Last Wednesday, popular video game video and streaming website Twitch updated its Rules of Conduct in an effort to prohibit the broadcasting of games rated AO (Adults Only). In observance of special cases where two different versions of a game with explicit content (one AO rated and one “M” or “Mature” rated) exist, Twitch has clarified that it will not prohibit the streaming of the Mature versions of said cases, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
According to Twitch, the decision to completely forbid the broadcast of AO rated games came as a result of the service’s previous method of allowing and preventing streams of games on a title-to-title basis. They claim that this model was vague and difficult to maintain, hence the introduction of these updated rules of conduct.
At first glance, it seems Twitch’s decision is a pragmatic and diplomatic one. After all, one could see how frustrating it would be for contributors who don’t know which games they’d be allowed to broadcast. Their previous model for content screening was indeed flawed and it had wrought much discontent in the past. However, the timing of this ban is too coincidental, too significant to ignore.
Haters Gonna Hate
If you’re keeping up with all of the latest video game releases, you know Hatred is being released on June 1st, just five days following the amendment of Twitch’s Rules of Conduct. This is significant because Hatred was given an AO rating earlier this year, because the ESRB decided that this was worse for people to see than Mortal Kombat X:
When it comes to games rated “AO,” the decisive factor for the rating decision is often some explicit sexual content. As far as we know, Hatred has no sexual content fit for an AO rating, so it has had this rare and baleful rating bestowed upon its countenance purely for its explicitly violent content. This is the first time this has happened since the uncut version of Manhunt 2 and Virgin Interactive’s cancelled Thrill Kill. This decision to give a game that merely seems to be explicitly violent (normal for today’s games) makes you wonder…
Why Was Hatred Rated “AO?”
The answer to that question might lie in the attention Hatred has received. The game has been controversial well before its release, with many popular publications commenting on how disgusting and ugly its violence appears to be. This writer, however, believes the biggest factor contributing to the public’s distaste with Hatred is in the protagonist’s misanthropic ideology. As can be seen in the game’s trailer, the player character is a man who’s so madly infuriated with the human race that he deems himself “not important” in comparison to his mission to kill as many people as possible as brutally as possible.
This is the only reason why a game such as Hatred could receive an AO rating and garner such vitriolic disapproval. This is all despite the existence and widespread popularity of video games such as Mortal Kombat X, which is arguably more violent, given the multitude of creative ways developers allow players to dispatch their opponents. It would also be ridiculous to give a game as popular and legendary an AO rating; however, the comparison is apt given the content of each game. It’s preposterous that Hatred is given such a prohibitive rating given it is observably less violent than many other games currently on the market.
I’ve Got a Twitch In My Eye
This brings us back to Twitch. Given the enormous popularity of the streaming platform, as well as the SJW Gestapo lurking around every corner, a definitive and well defined ban on games with hardcore content seems as though it was destined to precipitate. As mentioned before however, the timing is much to scrumptious not to note. It was such a slick kill for Twitch too: Instead of sticking with their cherry-picking model of banning broadcasts of naughty games, they take the ostensibly diplomatic approach of forbidding all games rated “AO.” Quick, clean and bloodless: everything Hatred is not.
This method of shutting out Hatred prevents Twitch from having to deal with troublesome accusations of specific bias against Hatred, though it’s not difficult to see how easy it is for people to put two and two together on this case. What it doesn’t prevent Twitch from doing is looking like the Fun Police for shutting down a game whose violence and vitriol have been outdone well before its conception. The double whammy of a superfluous AO rating and a supposedly impartial ban tailor-made for a game like it has really spelled the seeming demise of Hatred, just before it’s unleashed on the public. For the developer’s sake, one can only hope the inevitable controversy they’ve sparked can give them the boost they need to stay afloat.