Loving bad games
It’s become cliché that love and hate are the two sides of the same coin, and having started out my career in games journalism with an article on why Final Fantasy XIII was so completely awful, I’m starting to see truth in this statement. If we look past the science that says humans like to get angry (the release of endorphins and adrenaline and so on), there are many reasons why our hatred for terrible, terrible games is just another form of love.
Bad games unite us all
It’s Christmas, and you’re surrounded by your family and other people you would gladly leave in a burning house to save your PS3 or Xbox (maybe not the Wii). The Christmas crackers are passed around, and once again you’re stuck on the other end of one of these disgustingly cheery devices of social lubricant, your creepy uncle smirking at you with his hair lip as you pull apart the cheap plastic to the most depressed ‘pop’ that the universe could muster, only to have a badly moulded plastic dinosaur fall out with a joke.
The family grows quiet. You unfurl the tiny piece of paper and read aloud: “Why does Santa have three gardens?” You don’t bother with waiting for someone to ask why, because no-one wants this drawn out, “So he can Ho, Ho, Ho.”
Everyone groans. There is an apathetic sense of murderous hatred, like any person in the room would gladly choose to press the ‘snooze button’ if it guaranteed the writer of the joke would be electrocuted in the process. But that’s where the beauty lies. Everybody hates it equally. For once, despite the fact your cousin gets drunk and makes racist remarks about your girlfriend, you finally have something in common. You both hate the joke.
The situation carries over to games. When I meet another gamer, I never ask what games they like. What if they said Final Fantasy XIII? How would I ever be able to take what they said seriously? Instead I’ll say something like ‘played QWOP for the first time today’ or ‘just reviewed Asphalt Injection, I’m sure it’s given me cancer’.
Not only does it give you something to agree on, all subsequent opinions on it are agreed upon, unlike in games you like. For example:
“Man, I’m almost certain that Asphalt Injection was intended to be used in some Saw-like punishment.” “I agree, did you notice how terrible the soundtrack was as well?” “Not really – I was so busy wondering if I could somehow return the game after punching it repeatedly I didn’t notice. But upon your recommendation, sir, I will add it to the list of things that ‘Make Me Homicidal’”.
Whereas a game you like may end up like this:
“Man, playing Dark Souls is like getting a blowjob from angels while lying on a bed made out of tits.”
“Yeah, but the best thing about Dark Souls is the variety of shields.”
“…right, but obviously the combat, the setting, the boss fights, the weapons and armour are just as good right?”
“Not really. I just like the shields.”
“…I think you need to leave.”
Bad games help you recognise good games
For a long time I didn’t really know there was such a thing as a bad fighting game, mostly because I was terrible at fighters and there didn’t seem to be much to them. Gather a bunch of different characters, set their attacks and damage, and off you go. Between Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat and even a badly emulated Dragon Ball Z, there was no way for me to tell that fighters could be bad. The whole genre became just like pizza: all good, with only taste dictating choice.
Having finished watching the animated Soul Eater series, I did a little bit of research and found out there was a Soul Eater fighting game on the PSP. A little bit of effort got me a copy of the game. A little bit of playing netted a dish of disappointment with a large side of enlightenment. Attacks were slow and visually dull. The effects were awful. Character models looked like they’d been made out of paper that a baboon had chewed upon thoughtfully before spitting out. Balance between the fighters was non-existent. But all of it made me realise that the fighters that I had grown accustomed to enjoying were nothing short of masterpieces in their own rights. When I said that Soul Eater had made me hit enlightenment, I really meant it. I became exactly like Buddha, recognising the suffering bad games provide also begets the beautiful gift of understanding. In this case, that beautiful gift would be BlazBlue, because BlazBlue is better than having children.
They make you a better consumer
The best bit in Bambi is when Bambi’s mother gets shot, and not because someone got a lovely leg of venison that night. Bambi’s mother getting a piping hot round of the lead death was a wake-up call to that smug little turd, who, along with all of his frustratingly dim little friends, hadn’t experienced anything other than a care-free existence. Had this ‘tragic’ event not occurred, there’s a good chance that Bambi would have done something stupid like join a cult.
You, like Bambi, have been burnt at some point. You dumped money into a game, and you realised far too late that the time, effort and money you sunk into it may as well have been spent gambling for a merkin once worn by Rosie O’Donnell.
As a consumer you’ll wonder why the developer made something designed to ruin your day, how the publisher could approve of such garbage, why the retailer didn’t warn you it was crappy and what on earth your friend was thinking when he suggested it to you. Questioning gives you knowledge, and knowledge gives you power, and power saves you money, and money can at certain places get you women, and women are known to be able to perform several tasks.
Love to hate
Loving to hate is the opposite of pessimism. I like to call it un-pessimism. Loving what you hate gives you the chance to take a horrible experience (like Duke Nukem Forever) and turn it into something that you can truly cherish. So when you see me on the street, feel free to approach me and say ‘I’ve just played the most awful game’ because if it’s not too early in the morning, and you’ve approached me from my front, and I find you attractive, there’s a good chance I’ll say, “tell me all about it”.