until I played Alien, myself, all the Outlast/Slender/Amnesia/etc games left me instinctively saying, "Ylech! Ew, GOD no, why would someone do that to themselves?" After being lured into Alien thanks to its IP, now I know - it's for the intensity. The feeling of something, tricking yourself in ways that 'safe' games don't. Hatred's gut-turning revulsion may just hit the same kind of spot. What makes you or I say, "Ylech! Ew, god no, why would someone do that to themselves," about the vile expression of pure malice, that may just be what it takes to make some jaded horror fan feel something that they hadn't before.

          I won't be surprised if people end up finding some merit to this, in the end. From the advertising, though, I'll be surprised if that's actually the developers' intentions.

          There's just as much merit to this as there is to Wolf Creek, thematically. The implementation might fall over, though.

          Last edited 16/12/14 2:46 pm

            I have to respectfully disagree. All other games you mention? None of their primary goals was the senseless, gratuitous slaughter of innocents. Yes I hear what you are saying - in these other games it was made possible, sometime even side quests/missions/mini-games ASKED you to do this, but they did not market themselves to glorify these aspects. And these aspects alone formed a small portion of the game. Even with GTA, the focus isn't on killing people, but I'll readily admit that's what a lot of people who play the game do.

            Admittedly, there may be more than just senseless slaughter in this game, I don't know. But the way it's being marketed makes it appear it's your only purpose in this game.

              That's not the only argument. The other is: Example: Wolf Creek is about senseless slaughter. Drawn out, with extensive focus on the futile suffering of the victims. Critically acclaimed. And it's not the only one. Ever since SAW and onward, 'torture porn' is a celebrated subgenre of horror in its own right, whose only purpose - primary goal, as you put it - is to relish in the suffering of the inevitably-butchered victims. Where's the difference, exactly?

                On that point I agree with you. I can't stand torture porn movies for the same reasons I can't stand the premise of this game. Perhaps you're right maybe we aren't better than this, but I'd like to think myself and many Kotaku members are.

                  Right. I had to almost give up GTA5 because of that one scene you can't skip with Trevor and 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'. The trailer for Hatred made me sick and I doubt I'll play it any more than I'll play Slender.

                  Either way, I think hand-wringing is probably what they want, anyway. Which is pretty damn juvenile. Hopefully no-one's so immature or self-unaware as to actually BUY that line they're selling, and it's just a part of the job for marketing. Maybe not. They can talk a good game about how a Steam rejection is playing into their hands with outrage PR, but that's gotta crimp sales.

                  Ultimately, the real test will be if the game's any good. Anyone can make a hate game. We've seen neo-Nazis, Taliban, anti-abortionists all try their hand at it, and come up with some of the trashiest, most laughable attempts at a 'game' worth rolling your eyes and snorting derisively at. (If there's any merit to the thing at all, it might be that it seems ecumenical in its delivery of hate.) The worst criticism won't be moral outrage or vociferous disgust, it'll be a yawn and a dismissive snicker at the game's quality.

                  Last edited 16/12/14 3:35 pm

                  Don't let him convince you otherwise, The problem with this thing is context and Your not on your own mate,

                  We arnt just walking brains, many of us have hearts and this 'game' capitalising on and glorifying a mirror of real life misery, fear and pain and really what I would consider unjustifiable and inhuman actions is appalling.

                  A lot of these twits that speak like amature scientists and pretend they have all the answers have never earned any knowledge for themselves. They echo I think selfishness and self intitlement to a large degree.

                  Just because we can, doesn't mean we should etc and this title fits in that category. People shoot each other in games, yes, but this is like glorifying a mental illness. Commercial Art has boundaries (sexualisation of children etc) and if games are art then there exists a line that shouldn't be crossed as well.

                  This isn't my best writing sorry, I am frigging tired!

    Not my cup of tea, I won't play it. Others will, good for them.

    Some things don't deserve an explanation. This game is incredibly clear in what makes it horrible and awful and unacceptable. Steam did the right thing.

    Looking forward to playing it. :)

    I'm glad you did write this article; you had me at "NOTICE ME NOTICE ME AAAAAAA ONLY AFI UNDERSTANDS ME."

    The biggest sin we are all guilty of is even acknowledging this game even exists, i could go on and make a long winded speech about how this game is no different than GTA or Postal but the less said about this game the better, the last thing we need is to keep telling people this game exists.

    I still look forward to seeing how the game turns out.

    Are the people complaining genuinely concerned or just neckbeards mad that Steam are taking things on a case by case consideration instead of blanket black and white technicalities?

    Because there's no correct like technically correct. The best kind of correct.

    Last edited 16/12/14 1:32 pm

    Valve used judgement on hatred creators: it's supereffective
    hatred creators used taunt: it doesn't effect valve

    Valves choice, won't harm their service at all. No doubt the game is still available via other avenues.

    It's tough to call out Valve on this I think. Steam is their own platform, and how they choose to handle it is up to them. The issue I think is that every person has a different perspective on what should or shouldn't be allowed - and from what I've heard of Valves' work culture, it's not just a simple "management wants explicitly this" way of thinking there.

