So, it's official - Hatred is out, and selling well. And, as I predicted, it's more or less doing what a blank slate would do.
The critical response has been varied, and you can tell a lot about a critic by their reaction to Hatred. A number of them have noticed its sheer emptiness and just docked it points, wondering what the controversy was about. The dreadful people have cackled with glee, as one would expect. And most of the critics and commentators still don't know what to do with it.
As for me, I remain fascinated by Hatred. It's not often that you see somebody actually succeed in making a blank slate. And, this is a game that could so easily have turned into something just plain vile. It could have glorified the violence or the protagonist, made the violence feel exciting or justified, or directed the violence against a specific group. But, it didn't do any of those things. Whether critics realize it or not, that is an artistic choice, and an important one.
One of the games I watch the Loading Ready Run crew play is Bloodborne. And, it didn't take long before I had a disturbing realization - all of the opening levels amount to the player character going on an unprovoked murder spree against groups of people who are, by all rights, trying to protect the rest of the city from werewolves. Now, the game later has these targets turn into monsters, they are certainly hostile to begin with, and one could legitimately wonder just how sane the hunters are if they're scouring the streets for werewolves, but that murderous rampage interpretation is still there. It gets even stronger once the player starts killing people before they can even get up to attack first.
Strip all the context and story away, and what you're left with is a psychopathic killing spree... just like Hatred (albeit, by all accounts, better executed than Hatred, if you'll pardon the turn of phrase).
The world we live in can be a frightening place. Mass murders make the news far too often for comfort. Gun rights advocates carry high-powered rifles into stores and restaurants as a protest, terrifying the people around them. That the casual violence and killing we so often see in entertainment is not exciting or glorious in reality is a statement that probably needs to be made. It's interesting just how many critics failed to see that statement in Hatred, even as it very deliberately withheld any iota of joy from its gameplay.
Or, I could always be projecting. Hatred is, after all, a blank slate.
Author's Note: Next week I'm doing another Ask Me Anything on Reddit! The AMA will run from 1:30-3:30 Eastern Time on June 10th on the IAMA sub-reddit. So, come by and ask me a question!
Robert B. Marks is the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, Garwulf's Corner, and the co-author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora. His current fiction project is The Eternity Quartet, with Ed Greenwood. His Livejournal can be found here, and his Patreon-based magazine experiment, Garwulf Speaks, can be found here. He can be reached by email at garwulf at escapistmag.com.