Upon taking the game down, Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi hissed: "Based upon what we've seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam".
Cue the usual gnarly types decrying the move as knee-jerk censorship and a further infringement on their civil liberties – particularly in light of GTAV getting pulled from certain Australian supermarkets.
In much the same way as the National Rifle Association gets up in arms whenever there’s a debate about tighter gun controls in the wake of a school shooting, certain gamers are becoming ever more vocal about their right to play whatever games they want to play, regardless of content.
Remember Postal? Hatred is a similar senseless murder spree sim – with a lead character on a “genocide crusade” - but with better, more realistic graphics. As a company, with a shopfront, Valve has every right to sell only what it wants to sell, and remove it if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Nobody had erased the game from existence; there would've just been one less place to buy it.
However, once Valve took it down, the outcry was such that Hatred became the most voted game on Steam - and it was swiftly reinstated.
The game's developer Destructive Creations (says it all) posted an email on its website, purporting to be from Valve boss Gabe Newell:
“Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers.”
Frankly – from the perspective of being a bit of a liberal sop - it appears difficult to justify the existence of any game which seemingly revels in wanton, senseless murder without taking any sort of objective moral overview. Living, as we unfortunately do, in a world where wanton, senseless murder is all too frequent, it appears at the very least to be a little insensitive.
However, the sheer fact it ever existed in the first place suggests it was something that people wanted to play. The question is: why? Why are so many games built on a foundation of conflict and violence? What is it about them that so many of us enjoy?
Violence has always been a part of video games, right back to the very origins of the hobby with Computer Space and Spacewar! (the clue is in the name)
Admittedly, there’s a gulf between Space Invaders’ bloodless, pixelated alien battles, and electrocuting and pouring petrol over someone in Grand Theft Auto V, but that was the limitation of the technology rather than a product of a more innocent time. We had to make our own entertainment back in those days - standing around the family piano, blasting away at it with shotguns.
The biggest selling games of this year are all violent to some extent or another; obviously, GTAV is excessively violent. Likewise Far Cry 4, Call of Duty, Battlefield etc. etc.. Dark Souls 2, Dragon Age Inquisition, Shadow of Mordor – you can dress your game up in airy-faery fantasy clothing, but it’s still about slicing people and monsters with sharp objects. It's a rush.
Even Nintendo isn’t immune. His adventures may be bloodless and cartoony, but lest we forget that Mario literally jumps on the backs of turtles, ejecting them out of their shells. That’s the sort of thing that would get you ejected from Seaworld (trust me on this).
Like sex, violence sells, and violence is part of our culture, and part of being human. Simulated violence offers a safe adrenaline hit – that’s the high you get when you finish off a particularly challenging level boss. It is also - at least, according to a 2012 Ohio State University study - likely to make you more aggressive and hostile.
"Playing video games could be compared to smoking cigarettes," honked Professor Brad Bushman, who conducted the study (possibly from inside a bush).
"A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression.”
If you ask us, though, it's hardly conclusive - and none of the other studies carried out into the effects of violent media have ever reached a concrete conclusion, and that's why it's a topic which continues to be so hotly debated.
Like many of you, I've played a lot of violent video games over the years, and I've yet to go on a single killing spree (I have come terrifyingly close a few times, mind...).
I don't recognise myself in that study - I can lay on the sofa and spend 8 hours killing people and animals in Far Cry 4 (as I regrettably did the first day I got it) - and not feel it's affecting my behaviour one iota.
In fact, if anything, I probably kill fewer animals and people after playing games. The only effect that session seemed to have on me was making me feel guilty for being a horrible slob. But then - contrary to reports - I'm probably not mental.
Something you might not know, but during the 7 or so years that I wasn't being Mr Biffo, I spent several years training as a psychotherapist. It was something that I ultimately fell out of love with (that's another story), but part of the training was learning to meditate. Yes, that's right: meditate, like some dirty, stinking hippy.
It was something I struggled with - I couldn't ever quite reach that zen place, my mind would wander, or I'd get the giggles (on one occasion, following a discussion on suicide statistics among health workers, I had a near fit trying to repress my mirth because my mind kept repeatedly replaying the old joke "Why are so many dentists depressed? Because they're always looking down in the mouth").
The only way I really ever found my escape, my zen place, was to play games at home. Rather than filling my mind with images, it emptied it. Games were, are - and always have been - my meditation.
But that's just me. I dunno, but how many of these game studies have been carried out on people with a tendency towards violence? You might get a dozen students who play violent video games, but it only takes one of them to pick up a gun and wipe out the rest.
That's not any sort of moral judgement on violent games - that's just the reality. We all share common ground, but as a species of individuals, all of us are different, all of us respond to stimuli in different ways.
But it's that damaged, impenetrable minority which cause the real problems. In a study of 70 random people, it's all too likely that you won't have that one bag of damaged goods that you need to really study the potential effects of violent games.
Does that mean violent games should be banned - because there potentially are nuts out there who might be inspired by them to take up arms, or explode a bear? Probably not. But it also doesn't mean that Valve, Target - and whomever - don't also have a right to remove those games from sale if they feel uncomfortable about them.
Please don't kill me.