A New Postal Game Came Out This Year. Here's Why Nobody Cares
In 1997, the twisted possibilities of the interactive narrative medium of video games were pushed to their very limit.
It was the year that Postal saw its first release on PC and macOS, a game that follows a man evicted from his home, who believes that his town has been infected by an airborne agent who wakes up in a mental asylum after being pressured by the stress of urban life to "go postal" in a sequence that sees "Postal Dude" attempt to shoot up an elementary school. The game was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek break in games that focus too hard on giving the players motivation when in many cases, they'd just wanted to jump into a game to shoot things, and yet, developers Running With Scissors were rightfully lambasted for making those "things" peaceful, innocent civilians.
The series has been on and off for years since it first sprayed viscera onto the video game history books, and now, in 2022, it has made a return with Postal 4: No Regerts. And nobody cares. What happened?
Time Has Not Been Kind To Postal
Of course, the series' controversies haven't been able to peel away from the cultural associations of the games, but it looks like Running With Scissors never really wanted that. The series is just the same in ethos as it's always been, created in an attempt to push as many buttons as possible and give their players the opportunity to be just as foul-mouthed, anti-social and rapturous as the developers think you've always wanted to be. Postal 4 is certainly no different, offering players the chance to shoot, kick and p*ss however they see fit, but that's precisely why the game seems to have suffered a low turnout - because we've seen it before.
Of course, as the internet has become more of an integral part of our daily communications, becoming a separate life rather than an accoutrement to our existing lives, being controversial for controversy's sake has grown old. We all saw what was unleashed on Newgrounds and YouTube in the early 2010s, and by now, being offensive "just because" doesn't do the trick. And given that nobody's really showing up to a Postal game to see what the next chapter is for Postal Dude, it has left the series a little distanced.
2022 Is Not The Year For Postal
It's not just a case of a culture moving beyond offensiveness for reactions that has led the Postal series to suffer, either - it's a lack of meaningful progression of the series since its release.
The game's ethos has remained the same despite its graphical and mechanical advancements, and there isn't really much of a reason to revisit the series if you've played Postal 2, the game that many would consider the height of Postal's gleeful ickiness.
The grand draw of the second title, and for the most part its leading defence, was that the game put you in regular scenarios that you could fulfil without serious violence, but that you'd eventually cave and go in all guns blazing. Postal certainly pushes your buttons along the way, with the murderous wang doll Krotchy, the National Guard and terrorists placed in your path, but there's no need to engage with them aggressively whatsoever.
It's a fascinating test of the player, and for its time a pretty great way to assess the attitudes to violence in gaming - yet, as we've seen it, there's no need to see it again, especially not burdened with a sluggish feeling that the game doesn't exist for any reason beyond trying to sell a game. Plus, Postal 4 puts you in increasingly precarious scenarios, working for cartels and capos of crime syndicates. Though it's all here in name, the violence isn't quite as alluring, which very much saps the series of its draw for fans, whether they'd typically engage in simulated anarchy or not. When the game is missing one of its two real draws, then, and the other is mere offensiveness, how realistic would it be to hope for an audience in 2022?
Postal Has Lost Its Spark, Probably For Good
Postal is by the metrics of most, a pretty repugnant series. Once upon a time, to push the buttons of players was as entertaining as edginess in concept, but now, we've seen it all before. Insincerity shines through in contrarianism these days, and a push back against what is deemed offensive comes with some pretty icky political suggestions, and with CEO Vince Desi sharing some pretty uncouth right-wing sentiments on Twitter, it's something that Running With Scissors isn't easily able to detach from.
The game series once made a big impact, but as the years waned on and gamers realised that they made a big impact because they were trying to make a big impact in the first place, the punch lost its swing. Maybe the series simply won't prosper again, but to be perfectly honest, it's probably for the best. After all, once we've used a cat as a weapon silencer once, where's the draw in a second go?