Early in my internet career, I was a regular guest on Dread Media, a horror podcast run by one of my best friends, Desmond Reddick. It’s still going strong to this day, though my contributions have been nonexistent for quite a while. When I was a regular, I had a segment where I’d talk about and occasionally review horror games. It wasn’t particularly popular, which is a big reason why I stopped doing it, but an awareness of that also empowered me with the ability to be rather flippant about the whole thing and talk about whatever random stupid thing I felt like. Perhaps the most random and stupid of all of them was Harvester.
Created in the middle of the 90s video game violence hysteria, Harvester is a parody… actually, I’m not confident enough in that statement to finish that sentence. It feels like it’s saying something, though years later, I’m still not quite sure what that is. As an exercise in black humor and absurdism, I appreciate it for being one of the most extreme examples that the medium has to offer, though that does make it a tough recommend.
Harvester is about a very generic guy named Steve, who has awoken with amnesia in an alternate 1950s where everyone is a sociopath. To explore the town is to introduce yourself to a cast of demented characters that seem ready to murder you at a moment’s notice if you fail to engage with whatever their singular topic of obsession happens to be. Shortly after starting the game, you are introduced to a young boy that stands outside your house, waiting for the newspaper. If you rub him the wrong way, he’ll pull out a handgun and shoot you. Same goes for the lone security general at the nuclear missile silo, who just so happens to be missing the lower half of his body. One sudden move and he’ll lean on the launch button, destroying everyone in the world.
Those are two lesser examples in a game that seems determined to offend you one way or another, delivered via the best (worst) of 90s Paintshop gore effects. It relishes in its own depravity, always lingering a moment longer than necessary, to make extra sure you’ve digested it all. By the same token, it’s difficult to be offended if you don’t take it seriously. I don’t mean that in a “don’t be so sensitive” way either. I mean, rather, it’s hard to be upset when the town sheriff tells you that a woman that’s had her spine ripped out likely died of natural causes.
Yeah, it’s that kind of game.