Imagine you have a job — any job. You may not be the best at it, but you make a living. Some people enjoy your work, and some don’t.
Now, imagine you are all set to speak on your profession at a college, but you receive an email promising the worst school massacre in history if you appear. Oh, and earlier that week, someone posted your address on Twitter then threatened to sexually assault and murder you and your parents because of your job.
Sounds crazy, right?
Media critic Anita Sarkeesian experienced this and more over her latest video entry in a series of feminist critiques of the video game industry. She canceled her appearance at Utah State University Tuesday after local law enforcement couldn’t guarantee that no weapons would be brought to her speech due to the state’s concealed carrying laws.
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This insanity is the latest terrible chapter in the true black mark on gaming: Gamergate.
I’ve known about Gamergate (or, in some circles, #gamergate) since its inception in August — every video game journalist has. It began as a public outcry for investigations into incidents of video game journalists’ unethical practices, or so its proponents would have you believe.
Gamergate’s decent points were buried under a pile of online hate speech, but I felt like the movement could still be redeemed. It is very diverse, so maybe the good apples could bring the bad ones into line.
And then the death threats poured in. There’s no redemption after that — no mending of fences. It’s over. Any shred of good anyone associated with Gamergate could do was destroyed the moment someone issued a death threat. And, there were many such threats issued to several women.
I don’t know how it ever got to this point, but I know that two months of reading about it has turned me off to game journalism. I used to proudly identify as a gaming journalist, with a metro reporting hobby, but now I don’t know what I am.
It freaks me out, too. I am worried about various cyber-attacks because of my writing, profession or friends. I report from violent crime scenes pretty much every week, but I am more worried about video game writing. That is ridiculous.
These worries are a tiny fraction of what women like Sarkeesian must go through every day.
When mainstream media outlets started running these stories, I thought that the gaming community may have sunk to an all-time low.
I knew for certain it had reached rock-bottom when I woke up Thursday morning and learned that a Polish game developer put some considerable effort into creating “Hatred,” a video game placing players squarely at the helm of a mass-murdering rampage through suburban New York.
The game isn’t out yet, but its reveal trailer debuted to overwhelming disgust late Wednesday night. The trailer shows the main character arming himself while reciting a chilling speech about his hatred, then he starts murdering.
This isn’t the first video game where players kill innocent people. The Grand Theft Auto franchise immediately comes to mind. This is different. The sole purpose of “Hatred” is to kill innocent people. I don’t think it has any redeeming qualities. It doesn’t look fun, and I don’t see any artistic value in it. In “Grand Theft Auto V.” virtually all collateral damage is voluntary. I never kill innocent people in that game. “Hatred” would require me to do that and only that.
The game’s website, destructivecreations.pl, is even more upsetting.
Developer Destructive Creations calls “Hatred” a “pure gaming pleasure.” It acknowledges the abhorrent nature of its creation, but the website excuses this in the name of creating something different. There’s even this weird disclaimer that tells people not to try this at home and not to take it too seriously, followed by a smiley face that creeped me out way more than it should have.
I’ve seen massacre games before, but they were simple flash games created by one individual and placed online somewhere. “Hatred” was created by a skilled development group that likely received funding for this endeavor. The team is preparing for a legitimate worldwide launch.
A few columns ago, I praised the United States for never having banned a game. I am not calling for the government to do so now, but I honestly wouldn’t be that upset if it did. My initial feelings when I saw this trailer were simply that “Hatred” may have crossed a line that I didn’t know existed.
The video gaming community saw a threat of a massacre over a public speech on gaming and the debut trailer for a game based solely around committing similar massacres — in the same week. I think we could all use some good news.