If you know me at all, you should know that my favorite game is No More Heroes 2. The NMH series is violent, each swing of your beam katana sending hundreds of nearly faceless men to their graves, scarlet spewing from their neck stumps. The people you murder are not “innocents”, but the violence on display is blatant, exaggerated, and admittedly fun. It is fun to commit violence in a video game landscape. However, No More Heroes goes beyond that. It has something to say, “violence may feel good for a while, but in the end, you must deal with the people you have hurt, both physically and mentally. Revenge is a never ending cycle if you don’t grow up and stop it yourself.” NMH has many other things to say, but that is the most on topic lesson I could muster from the series. Using violence in a game to critique violence in games would normally be a foolish move, but in No More Heroes, Suda51 nails it, and has made me look with a much more critical eye at shooters and action games alike.
Grand Theft Auto is a troubled series. It’s famous for the often acted upon but completely optional ability to go on a mass murder spree, shooting, punching, and otherwise killing innocent bystanders. These murders are not justified, even though there are “bad guys” in the game’s missions that attack you first and require death to proceed. GTA at the very least brings consequence to your actions, raising the amount of resistance as your kill count rises. Sure, after your spree ends with your character’s demise you respawn at the nearest hospital with all of your weapons and some of your money confiscated, there is consequence, and I feel that means a lot. GTA is, like No More Heroes, also trying to say something, albeit not in any way as well said as the latter. GTA’s protagonists often end up miserable, sacrificing their friends, family, and well being in the pursuit of money and power. Violence is often their only way to the top. Even after gaining so much, they feel so little. That says plenty about violence’s true nature.
Hatred is a game currently in development. Its first trailer was released today. I won’t be linking it, because watching it made me queasy in a way I’ve never really felt before. You kill innocents in this game, like in GTA, but instead of a grunt of demise or an unfunny quip as they pass, the innocents in Hatred beg for mercy and cry out in agony, as real people would most likely do. Hatred was made to capitalize on the shittiest of people’s fantasies, and its trailer being released in the wake of the terrorist threats against Anita Sarkeesian isn’t a coincidence. Hatred only has one thing to say: “violence is fun and cool”, and that’s what separates it from other violent games. There is value in other games, there is nothing but spite and laziness in Hatred.