It’s an exciting day in in the world of gaming. Today marks the release of Hatred, the highly anticipated ultra-violent shoot-em-up game that has attracted widespread outrage across across the gaming and mainstream press.
Social justice warriors, falling pathetically in line behind an army of cross halfwits like Feminist Frequency’s Jonathan McIntosh, have spent a lot of effort trying to suppress the title. But hilariously – and predictably – their efforts have backfired.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of fictional ultra-violence. Indeed, I’m so keen on Postal 2 – another beautifully sadistic massacre game – that the developers made me a character in their latest expansion pack.
From what I’ve seen of Hatred, it looks right up my blood-soaked alley.
But the funny thing is, I have to thank social justice warriors for bringing this delightful game to my attention. We all do, really. Because, if it weren’t for them, none of us would have even heard of it. Ironically, almost all of Hatred’s publicity has been generated by the shrieking crusaders who wanted it to be banned outright on the spurious grounds that it might incite real-world violence (but really because these coastal elite snobs don’t like the sort of people who make or play such games).
Hatred is the debut title of Destructive Creations, a medium-size Polish game design studio with very little in the way of advertising budget. It first attracted attention in late 2014, when a short gameplay clip featuring the game’s graphic and comically excessive violence began doing the rounds.
Polygon, a reliably hysterical gaming rag published by Vox Media, was first out of the gate, saying the game caused them “genuine revulsion”. And then, as night follows day, eager social justice warriors determined to prove what virtuous people they are chipped in, setting up a petition to have the game banned. Most of these people do not play, or even really care about, video games. They just enjoy making other people suffer.
By the time Steam, the web’s biggest PC games distributor, began receiving complaints about the title, Hatred was already famous across the internet, with anti-censorship gamers on the #GamerGate hashtag already pledging to protect the game from censorship.
Steam briefly decided to ban the title, but were forced into a u-turn just over a day later. An intervention from Steam CEO Gabe Newell restored Hatred to the platform, whereupon the game immediately shot to the top of the rankings. Like so many products before it, Hatred had become a symbol of rebellion against moral scolds and control freaks.
I call this phenemenon, which is a variation on the Streisand Effect, Yiannopoulos’s Law of Heckle Shekels: as the social justice butthurt generated by a consumer product rises, so do its sales figures. (For some reason gamer and chan culture are obsessed with the word “shekels,” and the rhyme was too good to resist.)
Examples of this Law are littered throughout recent consumer history. Most recently, we saw the gym supplement company Protein World rocket to fame after irritating podgy feminists with supposedly “body shaming” ads on London’s Underground. The shriekers succeeded in getting the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the ads from being displayed again, but not before Protein World had successfully harnessed the outrage to add 20,000 new customers and rack up a reported £2 million in new sales.
The increased sales paid for a second billboard campaign in New York City.
Then there was the infamous pop song Blurred Lines, which was banned on 25 university campuses in the UK for the lyric “I know you want it,” which was said to promote “rape culture.” Did the bans hurt the song? Not on your nelly!
Some companies have noticed the inexorability of the Law of Heckle Shekels. They deliberately court outrage in order to raise their profile and get a wave of free marketing from outraged tweeters and tabloid newspapers. It’s called madvertising: harnessing the power of loony outrage merchants for marketing advantage.
One of the most famous examples is the original Grand Theft Auto game, news of which was deliberately sent to police chiefs, conservative politicians, and the Daily Mail in order to whip up a buzz of fear and panic. Grand Theft Auto V made over a billion dollars, outselling the entire global music industry.
GTA’s developer, Rockstar, was probably paying attention to the metal and hard rock scene, which benefited (yes, benefited) from Tipper Gore’s “explicit lyrics” panic in the late 1980s.
Social justice warriors hated Avengers: Age of Ultron, even driving director Joss Whedon off Twitter. The movie grossed $1.2 billion.
Back in traditional retail, chicken chain Chick fil A enjoyed a boost in sales after gay activists made a mountain out of the CEO’s views on traditional marriage. A small pizza joint called Memories Pizza, whose owners also believe in the traditional definition of marriage, was targeted by radical journalists shopping around for “bigots”: customers and supporters responded by raising nearly a million dollars when the outlet had to close after threats from gay rights campaigners.
It doesn’t stop at financial profit, of course. Companies like Protein World and Destructive Creations, who stand their ground in the face of outrage and refuse to apologise gain something possibly even more valuable: ferocious loyalty and affection from their customers.
On social media, where manufactured controversy and public shaming can run amok, ordinary people instinctively side with those who refuse to give in to peer pressure. In an age of outrage, the deliberately offensive become heroes. But while outrage fades after a few weeks, the fans – and new customers – stay forever.
Far from avoiding outrage, smart companies should be thinking up new and innovative ways to offend the Tipper Gores, Jack Thompsons and Anita Sarkeesians of our day. It’s a surefire way to drum up new sales.
What, to use the language of the imageboards, would most “rustle their jimmies”? A restaurant whose menu changes according to your BMI, refusing to sell high-sugar and high-fat foods to overweight consumers? A store that declines to sell plus-sized women yoga pants? Or a reverse age limit on video games, because people over 35 are just too stupid to get it? I’m keen to hear your views.