Isometric spree shooter Postal [official site] is now open source. Originally released back in 1997 and now old enough to see its favourite flicks at the cinema without standing on its mate’s shoulders and draping a trenchcoat over the top, Running Scissor’s debut was the Hatred of the nineties. It was also, according to the developers, one of Senator Joseph Lieberman’s “three worst things in American society”. The others were Marilyn Manson and Calvin Klein ads, which paints such a rosy picture of the America of yesteryear as compared to 2017 that I’m desperately trying to put the finishing touches on the time machine in my basement.
I remember the title of the game making sense to my teenage mind but I think the term ‘going postal’ has fallen out of common use. Deriving from workplace shootings by postal office workers (retail workers were actually more likely to ‘go postal’ than postal workers), it became slang for any kind of “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore” behaviour that leads to aggression and violence. Postal is an isometric shooter about that sort of scenario – you play the shooter – though there’s conspiracy theory behind the final breakdown rather than direct anger at workmates or neighbours.
Controversial when released, and source of a splastick sequel (and a threequel that I’d completely forgotten about until just now) and a Uwe Boll film adaptation, is Postal due for reappraisal?
Not really. I haven’t played the original since the nineties and I liked both of Lieberman’s “worst things in American society” more than it even then. I remember reading an Onion article about Marilyn Manson doing door-to-door shock tactics because his music career was drying up (he’s actually got a new album out this year, to my surprise) and chuckling, even though I’d almost certainly seen him on tour a couple of years earlier and got a kick out of it. I absolutely wanted to rage against all kinds of things as a teenager, and silly theatrical music was a fairly tame way to do most of that raging.
Postal never appealed to me though because I’d already played Syndicate and Smash TV and it didn’t look like a patch on them, and even if I had wanted to play as a spree killer in a real world environment, the screenshots I saw just looked dark and muddy. It was the Redneck Rampage of isometric shooters. What does tend to be forgotten is that the original played its premise mostly straight, though it’s also remarkably similar to original GTA’s “GOURANGA!” moment in places. The sandbox silliness of the sequel, which is mostly about pissing and puking on people, including the developers, feels like the truest Postal experience. It’s more Goat Simulator than Hatred; outrage as prank rather than screed.
As for the Calvin Klein ads, I don’t know what Lieberman’s objections to them were. Sexiness? Nudity? Unhealthy body image? Disturbing imagery? A quick search on Google suggests that every source for the “three worst things in American society” statement/document is Running With Scissors themselves. Lieberman did denounce violent games, including Postal, a view he has since modified in the face of research, and he wasn’t a Manson fan, but the “three worst things” quote is difficult to find. Of course, I haven’t done the kind of in-depth hunting I’d like to dedicate to the matter, but I would genuinely love to see the original source.
Of course, the original source code is what I originally intended to discuss.
“It’s definitely been a wild ride for us all, and Postal means a lot to us – it’s our baby… But now we’re ready to hand the future of ‘the little shooter that could’ to the public at large. People have been asking, and we have been promising this for years now, but today we are proud to announce that the source code for Postal is officially released to the public on Bitbucket, under the GPL2 license. Everyone now has ‘under the hood’ access, to see what makes Postal tick, and anyone with the time and skills can now tweak/change/update/modify anything in the game at all! And hey, if anyone feels the urge to port the game to other platforms (The Dreamcast, for example *wink* *wink*), then they absolutely can!”
I wonder what will happen next. Running With Scissors have already released a remake in the form of Postal Redux, but maybe someone can mod Marilyn Manson’s door-to-door shockathon into the original?