    Also, particularly with pop culture and te internet, what is "Ok" one day can be "hell no" the next. It's hard to write policies saying explicitly "we don't allow this" without both limiting creativity as well as coaxing the wrong people to challenge the rules. With such broad statements, Valve allow the medium to grow and flourish without saying "No."

    I think, personally, in this case, they've not allowed it because of the reaction the world has had to this game. Valve see this as the "right" thing to do. Whether it is not is a whole nother question, but you know. Apart from that, they allow a lot of things in the name of forwarding the medium and letting creativity flourish.

    Meanwhile, Hatred‘s creators are continuing to do what they have done since day one: revel in how “controversial” their game is, how far pushing people’s buttons has taken them. This despite the fact that Hatred is an angsty pastiche of a truly horrific event, shock entertainment waving its arms and bellowing, “NOTICE ME NOTICE ME AAAAAAA ONLY AFI UNDERSTANDS ME.” It would have been edgy in the ’90s. Now it’s just kind of embarrassing."

    Article headline is: Controversial Shooting Game Pulled from Steam Greenlight.

    Seems legit.

    was not aware of this before but looks excellent. cheers for heads up kotaku!

    This will soon be on television, and soon after every kid/child will own a copy. Well done.

    Last edited 16/12/14 2:31 pm

    When I saw the trailer a few months ago, I saw this coming....

    Gabe Newell, thank you. These neo nazi human filth deserve nothing, thank you for preventing these hateful sickos and their awful game from Steam release :)

    (I was heavily against GTA V being removed, but is a proper video game and isn't made my Nazis, this is a poor game made my Nazis using controversy to sell)

    Last edited 16/12/14 2:56 pm

    I wouldn't play this but I really question the sickening, reactionary moral stance to this. I mean, we've already simplified so VERY much about gaming and storytelling in the last few years in order to reinforce our various moral stances. My problem isn't really the game, it's our immature reactionary stance to this.

    Meanwhile Hatred continues to manufacture controversy, and that’s not OK.

    Look at that crap. Why is it not OK? WHY? Doesn't almost every website try and pull a social, cultural or political issue out of seemingly mundane or inappropriate situations whilst ignoring relevant, sensible and considered discourse? Doesn't THIS website do that constantly?

    I’ll be straight with you: I was really conflicted over even writing this article. Is calling attention to Hatred‘s bullshit worth giving them more exposure, stoking the flames of a silly, manufactured non-troversy?

    *slow clap*

    Way to go, you are firm in your beliefs. Good on you for telling everyone how to feel about something they haven't played or experienced yet. I'm sure Hatred has no depth and is surely using violence for attention but that being said, I can't be sure and even the greatest pieces of creative work can take ages of time and effort to really wrap your head around. (do NOT incorrectly tie this comment to HATRED)

    My problem here is we're promoting passionate, immediate, reactionary judgement and i'm not sure that's OK. Some games need a bit of time to actually break down what separates a game like this to another similarly violent, though perhaps more morally valuable title. This really feels like one of those article solely designed to distance themselves from what they perceive to be immoral whilst attempting to insult anyone who thinks differently through indirect condemnation. It provides no actual reasoning besides ironically promoting hatred for HATRED and encourages us to simplify right and wrong, story and representation in order to justify a moral stance.

    I want to know why I shouldn't play this game, I've seen its presentation and thought it was vile because they used mean words and hurt seemingly innocent people. However, here are games out now where you are able to murder loads of innocents (and even more if you want to get political on war games) but without the tone and look of this one. This just seems like it's simplifying a conversation that should actually be far more complicated and insightful. Is Trainspotting actually a pro-heroin film?

      Finally, some sense shows up.

      The game is certainly twisted, perhaps one might say "fucked up", but this whole situation (Valve's involvement aside) just reeks of "I don't like this game and I don't want you to play it".

    I don't begrudge the game existing, but I also don't mind things being made difficult for them.
    If they're going to revell in the positive PR benefits of all the negative reaction, they can enjoy some of the negative consequences, too.

    Last edited 16/12/14 3:24 pm

    I have no interest in this game and it doesn’t look entertaining to me.
    That said, I don’t see a huge leap between a bunch of mums demanding that every violent video game be banned and the gamers who find this game uncomfortable and want it to be banned. I’m seeing a lot of similar statements like “well if you find this entertaining there’s something wrong with you”. Who are you to judge? If you can accept that video games don’t make people violent then what harm is it that someone could find something of value in this? Did you get similarly outraged at Carmageddon where you were rewarded with running over innocents? What line of distinction are you drawing between what is acceptable and not acceptable? No wait, scratch that. It’s irrelevant. Nobody is forcing you to play it, so if you don’t like it don’t. I see all of these attitudes as branches from the same tree.
    This is aimed at people wanting this game to be banned across the board. Not at Steam or whatever other distributor who doesn’t want to sell it. They can make their own decisions.

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