Hatred: Context vs. Content and Morality in Videogames

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Videogames can be violent sometimes. People seem to like them that way. In fact, of the top 10 best-selling videogames of 2014 in the US (according to msn.com), half of them were rated “M” by the ESRB. The biggest titles in the gaming market today are full of graphic, gory images of death and destruction. Call of Duty, Titanfall, Battlefield, The Last of Us, and the behemoth known as Grand Theft Auto V, all contain heavily violent images and themes, but no one seems to bat an eye. But along comes a little PC title from developer Destructive Creations called Hatred, and it’s gathering attention to the now seemingly age-old question: are video games getting too violent? I’m just not sure we’re asking the right questions.
Hatred was announced back in October by releasing a trailer that featured a dark, brooding, cloaked man reciting a generic “I hate everyone,” expletive-laced monologue while gathering weapons and walking out of his front door, proceeding to use his assault rifle to mow down every innocent person on the nearby street. The trailer continues, showing extremely graphic, execution-style murders and the destruction that is possible in the game, set to release in 2015. The trailer, which I cannot in good conscious recommend anyone to view, is unsettling and unapologetically controversial. For the first time in my life, a videogame made me actually feel uneasy. I felt bad for having seen it. This was deeply disturbing imagery that I had not been desensitized to. I have seen plenty of violence in videogames before, but was it really the content of the trailer that made me feel this way, or the context?
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On December 15, Hatred appeared on Steam Greenlight, which is a platform for gamers to choose what games are added to Steam’s library. The game was removed from Greenlight within hours. Destructive Creations were level-headed and understanding, saying:
“Even though games like Manhunt or Postal are still available on Steam we of course fully respect Valve’s decision, as they have the right to do so.”
Apparently, Valve co-founder and hero of the PC Gaming Master Race, Gabe Newell, saw this as a good point because he had Hatred put back up on Steam Greenlight and issued a personal apology to Destructive Creations. Hatred is now rated number one on the service. Obviously, the people have spoken. They want this game, but should they get it?
One might ask why a game like this is even made. It may not inspire mass shootings like some politicians believe, as there are numerous studies that show no correlation between videogame violence and violent behavior in the real world, but any creation needs an audience, so who is this game for?
Destructive Creations has every right to make this game, as this is ‘MURICA and they have the freedom to do so, but I personally don’t think anyone should play it. Of course, I feel this way and you may feel this way because we’re Christians and our morals are based in God’s Word. This is where the disconnect lies; the morals of a Christ-follower and the morals of the world are two very different things. Some people don’t see the problem with a game like Hatred. Gratuitous killing, just for the sake of killing, with the only reward being death doesn’t even trip some people’s moral trigger just because it’s in videogame form. But if we’re honest with ourselves, Christians are the same way as long as the context is okay; even if the content is not.
Philippians 4:8 (The Message) “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
As Christians, we’re challenged to keep our minds fully focused on (and dedicated to) Jesus and His business and His Kingdom. The old principal of “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind. A lot of Christians (myself included) are playing Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and other games with graphic violence and foul language, yet we would find a game like Hatred deplorable, or, at the very least, deeply disturbing. This is not because of the content of the game; we kill in plenty of games. This is because of the context.
I feel like the idea of embodying a sociopathic mass murderer when the objective is to brutally end the lives of as many people as possible before your own inevitable demise should be something that repels a Christian. Yet, in GTA V, we go on a rampage and take out as many people as possible, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Is this because that’s not always the main objective? Maybe it’s because the setting of Los Santos is a beautiful, colorful, sprawling world? If we feel that way, that means we’re bothered by context, instead of content.
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This is not intended to be a tirade against any and all “Mature”-rated games or anything with violence and foul language, because there is a factor that varies for each and every Christian: conviction. Conviction is your personal connection with God, guiding you away from things you shouldn’t be doing and towards things you should be doing. Some convictions vary from person to person; for instance, I choose not to drink alcohol at all, while other Christians find no problem with it. But conviction is the tool we can use as Christians to analyze things in our life and see if it’s something that is okay for us.
At some point in our walk with Christ, we all have to take a good, hard look at the things that we let into our minds and hearts and be brutally honest with ourselves, and with God, to see if it’s truly okay for us to intake. Should we stay away from the context of a game like Hatred, or steer clear of the content of a game like GTA V? Those are questions answered between you and God.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV) “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.”
Sure, you can play a game like Hatred or GTA V or Super Smash Bros or Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (if you’re into broken, awful messes). But it is up to you to determine if it’s beneficial.
A topic like this is an ongoing subject that definitely has more than one angle. This article is just my opinion and may not even reflect the opinion of the other writers at Geeks Under Grace. If you have an opinion on violent or mature games, sound off in the comments section below, but I pray that every reader has or develops a strong enough relationship with Christ that you can feel His direction for your life clearly.

