With the recent controversy over Hatred, a game about a nameless trenchcoat man going on a murderous rampage after being frustrated with the world, which got momentarily banned from Steam, sparked immense controversy over its violent trailer and caused lots of hysteria, I really wanted to think this one through.
Can video games cause violence?
Encourage? In a very specific way, yes.
However, as wierd as it sounds, Hatred is actually more of a game that would discourage violence than encourage it.
I’ve written a few posts about how competitive human vs human games are self-destructive, encourage a toxic community and encourage the player to see other human beings as objectified titles, such as “winner” or “loser”. I also wrote about the Power of Encouragement which talks about how an immersive environment shapes the inhabitant to behave towards a certain way by using human psychology.
One thing is for certain; you can influence humans through video games. Especially more so if the player is with a game and its community for an extended period of time. Anyone who plays video games or really, any hobby or activity, will acquire habits, mannerisms, ideas and traits, sometimes without even realizing them until much later.
I’ve played video games my entire life and this has been true for me. During my time with Soldat, a multiplayer shooter game, I noticed how I cared less for the action I originally enjoyed the game for and focused more on the metagame of scoring arbitrary points to win. Calling inexperienced players as noobs felt like a normality and trash talk seemed like an ok thing to do.
I had been exposed to a lot of violent media and I noticed a couple interesting things about it. If the piece depicted violence realistically, in a more grounded way, I would be less likely to think about wanting to see that shit in real life. Meanwhile, if violence was depicted in a piece as a thing of normality and cartoonishly, with using tactics like censoring gore, not keeping the consequences real, brushing off violent acts as no big deal, I’d be more likely to accept as violence a way to solve a problem in real life.
This was especially more so when I was younger and immersed more in the latter than the former. It can distort the view of the world in a real way. A young inexperienced mind or one that has been immersed in a falsifying environment for a very long period can forget reality and accept violence as an ok thing to do in real life.
Which brings me back to Hatred.
Hatred, as violent, brutal and dark as it is, depicts violence in a very believable way. In the trailer, you can see as the player’s victims are terrified shitless. Notice how everything around the player begs them to stop doing it, with people screaming in terror, police trying to subdue you, peace and happiness having completely gone from this world. Its ugly and terrible. Its satisfying too, but only for so long as your anger lasts when playing this.
As a way to unwind and manage anger, it does the job nicely, as it designed to be. However, it doesn’t hide or censor violence in any way while doing it, showing very clearly how fucked up it would be if this happened in real life. This is a good thing. Hatred does it right.
By being as brutal and controversial as it is, its actually discouraging the player to this in real life, believe it or not. By keeping it somewhat realistic, it gives a better depiction of what violence is like in real life, thus allowing the player to witness the consequences and horror that come with it, which should make them more aware of what its like, for real.
Meanwhile, a cartoon like Tom & Jerry or something else censored that depicts violence as a normality, a funny thing and as something that has no consequences, does the opposite of what Hatred does and leaves the viewer unaware of what violence really does, thereby making it more easier to try violence in real life. Until someone actually gets hurt, that is.
With that said, if I’d like children to be less likely to consider violence to solve their problems, I’d prefer to show the kids some Hatred, Manhunt and Bestgore.com instead of letting them play call of duty multiplayer, watch Tom & Jerry and tell them that Santa Claus is real.
Merry Christmas by the way.
One last thing I’d like to mention is that besides showing realistic violence to repulse people from using it in real life and considering it a normality would be to follow it up with suggestions of non-violent alternatives to solve whatever problems they may be having at less cost, than if you would have used violence instead.
This is one thing that Hatred and any other super violent games are missing, but it can’t be helped since you can’t always include everything in a game. Still, realistic brutality and violence is much better than censoring it.
TL;DR: Cartoon violence is bad. Real brutal violence is good.