Troll Games and their Place in Gaming Culture

The battle system in Columbine Massacre RPG

It is hard to make a good game, it may even be harder to make a game that sells well. Some focus only on the former and some only on the later. When a game developer only wants to make a game that sells well without taking the time to make it actually good, they need a hook. This hook can be either an riff on an existing franchise (see pretty much any of The Walking Dead games besides Telltale and look at their review scores.) Or a game developer can make a game that makes sales by building it around it’s potential for notoriety.

That Dragon, Cancer

This can be a interesting gimmick that the media hones in on for its novelty. This can also be a theme or aesthetic that is designed to make people talk. Some games, like That Dragon Cancer, can use cancer or another theme to drive interest. However, many other games are made to only be talked about due to the offensive and sometimes downright horrible subject matter for no purpose than to “make a point” and get talked about to make sales.

We live in America which has freedom of speech, and that also unfortunately means that we have to endure the freedom of games and their creators. With unlimited restriction comes these troll games whose primary goal is to gain notoriety and sales through negative press. These games persist none the less and while we could ignore them and look the other way when they inevitably hit the news cycle, their presence in the gaming culture and ecosystem seem to speak about the gaming industry as a whole.

About Shock Games

These crude 16 bit or polygonal projects are usually made up of one person: statistically a white male. These cheap to produce hate games either are hosted on the creator’s website or sneak past into a marketplace for purchase. When these games are lucky enough to find themselves on an app store or digital marketplace, the hosting site usually gets in hot water for the lack of moderation. This usually makes its way to news sites and word about the game spreads.

This obsession around terrible things has been how news has worked for a very long time. While news has almost always been about gaining more viewers, the news outlets have become so hungry they are blinded to the fact that some stories that do more harm than good. News stations plaster a shooter’s name and face on screens. Similarly, if there is a video game that propagates a negative world view and causes a stir, it is plastered on screens all over the nation. This makes curious people may pay a few bucks to see what all the hubbub is about.

This kind of backward advertising and exposure does all harm and almost no good. People whom are curious about it or actually agree with its message will buy it (if it is still available on the marketplace) thus leading to more “success” for the game. Developers for these kind of games typically don’t care how their perceived as long as they are perceived.

A Fake Apology

Muslim Massacre, a pixelated player controlled genocide of the Muslim race was created by a single caucasian male back in 2008. After this hit the news cycle and word got around, the developer took the game down and offered an apology. However, between an online exchange between him and a creator of another shock game, Super Columbine Massacre RPG, he came out and said,

The apology was actually fake. I put the site back up shortly after. Now the media is in a total bind and doesn’t know what to believe.I was just f***ing with everyone the entire time and have had great success.” (link)

Muslim Massacre

The developer goes on to say, “my message was the Muslims need to suck it down and stop getting offended by everything. If they learnt to just ignore people, things would be better. It’s not just a message for Muslims, it’s for people in general. There are people all around the world who will do things that make you mad.”

A more recent example from just the end of last year exploited many of the hot ticket items of the last few years to get recognized. From the Trump Presidency to the Pulse nightclub shooting, a player is able to take part in it. A right wing figure promoted the game  by saying, “[the game] is the season’s hit game for White males who have had it with Jewish bullshit. Instead of taking out your frustrations on actual human beings, you can fight the mongrels and degenerates on your computer!”

Misconceptions Among the General Public

While these games don’t represent gaming culture as a whole, they are still a part of it. When these games get splashed on your grandmas television while watching her morning news, this is how she sees games. That news station doesn’t cover nearly as much how well the new Spiderman game sold or inclusivity in the new Last of Us game coming out. What the general public get are images of hyper violence and racist games, so it isn’t any wonder they think video games are violent.

In the gaming community, we know better. We know there are beautiful narratives and interesting complex game mechanics. We know of the artists who create unique and familiar landscapes and characters with their art direction, and composers who craft beautiful scores. There is so much depth and complexity when it comes to games, and yet these pet projects somehow threaten to rewrite all of that. We don’t have to look far to witness ripples of this hate in the rest of the gaming ecosystem when games like these get published and reported on.

Pollution in the Gaming Ecosystem

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2’s infamous airport massacre

Early COD games had you an american white man shooting brown middle eastern people with iconography all to close to that of muslims and islamic culture. Or the hate speech on line from “fellow” gamers directed at someone of the opposite sex or other nationality. Or the lack of inclusion of race, gender, or sexuality in games up until now. While these games are only made by one person, their impact is much greater. A small ripple in an ocean can become a tsunami on the shore.

There is an irony within this article about the media highlighting games like these while this piece is doing the same, but it is a cycle we as a community need to break. Hopefully there can be more thought around what is reported on and why.

In this current political climate we have learned that when you don’t have to be held to any kid of standard or common decency. Gaming is more that tone-deaf violence. It is more than ego-nationalism. It is more than all of that. So, please don’t let the loud voice of the few silence that of the so many worthy. Don’t let those few rewrite what gaming is thought to be, let us establish what gaming is and should be.

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I am a writer, crossfitter, but most of all a gamer. I currently write for New Normative, a website about delivering pieces on Video Games within a Liberal LGBTQI+ lense. I am enthralled with videogames, but more than that, I think, I am obsessed about interactive narratives and how the act of choice gives ownership of the story to another the way nothing else does; the way choosing makes the “player” culpable for the events that take place. My favourite game is Journey and I love tea and cats (I am drinking it right now and have a cat on my lap.) I currently live in NYC but have spent most of my life in California.