Jon Hill

I'm a 28 year old husband, father of 3, Christian DJ, PlayStation fanboy, and retro video game collector from Chesapeake, VA.

8 Comments

  1. Noah storeyarcher on January 15, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    I personally play a lot of shooters, but i only play shooters in which you are the protagonist, protecting the innocents, like some recent examples: Far Cry 4, battlefield 4, ect. I also prefer games where you get to kill demons, cause in a symbolic way, its like killing my own demons. But me, personally, i believe in justified killing. I hate games like gta 5 and games like that, but love games like far cry 4 and skyrim. In my opinion, games are what i use to relive stress, not create it. And i think that god would prefer me to play games, rather then fornicate and take drugs. But, once again, these are all my opinions. Great article, jon

  2. Cooper D Barham on December 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I think this game, as a whole, is mostly going to fail. Because, at least from what I’ve seen and heard about it, it sounds incredibly boring. There is no story. There are no characters. The gameplay never changes or improves upon itself. Most violence-inclined players will probably even be turned off to it before long, because it’s all flare and no substance, from a development perspective.

    And I don’t worry about violence in videogames influencing the general populace to be more violent, as like you said, there is minimal correlation between those things. What I worry about is that this game will inspire a single hurting soul, already in that dark place, to take their motives one step further. Because unfortunately, there are a lot of people already filled with a lot of hatred. I know, I work with violent teenagers on a daily basis. Hatred everywhere.

    • Jon Hill on December 19, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Yeah that’s my other beef with the game: it doesn’t even look fun and definitely doesn’t look like it will bring anything new or innovative to the table in terms of gameplay. This game doesn’t seem to have anything you can’t do in GTA and at least Los Santos is an interesting world to play in. Thanks for the comment

    • Michael M. on December 22, 2014 at 1:18 am

      I personally do believe that violent video games beget to violence. Of course, not to a big extreme that most kids are going to buy weapons and hurt others, but what you watch/listen to/interact with/game etc. does influence you whether you want it to or not. Just like second hand smoke, you may not be doing the smoking but your in the environment where it’s happening and you get affected regardless.

      As Christians, I stand firm on being careful with what we allow into our eyes.

      Matthew 6:22-23
      22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

  3. Eric Jeter on December 19, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    For me, I like games with good gameplay (mechanics). Sometimes, that means I’d go out of the way and play games with mature content. For example, I like Double Action: Boogaloo because you can jump and dash around like you would in the matrix, while shooting people. I like to think of it as playing lazer tag, matrix style, online. Does that mean that I’m completely ignoring the fact that there is violence involved? I recognize that it can be taken that way, seeing that it involves guns.

    You hit the nail on the head with this article though. Content and context should be analyzed in anything you engage in. I also recognize that, as Christians, we don’t reject reality, we see reality as it is, through the eyes of Jesus. Would Jesus fly around as Neo in the Matrix? I’ll leave that for another discussion, however, you know what I mean. 😉 Cheers for a great article!

    • Jon Hill on December 19, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks for reading, bro! I play violent games too like I said, but I definitely want to start being more mindful of what my mind intakes, though.

  4. Wesley Wood on December 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Good work!

    • Jon Hill on December 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks brah

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