Defective Products: Postal, Hatred, and For-Profit Controversy

Games Features
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Defective Products: <i>Postal</i>, <i>Hatred</i>, and For-Profit Controversy

In 1997, Jack Thompson began his path to infamy by attempting to sue the creators of Doom, Resident Evil, and others in relation to the Heath High School shooting, citing that they were “defective products” which were capable of turning players into killers.

As the shitstorm began to build that year, Postal was released in which you kill hundreds of innocent people as they attempt to defend themselves. I will, briefly, talk about the gameplay:

It’s really bad. The controls are somehow simultaneously stiff and slippery. Despite being isometric, making the camera angle fixed for each level as it tracks the player, the game uses tank controls with the character moving in relation to the mouse. Describing Postal as something you can “play” might actually be a mistake. You could be playing Doom, but instead you’re wrestling with the controls, standing still to shoot, and fighting hordes of boring, easy enemies as you do it.

But Postal didn’t need to be good. It needed to be controversial. Getting called a dangerous threat to public safety was giving Doom free publicity, and Running With Scissors wanted in. This tactic was at least financially successful enough to warrant an expansion and a sequel.

In 2015, Polish dev Destructive Creations found Running With Scissors’ playbook in the dumpster wrapped in a trench coat. Hatred, the studio’s first game, is essentially a remake of Postal, in terms of both raw gameplay and its marketing strategy.

The developers wrote on their website that they view the game as a response to the “polite, colorful, and politically correct” trends in gaming. Their rhetoric precisely targets the subset of gamers who believe gaming has been taken over by bleeding heart liberals. The Bad People are injecting their agendas into games. But don’t worry – our game has no agenda. You can take gaming back… for a one-off fee.

Too bad it’s not a very fun video game. The controls are a bit better than its spiritual parent, but somehow everything else is worse.

The game has a hilariously silly, ‘gritty’ filter over it. Everything is in a hazy monochrome, except for very specific things. Blood, of course, shows up red, but a dark, dull red that doesn’t pop out against the rest of the world. The result is an experience supposedly about creating a bloodbath, but in which the bloodbath is hard to see. This isn’t just an artistic problem. The people shooting back at you are hiding somewhere in that nonsense-mess of a colour scheme too. As bad as Postal was, you could at least see the 4-polygon people you were immolating. The only moments with enough clarity to be brutal are the pre-animated Executions, which get old quickly. They are also the only way to restore your health, so you have no choice but to perform them constantly. Murder has never been so methodical, boring, and repetitive!

There’s value in being transgressive. Courting controversy can be an opportunity to get across completely fresh ideas, or old ones in a newly compelling manner. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a book of meditations on the useful aspects of religion to be reclaimed for culture at large so even atheists could express them, then called the book The Antichrist so it would sell. But for being transgressive to be valuable, you do have to produce that whole ‘value’ thing. Hatred is The Antichrist if the text consisted of Linkin Park lyrics.

According to metrics on Steam, only around a quarter of players beat the game even once. Hatred takes on average a little over four hours to finish. If a huge portion of players couldn’t be bothered to play it for that long, I’d say that makes it almost objectively a bad, uncompelling videogame for a majority of players. Jack Thompson would be correct if he were to call Hatred a defective product. No-one really wanted to play it.

‘Fans’ of Hatred and Postal are, literally, not actually fans of the games. They’re fans of the idea the games marketed themselves as representing.

review1.png

This steam review, whose author’s avatar is the main character from the Postal series, highly recommends Hatred despite only being able to stomach playing it for under two and a half hours.

I wonder if he ever really will “Hatred again,” or if the product has served its purpose to be a vessel through which to express distaste for random other people on the internet, and can now be discarded?

review2.png

“Thanks Steam for the hours of entertainment.”

0.8 hours on record.

And that’s not even getting into the cesspool of well-adjusted humans with great priorities explaining the merits of Hatred in twitter. Some even wish for mods to directly put prominent “SJWs” in the game to slaughter. We’re seeing the hilarious admission that Hatred wasn’t violent or hateful enough toward their perceived ideological opponents.

These gamers are haunted by Jack Thompson. No, worse than haunted – possessed by his specter, gesticulating wildly about the hipster-glasses wearing, tumblr-reading demons who somehow threaten gaming in much the same way as Thompson’s old free-associative screeds about the hellish nightmare in store for the world if Rockstar lets you kiss a boy in Bully.

Being a fan of Hatred requires that you see the world in the same false hues as its principal character. In place of varying criticisms of both gameplay and the ideological implications of a work, you see Triggered SJWs trying to ruin gaming by being offended. In this delusional fantasy, Hatred stands tall and heroic, a reminder that you don’t have to care what other people think—but make sure to tell them you don’t, constantly, on twitter!

You have to hand it to Hatred’s team. They have successfully sold a bad game to idiots by positioning empty posturing no-one will even notice they did on their computer as a revolutionary act. Did you have any fun with this bad twin stick shooter you could only stand for an hour? Probably not. But you’re showing them! That’ll be fifteen dollars!
Hatred was supposed to prove that gaming shouldn’t have an agenda, and that being free of the SJW influence would result in better games. Instead it simply re-proved the old adage that fools and their money are soon parted.

One other ‘anti-SJW’ for-profit grisgris, a documentary called the Sarkeesian Effect, features Jack Thompson himself as a prominent interviewee. In this doc he’s one of the good guys, siding with gamers against the dangers of feminism. The documentary was largely dismissed even by those who agree with its thesis, not because it’s bad, but because it’s embarrassingly honest and direct about who their real allies are.
Thompson has been living in the minds of idiots for so long that they have adopted his rhetoric and tactics. Some even recognise Thompson himself as an ally.

For some, the lesson of Thompson’s bizarre claims and stupid lawsuits was to become less like Thompson. For others, the only real problem with Thompson and his tactics was that he wasn’t targeting “the right people.”

Harry Brewis is a writer and media critic. He mostly makes content for his channel, youtube.com/user/hbomberguy.

Also in Games