Did Steam censor Hatred? (UPDATE)

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hatred grinch

When it was initially announced, Hatred caused quite a stir. Developers responded to the controversy, and then the game was released on Steam Greenlight. However, all did not go well from there.

For those who need a reminder of what the game is all about, here is their Steam Greenlight teaser:

(And a non-YouTube version for those who need it)

Here is the official PR blurb for what the game is all about:

Hatred is an isometric shooter with a disturbing atmosphere of mass killing, where player takes the role of a cold blood antagonist, who is full of hatred for humanity. It’s a horror, but here YOU are the villain. Wander the outskirts of New York State, seek for victims on seven free-roam levels. Fight against law enforcement and take a journey into the antagonist’s hateful mind. Gather equipment of the dead ‘human shields’, to spread Armageddon in the society. Destroy everything on your way of hunt and fight back when it’s disturbed.

There was no doubt in the developer’s minds of what the game was about. It’s meant to be disturbing, it’s meant to be hateful and highlight exactly how disturbed someone must be to engage in these reprehensible activities. However, that self-awareness didn’t protect them from Valve. After only a couple hours on Steam Greenlight, they received the following message:

We wanted you guys to know that based on what we see on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we’ll be taking it down.

According to the developers, they won’t treat this as failure. In only a couple hours, Hatred reached #7 on Greenlight with over 13 000 up votes. There are obviously fans of the game and things are still on schedule for the game to release in Q2 2015. Their press release cites other violent games that are still listed on Steam, such as Manhunt or Postal, but they respect Valve’s decision and will just move on with development.

After about a day off Greenlight, Hatred has suddenly returned without any explanation. The developers apparently don’t even know what’s happening, but at least you can go and vote for the game if it’s something that you’d like to see released. Remember, you can also vote against the game, so if it’s something that you think shouldn’t be shown in public, you can send that message to the developers, too.

I understand where Steam was coming from. There has been a lot of outcry against the game – it is seen as propagating the image of games as purely violent, as graphic and obscene for no added benefit. And, that might have been true of Hatred. However, I simply can’t agree with this form of censorship. The game is about equal opportunity hatred, it isn’t targeting one group, and it is meant to show just how depraved someone must be in order to go on this kind of killing spree. I know, there will be those who are depraved and will see this as some kind of inspiration, and when that happens people will point at violent games yet again and have good cause to do so. That said, if someone is that broken inside that they feel the compulsion to go on a killing spree, I don’t think the presence of (or lack thereof) this game will really change things. As soon as you start censoring one type of game, it becomes a slippery slope before you’re censoring even more. I don’t know if Hatred will be a good game, but I’ve seen far worse on Steam and other outlets. It seems Hatred is a victim of its own success – if it weren’t as popular and criticized, Valve wouldn’t have even cared.

At least the game is back on Greenlight, letting the public decide if it’s worthwhile. Steam is allowed to list or de-list any game they like – as a game distribution channel this isn’t technically censorship because they aren’t stopping a game from being created, although not being allowed on Steam can seriously inhibit a game’s success – most indies strive to get on Steam for a reason.

Do you think this was a good or a bad move from Steam? Should they have pulled it, or kept it pulled? Do games like this belong out there in public view, or is the harm it could do greater than the possible entertainment value? Censorship of any kind (even if technically this isn’t censorship but simply a decision not to sell a product) gets me worried – who makes these decisions and based on what criteria?

UPDATE: Gabe himself apparently reached out to the team to apologize for the game takedown. In an email sent to the studio and shown off on Facebook, Gabe said:

Hi, Jaroslaw.

Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers.

Good luck with your game.

Gabe

Yet another reason to love Gabe Newell.

Last Updated: December 17, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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