2015’s Cautiously Optimistic Games – GameSided Roundtable

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Mytheos Holt (Twitter)

2015 is probably going to be a big year for games, and I suspect that my fellow writers are going to pick any number of the multitude of A-list titles set to come out next year. But for me, there is only one choice that I can only describe myself as being “most cautiously optimistic” about.

That game would be “Hatred,” the title so controversial it recently got banned from Steam’s “Greenlight” service (Editor’s note: before getting reinstated back on Steam by Gabe Newell himself), despite the fact that similar titles such as “Manhunt” and “Postal 2” are still allowed.

But unlike those games, “Hatred” comes from an era when gaming is no longer considered a story-deprived backwater for children and the perpetually immature. “Hatred,” instead, is a thumb in the eye both of the sorts of people who want to turn video games into nothing but therapeutic empathy simulators, and of the sorts of overly safe producers who view controversy of any kind as a scarlet letter.

I’ve already written at great length about what “Hatred” means for the industry elsewhere, so I won’t repeat myself, but suffice to say, this is a game that will be made or broken on the basis of its quality, and with it, possibly a variety of transgressive experimentation that the games industry has missed for far too long. Gaming has bred an excess of sacred cows recently, and someone needs to treat them the way Diablo II’s protagonists treated the fictional protagonists of the famously surreal “Cow Level.”

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“Hatred” spurns all the sacrosanct protections against criticism that substandard games have used recently. It cannot stand on the basis of established franchise cachet. It cannot pretend that its story or graphics will act as substitutes for the enjoyability of the experience. Its content spits in the face of political correctness rather than hiding behind it. It is only good gameplay, and good gameplay alone, that will make the title succeed. And if the game’s creators’ stated intentions are any guide, they are trying to make a game that stands or falls on that basis.

Therefore, if they do their job right, this game should be such ghoulish fun that it will hopefully reorient the art form around its proper purpose: Innovation in the service of entertainment and interactivity, rather than stale imitation of the visual wonders of film or the empty pretenses of what passes for high art. I don’t expect to be able to tell if it succeeds on the basis of game reviews — the game’s unpleasant premise will probably turn any number of reviewers off — but I will be watching the user scores on Metacritic like a hawk.

And if the system requirements are not too high for my computer, I will hopefully be able to see for myself if this, the most daring venture in video gaming in years, finally blasts a misanthropic bullet hole through the miasma of pretentiousness that games have indulged and lets the fresh air of artistic self-expression back in.

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