Red Cap Diaries: My Affair With Bad Gameson September 25, 2014 at 8:00 am
As a well-rounded gamer, you can’t truly appreciate what is good without experiencing what is lousy. The only way you get better at being able to tell the difference is when you’ve played as much of both as possible. I understand that isn’t possible for everyone, but every bit of experience helps.
If you only ever expose yourself to games that have near perfect ratings, you’re not going to be very well qualified to discuss a game that is merely good or even average. You’re going to think they’re worthless, since you have so little to compare them to.
Bad games help give you perspective, informing you of the difference between good and bad game design. They teach you about the importance of pacing and making sure the gameplay is varied and without tedium. They show you how crucial it is to make the controller an extension of your own body, allowing for perfect responsiveness and control, so you can’t blame the game for your failings.
The more bad games you play, the better you get at picking these things out in good games and knowing exactly why it is they’re so good. You’re able to communicate about them better.
Ours is also a culture in which it’s hip to relish in the dreadful, abominable, and horrendous glow of bad movies. Cracking jokes at their missteps and making the best out of a hugely flawed experience. So, why aren’t more people doing that with games? Invite some friends over, power up some shitty software, and make a night of it the same way you would do for a film. Embrace the ugly graphics, cringe-worthy voice acting, clunky controls, and glitchiness that reside within them. Laugh and play along, instead of hate.
The points I’ve already presented aren’t the only reasons I play bad games. Curiosity, very often, gets the better of me. There are times when I have to see something for myself and satiate my urges for the unpleasant and blatantly imperfect. Some of the time, I end up having fun… unironically.
By allowing myself the opportunity to play the dreck, I gain a better sense of my own personal tastes. I learn what I value most and what I can’t stand. If I end up liking a game that is universally panned, I get a better sense of what I appreciate in games and what I’m able to forgive.
“Alpha Protocol” is a great example of this. I love “Alpha Protocol”. I have an obsession with Bond films, so being able to play as a spy in an RPG was a dream come true. The game features hugely meaningful and impactful dialogue choices, that affect relationships with other characters, what missions you’ll go on, and what supplies you’ll have access to. To me, it was just so much frickin’ fun.
But, I’m not the type to ignore faults in a game, even if I like it. “Alpha Protocol” is plagued by a myriad of issues. It’s an unattractive game to look at. Textures are dirty and muddy and the character models are about on par with what you would see on PlayStation 2. The controls, especially for shooting, are fundamentally broken. They’re as responsive as a teenager given manual labor. Then there’s the stability of the game’s code, which is like an elephant walking on stilts made of rusty scaffolding.
“Alpha Protocol” is a BAD game. People are not wrong about that fact. I enjoyed it anyway.
Playing bad games is something that has made me into a rational, even-minded, knowledgeable gamer. It’s not a mark of shame.
If I had listened to what everyone was saying about it, I would’ve deprived myself of that experience. I would’ve ignored and passed up a game I honestly like. I know it’s bad, but that’s okay. I’m comfortable enough with myself to share my opinion of it. But I’m also aware enough to admit its faults and agree with legitimate criticisms.
It bothers me when people can’t admit that something may be wrong with a game they enjoy. This goes for both good and bad games. We don’t have to compromise ourselves and our feelings for something by blindly defending it. We can still like something while also criticizing it. We don’t have to act like nothing is wrong with it, but we can share our experiences. By doing so, someone might decide to give something a shot and enjoy it.
Of course, there are times when I recognize a game is trash, don’t really enjoy it, but stubbornly refuse to quit playing. It’s like some kind of badge of honor for derelict gamers. I find myself with a strangely intense desire to play these things. This is entirely illogical and probably stems back from that previously mentioned childhood trauma. I’m not sure if I can explain this one away. At this point, it’s okay to nod at the crazy person and back up a bit.
Instead of steering people away or towards these games, we’re better off educating them and letting them make their own decisions. Experiencing the bad is an important part of engaging with entertainment. We shouldn’t be trying to tell people what to do and deprive them of refining their tastes.
Playing bad games is something that has made me into a rational, even-minded, knowledgeable gamer. It’s not a mark of shame. I wear this mark with pride, because I know that I’d be a far more ignorant and less tolerant gamer if I didn’t try to experience as much of what the industry throws at me as possible.
You shouldn’t go to the extremes I do; that would be weird and a waste of your time. But you also shouldn’t try to strive to live in a bubble of perfection. That utopia doesn’t exist. Try to make the best out of the bad stuff that gets thrown at you. If you open up your mind a little, you may just find some more games you like.